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Jefferson v. Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP

United States District Court, District of Columbia

April 7, 2017



          REGGIE B. WALTON United States District Judge

         The plaintiff in this civil action, Reverend David L. Jefferson, alleges that the defendant, Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP[1] (“Stinson”), discriminated against him on the basis of his disability, Third Amended Complaint (“Third Am. Compl.”) ¶ 1, and brings claims against the defendant under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12181-12189 (2012), the District of Columbia Human Rights Act (the “Human Rights Act”), D.C. Code Ann. §§ 2-1401.01-1404.04 (2001), and a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress under District of Columbia common law, Third Am. Compl. ¶¶ 45-46, 57-58, 63. Currently before the Court is the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint (“Def.'s Mot.”). Upon careful consideration of the parties' submissions, [2] the Court concludes that it must grant Stinson's motion to dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         According to the plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint, he suffers from “physical and mental impairments of mild Traumatic Brain Injury, Somatoform Disorder, Convergence Insufficiency, Fatigue, Memory Loss, Major Depressive Disorder[, ] and Occipital Neuralgia that substantially limit him in the major life activities of working, reading, seeing[, ] and communicating.” Third Am. Compl. ¶ 6. During 2014, Stinson represented clients who were named as defendants by the plaintiff in a separate matter assigned to this Court. Id. ¶ 8. Related to that litigation, on September 8, 2014, a Stinson attorney sent to the plaintiff's counsel a notice to take the plaintiff's deposition. Id. ¶ 12. In response, on September 10, 2014, the plaintiff's counsel sent an e-mail to Stinson requesting that a computer or tablet be provided for the plaintiff to use during the deposition. Id. ¶ 13. Stinson neither objected to this request nor did it provide the plaintiff with a computer or tablet during the deposition, which was conducted on September 17, 2014. Id. ¶¶ 13-18. The plaintiff asserts that he felt obligated to continue with the deposition despite not having the assistance of a computer or a tablet. Id. ¶ 18.

         The plaintiff alleges that his participation in the deposition without a computer or tablet caused him stress, which led him to seek “help from a heath care facility recommended by his psychiatrist.” Id. ¶ 19. Subsequently, the plaintiff's wife took on the responsibility of managing the plaintiff's affairs while he received “out-of-state medical hospitalization and treatment” until December 17, 2014. Id. ¶¶ 20-21.

         On September 14, 2015, almost one year after the deposition was conducted, the plaintiff filed a complaint with the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (the “Human Rights Office”), id. ¶ 22, which dismissed the plaintiff's complaint without prejudice for failing to state a claim for which relief could be granted, id. ¶ 23. The plaintiff appealed the decision, but the Human Rights Office affirmed its dismissal. Id. ¶¶ 24-25. The plaintiff then filed his original complaint in this matter on May 11, 2016. See Complaint (May 11, 2016), ECF No. 1.


         The plaintiff seeks dismissal of the Third Amended Complaint under both Rules 12(b)(1) and Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See generally Def.'s Mot. Consideration of such motions are evaluated under the following standards of review.

         A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1)

         A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) “presents a threshold challenge to the court's jurisdiction.” Morrow v. United States, 723 F.Supp.2d 71, 75 (D.D.C. 2010) (Walton, J.) (quoting Haase v. Sessions, 835 F.2d 902, 906 (D.C. Cir. 1987)). While a court must “assume the truth of all material factual allegations in the complaint and ‘construe the complaint liberally, granting [the] plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged, '” Am. Nat'l Ins. Co. v. FDIC, 642 F.3d 1137, 1139 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (quoting Thomas v. Principi, 394 F.3d 970, 972 (D.C. Cir. 2005)), the plaintiff nonetheless bears the burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that the court has subject matter jurisdiction, Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992). Accordingly, “‘the [p]laintiff's factual allegations in the complaint . . . will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a 12(b)(1) motion' than in resolving a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim.” Grand Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police v. Ashcroft, 185 F.Supp.2d 9, 13-14 (D.D.C. 2001) (quoting 5A Charles A Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1350 (2d ed.)). Moreover, “the court need not limit itself to the allegations of the complaint.” Id. at 14. Instead, “a court may consider such materials outside the pleadings as it deems appropriate to resolve the question [of] whether it has jurisdiction [in] the case.” Scolaro v. D.C. Bd. of Elections & Ethics, 104 F.Supp.2d 18, 22 (D.D.C. 2000).

         B. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Thus, to survive a motion to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, '” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (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. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); see also Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994) (a plaintiff is entitled to “the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged”). Although the Court must accept the facts pleaded as true, legal allegations devoid of factual support are not entitled to this assumption. See Kowal, 16 F.3d at 1276. Along with the allegations made within the four corners of the complaint, the court may also consider “any documents either attached to or incorporated in the complaint and matters of which [it] may take judicial notice.” EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir. 1997).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. The ...

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