Woodley v. University of Alabama at Birmingham
ORDER AND MEMORANDUM OPINION: 9 , Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Woodley's Amended Complaint, is GRANTED, and the court DISMISSES with prejudice Woodley's ADAAA claims against the board, and DISMISSES without prejudice Woodley's state law claim against the board. Board of Trustees of the Univeristy of Alabama, The terminated. Signed by Judge Abdul K Kallon on 08/22/12. (CVA)
2012 Aug-22 PM 01:40
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
CASSIE B. WOODLEY,
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA
AT BIRMINGHAM, et al.,
Civil Action Number
ORDER AND MEMORANDUM OPINION
Before the court is Defendant the Board of Trustees of the University of
Alabama’s (the “Board”) motion to dismiss Plaintiff Cassie B.Woodley’s
(“Woodley”) Amended Complaint. Doc. 9. For the reasons stated more fully
herein, the motion is GRANTED, and the court DISMISSES with prejudice
Woodley’s Americans with Disability Act of 1990, as amended (“ADAAA”),
claims against the Board, see doc. 3, at 6-8, and DISMISSES without prejudice
Woodley’s state law claim against the Board, see id., at 8.
In her Amended Complaint, Woodley maintains that the Board refused to
accommodate her request for assistance with administrative and/or clerical tasks in
violation of the ADAAA (Count I), and the Board also retaliated against her for
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requesting this assistance (Count II). Id. at 6-8. See also 42 U.S.C. §
12112(b)(5)(A) (defining “discrimination under the ADAAA as, inter alia, “not
making reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations
of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability who is an applicant or
employee . . . .”). Woodley seeks both injunctive relief and monetary damages for
these purported ADAAA violations. See doc. 3, at 8-9. The Board moves to
dismiss both ADAAA counts pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment’s grant of
sovereign immunity, doc. 9, and the court agrees with the Board under Board of
Trustees of the University of Alabama v. Garrett, 531 U.S. 356, 360 (2001).
In Garrett the Court addressed “whether employees of the State of Alabama
may recover money damages by reason of the State’s failure to comply with the
provisions of Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.” Id. (citing
42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 – 12117).1 The Court held that “such suits are barred by the
Eleventh Amendment” because Congress acted outside of “its constitutional
authority by subjecting the States to suits in federal court for money damages
under the ADA.” Id. at 364. Briefly, the Eleventh Amendment guarantees “that
nonconsenting States may not be sued by private individuals in federal court.” Id.
at 363 (citing Kimel v. Fla. Bd. of Regents, 528 U.S. 62, 73 (2000)). However,
“Congress may abrogate the States’ Eleventh Amendment immunity when it both
While Congress amended the ADA effective January 1, 2009, the court finds no
indication that these amendments abrogated Garrett. See Pub. L. No. 110–325, 122 Stat. 3553;
Morales v. Ga. Dep’t of Human Res., 446 F. App’x 179, 182 n.1 (11th Cir. 2011).
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unequivocally intends to do so and ‘act[s] pursuant to a valid grant of
constitutional authority.’” Id. (quoting Kimel, 528 U.S. at 73) (alteration in
original). Furthermore, this “valid grant of constitutional authority” arises from
“the enforcement provisions of § 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Id. at 364
(citing Fitzpatrick v. Blitzer, 427 U.S. 445, 456 (1976)). And, beyond enforcing §
1 of the Fourteenth Amendment’s “actual guarantees,” Congress may also seek
“‘to remedy and to deter violation of rights guaranteed thereunder by prohibiting a
somewhat broader swath of conduct, including that which is not itself forbidden
by the Amendment’s test.’” Id. at 365 (quoting Kimel, 528 U.S. at 81).2 In doing
so, “§ 5 legislation reaching beyond the scope of § 1’s actual guarantees must
exhibit ‘congruence and proportionality between the injury to be prevented or
remedied and the means adopted to that end.’” Id. (quoting City of Boerne v.
Flores, 521 US. 507, 520 (1997)). The Court determined that the ADA failed the
“congruence and proportionality” test to abrogate sovereign immunity because
“States are not required by the Fourteenth Amendment to make special
In relevant part, the Fourteenth Amendment provides:
[§ 1] No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or
immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person
of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person
within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
[§ 5] The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the
provisions of this article.
