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Branch v. City of Brookshire-Texas

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

September 15, 2017

Darrell Branch, Plaintiff,
City of Brookshire-Texas - Brookshire Police Department, et al, Defendants.



         Pending before the court is a motion to dismiss filed by defendant City of Brookshire ("Brookshire"). Dkt. 25. After considering the live complaint, the motion, the response, the reply, and the applicable law, the court is of the opinion that the motion to dismiss should be GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In Darrell Branch's second amended complaint, Branch alleges violations of the American with Disabilities Act ("ADA") by Brookshire and Brandal Jackson ("Chief Jackson"). Dkt. 24. According to the allegations in the complaint, which the court accepts as true for the purposes of this motion to dismiss, Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Sales, Inc. v. Avondale Shipyards, Inc., 677 F.2d 1045, 1050 (5th Cir. 1982), the facts are as follows:

         Branch was employed as a police officer by Brookshire for 18 years. Dkt. 24 ¶ 6. As part of his employment, Branch's duties included supervising other officers, creating work schedules for officers, making copies of jail forms, and answering calls. Id. ¶ 7. In August of 2013, Branch began experiencing heart complications that required him to take a leave of absence until November 2013. Id. ¶¶ 8, 9. The heart complications arose again in February 2014 causing Branch to seek treatment and take another leave of absence until December 8, 2014. Id. ¶¶ 10, 11. Branch's physician provided the Brookshire Chief of Police, Chief Jackson, with a return to work release that Chief Jackson found deficient. Id. ¶ 12. Branch provided two more releases to Chief Jackson in which Branch's physician stated that Branch should perform desk duties for a period of three months, at which time he would be re-evaluated. Id. ¶¶ 14, 15. On January 5, 2015, Chief Jackson informed Branch that the police department could not accommodate this request for desk duties, and Branch was terminated from the Brookshire Police Department. Id. ¶¶ 17, 18.

         After unsuccessfully appealing his termination through Brookshire's appeals process, Branch filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Id. ¶¶ 22, 26. Branch is now suing both Brookshire and Chief Jackson under the ADA for failure to accommodate his disability and retaliation. Brookshire moves to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Dkt. 25.

         II. Legal Standard

         Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that the pleading contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A party against whom claims are asserted may move to dismiss those claims when the nonmovant has failed "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead '"enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007)). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ... on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). While the allegations need not be overly detailed, a plaintiffs pleading must still provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief, which "requires more than labels and conclusions, " and "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id.; see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009). "[C]onclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions will not suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss." Blackburn v. City of Marshall, 42 F.3d 925, 931 (5th Cir. 1995). 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." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Evaluating a motion to dismiss is a "context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. at 679. 'Ultimately, the question for a court to decide is whether the complaint states a valid claim when viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." NuVasive, Inc. v. Renaissance Surgical Ctr., 853 F.Supp.2d 654, 658 (S.D. Tex. 2012).

         III. Analysis

         Branch asserts two violations of the ADA by both Chief Jackson and Brookshire in his second amended complaint, failure to accommodate and retaliation. Dkt. 24. Brookshire moves to dismiss the complaint. Dkt. 25. The court will consider Brookshire's arguments in turn.

         A. Claims Against Chief Jackson

         After Brookshire filed the motion to dismiss, the parties stipulated that all parties other than Brookshire are dismissed with prejudice. Dkt. 39. This stipulation effectively serves as Branch's voluntary dismissal of Chief Jackson with prejudice. Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(1)(A)(ii). Therefore, Branch's claims against Chief Jackson are DISMISSED.

         B. Claim Under Count 1-Failure to Accommodate

         Brookshire also argues that Branch's complaint lacks sufficient facts to state a claim for failure to accommodate under the ADA. Dkt. 25. Brookshire argues that Branch failed to allege facts that a reasonable accommodation was available or that Branch could perform his essential job functions with or without an accommodation. Id. Branch responds that he did allege he could ...

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