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Chapman v. Olymbec USA, LLC

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

November 1, 2019

OLYMBEC USA, LLC, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Amber Chapman brings this action for discrimination and retaliation against Defendant Olymbec USA, LLC (“Olymbec”). (ECF No. 8.) Before the Court are Olymbec's Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, filed together on March 6, 2019.[1] (ECF No. 13.) Chapman responded on April 20, 2019. (ECF No. 20.) Olymbec replied on May 2, 2019. (ECF No. 21.)

         For the following reasons, Olymbec's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and Motion to Dismiss are DENIED.

         I. Background

         The following facts are taken from Chapman's First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). (ECF No. 8.)

         Olymbec owns and manages a portfolio of industrial, office, retail, and residential properties throughout Canada and the United States. (ECF No. 8 at 18.)[2] Olymbec hired Chapman as a Property Manager at one of its Memphis, Tennessee properties on or about August 1, 2015. (Id.)

         Chapman suffers from bipolar disorder and depression. (Id.) Medical treatment helps Chapman mitigate the adverse effects of her conditions. (Id.)

         When Olymbec hired Chapman, Olymbec did not know about Chapman's conditions or perceive her as having any disabling physical or mental condition. (Id.) In early 2018, Chapman told Olymbec's agents that she suffered from bipolar disorder and depression. (Id.) Chapman asked for an accommodation based on her conditions. (Id.) Olymbec denied Chapman's request. (Id.)

         Chapman asked to leave work early on February 1, 2018. (Id. at 19.) Olymbec approved Chapman's request. (Id.) Olymbec did not know that Chapman intended to file a Charge of Discrimination against Olymbec with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Id.)

         On February 1, 2018, Chapman left early and went to the EEOC's Memphis District Office at 1407 Union Avenue. (Id.) Olymbec owns or manages the property at 1407 Union. (Id.) While Chapman was there to file her charge, she ran into Shirley Mason, another Olymbec employee. (Id.) Chapman told Mason that Olymbec had discriminated against her and that she was at 1407 Union to file a Charge of Discrimination against Olymbec. (Id.)

         Olymbec fired Chapman on February 2, 2018. (Id.) Olymbec agent Jordana Berger told Chapman that she was being fired for breaching Berger's trust by going to the EEOC office to file a Charge of Discrimination. (Id.) Chapman protested the grounds for her termination. (Id. at 20.) She said, “You are correct . . . I went to the EEOC to file a complaint of discrimination. Under the law, I am protected [and have a right] to file a complaint with the EEOC . . . .” (Id. (brackets in original).) Berger replied, “I don't care. You are still terminated.” (Id.)

         Chapman filed her Complaint in this action on December 7, 2018. (ECF No. 1.) She filed her FAC on February 20, 2019. (ECF No. 8.) Olymbec filed its Answer to Chapman's original Complaint the same day. (ECF No. 10.) Olymbec's March 6, 2019 motions address Chapman's FAC. (ECF No. 13.)

         Chapman brings claims against Olymbec for discrimination and retaliation under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and the Tennessee Disability Act (“TDA”), Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 8-50-103 to 104. Olymbec moves for dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). (ECF No. 13.)

         II. Jurisdiction & Choice of Law

         The Court has federal question jurisdiction. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, district courts have original jurisdiction “of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” Chapman asserts a right to relief against Olymbec for discrimination and retaliation in violation of the ADA. (ECF No. 8 at 21.) Those claims arise under the laws of the United States.

         The Court has supplemental jurisdiction over Chapman's TDA claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). Those claims derive from a “common nucleus of operative fact” with Chapman's federal claims against Olymbec. See United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 725 (1966); Soehnlen v. Fleet Owners Ins. Fund, 844 F.3d 576, 588 (6th Cir. 2016); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).

         State substantive law applies to state-law claims brought in federal court. See Erie R.R. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938). Where, as here, there is no dispute that a certain state's substantive law applies, the court will not conduct a choice-of-law analysis sua sponte. See GBJ Corp. v. E. Ohio Paving Co., 139 F.3d 1080, 1085 (6th Cir. 1998). The parties assume in their respective motions and memoranda that Tennessee substantive law applies to Chapman's TDA claims and ground their arguments accordingly. The Court will apply Tennessee substantive law to Chapman's state-law claims.

         III. Standard of Review

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         Rule 12(b)(6) allows dismissal of a complaint that “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion permits the “defendant to test whether, as a matter of law, the plaintiff is entitled to legal relief even if everything alleged in the complaint is true.” Mayer v. Mylod, 988 F.2d 635, 638 (6th Cir. 1993). A motion to dismiss tests only whether the plaintiff has pled a cognizable claim and allows the court to dismiss meritless cases that would waste judicial resources and result in unnecessary discovery. See Brown v. City of Memphis, 440 F.Supp.2d 868, 872 (W.D. Tenn. 2006).

         When evaluating a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court must determine whether the complaint alleges “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)). If a court decides in light of its judicial experience and common sense that the claim is not plausible, the case may be dismissed at the pleading stage. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above [a] speculative level . . . .” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         A claim is plausible on its face if “the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations. However, a plaintiff's “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice.” Id.

         B. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) provides that “[a]fter the pleadings are closed -- but early enough not to delay trial -- a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings is reviewed under the same standard as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. See Gavitt v. Born, 835 F.3d 623, 639 (6th Cir. 2016); Fritz v. Charter Twp. of Comstock, 592 F.3d 718, 722 (6th Cir. 2010); Hunter v. Ohio Veterans Home, 272 F.Supp.2d 692, 694 (N.D. Ohio 2003).

         IV. Analysis

         Olymbec moves for dismissal and judgment on the pleadings on Chapman's claims for discrimination and retaliation under the TDA and the ADA.

         A. Timeliness of Olymbec's Motions

         Chapman contends that the Court should deny Olymbec's Motion to Dismiss as untimely because Olymbec filed it after filing an Answer to her original Complaint. (ECF No. 20 at 77.) Olymbec responds that its Motion to Dismiss is timely for two independent reasons: (1) Olymbec asserted a failure-to-state-a-claim defense in its Answer; and (2) Chapman's FAC supersedes her original Complaint. (ECF No. 21 at 91.) The latter reason is sufficient. Olymbec's Motion to Dismiss is timely because Chapman filed an amended complaint to which Olymbec has not yet responded.

         “The general rule is that an amended pleading supersedes the original and remains in effect, unless again modified, from that point forward.” Greater Cincinnati Coal. for Homeless v. City of Cincinnati, No. C-1-08-603, 2009 WL 3029661, at *3 (S.D. Ohio Sept. 16, 2009)(quoting 6 Wright et al., Federal Practice & Procedure § 1476, at 556-57 (2nd ed. 1990 & Supp. 2001)); see Drake v. City of Detroit,266 Fed.Appx. 444, 448 (6th Cir. 2008)(“[An] amended complaint supercedes all prior complaints . . . .”)(citing Pintando v. Miami-Dade Hous. Agency, 501 F.3d 1241, 1243 (11th Cir. 2007)). “Once an amended pleading is filed, the original pleading no longer performs any function in the case.” 6 Wright et al., Federal Practice & Procedure § 1476, at 556-57; see also United States v. Shofner Iron & Steel Works,71 F.Supp. 161, 162 (D. Or. 1947)(“[An] amended complaint supersedes the original complaint [and] no motion of any kind can [] be addressed to the original complaint as it performs no function in the action . . . ...

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