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Patel v. Meharry Medical School

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

August 6, 2019

RAJAN PATEL, Plaintiff,
v.
MEHARRY MEDICAL SCHOOL, Defendant.

          Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr. Chief Judge.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ALISTAIR E. NEWBERN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         In this action, pro se and in forma pauperis Plaintiff Rajan Patel alleges that Defendant Meharry Medical School violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it refused to review his application for a residency because Patel “needed a reasonable accommodation due to a slight disability.” (Doc. No. 1, PageID# 7.) Now pending is Meharry's motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 21), in which it argues that Patel's complaint was untimely filed and that he has failed to plead a cause of action under the ADA (Doc. No. 22). Patel filed a response in opposition. (Doc. No. 23.) For the reasons that follow, the Court will recommend that Meharry's motion to dismiss be granted.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Patel filed this action in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland on July 24, 2018, alleging that “[Meharry] denied to review [his] application because [he] needed a reasonable accommodation due to a slight disability. This is a breach of EEO law and was investigated by the Tennessee Human Rights Commission.” (Doc. No. 1, PageID# 7.) There are no other substantive allegations in Patel's complaint. Based on that two-sentence claim, Patel seeks admission to the school as a resident or an opportunity to interview for that position. (Doc. No. 1.)

         On July 26, 2018, the District of Maryland court entered a case management order that, among other things, required the parties to seek leave to file any motion, including a motion to dismiss the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b). (Doc. No. 3.) On August 31, 2018, Meharry filed a notice of intent to file a motion to dismiss arguing that Patel's complaint is untimely because it was filed more than ninety days after he received a right to sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and that Patel's “barebones allegations” are insufficient to state a claim. (Doc. No. 5, PageID# 31.) Meharry also argued that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over it and that the Middle District of Tennessee is the proper venue for this action. (Doc. No. 5.) Patel responded to Meharry's notice by stating that he did not oppose a transfer to this district and arguing that his complaint was timely filed because he did not receive the right to sue letter until May 3, 2018, in email correspondence with an EEOC employee. (Doc. No. 11.) Patel attached that email and various other documents relating to his claim to his response. (Doc. No. 11-1.)

         On October 24, 2018, the District of Maryland granted the parties' joint motion to transfer this action to the Middle District of Tennessee. (Doc. Nos. 12, 13.) On November 26, 2018, Patel filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis, which the Court granted, finding that, although the complaint was “devoid of detail, ” Patel had stated a claim under the ADA that was sufficient to survive initial screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). (Doc. No. 19, PageID# 105.) However, the Court noted that its “determination that the Complaint states a colorable claim for purposes of this initial screening” did not preclude Meharry from filing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim nor deprive the Magistrate Judge of the authority to recommend that such a motion be granted. (Id. at PageID# 106.) Meharry filed its motion to dismiss on January 7, 2019, arguing that Patel failed to plead a cause of action under the ADA and that, in any event, the action was untimely. (Doc. Nos. 21, 22.)

         In opposition, Patel again points to the May 3, 2018 email from the EEOC as proof that he did not receive the right to sue letter until that time. (Doc. No. 23.) Patel then argues that “[i]t is very clear to decipher” from the other documents he filed in support of his response to Meharry's notice that he “was seeking a reasonable accommodation of the [Meharry's psychiatric residency] program accepting [his] application late because [he] had a temporary hand injury.” (Id. at PageID# 120.) Patel also expands significantly on the allegations of his complaint in his response. (Id.)

         On May 14, 2019, the Court construed Patel's response as a motion to amend his complaint to include the additional allegations and granted him leave to do so, setting a deadline of May 28, 2019, to file a proposed amended complaint containing all of his allegations against Meharry. (Id.) The Court warned Patel that, if he failed to file a proposed amended complaint as directed, the Court would “likely treat his current complaint as the operative pleading and issue a report and recommendation on [Meharry's] motion to dismiss based on the sufficiency of that filing.” (Id. at PageID# 132.) Patel did not file a proposed amended complaint.

         II. Legal Standard

         In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court views Patel's allegations in the light most favorable to him and accepts all well-pleaded factual allegations as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). However, “[t]he factual allegations in the complaint need to be sufficient to give notice to the defendant as to what claims are alleged, and the plaintiff must plead ‘sufficient factual matter' to render the legal claim plausible, i.e., more than merely possible.” Fritz v. Charter Twp. of Comstock, 592 F.3d 718, 722 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677).

         “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007)). To meet it, Patel must plead more than “labels and conclusions, ” “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, ” or “naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement.” Id. (alteration omitted) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557). “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.

         Finally, because Patel proceeds pro se, the Court construes his complaint “liberally” and holds it “to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers[.]” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).

         III. ...


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