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Hudson v. Shelby County Government

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

May 21, 2018

ROBERT L. HUDSON, Plaintiff,
SHELBY COUNTY GOVERNMENT, TENNESSEE, SHELBY COUNTY DIVISION OF CORRECTIONS, WILLIAM J. GUPTON, JR., in his official capacity and Individual capacity, and ANTHONY GUNN, in his official capacity and individual capacity, Defendants.



         Before the Court is Defendants Shelby County Government, Tennessee; Shelby County Division of Corrections; William J. Gupton, Jr.; and Anthony Gunn (“Defendants”)'s Motion for Summary Judgment, filed on January 22, 2018. (ECF No. 51.) The Court has considered the motion, as well as Plaintiff Robert Hudson's response, filed February 18, 2018 (ECF No. 60) and Defendants' reply, filed on March 1, 2018 (ECF No. 61). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is DENIED as to Hudson's claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and GRANTED as to Hudson's Due Process Clause claim.

         I. Background

         a. Factual History

         Plaintiff Robert L. Hudson seeks damages for violations of his rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12201 et seq., and violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (ECF No. 28).

         On January 2, 2001, Defendant Shelby County Division of Corrections (“SCDOC”), a public employer and division of Defendant Shelby County, Tennessee, hired Hudson as a corrections officer. (Id. ¶¶ 2-3, 8.) As a corrections officer, “Plaintiff was responsible for, among other things, maintaining security and order in the Division of Corrections, observing and reporting conduct of inmates, operation of security floors, supervising the movement and transportation of inmates, maintaining control of areas within the prison, and controlling, restraining and maintaining disciplinary control over the inmates.” (Id. ¶ 8.)

         In August 2010, Hudson underwent surgery to his right eye to correct uncontrolled intraocular pressures, and subsequently lost all vision in his right eye. (Id. ¶ 11.) Following the surgery, Hudson requested and was given FMLA protection for leave. (Id. ¶ 12.) Sometime in September 2010, he returned to work as a corrections officer without restrictions. (Id. ¶ 13.) Hudson underwent a second surgery to his right eye on April 13, 2011, and returned to work three days later on April 16, 2011, without restrictions. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.)

         “On December 10, 2014, Plaintiff went out on medical leave to have surgery on his right foot to correct damage he suffered as a result of a blood clot forming in his right leg.” (Id. ¶ 18.) Following the surgery, Hudson exhausted his available leave days as well as his leave under the FMLA, and “went on Long-Term Disability on or around June 24, 2015.” (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, ECF No. 60-2, ¶¶ 1-2 (citing Hudson Dep., ECF No. 57 at 45:21-46:11).) On November 10, 2015, Hudson's medical provider cleared him to return to work without restrictions. (ECF No. 28, ¶ 19.) Hudson notified SCDOC and requested to return on December 1, 2015. (Id. ¶ 19.) On November 30, 2015, SCDOC informed Hudson he would need to take a drug test on December 1, 2015; he complied. (Id. ¶ 20.)

         SCDOC then informed Hudson he would need to undergo a physical fitness examination; Plaintiff complied on December 8, 2015, by seeing a professional selected by SCDOC. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22.) The results of that exam were faxed to Defendants on December 10, 2015. (Id. ¶ 23.)

         On or about December 29, 2015, Hudson obtained a copy of the exam results. (Id. ¶ 26.) On the form sent to SCDOC, the doctor checked a box indicating that Hudson was “unable to perform all essential functions as listed;” the form requested that the doctor “[p]lease list failed essential function(s);” the doctor wrote at the bottom of the form: “1) CRF - on dialysis 2) No. vision in right eye.” (Id.)

         Around this time, Defendant Anthony Gunn, the Human Resources Manager of the SCDOC who had supervisory authority over Hudson while Hudson worked at SCDOC (id. ¶ 5), allegedly informed Hudson that “[t]hey are not going to let you [Hudson] come back to work” at SCDOC; the “they” of his comment was left unclear. (Id. ¶ 27.)[1]

         On or about May 23, 2016, Gunn offered Hudson a position as a maintenance utility worker with the SCDOC. (Id. ¶ 31.) Hudson contends “Defendants offered Plaintiff no appeal rights through the Civil Service Merit Board, nor was Plaintiff given notice of, or an opportunity to be heard on, the reasons for his termination.” (Id. ¶ 32.)

         b. Procedural History

         Hudson brought this action on December 1, 2016. (ECF No. 1.) He alleged that Defendants' actions constituted unlawful disability discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as enforced through 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On March 6, 2017, Hudson filed an Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 28.) The Amended Complaint included Plaintiff's right to sue letter from the EEOC and alleged claims pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 12201, et seq. (“ADA”), and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (Id.) Hudson seeks back pay, lost benefits, reinstatement or front pay if reinstatement is not feasible, compensatory damages, punitive damages, costs and expenses, pre- and post-judgment interest, and fees. (Id. at 88-89.[2]) Defendants filed an answer on April 3, 2017. (ECF No. 35.)

         On April 18, 2017, Defendants filed a Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings. (ECF No. 36.) Defendants moved the Court to dismiss Hudson's claims under the ADA against William Gupton and Anthony Gunn, individually, and under the Equal Protection Clause pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. (ECF No. 36-1 at 141-42.) At the Scheduling Conference on April 21, 2017, counsel for both parties agreed that the individual ADA claims against Defendants Gupton and Gunn should be dismissed. The Scheduling Order reflects that dismissal. (ECF No. 39 at 152.) On August 1, 2017, the Court granted the remainder of Defendants' motion to dismiss, and dismissed Hudson's claims for violation of the Equal Protection Clause. (ECF No. 42.)

         Defendants filed the instant motion on January 22, 2018. (ECF No. 51.) Hudson filed his response on February 18, 2018, and Defendants filed their reply on March 1, 2018. (ECF Nos. 60, 61.)

         On March 21, 2018, the Court held a status conference to re-set the trial date to May 21, 2018. (ECF Nos. 63, 64.) On April 16, 2018, Hudson filed a motion to continue the trial because of his own unavailability. (ECF No. 66.) Magistrate Judge Pham granted the motion on April 17, 2018 (ECF No. 67), acting pursuant to Administrative Order 2018-13.

         II. Legal Standards

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); accord Haddad v. Alexander, Zelmanski, Danner & Fioritto, PLLC, 758 F.3d 777, 781 (6th Cir. 2014) (per curiam). “A genuine dispute of material facts exists if ‘there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.'” Am. Copper & Brass, Inc. v. ...

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