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Pride v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

November 7, 2019

DAVID PRIDE, Plaintiff
v.
WAL-MART STORES EAST, LP, ET AL., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          JOHN MILTON YOUNGE JUDGE.

         In this employment discrimination case, Plaintiff David Pride (“Plaintiff”) files suit against his former employer, Defendant Wal-Mart Stores East, LP (“Wal-Mart”), and its third-party medical and benefits administrator, Defendant Sedgwick Claims Management Services, Inc. (“Sedgwick”) (collectively, “Defendants”). Plaintiff asserts that Defendants unlawfully discriminated and retaliated against him in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 951 et seq., and the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. Plaintiff also asserts a claim for tortious interference with contractual relations solely against Sedgwick. Now before the Court is Sedgwick's Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (“Motion, ” ECF No. 13). The Court finds this matter appropriate for resolution without oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78; L.R. 7.1(f). For the reasons that follow, Sedgwick's Motion will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Facts

         Unless otherwise noted, the following facts and allegations are taken from the operative complaint, Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (“FAC, ” ECF No. 10). On or around October 2011, Wal-Mart hired Plaintiff as an Overnight Restocker. (Id. ¶ 13.) Sedgwick administered FMLA requests, disability accommodation requests, and healthcare benefits for Wal-Mart's employees. (Id. ¶¶ 20-22.) “In November 2016, Plaintiff advised Defendants that he would need to have right hip surgery.” (Id. ¶ 34.) “In December 2016, Plaintiff received notification from Sedgwick that his medical leave related to his right hip surgery and recovery was approved for 12 weeks”-“from December 22, 2016 through March 16, 2017.” (Id. ¶¶ 35-36.) In March 2017, Plaintiff advised Sedgwick that he needed additional medical leave to recover, which was granted through April 17, 2017. (Id. ¶¶ 40, 42.)

         “On or about April 6, 2017, Plaintiff's physician examined Plaintiff and cleared him to return to work with restrictions[;] Plaintiff's physician faxed the certification clearing Plaintiff to return to work with restrictions to Sedgwick.” (Id. ¶¶ 47, 49.) According to Plaintiff, Sedgwick “never sent the certification it received . . . to Wal-Mart.” (Id. ¶ 69.)

         Upon Plaintiff's arrival back to work on April 17, 2017, “Plaintiff provided HR Manager Riley with a copy of his doctor's Return to Work Certification which his physician had previously faxed to Sedgwick.” (Id. ¶ 56.) Wal-Mart's HR Manger then told Plaintiff “that his job had been replaced and he would be terminated immediately due to the fact that he returned with restrictions.” (Id. ¶ 58.) According to Plaintiff, “Sedgwick's failure to submit Plaintiff's April 6, 2017 certification to Wal-Mart had a direct influence on Plaintiff's firing.” (Id. ¶ 70.)

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed this action against Defendants on February 19, 2019. (ECF No. 1.) On May 20, 2019, Plaintiff filed the FAC, in which Plaintiff brings nine claims: (1) disability discrimination in violation of the ADA against Wal-Mart; (2) failure to accommodate in violation of the ADA against Wal-Mart; (3) retaliation in violation of the ADA against Wal-Mart; (4) disability discrimination in violation of the PHRA against Wal-Mart and Sedgwick; (5) failure to accommodate in violation of the PHRA against Wal-Mart and Sedgwick; (6) retaliation in violation of the PHRA against Wal-Mart and Sedgwick; (7) retaliation in violation of the FMLA against Wal-Mart and Sedgwick; (8) interference in violation of the FMLA against Wal-Mart and Sedgwick; and (9) tortious interference with contractual relations against Sedgwick. (FAC ¶¶ 72-131.) Plaintiff requests lost past and future earnings, liquidated and/or punitive damages, emotional distress and/or pain and suffering damages, and costs of suit. (Id. ¶¶ B-E.)

         Wal-Mart filed its Answer on June 13, 2019. (ECF No. 12.) Sedgwick filed the instant Motion to Dismiss on June 13, 2019. Plaintiff filed his opposition to Sedgwick's Motion on June 26, 2019 (“Opposition, ” ECF No. 14). Sedgwick filed a reply on July 3, 2019 (“Reply, ” ECF No. 17).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The motion to dismiss standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is set forth in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). After Iqbal, it is clear that “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice” to defeat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Id. at 678; see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “To survive dismissal, ‘a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Tatis v. Allied Interstate, LLC, 882 F.3d 422, 426 (3d Cir. 2018) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Facial plausibility is “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Instead, “[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.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         Our Court of Appeals requires us to apply a three-step analysis under a 12(b)(6) motion: (1) “[the district court] must tak[e] note of the elements [the] plaintiff must plead to state a claim;” (2) “it should identify allegations that, ‘because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth;'” and, (3) “[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, [the] court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675, 679).

         When a motion to dismiss is granted, the court must decide whether to grant leave to amend. The Third Circuit has a liberal policy favoring amendments and, thus, leave to amend should be freely granted. See, e.g., Oran v. Stafford, 226 F.3d 275, 291 (3d Cir. 2000); Dole v. Arco Chem. Co., 921 F.2d 484, 486 (3d Cir. 1990). However, a court need not grant leave to amend when permitting a plaintiff to amend would be an exercise in futility. City of Cambridge Retirement Sys. v. Altisource Asset Mgmt. Corp., 908 F.3d 872, 879 (3d Cir. 2018) (“Leave to amend is properly denied if amendment would be futile, i.e., if the proposed complaint could not ‘withstand a renewed motion to dismiss.'”) (quoting Jablonski v. Pan. Am. World Airways, Inc., 863 F.2d 289, 292 (3d Cir. 1988)); see also In re Burlington Coat ...


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