United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
LORI T. ADAMS, Plaintiff,
PAM SHIPMAN, Chief Executive Officer of Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions, STEVEN TIMMONS, Chief Administrative Officer, VALERIE HENNIKER, Director of Five County Community Operations Center, and MARNI CAHILL, Regional Director of Mental Health/Substance Abuse Care Coordination at Five County Community Operations Center, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
JAMES A. BEATY, District Judge.
On September 27, 2013, Plaintiff Lori T. Adams ("Plaintiff"), pro se, filed her original Complaint ("Original Complaint") [Doc. #1], which alleges violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2611 et seq. (the "FMLA"), the Americans with Disability Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq. (the "ADA"), and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 as amended. On October 9, 2013, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint [Doc. #5], which alleges violations under the FMLA. This matter is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss [Doc. #11] filed by Defendants Pam Shipman, Steven Timmons, Valerie Hennike,  and Marni Cahill (collectively "Defendants"), pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendants further request that the Court dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint [Doc. #5] as to Defendants Hennike and Cahill pursuant to Rules 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(5) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for lack of personal jurisdiction and insufficient service of process. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is fully briefed and is now before the Court for review. For the reasons discussed herein, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [Doc. #11].
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Based on the allegations in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, it appears that Plaintiff was employed by Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions ("Cardinal Innovations") and/or Five County Community Operations Center ("Five County") from December 2008 until on or about August 15, 2012. (Am. Compl. [Doc. #5], at 4.) Plaintiff asserts on August 15, 2012, she was out of work on approved leave under the FMLA, which was approved by Cardinal Innovations through its subcontractor, FMLA Source. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that her leave was granted because she "met all FMLA criteria relative to length of employment and medical need." (Id.) Plaintiff also asserts that she was "in good standing relative to her work performance" and that she "had no unfavorable performance evaluations." (Id.) Plaintiff further alleges that she was on FMLA leave when she was terminated from her employment on August 15, 2012. (Id.) Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Shipman, Chief Executive Officer of Cardinal Innovations, and Defendant Timmons, Chief Administrative Officer of Cardinal Innovations, provided "inadequate supervision" to a subordinate, Defendant Hennike, the Executive Director of Five County. ( Id. at 3.) As to Defendant Hennike, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Hennike "signed the letters of termination mailed to plaintiff and inadvertently approved the explicit actions of [Defendant] Cahill." (Id.) Plaintiff also generally alleges that Defendant Hennike failed to appropriately supervise Defendant Cahill and specifically alleges that Defendant Cahill ignored information from Plaintiff, information that addressed "requests for modifications in employment." ( Id. at 3, 5.) As to Defendant Cahill, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Cahill directly participated in "violation of FMLA at Five County." (Id.) Furthermore, Plaintiff asserts that after Defendants sent her a letter that denoted her original termination date, Defendants sent a second letter to Plaintiff with a different termination date, in an effort to "to ensure they were within the FMLA law and to escape having to pay... [P]laintiff['s] unemployment benefits." ( Id. at 5.) Plaintiff asserts that this second letter was mailed to Plaintiff after she applied for unemployment benefits. Thus, based on the allegations stated above, it appears that Plaintiff has alleged violations under the FMLA and the ADA. In her request for relief, Plaintiff seeks one year's salary in the approximate sum of fifty four thousand dollars ($54, 000.00).
Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss [Doc. #11] Plaintiff's Amended Complaint based on several arguments. First, Defendants argue that insomuch as Plaintiff is attempting to assert that the named defendants are subject to individual liability under the ADA, such claims must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because Plaintiff failed to name the individual Defendants in her charge filed with the EEOC. Further, concerning Plaintiff's ADA claims, Defendants argue that even if subject matter jurisdiction existed as to the individual defendants, there is no personal liability for the alleged violations of the ADA and even so, Plaintiff has failed to plead sufficient facts to state a claim under the ADA. As to Plaintiff's FMLA claims, Defendants argue that there is no individual liability under the FMLA and, furthermore, Plaintiff fails to state a claim for relief under the FMLA. Lastly, as to Defendants Hennike and Cahill, Defendants argue that any claims against these particular Defendants should be dismissed for insufficiency of service of process and for a lack of personal jurisdiction.
Defendants have moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint based on a lack of subject matter jurisdiction, a lack of personal jurisdiction combined with insufficient service of process, and for the failure to state a claim as to both Plaintiff's claims under the ADA and under the FMLA. Accordingly, the Court will address each basis for dismissal in turn. The Court must, however, address any jurisdictional issues prior to addressing the motion to dismiss for the failure to state a claim. Sucampo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Astellas Pharma, Inc. , 471 F.3d 544, 548 (4th Cir. 2006) ("[D]ismissal of a case on an issue relating to the merits of the dispute, such as failure to state a claim, is improper without resolving threshold issues of jurisdiction, including personal jurisdiction.")