U.S. Const. amend. XIV.
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accommodations for the disabled, so long as their actions toward such individuals
are rational” and the “legislative record of the ADA . . . simply fails to show that
Congress did in fact identify a pattern of irrational state discrimination in
employment against the disabled.” Id. at 367-68. Thus, in accordance with
Garrett, the Board is immune from money damages under the ADAAA, and, as
such, the court DISMISSES Woodley’s ADAAA claims for money damages
against the Board.
In response to the Board’s motion, Woodley appears to concede Garrett’s
application as it relates to money damages claims but contends that she may still
seek injunctive relief against the Board under Ex parte Young. Doc. 13, at 2.
Indeed, in Garrett, the Court specifically stated that “Title I of the ADA still
prescribes standards applicable to the States. Those standards can be enforced by
the United States in actions for money damages, as well as by private individuals
in actions for injunctive relief under Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 28 S. Ct. 441,
52 L. Ed. 714 (1908).” 531 U.S. at 374 n.9. Unfortunately for Woodley, however,
the Eleventh Circuit explicitly instructs that “[t]he University of Alabama Board of
Trustees is a state agency, not a state official acting in its official capacity . . . .
[h]ence, the exception to 11th Amendment immunity set out in Ex parte Young
does not apply to claims against it . . . .” Eubank v. Leslie, 210 F. App’x 837, 84445 (11th Cir. 2006) (citing Harden v. Adams, 760 F.2d 1158, 1163 (11th Cir.
1985)). Put differently, “a suit alleging a violation of the federal constitution [or
statute] against a state official in his official capacity for injunctive relief on a
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prospective basis is not a suit against the state, and, according, does not violate the
Eleventh Amendment.” Grizzle v. Kemp, 634 F.3d 1314, 1319 (11th Cir. 2011);
McClendon v. Ga. Dep’t of Cmty. Heath, 261 F.3d 1252, 1256 (11th Cir. 2001).
Critically, however, as the Board is not a state official, but is actually an arm of the
state, the Young doctrine is unavailable to Woodley. See Harden, 760 F.2d at
1164 (“The Alabama Supreme Court has also determined that the Board of
Trustees of a state university is entitled to sovereign immunity as an
instrumentality of the state.”) (citing Hutchinson v. Bd. of Trs. of Univ. of Ala.,
256 So. 2d 279 (Ala. Ct. App. 1971)). Therefore, the court DISMISSES
Woodley’s ADAAA claims for injunctive relief asserted against the Board.
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Woodley also claims that the Board’s conduct caused her “severe mental
and emotional distress” (Count III). Doc. 3, at 8. While not stated specifically in
the Amended Complaint, the court assumes that Woodley alleges a state law claim
for intentional infliction of emotional distress or outrage. See Moore v. Spiller
Associated Furniture, Inc., 598 So. 2d 835, 837 (Ala. 1992). The Board moves to
dismiss this claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Doc. 9, at 2.
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain “a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” “[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed
factual allegations,’ but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendantunlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
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(quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Mere “labels and
conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” are
insufficient. Id. (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). “Nor does a
complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]’ devoid of ‘further factual
enhancement.’” Id. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits dismissal
when a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. “To
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556) (internal quotation marks omitted). A complaint states
a facially plausible claim for relief “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. The complaint must establish “more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.; see also Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555 (“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.”). On a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court accepts
all factual allegations as true. See, e.g., Grossman v. Nationsbank, N.A., 225 F.3d
1228, 1231 (11th Cir. 2000). However, legal conclusions unsupported by factual
allegations are not entitled to that assumption of truth. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
Ultimately, this inquiry is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court
to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.
Moreover, under Alabama law, “the tort of outrage is a very limited cause of
action that is available only in the most egregious circumstances.” Thomas v. BSE
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Indus. Contractors, Inc., 624 So. 2d 1041, 1044 (Ala. 1993). And indeed, conduct
rising to the level of outrage must be “so extreme and outrageous in degree ‘as to
go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious and
utterly intolerable in a civilized society.’” Moore, 598 So. 2d at 837 (quoting Am.
