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Hawthorne-Burdine v. Oakland University

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

February 14, 2017

Dorothy Hawthorne-Burdine, Plaintiff,
Oakland University, et al., Defendants.

          Anthony P. Patti United States Magistrate Judge


          Hon. Gershwin A. Drain United States District Court Judge

         I. Introduction

         Dorothy Hawthorne-Burdine ("Plaintiff) filed this case on August 29, 2016, alleging discrimination by her past employer, Oakland University, and other defendants including Medicolegal Services ("Medicolegal"), 30 individually-named defendants, and 100 John Does (collectively, "Oakland Defendants, " excluding Medicolegal). See Dkt. Nos. 1, 12. This case is related to a prior proceeding (hereinafter, the "2015 Case"), which was dismissed and its judgment affirmed by the Sixth Circuit in November 2016. See Hawthorne-Burdine v. Oakland Univ., 158 F.Supp.3d 586 (E.D. Mich. 2016); Hawthorne-Burdine v. Oakland Univ., No. 16-1103 (6th Cir. Nov. 3, 2016).

         This matter is before the Court on Medicolegal's Motion to Dismiss [25] and Oakland Defendants' Renewed Motion to Dismiss and/or for Summary Judgment [35]. Both motions are fully briefed and oral argument was held on February 13, 2016.

         For the reasons discussed herein, Court will GRANT Medicolegal's Motion to Dismiss [25] and GRANT Oakland Defendants' Renewed Motion to Dismiss and/or for Summary Judgment [35].

         II. Background

         A. Plaintiff's Employment with Oakland University and Denial of Tenure

         Facts related to Plaintiff's employment with Oakland University, her removal from the campus, and the denial of Plaintiff's tenure application were recited in the 2015 Case. Hawthorne-Burdine, 158 F.Supp.3d at 591-96. As the facts related to these issues are lengthy, and all occurred prior to September 2015, the Court refers to the Background section of the order dismissing the 2015 Case for the sake of brevity. See id.

         B. The 2015 Case

         On September 16, 2015, Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging discrimination by her former employer, Oakland University, Medicolegal Services, 28 individually-named defendants, and 100 John Does. See Hawthorne-Burdine, 158 F.Supp.3d at 586.

         In her Complaint in the 2015 Case, Plaintiff referenced to and quoted from the three independent medical examination assessments that Oakland University required her to undergo to be allowed to return to campus. Case No. 15-cv-13285, Dkt. No. 4, pp. 33-34 (Pg. ID 89-90). Oakland Defendants included these assessments as exhibits in their motion to dismiss and/for summary judgment to respond to Plaintiff's allegations. Compare id. (stating that all three assessments cleared Plaintiff to return to work) with Hawthorne-Burdine, 158 F.Supp.3d at 594 (providing that Dr. Wolf's psychiatric examination reported that Plaintiff “should be regarded as unfit to return to her teaching position at the present time”); see also Hawthorne-Burdine, 158 F.Supp.3d at 595 n.10 (“In her Complaint, Plaintiff misattributed her own statements, quoted by Dr. Wolf in his psychiatric report, as though they were Dr. Wolf's examination findings.”). Defendants filed the medical assessments on the public docket on October 29, 2015. Case No. 15-cv-13285, Dkt. No. 12. Plaintiff filed a motion to strike the assessments on November 9, 2015. Dkt. No. 18. The Court sealed the assessments on November 10, 2015, Dkt. No. 20, one day after the Court was notified the documents should be placed under seal.

         On December 8, 2015, Plaintiff filed “protected health information provided by her private physician for ADA accommodation” on the docket without properly sealing it. Case No. 15-cv-13285, Dkt. No. 30, p. 1 (Pg. ID 1845); Case No. 15-cv- 13285, p. 22 (Pg. ID 524) (noting Plaintiff's health ailments would make traveling to different campus to teach difficult). The Court ultimately struck the entire filing as untimely on December 17, 2015. Case No. 15-cv-13285, Dkt. No. 32, pp. 2-3 (Pg. ID 1850-51) (“Plaintiff then filed two motions, Dkt. No. 30-31, seeking to strike duplicative filings, Dkt. No. 26-27, and seal an exhibit she herself filed without complying with Local Rule 5.3(a).”).

         After full briefing and oral argument, the Court granted Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and/or Motion for Summary Judgment on January 27, 2016. See id. Plaintiff filed a timely appeal. Case No. 15-cv-13285, Dkt. No. 38, p. 1 (Pg. ID 1904).

