Johnson v. Infirmary Health System, Inc.
ORDER granting 34 Motion to Strike. Plaintiff's demand for punitive damages is stricken insofar as it relates to her claims brought under the FMLA, provided, however, that nothing herein impairs plaintiff's continued pursuit of a punitive damages remedy as to her non-FMLA causes of action. Signed by Chief Judge William H. Steele on 1/15/2014. copies to parties. (sdb)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
MOBILE INFIRMARY MEDICAL
CIVIL ACTION 13-0431-WS-M
This matter comes before the Court on defendant’s Motion to Strike (doc. 34). The
briefing deadlines established by the Court having expired, the Motion is now ripe.
Plaintiff, Monica Johnson, brought this action against defendant, Mobile Infirmary
Medical Center, alleging federal statutory claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601 et seq. (“FMLA”).
With respect to all of these claims, the Second Amended Complaint recites a global ad damnum
clause in which she demands, among other things, “$500,000.00 as punitive damages for the
Defendant’s willful and intentional violation of federally protected rights.” (Doc. 32, at 8.) The
Second Amended Complaint does not expressly link this prayer for punitive damages to her two
FMLA claims; however, a straightforward reading of the pleading is that Johnson seeks a
punitive damages award on all of her claims (including the FMLA causes of action).
On December 17, 2013, Mobile Infirmary Medical Center filed a Motion to Strike the
punitive damages demand insofar as it relates to the FMLA causes of action, for the stated reason
that punitive damages are not an available remedy under that statutory scheme. The next day,
the Court entered a briefing schedule on the Motion to Strike, directing plaintiff to file any
response on or before December 30, 2013. The December 18 Order suggested that if Johnson
did not intend for that aspect of her Prayer for Relief to reach her FMLA claims, then she need
merely file a short response clarifying that point. In response, plaintiff filed nothing, and the
deadline has long since expired.
Authority is legion for the proposition that punitive damages are unavailable in causes of
action brought pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act. See, e.g., Farrell v. Tri-County
Metropolitan Transp. Dist. of Oregon, 530 F.3d 1023, 1025 (9th Cir. 2008) (“It is well-settled
that the FMLA, by its terms, only provides for compensatory damages and not punitive
damages.”) (citations omitted); Smith v. Grady, --- F. Supp.2d ----, 2013 WL 249677, *21 (S.D.
Ohio Jan. 23, 2013) (“As Plaintiff has set forth no argument to the contrary, this Court concludes
that Plaintiff is barred from recovering punitive or emotional distress damages from any of the
Defendants for her claims brought under the FMLA.”); Fields v. Department of Public Safety,
911 F. Supp.2d 373, 385 (M.D. La. 2012) (“the FMLA does not provide for recovery of punitive
damages”); Cooper v. New York State Nurses Ass’n, 847 F. Supp.2d 437, 452 (E.D.N.Y. 2012)
(“punitive damages are not available under [the] FMLA”) (citations omitted); Saavedra v.
Lowe’s Home Centers, Inc., 748 F. Supp.2d 1273, 1298 (D.N.M. 2010) (“Because Congress did
not write punitive damages into the remedial scheme of the FMLA and instead limited recovery
to certain compensatory damages, the Court finds that punitive damages are not available under
the statute.”); Lufkin v. Eastern Maine Medical Center, 401 F. Supp.2d 145, 146 (D. Me. 2005)
(“I conclude that punitive damages likewise may not be awarded under the FMLA”); Keene v.
Rinaldi, 127 F. Supp.2d 770, 772 (M.D.N.C. 2000) (“The Court concludes that the FMLA does
not allow punitive damages ….”); Hite v. Biomet, Inc., 53 F. Supp.2d 1013, 1024 n.13 (N.D. Ind.
1999) (following “cases which have addressed the issue and uniformly determined that an
FMLA plaintiff is not permitted to recover either emotional damages or punitive damages”);
Klein v. County of Bucks, 2013 WL 1310877, *10 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 1, 2013) (“Courts within the
Third Circuit have repeatedly interpreted the FMLA to disallow claims for punitive damages. …
Given this body of jurisprudence, and Klein’s failure to make any argument to support a contrary
position, this Court likewise agrees that punitive damages are unavailable under the FMLA.”);
Thompson v. City of Muscle Shoals, Ala., 2012 WL 4815466, *4 (N.D. Ala. Oct. 10, 2012)
(dismissing plaintiff’s claims for punitive damages under the FMLA because they “run afoul of
the blackletter law”).
In light of the foregoing authorities, and plaintiff’s failure to articulate any argument or to
identify any basis in law or equity for a contrary result, the Court concludes that punitive
damages are not available under the FMLA. Accordingly, defendant’s Motion to Strike (doc.
34) is granted. Plaintiff’s demand for punitive damages is stricken insofar as it relates to her
claims brought under the FMLA, provided, however, that nothing herein impairs plaintiff’s
continued pursuit of a punitive damages remedy as to her non-FMLA causes of action.
DONE and ORDERED this 15th day of January, 2014.
s/ WILLIAM H. STEELE
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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