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Barnett v. Central Kentucky Hauling, LLC

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

December 21, 2018

MICHAEL LEE BARNETT APPELLANT
v.
CENTRAL KENTUCKY HAULING, LLC APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM FAYETTE CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE JAMES D. ISHMAEL, JR., JUDGE ACTION NO. 17-CI-02945

          BRIEFS FOR APPELLANT: Paul Stewart Abney West Liberty, Kentucky

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEE: Robert E. Maclin, III Frankfort, Kentucky

          BEFORE: COMBS, D. LAMBERT, AND SMALLWOOD, [1] JUDGES.

          OPINION

          COMBS, JUDGE:

         Michael Lee Barnett appeals from an order of the Fayette Circuit Court that granted the motion of Central Kentucky Hauling, LLC's (CKH) to dismiss and dismissed his complaint against CKH. After our review, we affirm.

         On August 15, 2017, Barnett filed a complaint against CKH for damages resulting from the termination of Barnett's employment with CKH. He alleged that the termination violated KRS[2] Chapter 344, the Kentucky Civil Rights Act (KCRA). He claims that he suffered discrimination due to his association with his wife, a person with a disability (as defined by the KCRA). The complaint alleges the following facts leading to Barnett's termination.

         Barnett was employed by CKH as a driver beginning in March of 2011. Throughout his employment, his wife suffered from cystic fibrosis, and his employers were aware of her illness. On December 28, 2013, his wife was admitted to the hospital due to complications from her disease. Barnett requested and was granted leave from work to care for his wife. At that time, he was reassured that he would not lose his position with CKH, and he eventually returned to work following his wife's lung transplant in early 2014.

         Several months later, Barnett was called into his supervisor's office to discuss allegations that he had been making disparaging comments regarding the company. Barnett denied these allegations. During this meeting, a supervisor mentioned Barnett's absence from work because of his wife's illness.

         In November 2014, his wife's condition again worsened. Soon after, through a co-worker, Barnett obtained forms necessary to pursue work leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. On December 3, 2014, Barnett was terminated from CKH for "lack of work," but it was also made known that one of the supervisors "wanted Barnett gone."

         CKH immediately filed a motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to CR[3] 12.02(f) for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Following oral arguments, the trial court entered an order on September 25, 2017 granting CKH's motion to dismiss and dismissing Barnett's complaint. It is from this dismissal that Barnett appeals.

         CR 12.02(f) permits judgment in favor of a movant on the basis of the plaintiff's "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted[.]" A motion to dismiss should only be granted where "it appears the pleading party would not be entitled to relief under any set of facts which could be proved in support of his claim." Pari-Mutuel Clerks' Union of Kentucky, Local 541, SEIU, AFL-CIO v. Kentucky Jockey Club, 551 S.W.2d 801, 803 (Ky. 1977). Whether to dismiss an action pursuant to CR 12.02(f) is a question of law. Fox v. Grayson, 317 S.W.3d 1, 7 (Ky. 2010). Therefore, "a reviewing court owes no deference to a trial court's determination[.]" Id. The issue must be reviewed de novo. Morgan & Pottinger, Attorneys, P.S.C. v. Botts, 348 S.W.3d 599, 601 (Ky. 2011). Additionally, statutory interpretation is purely a legal matter and is also reviewed de novo. Commonwealth v. McBride, 281 S.W.3d 799, 803 (Ky. 2009). We must construe statutes according to their plain meaning. Id.

         The sole and rather unique issue presented in this case is whether the KCRA provides a claim of relief to individuals due to their association with a person with disabilities. After reviewing the parties' arguments and the applicable law, we are compelled to agree with CKH that ...


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