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Barney v. Truman Valley Health Care, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

August 15, 2014

SILVIA BARNEY, Plaintiff,
v.
TRUMAN VALLEY HEALTH CARE, INC., d/b/a WINDSOR HEALTHCARE & REHAB CENTER, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS; DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO MAKE MORE DEFINITE

ROBERT E. LARSEN, Magistrate Judge.

Before the court is a motion to dismiss counts III, IV and VI and to make more definite count I, filed by defendant Truman Valley Health Care. For the following reasons, defendant's motion to dismiss will be granted and its motion to make more definite will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

According to the facts alleged in the complaint, which are assumed to be true for purposes of this motion, plaintiff is a 47-year-old female who emigrated from Germany. Plaintiff was hired by defendant in 2009 to work as a registered nurse and was promoted as a manager of other registered nurses. In 2013 she was diagnosed with "chronic brain injury" but was released to return to work. Her brain injury occasionally prevents plaintiff from working and occasionally limits the amount of time plaintiff can work. Defendant permitted plaintiff to take time off work to visit a specialist in Colorado for treatment. After that trip, plaintiff was informed that she had a new supervisor, "Cameron." Cameron wrote a negative comment in plaintiff's employment file for being absent from work to receive medical treatment. Upon learning of plaintiff's background as a German national, Cameron began making derogatory comments about plaintiff's ethnic heritage and accent. Upon learning of plaintiff's "familial status, " Cameron on one occasion referred to plaintiff as a "breeder." In September 2013, plaintiff requested time off under the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") for a doctor's visit. Plaintiff was denied time off. She informed defendant she intended to exercise her rights under the FMLA and did not appear for work. Defendant discharged plaintiff.

On April 23, 2014, plaintiff filed a petition in Henry County Circuit Court. Plaintiff alleges the following:

Count I: National origin discrimination - plaintiff alleges she was terminated due to her national origin, i.e., being a German National.

Count II: Retaliation - plaintiff alleges she was terminated due to her complaints to management that her supervisor, Cameron, was targeting her for disparate treatment on the basis of her sex, disability, and national origin.

Count III: Hostile work environment - plaintiff alleges that defendant destroyed her files and work space, required her to perform a job outside of her responsibilities and skill level, moved her work space in an attempt to intimidate and spy on her, and denied her time off from work.

Count IV: Sex discrimination and violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") - plaintiff alleges that she was terminated because of (a) her sex, (b) her familial status as a mother, (c) her disability, and (d) her national origin.

Count V: Retaliation under the Family Medical Leave Act - plaintiff alleges that she was discharged for failing to report to work after she informed defendant that she intended to exercise her rights under the Family Medical Leave Act.

Count VI: Disability discrimination - plaintiff alleges she was terminated because of her physical disability.

On May 27, 2014, defendant removed the case to federal district court and then filed a motion to dismiss on June 16, 2014, arguing that counts III, IV and VI should be dismissed for failure to state a claim and that count I should be subject to an order to make more definite and certain. In the alternative, defendant argues that plaintiff should be required to plead the multiple claims alleged in count IV as separate counts.

Plaintiff filed suggestions in opposition to the motion to dismiss on July 16, 2014. Plaintiff argues that the petition alleges facts sufficient to state the causes of action alleged, plaintiff states that the reference to "race" in count I of the petition was written in error and that the petition makes clear that count I is based on ethnic and national origin discrimination, and plaintiff argues that count IV should stand as pled because "the elements for proving [discrimination] are similar whether it be gender, sex, or national origin-based.".

Defendant filed a reply on July 28, 2014.

II. MOTION TO DISMISS

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim should be granted only if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts which would entitle him to relief. Ritchie Capital Management, L.L.C. v. Jeffries , 653 F.3d 755, 764 (8th Cir. 2011); Craig Outdoor Advertising, Inc. v. Viacom Outdoor, Inc. , 528 F.3d 1001, 1023-24 (8th Cir. 2008), cert. denied, 555 U.S. 1136 (2009). In ruling a motion to dismiss, the court is required to view all facts in the complaint as true. CN v. Willmar Public Schools , 591 F.3d 624, 629 (8th Cir. 2010); Owen v. General Motors Corp. , 533 F.3d 913, 918 (8th Cir. 2008). Although a complaint need not include detailed factual allegations, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotations and alteration omitted). Instead, the complaint must set forth "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570.

[A] court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

Plaintiff's petition includes the following:

FACTS COMMON TO ALL COUNTS
13. In or around 2009, Plaintiff began employment with Defendant.
14. Plaintiff's duties began as a registered nurse. Plaintiff was later promoted to manage the other registered nurses, which was Plaintiff's primary duty of employment for the last four years.
15. Throughout her years with Defendant Company, Plaintiff was given several pay increases for her outstanding performance.
16. In 2013, Plaintiff was diagnosed with chronic brain injury. Her doctor Molly Nelson released Plaintiff to return to work.
17. Defendant Company was aware of the Plaintiff's condition and allowed her time off to visit a specialist in Colorado for treatment. Defendant allowed the Plaintiff to return to work.
18. Plaintiff filed notice with the company of her medical condition in order to comply with the Family Medical Leave Act time off request policy of the company.
19. Shortly after the Plaintiff's return to work in 2013 after visiting a specialist in Colorado she was informed of her new supervisor, Cameron.
20. Before evening [sic] meeting the Plaintiff, Cameron wrote up a negative comment to the Plaintiff's work file for being absent from work to receive medical treatment, despite the prior approval.
21. Upon learning of Plaintiff's background as a German national, Cameron began making derogatory comments about the Plaintiff's ethnic heritage and accent in the work place.
22. Upon learning of Plaintiff's familial status, Cameron began making derogatory comments about the Plaintiff on one occasion labeling her a "breeder" a ...

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