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Carmichael v. Morrison Management Specialists

United States District Court, W.D. New York

March 26, 2014

DARRYL L. CARMICHAEL Plaintiff,
v.
MORRISON MANAGEMENT SPECIALISTS and ERIE COUNTY MEDICAL CENTER Defendants.

DECISION AND ORDER

RICHARD J. ARCARA, District Judge.

This disability-discrimination case is brought by the plaintiff, Darryl L. Carmichael, against the defendants, Morrison Management Specialists ("Morrison"), and Erie County Medical Center ("ECMC"), under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112-12117 ("ADA") and New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law §§ 290-297 ("NYSHRL"). Plaintiff Carmichael alleges he was asked impermissible medical questions, and that he was discharged from employment based upon a disability.

Defendants Morrison and ECMC filed motions pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to dismiss plaintiff Carmichael's ADA claims on statute of limitations grounds. The Court entered an Order pursuant to Rules 12(d) and 56(f)(3), Dkt. No. 16, converting the motions to dismiss to motions for summary judgment. The action is now before the Court to determine whether material issues of fact preclude entry of judgment in favor of defendants on their statute of limitations defenses to plaintiff's ADA claims. For the reasons that follow, the Court enters summary judgment against plaintiff on his ADA claims, and declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over his NYSHRL claim.

BACKGROUND

In April of 2010, plaintiff Carmichael filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") claiming defendants Morrison and ECMC violated the ADA and NYSHRL. He alleged defendants subjected him to impermissible medical questions (the "First Charge"), and discharged him because of a disability after six hours of employment (the "Second Charge"). Dkt. No. 1.

On May 11, 2011, the EEOC mailed plaintiff Carmichael a letter captioned as a Final Determination (the "EEOC Letter") dismissing the Second Charge that alleged his wrongful discharge, and informing plaintiff of a 90-day deadline to bring suit. Dkt. No. 1, pp. 8-10. The EEOC referred the First Charge to the Department of Justice ("DOJ"). Dkt. No. 1, p. 17.

On April 30, 2011, DOJ mailed plaintiff a letter with the heading "NOTICE OF RIGHT TO SUE WITHIN 90 DAYS, " declining to pursue the First Charge alleging impermissible questions (the "DOJ Letter"), and informing plaintiff of a 90-day window to bring suit. Dkt. No. 1, p. 17. However, the DOJ Letter was returned unopened by plaintiff, and "unclaimed." Dkt. No. 1, p. 26.

On February 5, 2013, plaintiff Carmichael obtained copies of documentation relating to both the EEOC Letter and the DOJ Letter from his former employer and delivered copies of that documentation to his attorney. Dkt. No. 1, p. 14; Dkt. No. 18, ¶ 3. That documentation included detailed and accurate references to the DOJ Letter. Dkt. No. 1, p. 14; Dkt. No. 18, ¶ 3; Dkt. No. 18-1, p. 1. Plaintiff's attorney wrote plaintiff a letter dated the same date, and described to plaintiff the substance of the EEOC Letter and the DOJ Letter (the "Attorney Letter"). Dkt. No. 1, p. 14. The Attorney Letter advised plaintiff that his 90-day deadline to file suit would have expired, if plaintiff received the DOJ Letter when it was mailed to his residence.

Plaintiff Carmichael filed the Complaint in this action pro se, on July 1, 2013, 145 days after the date of the Attorney Letter. See Dkt. No. 1. When defendants Morrison and ECMC responded to the Complaint by filing motions to dismiss plaintiff's ADA claims, Dkt. Nos. 12, 13, plaintiff's attorney appeared on plaintiff's behalf to respond. Dkt. No. 18-1.

DISCUSSION

The Summary Judgment Standard. Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) ; see Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). While the right to trial by jury is a cherished right, summary judgment:

... is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather... must be construed with due regard not only for the rights of persons asserting claims and defenses that are adequately based in fact to have those claims and defenses tried to a jury, but also for the rights of persons opposing such claims and defenses to demonstrate..., prior to trial, that the claims and defenses have no factual basis.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986). A dispute regarding a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden of "demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party must come forward with enough evidence to support a jury verdict in its favor, and the motion will not be defeated merely upon a metaphysical doubt concerning the facts, or on the basis of conjecture or surmise." Bryant v. Maffuci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir. 1991) (quotations and internal citations omitted).

The ADA Claims Process. A disability-discrimination claimant must exhaust administrative remedies with the EEOC before filing ADA claims in district court. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e), (f); D'Lima v. Cuba Mem'l Hosp., Inc., 833 F.Supp.2d 383, 388 (W.D.N.Y. 2011). The administrative process begins when the claimant files a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(b). The EEOC investigates the charges. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(b). If the charges do not have merit, the EEOC may dismiss them and give the claimant notice of a 90-day deadline to sue in district court. See id. § 2000e-5(f). If the charges have merit, the EEOC will attempt to reach a conciliation agreement with ...


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