United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
ROBERT E. WILSON
IRON TIGER LOGISTICS, INC
For ROBERT E. WILSON, Plaintiff: MARK DANIEL SCHWARTZ, LEAD ATTORNEY, BRYN MAWR, PA; PETER J. SCUDERI, LAW OFFICE OF PETER J. SCUDERI, PHILADELPHIA, PA.
For IRON TIGER LOGISTICS, INC., Defendant: GENE M. LINKMEYER, LEAD ATTORNEY, JACOBS LAW GROUP PC, PHILADELPHIA, PA; KEITH E. KOPPLIN, THOMAS P. KRUKOWSKI, LEAD ATTORNEYS, PRO HAC VICE, KRUKOWSKI & COSTELLO SC, MILWAUKEE, WI.
JEFFREY L. SCHMEHL, J.
Plaintiff brought this action, claiming he was terminated by the defendant in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended 42 U.S.C. § § 12101 et seq. (" ADA" ), and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, as amended 43 P.S. § § 951 et seq. (" PHRA" ). Plaintiff has also added a common law claim for breach of contract. Presently before the Court is the defendant's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.
Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). " A motion for summary judgment will not be defeated by 'the mere existence' of some disputed facts, but will be denied when there is a genuine issue of material fact." Am. Eagle Outfitters v. Lyle & Scott Ltd., 584 F.3d 575, 581 (3d Cir. 2009)(quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)). A fact is " material" if proof of its existence or non-existence might affect the outcome of the litigation, and a dispute is " genuine" if " the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party."
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
In undertaking this analysis, the court views the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. " After making all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor, there is a genuine issue of material fact if a reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party." Pignataro v. Port Auth. of N.Y. and N.J., 593 F.3d 265, 268 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Reliance Ins. Co. v. Moessner, 121 F.3d 895, 900 (3d Cir. 1997)). While the moving party bears the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, meeting this obligation shifts the burden to the non-moving party who must " set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250.
The following facts are either undisputed or construed in the light most favorable to plaintiff: Defendant engages in the delivery of trucks throughout North America. Plaintiff was employed by the defendant as a truck driver at defendant's Macungie, Pennsylvania Terminal from September 28, 2009 until December 18, 2010. His job duties included delivering trucks in a piggyback manner and then removing and reassembling them at the point of delivery ('the undecking process" ). The undecking process involves conducting safety checks, hooking straps to the axles of the piggybacked trucks to lower them to the ground, using wrenches to loosen and tighten bolts, and reinstalling axles and exhaust stacks. The undecking process generally takes approximately one hour per truck to complete.
In January 2010, plaintiff experienced frostbite on several of his fingers while performing the undecking process at a location in Canada where plaintiff estimated the temperature to be approximately -25 degrees. Plaintiff subsequently filed a claim for worker's compensation benefits, which was granted. Plaintiff was on a worker's compensation leave of absence from the time he experienced frostbite, until he was released to return to work in June, 2010. When plaintiff returned to work in June 2010, his healthcare provider, John Jennings. M.D., issued a disability certificate in which Dr. Jennings checked the box that provides " [p]atient has no
restrictions." In a subsequent disability certificate dated November 8, 2010, Dr. Jennings stated that plaintiff " needs to avoid any prolonged exposure to cold" and that " [h]e must be able to warm up his fingers immediately if he feels any pain in the fingertip." This disability certificate was the only documentation submitted by plaintiff to defendant which placed any type of restrictions on plaintiff's job duties.
In December 2010, plaintiff's frostbite did not affect his ability to see, hear, eat, sleep, walk, stand, sit, reach, lift, bend, speak, breath, learn, read, concentrate, think, communicate, or interact with others. (Wilson Dep. at 177-179). Although plaintiff could not pick up small items like pennies and dimes with his fingers, he could pick up larger items such as coffee mugs. (Wilson Dep. at 180-181). There is no evidence that plaintiff lost the function of his hands. The November 8, 2010 restrictions did not in any way prevent plaintiff from performing his duties as a driver. According to plaintiff, his doctor told him that his fingers " will never be the same again." (Wilson Dep. at 181). However, that is not the same as losing the function of his fingers or hands.
Defendant offered to accommodate plaintiff by allowing him to wear winter gloves while delivering loads, to take longer while delivering loads, and to warm up his hands in the cab of his truck or the customers' facilities while delivering loads. According to defendant, these accommodations would allow plaintiff to perform his duties as a driver while still avoiding prolonged exposure to the cold and allowing plaintiff the ability to warm up his fingers immediately in compliance with the November 8, 2010 documentation from Dr. Jennings. According to plaintiff, undecking trucks with bulky gloves was not feasible. (Wilson Dep. at 112).
Plaintiff was terminated on December 18, 2010, when he refused a dispatch to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in violation of a mutually agreed upon dispatch procedure under Article 23 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement in effect between defendant and plaintiff's union. Plaintiff was not told he was terminated because of frostbite or because of a disability. Plaintiff did not try the accommodations offered by defendant or offer any of his own. Instead, plaintiff testified, " There was no way in hell I was going to Canada." (Wilson Dep. at 226). On December 18, 2010, plaintiff could not meet the requirements under Article 10 of the CBA for a transfer into the shop/yard areas of defendant's terminals. At no time ...