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Cline-Cole v. Schneider National Carriers, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

August 13, 2019




         Defendant MedExpress Urgent Care, P.C. - Indiana (“MedExpress”) moves to dismiss all four counts of Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (ECF No. 36.) MedExpress's motion, now fully briefed and ripe for decision, is granted in part and denied in part for the following reasons.

         I. Dismissal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) “requires only ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). “Specific facts are not necessary, the statement need only ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss asks whether the complaint “contain[s] 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 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         In considering the motion, the court takes the complaint's factual allegations as true and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Orgone Capital III, LLC v. Daubenspeck, 912 F.3d 1039, 1044 (7th Cir. 2019). The Court will not accept legal conclusions or conclusory allegations as sufficient to state a claim for relief. See McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 617 (7th Cir. 2011). Factual allegations must plausibly state an entitlement to relief “to a degree that rises above the speculative level.” Munson v. Gaetz, 673 F.3d 630, 633 (7th Cir. 2012). This plausibility determination is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. “When a complaint fails to state a claim for relief, the plaintiff should ordinarily be given an opportunity . . . to amend the complaint to correct the problem if possible.” Bogie v. Rosenberg, 705 F.3d 603, 608 (7th Cir. 2013). Nonetheless, leave to amend need not be given if the amended pleading would be futile. Id.; see also Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962).

         II. Background

         Plaintiff Javeda Cline-Cole is a former truck driver for Schneider National Carriers, Inc. (“Schneider”), a U.S. Department of Transportation registered company. (SeeECF No. 1 at 4.) On September 21, 2016, Schneider ordered Cline-Cole to submit to a random hair follicle drug test. (ECF No. 1 at 5, ¶ 42.) MedExpress provided the hair specimen collection services for Cline-Cole's drug test. At the time Cline-Cole was selected for the drug test, she was wearing a weave of unnatural hair, which covered her scalp. (ECF No. 1 at 6, ¶¶ 50, 52.) Cline-Cole alleges that she asked her supervisor how she could submit to hair follicle testing while wearing a weave of unnatural hair, and her supervisor told her that hair from the arm could be used as an alternative to hair from the scalp. (ECF No. 1 at 6, ¶ 53.)

         Once Cline-Cole arrived at MedExpress, Paula Gunning (“Gunning”), a MedEx-press employee, collected Cline-Cole's hair follicle sample. (ECF No. 1 at 6, ¶ 55.) Cline-Cole alleges that Gunning refused to collect hairs from any part of Cline-Cole's body other than her head and refused to let Cline-Cole remove part of her weave to allow Gunning to more easily reach Cline-Cole's natural hair. (ECF No. 1 at 6, ¶¶ 56, 58.) As a result, Cline-Cole claims that Gunning clipped a sample from her hair weave rather than her scalp. (ECF No. 1 at 6, ¶ 59.)

         Cline-Cole allegedly threatened that she would not sign the acknowledgment form stating that the hair specimen had been obtained properly, and urged Gunning to take a proper hair sample from her scalp. (ECF No. 6, ¶ 61.) Gunning informed Cline-Cole that she would not take a new sample, and that if Cline-Cole refused to sign the form stating that the specimen was properly obtained, the collection would be deemed a refused drug test. (ECF No. 1 at 7, ¶¶ 62-64.) Cline-Cole signed the specimen documentation to avoid a finding of a refused drug test, and MedExpress sent the specimen off to a third-party testing company, Defendant First Hospital Laboratories, Inc. d/b/a FSSolutions (“FSSolutions”), who then sent the sample to Omega Laboratories, Inc. (“Omega”) for testing. (ECF No. 1 at 7, ¶¶ 64-65.)

         On September 28, 2016, Schneider informed Cline-Cole that her drug test returned a positive result. (ECF No. 1 at 7, ¶ 66.) Believing these test results to be false, Cline-Cole paid to undergo her own private drug testing the next day. (ECF No. 1 at 7, ¶ 67.) On October 4, 2016, Cline-Cole's private drug test returned a negative result. (ECF No. 1 at 7, ¶ 69.) Cline-Cole provided the results of her private drug test to Schneider and MedExpress, but Schneider informed Cline-Cole that it could not accept these test results. (ECF No. 1 at 7, ¶¶ 70-71.) Cline-Cole then contacted the lab that had originally processed the hair follicle sample and asked it to retest her hair follicle sample, but the lab informed Cline-Cole that it no longer had her sample. (ECF No. 1 at 7, ¶ 72.)

