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Nelson v. Covestro LLC

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

May 3, 2019

COVESTRO LLC, Defendant.


          Lee H. Rosenthal Chief United States District Judge.

         Kristopher Nelson sued Covestro LLC, asserting an employment-discrimination claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213. Covestro moves to dismiss Nelson's amended complaint, arguing that Nelson has not alleged facts showing that he is a “qualified individual” under the Act, and that the welfare-benefit provision Nelson challenges applies to all Covestro employees, regardless of disability. Nelson has responded, and Covestro has replied. (Docket Entry Nos. 21, 22, 23).

         After a careful review of the pleadings, the motion, response, and the applicable law, the court grants Covestro's motion to dismiss, without prejudice and with leave to amend. (Docket Entry No. 21). Nelson must file an amended complaint no later than May 31, 2018.

         The reasons for this ruling are detailed below.

         I. Background

         Taking the well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true for the purposes of this motion, Kristopher Nelson worked for Covestro from 1998 to 2009. (Docket Entry No. 20 at ¶ 14). In 2010, Nelson was injured and, in 2011, began receiving long-term disability benefits from Covestro under Covestro's long-term disability plan. (Id.). Nelson received the same employee benefits he received while actively employed, including health, dental, vision, and life insurance. (Id. at ¶ 15).

         In October 2017, Covestro informed Nelson that employees who had been on its long-term disability plan for at least 24 months would lose their health-insurance benefits effective January 1, 2018. (Id. at ¶ 18). Nelson alleges that Covestro's human resources department assured him that his health insurance coverage would continue. (Id. at ¶¶ 19-20). Nelson learned that he did not have health insurance in January 2018. (Id. at ¶ 22). He contacted Covestro's human resources department and was informed that “his employment had now been terminated and he was no longer entitled to benefits.” (Id. at ¶ 25). This lawsuit followed.

         Nelson alleges that Covestro's termination of his benefits violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by “subject[ing him] to different terms and conditions of employment when it took away his benefits because of his being disabled” and by “engag[ing] in unlawful disparate treatment when it decided to eliminate benefits for only those employees who were disabled and receiving [long-term disability] benefits.” (Id. at ¶¶ 29-30).

         Each argument for dismissal, and the response, is analyzed below, under the legal standard for a motion to dismiss.

         II. The Legal Standard for a Motion to Dismiss

         Rule 12(b)(6) requires dismissal if a plaintiff fails “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Rule 12(b)(6) must be read in conjunction with Rule 8's requirement of a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A complaint must contain “only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Rule 8 “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “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. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         To withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a “complaint must allege ‘more than labels and conclusions, '” and “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Norris v. Hearst Tr., 500 F.3d 454, 464 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (alteration in original) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). “[A] complaint ‘does not need detailed factual allegations,' but must provide the plaintiff's grounds for entitlement to relief-including factual allegations that when assumed to be true ‘raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'” Cuvillier v. Taylor, 503 F.3d 397, 401 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “Conversely, when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief, this basic deficiency should be exposed at the point of minimum expenditure of time and money by the parties and the court.” Id. (quotation marks and alteration omitted).

         In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “a district court must limit itself to the contents of the pleadings, including attachments.” Collins v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 224 F.3d 496, 498 (5th Cir. 2000). Documents “attache[d] to a motion to dismiss are considered part of the pleadings, if they are referred to in the plaintiff's complaint and are central to [the] claim.” Id. at 498-99 (quoting Venture Assocs. Corp. v. Zenith Data Sys. Corp., 987 F.2d 429, 431 (7th Cir. 1993)). The court may also “take judicial notice of matters of public record.” Norris, 500 F.3d at 461 n.9.

         When a plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim, the court should generally give the plaintiff a chance to amend under Rule 15(a) before dismissing the action with prejudice, unless it is clear that to do so would be futile. See Carroll v. Fort James Corp.,470 F.3d 1171, 1175 (5th Cir. 2006) (“[Rule 15(a)] evinces a bias in favor of granting leave to amend.” (quotation omitted)); Great Plains Tr. Co. v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., 313 F.3d 305, 329 (5th Cir. 2002) (“[D]istrict courts often afford plaintiffs at least one opportunity to cure pleading deficiencies before dismissing a case, unless it is clear that the defects are incurable or the plaintiffs advise the court that they are unwilling or unable to amend in a manner that will avoid dismissal.”). A court may deny a motion to amend as futile if an amended complaint would fail to state a claim upon ...

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