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Kelly v. Hines

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

March 29, 2017

Sarah V. Kelly, Plaintiff,
Merrill O. Hines, III, Defendant


          Gray H. Miller United States District Judge

         Pending before the court is (1) the defendant Dr. Merrill O. Hines's motion to dismiss (Dkt. 9) Dr. Sarah Kelly's complaint and (2) Kelly's motion for leave to file a surreply (Dkt. 16). Having considered the motions, responses, replies, and applicable law, the court finds that Hines's motion to dismiss should be GRANTED and that Kelly's motion for leave to file surreply should be DENIED.

         I. Background

         This action arises from Kelly's allegations that her rights were violated under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Rehabilitation Act, and § 1983. Dkt 13 at 1 (citing 42 U.S.C. § 12132, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Kelly is a physician living in Fort Bend County, Texas. Id. at 2. Hines is an assistant medical examiner and director of the Forensic Pathology Fellowship Program at the Harris County Institute for Forensic Science (the “Program”). Id. Kelly entered a one-year fellowship training at the Program to receive a certification in Forensic Pathology. Id. at 3. Hines is the Program's director and supervised Kelly throughout the duration of her fellowship training. Id. at 7. Kelly entered the Program on July 1, 2012, and formally resigned from the Program on January 10, 2013. Id. Kelly suffers from several medical conditions that she alleges require accommodation in the workplace. Id. at 6.

         Starting in July 2012, the first month of the fellowship, Kelly had issues with Hines's supervisory approach. Id. at 7-8. During a meeting, Kelly felt that Hines inappropriately raised his voice at her and invaded her personal space. Id. at 7. Kelly informed Hines of her disabilities and asked for a reasonable accommodation from Hines in the form of improved communications with her to avoid an “adversarial dynamic.” Id. at 8. The communications between Kelly and Hines continued unchanged, causing Kelly to experience physical symptoms. Id. In early October 2012, Kelly sent an email to Hines's superior regarding the alleged hostile work environment and requested a reasonable accommodation, but received no response. Id.

         During her time in the Program, Kelly was reprimanded for lapses in adherence to the Program's policies and procedures. The reprimands included:

1. Identifying herself and her work to an unidentified person at an accident site, jeopardizing the Program's protection of sensitive information and appearance of impartiality. Id. at 9.
2. Not correcting placeholder values for heart valve dimensions and not notifying attending physicians of her preliminary measurements, against acceptable practice. Id. at 11.
3. Violating the Program's visitation policy when her family visited her office, potentially exposing them to autopsy material. The family members were allowed into the office by another fellow. Id. at 13.
4. Falling asleep at the wheel after work, causing her vehicle to run into a light pole. This resulted in a meeting with Hines about the importance of adhering to duty hours and avoiding fatigue. Id. at 14.
5. Stating, “sometimes I could just kill him, ” regarding Hines. The statement was a result of Hines finding a typographical error on a report he requested be completed immediately. Hines shouted at Kelly in a hallway about the report. Id. at 17.

         On January 2, 2013, Hines and other directors met with Kelly regarding the threatening statement she made against Hines. Id. Kelly expressed her desire to resign, but she was told she needed a summative evaluation first. Id. at 18. On January 10, 2013, the directors, Kelly, and her attorney went over her summative evaluation. Id. The Program accepted her letter of resignation and Kelly's attorney viewed her employment file and found no evidence of any disciplinary action against her. Id. at 19.

         After leaving the Program, Kelly applied to the Texas Medical Board for a medical license which was denied. Dkt. 10 at 2. In May 2013, as part of the licensing process, Hines submitted a Physician Licensure Form (“Form L”) to the Texas Medical Board. Dkt. 13 at 3. On Form L, Hines stated that Kelly had a history of disciplinary issues, suspension, misconduct, and unprofessional conduct while training with the Program. Id. On January 17, 2014, Kelly's new attorney received her entire academic file, revealing the adverse information that Hines submitted. Dkt. 10 at 2-3.

         Kelly alleges discrimination under Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Dkt 13 at 1 (citing 42 U.S.C. § 12132 and 29 U.S.C. § 794). Kelly further alleges that the information Hines submitted to the Texas Medical Board was false, misleading, fraudulent, and led to the denial of her medical license application. Dkt. 10 at 3. Kelly alleges that she was denied due process because of her inability to rebut or challenge any of the adverse information on her record. Id. at 2. On March 21, 2016, Hines filed a motion to dismiss Kelly's complaint based on the theory that all of Kelly's claims are barred by the statute of limitations. Dkt. 9. Kelly responded. Dkt. 10. On April 22, 2016, Kelly filed a second amended complaint, repeating identical allegations but clarifying some of the nature of her claims and grounds for relief. Dkt. 13. On reply, Hines reasserts his motion to dismiss arguments, indicating to the court that his motion to dismiss remains applicable to the live complaint. Dkt. 17 at 1.

         II. Legal Standard

         A. ...

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