Road Serv. Co. v. Inmon, 394 So. 2d 361, 365 (Ala. 1981)). Therefore, to state a
claim for outrage, the plaintiff must establish that “defendant’s conduct (1) was
intentional or reckless; (2) was extreme and outrageous; and (3) caused emotional
distress so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it.”
Thomas, 624 So. 2d at 1043.
Here, Woodley, a former Program Coordinator and Program Manager at the
University of Alabama at Birmingham’s (“UAB”) Pediatric Pulmonary Division,
alleges that in 2004 she underwent surgery after being diagnosed with
“hyperparathyroidism with parathryoid adenoma and a dominate thyroid nodule
(thyroid cancer).” Doc. 3, at 3. Following surgery, Woodly required
hospitalization due to recurrent thyroid problems and even had to be taken by
ambulance to the hospital while at work in “September 2004, and again in either
2007 or 2008.” Id. Also in September 2004, Woodley’s physician found that she
constituted a “suitable candidate to receive donated sick time,” and Cheryl Morton
(“Morton”), Woodley’s office manager, informed Woodley that she, in fact,
received donated sick time to take the remainder of September off. Id. at 4.
Moreover, on several occasions, Woodley discussed her medical condition with
Morton and her supervisor, Dr. John Paul Clancy, which included memory
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problems, “brain fog,” extremity and muscle spasms, fatigue, and depression. Id.
Additionally, Woodley alleges that the Pediatric Pulmonary Division
experienced substantial growth during her tenure, and, as such, her workload
increased. Id. at 5. Therefore, Woodley “expressed to her supervisors, on multiple
occasions, that with the increased workload and onset health problems, [she] could
use assistance.” Id. Specifically, “in September 2005, Woodley outlined aspects
of her responsibilities that student helpers could complete[,] [but] Woodley was
not provided with assistance.” Id. Subsequently, on February 3, 2011, Morton
gave Woodley a verbal warning regarding the condition of her office space, and
three weeks later, on February 24, 2011, Morton terminated Woodley for
“inexcusable neglect of duties.” Id.
Taking these factual allegations as true, Woodley fails to state a claim for
outrage. The failure to accommodate Woodley’s purported disability by
neglecting to provide additional assistance in managing research grants,
coordinating limited clinical trials, and completing renewals and reports for
funding agencies, see doc. 3, at 5, is not “so extreme and outrageous in degree as
to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious and
utterly intolerable in a civilized society.” Moore, 598 So. 2d at 837 (citation and
quotation marks omitted). Alabama courts generally limit the tort of outrage to
“‘only three kinds of conduct: (1) wrongful conduct in the family-burial context;
(2) barbaric methods employed to coerce an insurance settlement; and (3)
egregious sexual harassment.’” Little v. Robinson, 72 So. 3d 1168, 1172 (Ala.
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2011) (quoting Potts v. Hayes, 771 So. 2d 462, 465 (Ala. 2000) (internal citations
omitted)). And most recently, the Alabama Supreme Court “affirmed a judgment
on a tort-of-outrage claim asserted against a family physician who, when asked by
a teenage boy’s mother to counsel the boy concerning his stress over his parents’
divorce, instead began exchanging addictive prescription drugs for homosexual
sex for a number of years, resulting in the boy’s drug addiction.” Id. at 1173
(citing O’Rear v. B.H., 69 So. 3d 106 (Ala. 2011)). The Board’s purported
conduct is simply well removed from these types of atrocious and deplorable
actions. Thus, while the court is sympathetic to Woodley’s allegations, the tort of
outrage is not a “panacea for all life’s ills,” U.S.A. Oil, Inc. v. Smith, 415 So. 2d
1098, 1101 (Ala. Civ. App. 1990), and Woodley’s allegations fail to rise to the
level of outrage under Alabama law. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. As such, the
court DISMISSES this claim against the Board without prejudice pursuant to
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).
Based on the foregoing, the Board’s motion is GRANTED, and, as such,
the court DISMISSES the Board.
DONE the 22nd day of August, 2012.
ABDUL K. KALLON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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