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McCullen v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.

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

July 31, 2019

JERAMIE A. MCCULLEN, o/b/o himself and a class of others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO PARTIALLY DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S AMENDED PETITION

          ORTRIE D. SMITH, SENIOR JUDGE

         Pending is Defendant's Motion to Partially Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Petition for Damages. Doc. #10. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In April 2019, Plaintiff filed a putative class action against Defendant Union Pacific Railroad Company. Doc. #1-1. In his Amended Petition for Damages, Plaintiff alleges Defendant violated the Missouri Human Rights Act (“MHRA”). Doc. #1-2. Plaintiff claims he and others similarly situated sought employment with Defendant, they were offered conditional employment pending a pre-employment physical, and in at least some instances, they passed the pre-employment physical. Doc. #1-2. However, the applicants' conditional offers of employment were rescinded because they had physical or mental impairments, Defendant regarded them as having impairments, and/or the applicants' medical records indicated they had impairments. Id.

         In May 2019, Defendant removed the matter to this Court. Doc. #1. Defendant now moves to dismiss Plaintiff's failure to accommodate, and also moves to dismiss Plaintiff's class allegations, or alternatively, dismiss class claims accruing before January 6, 2018, due to Plaintiff's failure to administratively exhaust said claims.

         II. STANDARD

         Defendant brings its motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The liberal pleading standard created by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires “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)). “Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only 'give the defendant fair notice of what the…claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Id. (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The Court Amust accept as true…the complaint's factual allegations and view them in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff[ ].” Stodghill v. Wellston Sch. Dist., 512 F.3d 472, 476 (8th Cir. 2008).

To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. 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. The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         When considering a motion to dismiss, the court “can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. at 679. “[L]egal conclusions can provide the framework” for a claim, but the legal conclusions “must be supported by factual allegations.” Id. When faced with “well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id. In alleged class actions, the Eighth Circuit has held “class claims that fail to meet the requirements of Rule 23 may be properly dismissed by granting a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.” McCrary v. Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., 687 F.3d 1052, 1059 (8th Cir. 2012).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Class Allegations

         Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sets forth the requirements for class certification. Under Rule 23(a), the party seeking to certify a class must show (1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable, (2) questions of law or fact are common to the class, (3) the representative party's claims are typical of the class's claims, and (4) the representative party will fairly and adequately protect the class's interests. Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a). If the Rule 23(a) requirements are met, the class action may be maintained only if it falls into one of three different categories set forth in Rule 23(b).

         Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiff's class allegations because they do not satisfy the commonality, typicality, or predominance requirements in Rule 23(a) and 23(b)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Defendant argues a putative class member's claim hinges on individualized inquiries, and thus, the Rule 23 requirements are not met. Defendant points to the individual inquiry that is necessary to determine whether a plaintiff is “disabled” under the MHRA, which includes 1) examination of whether the person has an impairment; (2) a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment; (3) whether the impairment substantially limits or is treated as substantially limiting a major life activity; (4) whether mitigating measures are available to ...


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