A. Lack of Personal Jurisdiction and Insufficient Service of Process
Defendants assert that Plaintiff has failed to properly serve Defendants Hennike and Cahill with a Summons or Amended Complaint in this case and, thus, argue that the claims asserted against Defendants Hennike and Cahill should be dismissed for insufficient service of process and lack of personal jurisdiction. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(5) provides for dismissal of an action for insufficient service of process. The Court can "exercise [personal] jurisdiction over... Defendant[s] only if there is valid service of process upon... Defendant[s]." Shaver v. Cooleemee Volunteer Fire Dep't, No. 1:07CV175 , 2008 WL 942560 (M.D. N.C. Apr. 7, 2008) (citing Armco, Inc. v. Penrod-Stauffer Bldg. Sys. , 733 F.2d 1087, 1089 (4th Cir. 1984)). "In resolving a motion under Rule 12(b)(5), the party making the service has the burden of demonstrating its validity when an objection to service is made.'" United States v. Sea Bay Dev. Corp., CIV.A.2:06CV624 , 2007 WL 1378544 (E.D. Va. May 8, 2007) (quoting Reed v. Weeks Marine, Inc. , 166 F.Supp.2d 1052, 1054 (E.D. Pa. 2001). Pursuant to Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, service of a summons and complaint must be made within 120 days of the filing of the complaint. If service is not effectuated within the 120-day time period, the district court "shall dismiss the actions without prejudice against that defendant or order that service be effected within a specific time." Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(m).
In this case, Plaintiff has conceded that service of process was not completed as to Defendants Hennike and Cahill. (See Pl.'s Resp. [Doc. #16], at 8.) Plaintiff, in her Response, has stated that she attempted to serve Defendants Hennike and Cahill but asserts that they "evaded the summons with one saying they were out of town and the other instructed the sheriff's office to serve their [sic] corporate office." (Id.) Indeed, Plaintiff has provided Proof of Service letters (see id. at 28-29) showing that she attempted to serve Defendants Hennike and Cahill. Plaintiff has requested an extension of time to serve Defendants Hennike and Cahill in her Response, if the Court determines that her claims against Defendants Hennike and Cahill should be dismissed because of insufficient service of process.
Pursuant to Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court may "extend the time for service for an appropriate period" if Plaintiff demonstrates good cause for failing to serve Defendants Hennike and Cahill with process. "[T]he Court may find good cause where the plaintiff has taken the affirmative action to effectuate service of process upon the defendant or has been prohibited, through no fault of his own, from taking such an affirmative action.'" Tennenbaum. PNC Bank Nat'l Ass'n, No. DKC-10-2215, 2011 WL 2038550, at *4 (D. Md. May 24, 2011) (quoting Vincent v. Reynolds Mem'l Hosp., Inc. , 141 F.R.D. 436, 437 (N.D. W.Va. 1992)). In this case, the Court finds that in light of Plaintiff's contentions and the Proof of Service letters provided by Plaintiff, that Plaintiff has shown good cause for failing to complete service of process upon Defendants Hennike and Cahill. However, granting an extension of time to effectuate service would be futile, because as is explained more fully below, the Court finds that Plaintiff's claims must be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Accordingly, the Court need not grant any such extension, and Defendants' Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)2) and 12(b)(5) is granted.
B. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies and Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Defendants assert that Plaintiff's ADA claim should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because Plaintiff failed to name the Defendants, in their individual capacity, in her EEOC Charge, which Defendants have attached to their brief supporting their Motion to Dismiss. (See EEOC Charge [Doc. #12-1].) Specifically, Defendants assert that Plaintiff only named "Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions/Five County" as the respondent in her EEOC Charge. (Id.)
Defendants correctly assert that Defendants must have been named in the EEOC Charge for the Court to exercise jurisdiction over Plaintiff's ADA claim against Defendants in their individual capacities. Tuttle v. Anuvia Prevention & Discovery, No. 3:13CV134, 2013 WL 3899666, at *3 (W.D. N.C. July 29, 2013) (dismissing the plaintiff's Title VII and ADA claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because individual defendants were not named in the EEOC Charge and reasoning that even though the individual defendants "may have had knowledge of [the p]laintiff's EEOC Charge against the company" it did not necessarily put the individual defendants on notice that they would "be personally liable for the alleged violations."); Monroe v. BellSouth Telecomms., Inc., No. Civ. 102CV00591, 2003 WL 22037720, at *3 (M.D. N.C. Aug. 15, 2003) (dismissing ADA claim, as well as the plaintiff's claims under Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), against individual defendants when the individual defendants were not named in the EEOC Charge); Stafford v. Radford Cmty. Hosp., Inc. , 908 F.Supp. 1369, 1372-73 ...