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Shackleford v. D&W Fine Pack, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

January 25, 2017

D&W FINE PACK, LLC, Defendant.



         The Plaintiff, Timothy W. Shackleford, has asserted two claims against his former employer, D&W Fine Pack, LLC. He alleges that the Defendant terminated his employment in retaliation for exercising his right to worker's compensation benefits after he sustained a work-related injury. He also claims that his termination was a violation of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA or the Act). The Plaintiff has moved for summary judgment on the FMLA claim [Pl.'s Mot. for Partial Summ. J., ECF No. 19], and the Defendant has moved for summary judgment on both claims [Def.'s Dispositive Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 22]. Also pending are the Defendant's Motion to Strike [ECF No. 27], and the Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Declaration of Dr. David Conner [ECF No. 33].

         For the reasons stated in this Opinion, the Court finds that the Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the FMLA claim. The Court will relinquish jurisdiction of the state law claim and remand the case to state court. It is not necessary to rule on the Motion to Strike or the Motion for Leave to File, as the evidence that is the subject of those requests is not material to the Court's decision.


         Summary judgment is appropriate “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). Summary judgment is the moment in litigation where the non-moving party is required to marshal and present the court with evidence on which a reasonable jury could rely to find in his favor. Goodman v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, Inc., 621 F.3d 651, 654 (7th Cir. 2010). The court's role in deciding a motion for summary judgment “is not to sift through the evidence, pondering the nuances and inconsistencies, and decide whom to believe. The court has one task and one task only: to decide, based on the evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial.” Waldridge v. Am. Heochst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994). A district court should deny a motion for summary judgment only when the non-moving party presents admissible evidence that creates a genuine issue of material fact. Luster v. Ill. Dep't of Corrs., 652 F.3d 726, 731 (7th Cir. 2011) (first citing United States v. 5443 Suffield Terrace, 607 F.3d 504, 510 (7th Cir. 2010); then citing Swearnigen-El v. Cook Cnty. Sheriff's Dep't, 602 F.3d 852, 859 (7th Cir. 2010)).

         The material facts of this case-those that are outcome determinative under the applicable law, Smith v. Severn, 129 F.3d 419, 427 (7th Cir. 1997)-are not in dispute. Because the Court is only concerned with material facts, the Statement of Facts set forth below does not include all of the facts that were submitted by the Plaintiff in his Statement of Undisputed Material Facts. See Harney v. Speedway SuperAmerica, LLC, 526 F.3d 1099, 1104 (7th Cir. 2008) (noting that “[i]rrelevant or unnecessary facts do not deter summary judgment, even when in dispute”). Moreover, the Court only included those facts that were supported by the materials in the record. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1). Any reasonable inferences accompanying those facts are discussed in the Analysis section of the Opinion.


         The Plaintiff began working for the Defendant on November 7, 2013, in the position known as an Extrusion Operator. On February 22, 2014, he injured his shoulder while performing his Extrusion Operator duties. The Plaintiff notified Sylvester Thomas, the Defendant's Human Resources Generalist. Thomas completed the necessary forms to be filed with the Indiana Worker's Compensation Board. A claims adjuster at Zurich North America, the Defendant's worker's compensation insurance company, was assigned to handle the Plaintiff's case.

         The Plaintiff was referred to Dr. Greg Sassmannshausen at Fort Wayne Orthopedics for treatment. The Plaintiff began physical therapy three days a week, and was also placed on light duty work restrictions. The Defendant moved the Plaintiff to a position in a different area of the facility that would accommodate his restrictions.

         On June 19, 2014, Dr. Sassmannshausen performed surgery on the Plaintiff's shoulder. Afterwards, the Plaintiff was returned to his light duty assignment. However, the Plaintiff subsequently re-injured his shoulder when he lifted some boxes that weighed more than his lifting restriction.

         On September 4, 2014, the Plaintiff began taking part in the Defendant's new transitional return to work (RTW) program. Through the program, the Plaintiff was assigned work off-site that he could perform within his restrictions.[1] The 90-day program was set to expire on December 4, 2014.

         At the end of October, Dr. Sassmannshausen opined that the Plaintiff had reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). Thomas notified management, as well as Zurich, attempting to determine the next steps for the Plaintiff. On November 17, 2014, Thomas realized that the Plaintiff's RTW assignment would be ending soon, and asked Dr. Sassmannshausen to complete a questionnaire about the Plaintiff's return to work status. Dr. Sassmanshausen's opinion was that the Plaintiff had permanent restrictions that would not allow him to perform the duties of an Extrusion Operator.

         The Plaintiff sought a second medical opinion because he was still having a lot of issues with his shoulder. On November 24, 2014, Dr. David Conner evaluated the Plaintiff and prepared a report. He noted that the Plaintiff's continuing pain and dysfunction in his shoulder was not improving. According to an MRI that Dr. Conner had ordered, the Plaintiff showed some residual rotator cuff tearing and some irritation of the biceps tendon. The Plaintiff desired to undergo surgical intervention, the goal of which was to address the biceps tendon pain and the rotator cuff tendon tearing, and to get the Plaintiff back to full regular duties. Meanwhile, the Plaintiff would stay on his permanent work restrictions. That same day, or shortly thereafter, the Plaintiff gave Dr. Conner's report to Thomas, and stated that he could get his restrictions lifted if he underwent the surgery recommended by Dr. Conner. Thomas advised the Plaintiff to follow up with Zurich about Dr. Conner's findings.

         On December 15, 2014, the Plaintiff met with Thomas. During the meeting, the Plaintiff inquired if the Defendant had decided whether to extend his transitional off-site work, whether the Defendant had made any decisions about Dr. Conner's recommended surgery, and also inquired if he could take FMLA leave. Thomas relayed that he had not heard from the Defendant about extending the RTW period or the surgery.[2] Thomas asked the Plaintiff if he had received a ...

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