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Owen v. O'Reilly Auto Enterprises, LLC

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

November 15, 2017

Dennis Owen, Plaintiff,
v.
O'Reilly Auto Enterprises, LLC d/b/a O'Reilly Auto Parts, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS (ECF NO. 25)

          EVELYN J. FURSE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Defendant O'Reilly Auto Enterprises, LLC d/b/a O'Reilly Auto Parts (“O'Reilly”) moves the Court[1] for partial judgment on the pleadings. (Mot. for Partial J. on the Pleadings (“Mot.”), ECF No. 25.) O'Reilly asks this Court to (1) dismiss Mr. Owen's claim of damages from physical injuries under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), (2) exclude evidence of Mr. Owen's physical injuries from his punitive damages claim under the ADA, and (3) dismiss Mr. Owen's intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. (Mot. 3, ECF No. 25.) The Court held a hearing on O'Reilly's Motion on July 12, 2017. (ECF No. 38.) At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court took the Motion under advisement. (Id.) After considering the parties' briefing and oral argument presented by counsel, the Court DENIES O'Reilly's Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings because Mr. Owen does not claim damages from physical injury as part of his ADA claim; making evidentiary rulings based on the pleadings is premature; and Mr. Owen does state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND & PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On October 27, 2016, Mr. Owen filed the immediate action against O'Reilly, alleging three ADA-related claims, including (1) failure to provide reasonable accommodation, (2) disability discrimination, (3) retaliation, and one state law claim (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress. (See Compl. 9-12, ECF No. 2.) On March 8, 2017, O'Reilly moved the Court for partial judgment on the pleadings. (Mot., ECF No. 25.) O'Reilly asks this Court to (1) dismiss Mr. Owen's claim of damages for physical injuries, (2) exclude evidence of Mr. Owen's physical injuries from his punitive damages claim, and (3) dismiss Mr. Owen's intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. (Mot. 3, ECF No. 25.)

         The Court recites the following pertinent facts accepting, as it must, the well-pled factual allegations as true, viewing the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See Atl. Richfield Co. v. Farm Credit Bank, 226 F.3d 1138, 1160 (10th Cir. 2000); Wilson v. Montano, 715 F.3d 847, 852 (10th Cir. 2013).

         This litigation arises out of O'Reilly's refusal to accommodate Mr. Owen's disability request and Mr. Owen's subsequent termination from O'Reilly in February of 2015. (Compl. 8, ECF No. 2.) O'Reilly's store manager, Ms. Jones, hired Mr. Owen as a part-time parts specialist in May 2014. (Compl. ¶ 20, ECF No. 2.) Mr. Owen alleges that during his interview, he “disclosed he had extensive injuries that prohibited him from lifting anything weighing more than three (3) pounds and performing repetitive tasks with his wrists, arms, and shoulders.” (Compl. ¶ 16, ECF No. 2.)

         Prior to working for O'Reilly, the United States Air Force employed Mr. Owen at Hill Air Force Base. (Compl. ¶¶ 6-7, ECF No. 2.) While there, a piece of an aircraft fell on Mr. Owen injuring his back, neck, arms, wrists, and shoulders, causing him to have thirty-six surgeries, including the fusing of both of his wrists. (Compl. ¶¶ 7-9, ECF No. 2.) Mr. Owen alleges that Ms. Jones told him O'Reilly could accommodate his restrictions by allowing Mr. Owen to assist customers while relying on other employees to perform the tasks that Mr. Owen could not. (Compl. ¶ 18, ECF No. 2.)

         Mr. Owen successfully worked as a parts specialist with the requested accommodation between May and August of 2014. (Compl. ¶¶ 18, 21, 24, ECF No. 2.) Mr. Owen alleges that in August of 2014, a coworker complained to Ms. Jones that Mr. Owen “worked too slowly.” (Compl. ¶ 22, ECF No. 2.) In response, Mr. Owen claims Ms. Jones began asking “Mr. Owen to perform tasks that violated his medical restrictions, ” such as “stocking brake rotors and brake parts that weighed more than three (3) pounds.” (Compl. ¶ 24, ECF No. 2.) Despite Mr. Owen routinely reminding Ms. Jones that his disability prevented him from lifting more than three pounds or engaging in repetitive tasks from August 2014 through January of 2015, Ms. Jones repeatedly asked Mr. Owen to complete assignments that violated his physical limitations. (Compl. ¶¶ 25-26, 30-32, ECF No. 2.) For example, in January of 2015, Ms. Jones asked Mr. Owen to stock thirty five five-quart oil containers, each weighing approximately ten pounds. (Compl. ¶¶ 36-37, ECF No. 2.) In addition, Ms. Jones told Mr. Owen to open and break down the boxes in which the oil came. (Compl. ¶ 38, ECF No. 2.) When Mr. Owen told Ms. Jones that these tasks caused him pain, Ms. Jones told Mr. Owen that the tasks “better be done.” (Compl. ¶¶ 39-40, ECF No. 2.)

         Around December 23, 2014, Ms. Jones gave Mr. Owen a medical form for his medical provider to complete. (Compl. ¶ 28, ECF No. 2.) On January 25, 2015, Ms. Jones placed Mr. Owen on unpaid leave for failing to return the medical form. (Compl. ¶ 46, ECF No. 2.) On February 4, 2016, O'Reilly told Mr. Owen he had until February 18, 2016 to submit a letter from his medical prover detailing his physical limitations. (Compl. ¶ 51, ECF No. 2.) Mr. Owen submitted the letter from his medical provider on February 10, 2015, after Ms. Jones refused to accept it on February 6, 2015. (Id. ¶¶ 51-52.) On February 26, 2015, Mr. Owen received a letter from O'Reilly stating it could not accommodate his medical restrictions and terminating his employment, effective February 24, 2015. (Id. ¶ 55.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         “A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) is treated as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).” Atl. Richfield Co. v. Farm Credit Bank, 226 F.3d 1138, 1160 (10th Cir. 2000). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Hogan v. Winder, 762 F.3d 1096, 1104 (10th Cir. 2014) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007)). “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 Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). In reviewing a motion to dismiss, and thus a motion for judgment on the pleadings, courts accept as true the well-pled factual allegations and view the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See Wilson v. Montano, 715 F.3d 847, 852 (10th Cir. 2013).

         A. The Court Declines to Rule on the Admissibility of Evidence of Physical Injuries at this Time.

         O'Reilly first asks this Court to dismiss Mr. Owen's claim for physical injury damages, arguing the ADA does not allow claims for physical injuries. (Mot. 10, ECF No. 25.) Mr. Owen counters that he “has simply not made a claim that O'Reilly should compensate him for his physical injuries in and of themselves. Consequently, it is both unnecessary and ultimately impossible to dismiss a claim which has not actually been asserted.” (Pl's Mem. in Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Partial J. on the Pleadings, (“Opp'n”), 7, ECF No. 26.) Rather, Mr. Owen claims he merely seeks to introduce evidence of his physical injuries, exacerbated while working at O'Reilly, pursuant to his ADA claim for punitive damages. (Id. at 8-9.)

         At the hearing, O'Reilly conceded that Mr. Owen has not pled a claim of damages for his exacerbated physical injuries. Nonetheless, O'Reilly asks this Court to address whether Mr. Owen may put on evidence during trial of his physical injuries pursuant to his ADA claim for punitive damages. (Mot. 12-13, ECF No. ...


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