         As a result of the positive drug test, Schneider informed Cline-Cole that she must submit to mandatory drug treatment in order to “continue working.” (ECF No. 1 at 8, ¶ 79.) Cline-Cole resigned from Schneider rather than participate in drug treatment she felt she did not need. (ECF No. 1 at 8, ¶ 80.) Cline-Cole now alleges that MedExpress, FSSolutions and Omega had a duty to exercise a reasonable degree of care in properly administering Cline-Cole's drug test. (ECF No. 1 at 12, ¶ 116.) Cline-Cole further alleges that MedExpress, FSSolutions and Omega breached this duty of reasonable care by being negligent in the administration of Cline-Cole's drug test and by failing to properly preserve the hair follicle for follow up testing. (ECF No. 1 at 8, ¶¶ 117-118.) Moreover, Cline-Cole alleges that MedExpress's negligence caused Cline-Cole's constructive termination from Schneider, which caused her to suffer rep-utational, emotional, and economic damage. (ECF No. 1 at 9, ¶¶ 80-81, 89; ECF No. 1 at 12, ¶ 119.) On January 10, 2017, Cline-Cole filed charges against Schneider in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), receiving her Notice of Right to Sue Schneider. MedExpress was not named as a respondent in the EEOC action.

         Unlike the allegations in Cline-Cole's negligence claim, there is no reason to believe that her claim of discrimination on the basis of sex (Count I), her claim for violation of the equal pay act (Count II), or her claim of discrimination on the basis of race (Count III), applies or could ever apply to MedExpress, who was not Cline-Cole's employer. Indeed, Cline-Cole alleges against “the Defendant, ” without any further specificity, employment-related claims under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) for discrimination on the basis of sex, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. for discrimination on the basis of race, and the Equal Pay Act (“EPA”), 29 U.S.C § 206, et seq. Not only does Cline-Cole merely refer to “the Defendant” in these claims, other than in one instance where she alleges “the Defendants” discriminated against her due to her race (ECF No. 1 at 11, ¶ 105), but the facts in each of these claims seem to relate only to her employer, Schneider. Still, at the pleading stage, the Court will construe the complaint broadly, though improbably, to extend the allegations as being made against MedExpress and FSSolutions as well. But, Cline-Cole's Title VII race and sex discrimination claims and her EPA claims against MedExpress cannot proceed, as Cline-Cole fails to allege any facts against MedExpress central to these claims, failing to allege that MedExpress is her employer or that MedExpress discriminated against her at all. Because there are no imaginable set of facts that Cline-Cole could allege that would create an employer-employee relationship with MedExpress, it would be futile to allow her to amend her complaint to try to cure this fatal defect. Thus, Counts I, II and III are dismissed with prejudice as to MedExpress.

         While Cline-Cole's failure to respond to MedExpress's argument for dismissal of her Title VII and EPA claims provides the independent basis-waiver-for dismissing Counts I-III of Cline-Cole's complaint, the Court need not rely on waiver in light of the uncurable lack of an employment relationship between Cline-Cole and MedEx-press. See Goodpaster v. City of Indianapolis, 736 F.3d 1060, 1075 (7th Cir. 2013) (plaintiff waived claims by failing to respond to defendant's arguments); Alioto v. Town of Lisbon, 651 F.3d 715, 721 (7th Cir. 2011) (“the rule that a person waives an argument by failing to make it before the district court” applies “where a litigant effectively abandons the litigation by not responding to alleged deficiencies in a motion to dismiss”); Bonte v. U.S. Bank, N.A, . 624 F.3d 461, 466 (7th Cir. 2010) (“Failure to respond to an argument . . . results in waiver”). Similarly, Cline-Cole's apparent failure to exhaust her administrative remedies against MedExpress-by failing to name MedExpress as a respondent in an EEOC action-provides independent reason to dismiss Cline-Cole's employment discrimination claims. See Alam v. Miller Brewing Co., 709 F.3d 662, 666 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1); Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1089 (7th Cir. 2008). The Court need not and did not rely on this ground for dismissal either.

         III. ...

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