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Haas v. St. Lukes Community Development Corp.

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

January 9, 2020

COBY HAAS, Plaintiff,
v.
ST. LUKES COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND OPINION

          Lee H. Rosenthal Chief United States District Judge

         Coby Haas was fired from his position as a computed tomography technician at St. Luke's Health - The Vintage Hospital, in Houston, Texas. (Docket Entry No. 1-A-2). Haas's original state-court petition alleged that the Hospital discriminated against him on the basis of his disability-posttraumatic stress disorder-and retaliated against him for exercising his right to request a reasonable accommodation, both in violation of the Texas Labor Code, § 21.001, et seq. (Id.). Haas sued St. Luke's Community Development Corporation the Vintage d/b/a Chi St. Luke's Health - The Vintage Hospital, CommonSpirit Health, and St. Luke's Health System Corporation in state court. (Id.). Haas amended his petition to allege violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12112, et seq., and the defendants timely removed. (Docket Entry Nos. 1-A-9, 1). The defendants then moved to dismiss Haas's amended petition for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim; Haas responded; and the defendants replied. (Docket Entry Nos. 3, 8, 9).

         Based on the amended pleading, the motion and responses, the record, and the applicable law, the court grants the defendants' motion to dismiss, with prejudice, because both Haas's state and federal claims are time-barred and amendment would be futile. The reasons for this ruling are set out below.

         I. Background

         The allegations are taken from the original and amended petitions. Coby Haas worked as an x-ray technician in a military hospital from 2003 to 2005. (Docket Entry No. 1-A-2 at 2). Haas alleges that he has posttraumatic stress disorder from working in that hospital. (Id. at 2-3). After his honorable discharge in 2008, he became a computed technography technician and began working for the defendants at The Vintage Hospital in September 2015. (Id. at 3).

         Haas alleges that in spring 2017, he was assigned to work in the Hospital's operating room. (Id.). Haas alleges that the idea of working in an operating room triggered his PTSD, and he requested a reasonable accommodation. (Id.). Haas alleges that the Hospital ignored his request and engaged in a series of discriminatory and retaliatory actions that resulted in his termination on July 12, 2017. (Id. at 2-6). Haas attempted to appeal his termination, but he was allegedly told that there was no right to appeal. (Id. at 7-8). In May 2018, Haas filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC and received a right-to-sue letter that shows a mailing date of June 5, 2019. (Docket Entry No. 1-A-9 at 23; Docket Entry No. 1-A-9-17).

         On September 3, 2019, Haas filed suit in state court, alleging violations of the Texas Labor Code. (Docket Entry No. 1-A-2). In November 2019, after the defendants challenged the state court's jurisdiction because Haas's claims were filed too late to meet a jurisdictional deadline, Haas amended his petition to assert violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12112, et seq. (Docket Entry No. 3 at 3; Docket Entry No. 1-A-9). The defendants timely removed on the basis of federal-question jurisdiction, and moved to dismiss on the ground that Haas's state and federal claims were time-barred. (Docket Entry Nos. 1, 3). Haas responded that his new claims were part of his original petition because it can be read liberally to include any claims that he could have initially pleaded, even if he did not do so then. (Docket Entry No. 8 at 5).

         II. The Legal Standard

         A. Rule 12(b)(1)

         A claim must be dismissed if the court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). In ruling on a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, courts may evaluate: (1) the petition alone; (2) the petition supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or (3) the petition supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts. Choice Inc. of Tex. v. Greenstein, 691 F.3d 710, 714 (5th Cir. 2012) (quoting Williamson v. Tucker, 645 F.2d 404, 413 (5th Cir. 1981)). The party invoking jurisdiction has the burden of proving it exists, by a preponderance of the evidence. See Three Expo Events, L.L.C. v. City of Dall., 907 F.3d 333, 343 (5th Cir. 2018).

         B. Rule 12(b)(6)

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a plaintiff must plead facts that, taken as true, state a plausible claim for relief. Bell Atlantic 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) (citing 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).

         The court should generally give a plaintiff at least one 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 Pervasive Software Inc. v. Lexware GmbH & Co. KG, 688 F.3d 214, 232 (5th Cir. 2012); 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). “Whether leave to amend should be granted is entrusted to the sound discretion of the district court.” Pervasive Software, 688 F.3d at 232 (quotation omitted). “A motion to dismiss may be granted on a statute of limitations defense where it is evident from the pleadings that the action is time-barred, and the pleadings fail to raise some basis for tolling.” Taylor v. Bailey Tool Mfg. Co., 744 F.3d 944, 946 (5th Cir. 2014).

         III. ...


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