         The Sixth Circuit affirmed the Court's judgment on November 3, 2016 after performing a de novo review. Case No. 15-cv-13285, Dkt. No. 40, p. 2 (Pg. ID 1908). In its Order, the Sixth Circuit held: (1) “Hawthorne-Burdine could not rebut Oakland University's proffered legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for her termination, and the district court did not err in dismissing her race discrimination claim, ” id. at 3-4 (Pg. ID 1909-10); (2) “The district court did not err in dismissing Hawthorne-Burdine's ADA and ADEA claims against Oakland University because the university is entitled to sovereign immunity, ” id. at 4 (Pg. ID 1910); (3) “The district court did not err in dismissing Hawthorne-Burdine's claims against the individually named defendants because individuals who are not employers cannot be held personally liable under the ADA, ” id.; (4) “The district court did not err in dismissing the claims against the Oakland University Police Department because it does not exist as an entity separate from the university itself, ” id.; (5) “The district court did not err in dismissing her claims against Medicolegal because Hawthorne-Burdine did not allege that Medicolegal was her employer, ” id.; (6) “The district court did not err in declining to exercise jurisdiction over Hawthorne-Burdine's supplemental state-law claims because the court properly dismissed her federal claims, ” id.; (7) “[Hawthorne-Burdine] is not entitled to relief on her judicial bias claim because ‘judicial rulings alone almost never constitute valid basis for a bias or partiality recusal motion, ' ” id.; and (8) “a district court does not abuse its discretion in failing to grant a party leave to amend where such leave is not sought.” Id. at 4-5.

         There is no evidence on the 2015 Case's docket that Plaintiff appealed the Sixth Circuit's order affirming judgment to the United States Supreme Court.

         C. The 2016 Case

         After appealing the 2015 Case, but prior to the Sixth Circuit's decision affirming the Court's judgment, Plaintiff filed this second proceeding (hereinafter, the “2016 Case”) in August 2016. See Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff filed a first Amended Complaint on September 28, 2016, adding Defendants' counsel from the 2015 Case, Daniel Bernard, as a new defendant and adding four additional claims. Dkt. No. 12. Plaintiff's 2016 Amended Complaint includes 21 claims. Id. On October 31, 2016, the Court dismissed six of Plaintiff's claims that had been dismissed with prejudice in the 2015 Case. Dkt. No. 29, p. 6 (Pg. ID 804). The dismissed claims alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII), and Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Id. Accordingly, fifteen of the claims brought in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint remain.

         On October 25, 2016, Medicolegal filed a Motion to Dismiss, arguing that Plaintiff's claims are barred by res judicata and fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Dkt. No. 25. Oakland Defendants similarly filed a Motion to Dismiss and/or for Summary Judgment based on the Amended Complaint on November 22, 2016, Dkt. No. 33, which was stricken for utilizing an improper font size, Dkt. No. 34. The Court granted Oakland Defendants an additional six days to refile the brief in accordance with the Local Rules. Dkt. No. 34. Oakland Defendants submitted a renewed motion, in compliance with the Local Rules, on November 28, 2016. Dkt. No. 35.

         III. Legal Standards

         A. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1)

         When defendants seek to dismiss an action under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), the court is “bound to consider the 12(b)(1) motion first, since the Rule 12(b)(6) challenge becomes moot if this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.” Moir v. Greater Cleveland Reg'l Transit Auth., 895 F.2d 266, 269 (6th Cir. 1990). Dismissals for lack of jurisdiction should generally be made without prejudice. Ernst v. Rising, 427 F.3d 351, 367 (6th Cir. 2005).

         Under a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving jurisdiction in order to survive the motion. Id. Furthermore, on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, unlike a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court is empowered to resolve factual disputes. Rogers v. Stratton Indus., Inc., 798 F.2d 913, 915 (6th Cir. 1986).

         “Motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction fall into two general categories: facial attacks and factual attacks.” United States v. Ritchie, 15 F.3d 592, 598 (6th Cir. 1994). Whereas a facial attack is a challenge to the sufficiency of the pleading itself, a factual attack challenges the factual existence of subject matter jurisdiction. Id. Where the motion makes a facial attack, the court must construe the petition's allegations in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and take the material allegations as true. Id. Conversely, on a factual attack, there is no presumption of truthfulness applied to factual allegations, allowing the court to “weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of its power to hear the case.” Id.

         B. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes dismissal of a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” To withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must comply with the pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Rule 8(a)(2) requires “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quotation marks omitted) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). To meet this standard, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-80 (2009) (applying the plausibility standard articulated in Twombly).

         When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must construe the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept all of her factual allegations as true. Lambert v. Hartman, 517 F.3d 433, 439 (6th Cir. 2008). However, the Court need not accept mere conclusory statements or legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court may consider “the Complaint and any exhibits attached thereto, public records, items appearing in the record of the case and exhibits attached to defendant's motion to dismiss so long as they are referred to in the Complaint and are central to the claims contained therein.” Bassett v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 528 F.3d 426, 430 (6th Cir. 2008). The Court may also consider “documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial notice.” Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007).

         C. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(d) provides that, “[i]f, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(c), matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.” The parties “must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). A motion for summary judgment ...

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