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Mills v. St. Louis County Government

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 24, 2017

THEODA MILLS, Plaintiff,
v.
ST. LOUIS COUNTY GOVERNMENT, ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          PATRICIA L. COHEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the motions to dismiss filed by Defendants St. Louis County Government and Steven Stenger (“County Defendants”) (ECF No. 7) and Defendants Sharon Gardner and Joyce Theard (ECF No. 19) (collectively, “Defendants”).[1] Plaintiff filed a memorandum in opposition to the County Defendants' motion to dismiss (ECF No. 9) and an amended memorandum in opposition to the motion to dismiss[2] (ECF No. 25). Defendants filed replies to Plaintiff's memoranda in opposition to their motions to dismiss. (ECF Nos. 10, 27).

         I. Procedural and Factual Background

         On September 28, 2016, Plaintiff filed a three-count petition in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County against Defendants Gardner and Theard, in their official and individual capacities, and the County Defendants. (ECF No. 3). In the petition, Plaintiff alleged that Defendants: (1) discriminated against him on the basis of age in violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) (Count I); (2) discriminated against him on the basis of disability in violation of the MHRA (Count II); and (3) discriminated against him on the basis of disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (Count III). In support of these claims, Plaintiff stated that: he previously worked as a health inspector for St. Louis County; “had a severe allergy to shellfish”; was over the age of forty “at all times material hereto”; and, due to the allergy, suffered a “physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Additionally, Plaintiff averred that Defendants: were aware of his shellfish allergy; refused to accommodate him; repeatedly assigned him jobs that forced him into contact with shellfish, causing him to become ill and require hospitalization; treated him differently than younger, allergy-free coworkers; subjected him to “abusive treatment, ” demotion, and termination; and, for the ADA claim, failed to make reasonable accommodations.

         The County Defendants removed this case to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441, and filed a motion to dismiss the case with prejudice under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Specifically, the County Defendants argued that: (1) Plaintiff's MHRA claims were untimely; (2) Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies for his age discrimination claim; and (3) a shellfish allergy was not a disability under the ADA. (ECF Nos. 1, 7). The County Defendants attached Plaintiff's EEOC charge and right to sue letter as exhibits to their motion to dismiss.[3] (ECF No. 7-1, 7-2).

         Plaintiff filed a memorandum in opposition to the County Defendants' motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 9). Plaintiff did not dispute the County Defendants' assertions either that his MHRA claims were untimely or that he did not exhaust his administrative remedies for age discrimination. Rather, Plaintiff contended that he pleaded sufficient facts to state a claim under the ADA. More specifically, Plaintiff argued that the Court could not properly determine whether his allergy constituted a disability under the ADA without a factual record establishing: (1) the “severity and breadth of the limitation”; and (2) whether the defendants perceived Plaintiff's allergy as a disability. Plaintiff urged the Court to deny the County Defendants' motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, grant Plaintiff leave to amend his pleadings.

         In their reply memorandum, the County Defendants asserted that the Court does not require a more developed record as to the severity of Plaintiff's allergic reaction because, in Land v. Baptist Med. Ctr., 164 F.3d 423, 425 (8th Cir. 1999), the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that a deadly peanut allergy did not constitute a disability under the ADA. (ECF No. 10). The County Defendants further asserted that Plaintiff failed to allege sufficient facts to support his claim that Defendants “regarded” him as disabled.

         The remaining defendants, Sharon Gardner and Joyce Theard, then filed a motion to dismiss with prejudice and a memorandum in support of their motion to dismiss.[4] (ECF Nos. 19, 20). Defendants Gardner and Theard “incorporate[d] every reason and ground that was asserted in the Motion to Dismiss and supporting Memorandum of Law filed by their co-defendants as reasons and grounds for their own dismissal.” (ECF No. 20). In addition, Defendants Gardner and Theard urged the Court to dismiss the ADA claim against them “because there is no individual liability under the ADA as a matter of law.” (Id.).

         Plaintiff subsequently filed, upon leave of the Court and over the County Defendants' objections, an amended memorandum opposing the motion to dismiss his MHRA claims for untimeliness. (ECF No. 25). In the amended memorandum, Plaintiff asserted that, under the Missouri Supreme Court's decision in Farrow v. St. Francis Med. Ctr., 407 S.W.3d 579 (Mo. banc 2013), Defendants waived their challenge to the timeliness of his MHRA claim because they did not raise this issue “by writ of mandamus in the Circuit Court, where the case was initially filed.” (ECF No. 25 at 1). Defendants Gardner and Theard filed a reply to Plaintiff's amended memorandum in opposition to dismissal of his MHRA claims, arguing that Farrow was inapposite and “there is no law whatsoever that requires defendants to file a separate lawsuit to challenge the timeliness of plaintiff's state court petition.” (ECF No. 27).

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). A viable complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the reviewing court must accept the plaintiff's factual allegations as true and construe them in the plaintiff's favor. Id.

         III. Discussion

         A. MHRA claims (Counts I and II)

         Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff's MHRA claims for disability and age discrimination (Counts I and II) on the ground that they were filed out of time. (ECF Nos. 7, 8, 19, 20). In his amended memorandum in opposition to the motion to dismiss, Plaintiff argued that Defendants waived this claim because, under Farrow, a defendant must raise issues of timeliness by writ of mandamus in the court ...


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