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Aliya Davis v. Davis Auto

November 22, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joyner, C.J.


Before this Court are Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 20), Plaintiff's Response in opposition thereto (Doc. No. 22), Defendants' Reply (Doc. No. 23) and Plaintiff's Sur-Reply (Doc. No. 24). For the reasons set forth in this Memorandum, the Court grants the Motion for Summary Judgment and dismisses, with prejudice, Davis Auto, Inc. and Tri-State Lending, LLC.


This case involves Plaintiff Aliya Davis's claims against her employers for discrimination in violation of Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Unless otherwise indicated, the facts presented in this account are undisputed.

Employment History

Defendants Davis Auto, Inc. ("Davis Auto") and Tri-State Lending, LLC ("Tri-State") are two family-owned and operated businesses. Davis Auto is a used automobile dealership located in Philadelphia. Until December 2008, Davis Auto operated a second used car location, Davis Motors, in Levittown, Pennsylvania. Joseph M. Davis, Jr. ("Davis, Jr.") serves as the President of Davis Auto; his father, Joseph M. Davis, Sr. ("Davis, Sr.") serves as the Vice-President. Davis, Sr. and Davis, Jr. together are the sole members of Tri-State, a Philadelphia company that purchases and services automobile loans, primarily from Davis Auto. William Bach ("Bach"), Davis, Sr.'s son-in-law and Davis, Jr,'s brother-in-law, manages the daily operations of Tri-State. Bach also serves as the Controller for both Davis Auto and Tri-State. Until April 2010, Davis Auto and Tri-State maintained a common payroll, and employees of both companies were paid from the Davis Auto payroll account. Davis Auto employees sometimes performed functions for Tri-State and vice versa.

Plaintiff Aliya Davis ("Plaintiff") (of no relation) worked at these businesses at various times and in various capacities from June 2006 until October 2008. Plaintiff worked at Davis Auto in a clerical position from the summer of 2006 until June 2007. Then from July 2007 until November 2007, she worked for Marlton Auto Credit, *fn1 where she handled all the Davis Auto/Tri-State Lending accounts. Around November 2007, Plaintiff stopped working at Marlton Auto Credit and began receiving unemployment compensation. From early December 2007 until February 2008, Plaintiff also began working from home for Davis Auto and Tri-State Lending, handling accounts as a collection clerk. On February 18, 2008, Plaintiff returned to work full time as a Collector/Clerk for Tri-State and reported directly to Bach as her supervisor. She retained this position until she was terminated on October 15, 2008.

Medical History

During her employment with Defendants, Plaintiff suffered from asthma, anxiety and a thyroid disorder. Plaintiff's employers and co-workers admit they were aware of her health ailments. However, the parties dispute the severity of these conditions. For our current purposes, we set forth Plaintiff's description of these impairments below.

(a) Plaintiff's Anxiety

In 2007, Plaintiff "blacked out" and ended up in a hospital emergency room, where she remained for treatment for two to three days. As a result of this incident, she was diagnosed with anxiety and panic attacks. Stress, nerves and lack of sleep trigger her anxiety, and as a consequence of her anxietyPlaintiff suffers shortness of breath, sweating and claustrophobia. When Plaintiff suffers an anxiety attack her chest gets tight, which causes shortness of breath. Plaintiff takes Xanax as needed to control her anxiety and panic attacks.

(b) Plaintiff's Asthma

Plaintiff has suffered from asthma her entire life. She takes Advair every day to treat her asthma, and uses an Albuterol *fn2 inhaler as needed. If neither medication provides sufficient relief, Plaintiff uses a nebulizer to open up her airways. She occasionally used a nebulizer to treat her asthma in the workplace. During bad flare ups, however, Plaintiff must go to the hospital where she can be given the steroid Prednisone.

(c) Plaintiff's Thyroid Disorder

Plaintiff was diagnosed with thyroid nodules in 2000, and suffers from a condition more specifically referred to as a "multinodular goiter." This condition causes Plaintiff to suffer from nausea, vomiting and headaches. She also experiences muscle pain and weakness throughout her entire body; constipation; exhaustion; and intolerance to cold weather. When Plaintiff lies flat on her back, her thyroid condition causes her to cough and choke to the extent that she feels unable to breathe. (Pl. Resp. Ex. A, 90:4-18). In December 2007, Plaintiff was told that the nodules on her thyroid were potentially cancerous (Id. at 127:23- 128:2). However, these nodules were eventually determined to be benign. (Id. at 69:16-70:12; 121:6-7)

Plaintiff does not take prescribed medication for her thyroid condition; however, she monitors her condition with biannual blood testing and periodic ultrasounds. Also, on one occasion, Plaintiff was taken to the emergency room because of vomiting and given a medication (Reglan or Compazine) that is often given to cancer patients. (Id. at 92:3-93:19).

The parties dispute the impact of these impairments on Plaintiff's attendance history. According to Plaintiff, Defendants did not provide her with any sick or personal days. Defendants do not provide their employees with any written policies about absenteeism or medical leave, or harassment and discrimination in the workplace. While Plaintiff could call in sick, her employers would complain about it when she did. Plaintiff claims that her thyroid condition requires frequent doctor visits. In the course of her employment with Defendants, Plaintiff claims she missed ten to fifteen days of work as a result of her thyroid disorder, her asthma and her anxiety. (Id. at 95:16-96:14). However, Defendants assert that prior to July 7, 2008, Plaintiff missed work ten times and only four of those absences related to an alleged illness. Defendants also portray Plaintiff as habitually tardy to work, claiming she was late and/or left work early on seven occasions, with only two of these occasions attributable to her health ailments. (Defs. Mot, ¶14).

The parties further dispute whether Plaintiff was able to perform all of her basic functions, including working, despite these conditions. Plaintiff maintains that her health ailments affected her daily activities. However, she also states that she "still can function just like any normal human being," "can get [her] job done," and is "able to take care of [her] kids," "her household," and herself. (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. A, 134:19-135:15). Alleged Discriminatory Actions by Defendants

Plaintiff and Defendants agree that on July 7, 2008 all attended a common meeting to discuss Plaintiff's work performance, and that during this meeting Plaintiff informed Defendants that she may have cancer. However, that is the extent of their agreement; each party has vastly different accounts of the purpose and substance of this meeting.

Defendants-Davis, Sr., Davis, Jr. and Bach-claim that they arranged the meeting with Plaintiff to inform her that they were terminating her employment for poor attendance and performance. Before Defendants terminated Plaintiff as planned, she informed them that she may have cancer. Defendants decided they would not proceed with their plan to fire Plaintiff. (Defs. Mot. Ex. B, 43:6-44:7, Ex. C, 83:9-84:12). Davis, Sr. suggested that Plaintiff join Defendants' health insurance plan so that she would have coverage for any treatments she might need. To defray the costs of this medical insurance, Defendants increased Plaintiff's salary $3.00 per hour. Defendants acknowledge that ...

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