Rue v. Hickman's Egg Ranch Incorporated

Filing 53

ORDER granting 41 Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and denying 43 Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Clerk of Court to enter judgment accordingly. Signed by Judge G Murray Snow on 2/12/16.(EJA)

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1 WO 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 8 9 April Rue, No. CV-14-00867-PHX-GMS Plaintiff, 10 ORDER 11 v. 12 Hickman's Egg Ranch Incorporated, 13 Defendant. 14 Pending before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendant 15 Hickman’s Egg Ranch Incorporated (“Hickman’s”). (Doc. 41.) Also pending is the 16 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment by Plaintiff April Rue. (Doc. 43.) For the 17 following reasons, the Court grants Defendant’s motion and denies Plaintiff’s motion. 18 BACKGROUND 19 On March 28, 2013, Hickman’s hired Rue to work in the accounting department. 20 On Monday, April 15, two weeks after starting her new job, Rue fractured her right ankle 21 in a car accident. Rue provided her supervisor a note from West Valley Hospital stating 22 “No work until follow up w/ ortho” and requested time off. (Doc. 42-1 at PDF 60.) 23 Hickman’s gave Rue the requested time off. 24 On April 18, Rue came to work and used a wheelchair. The parties dispute 25 whether she was able to perform the non-sedentary aspects of her work. Following her 26 return to work, she frequently arrived late and occasionally left early.1 Rue provided her 27 28 1 Rue was also frequently late during her two weeks of employment before she was injured but was never disciplined for her tardiness. She testified that after her injury, her 1 supervisor with a note dated April 25 from a physician’s assistant at Maricopa Integrated 2 Health System that read, “It is my medical opinion that April Rue may return to sedentary 3 work and must remain non-weight bearing to her right leg.” (Doc. 42-1 at PDF 62.) 4 Hickman’s placed Rue on unpaid leave of absence until she was able to perform in her 5 position without restrictions. 6 Hickman’s that she could return to work. 7 terminated” her and seeks relief under the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Doc. 48 at 8 8.) Rue alleges that Hickman’s “effectively DISCUSSION 9 10 Rue went on unpaid leave and never indicated to I. Legal Standard 11 The Court grants summary judgment when the movant “shows that there is no 12 genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter 13 of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). In making this determination, the Court views the 14 evidence “in a light most favorable to the non-moving party.” 15 Carlsbad, 58 F.3d 439, 441 (9th Cir.1995). Where the parties have filed cross-motions 16 for summary judgment, the Court “evaluate[s] each motion independently, ‘giving the 17 nonmoving party in each instance the benefit of all reasonable inferences.’” Lenz v. 18 Universal Music Corp., 2015 WL 5315388, at *2 (9th Cir. Sept. 14, 2015) (quoting 19 ACLU v. City of Las Vegas, 333 F.3d 1092, 1097 (9th Cir.2003)). “[A] party seeking 20 summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court 21 of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes 22 demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 23 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Warren v. City of 24 The party opposing summary judgment “may not rest upon the mere allegations or 25 denials of [the party’s] pleadings, but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there 26 is a genuine issue for trial.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); see Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. 27 Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586–87 (1986); Brinson v. Linda Rose Joint Venture, 28 supervisor permitted her to arrive late. -2- 1 53 F.3d 1044, 1049 (9th Cir. 1995). Substantive law determines which facts are material, 2 and “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the 3 governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson v. 4 Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “A fact issue is genuine ‘if the evidence is 5 such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.’” Villiarimo v. 6 Aloha Island Air, Inc., 281 F.3d 1054, 1061 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. 7 at 248). Thus, the nonmoving party must show that the genuine factual issues “can be 8 resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of 9 either party.” Cal. Architectural Bldg. Prods., Inc. v. Franciscan Ceramics, Inc., 818 10 F.2d 1466, 1468 (9th Cir. 1987) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250). 11 II. Analysis 12 “To state a prima facie case under the ADA, a plaintiff must prove that he is a 13 qualified individual with a disability who suffered an adverse employment action because 14 of his disability.” Sanders v. Arneson Products, Inc., 91 F.3d 1351, 1353 (9th Cir. 1996). 15 The threshold question is whether the plaintiff’s “impairment is a ‘disability,’ as that term 16 is used in the ADA.” Id. at 1354. 17 “Disability” as used in the ADA is defined as: “(A) a physical or mental 18 impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual; 19 (B) a record of such an impairment; or (C) being regarded as having such an 20 impairment.” 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1). The non-exhaustive list of “major life activities” 21 includes “walking,” “standing,” and “working.” Id. § 12102(2)(A). 22 A. “Substantially Limits” 23 “An impairment is a disability within the meaning of [the ADA] if it substantially 24 limits the ability of an individual to perform a major life activity as compared to most 25 people in the general population.” 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(j)(1)(ii). Congress provided that 26 “[t]he term ‘substantially limits’ shall be construed broadly in favor of expansive 27 coverage” and that “[a]n impairment need not prevent, or significantly or severely 28 restrict, the individual from performing a major life activity in order to be considered -3- 1 substantially limiting.” Id. § 1630.2(j)(1)(i)-(ii). “Nonetheless, not every impairment 2 will constitute a disability.” Id. § 1630.2(j)(1)(ii). “The determination of whether an 3 impairment substantially limits a major life activity requires an individualized 4 assessment.” Id. § 1630.2(j)(1)(iv). 5 “[I]n deciding whether the impairment is substantially limiting, courts must 6 consider the nature and severity of the plaintiff’s impairment, the duration or expected 7 duration of the impairment, as well as the permanent or long term impact of the 8 impairment.” Rohr v. Salt River Project Agric. Imp. & Power Dist., 555 F.3d 850, 858 9 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotations omitted). “The effects of an impairment lasting or 10 expected to last fewer than six months can be substantially limiting.” 29 C.F.R. § 11 1630.2(j)(1)(iv). “At the same time, the duration of an impairment is one factor that is 12 relevant in determining whether the impairment substantially limits a major life activity. 13 Impairments that last only for a short period of time are typically not covered, although 14 they may be covered if sufficiently severe.” Id. § Pt. 1630, App. “[T]emporary, non- 15 chronic impairments of short duration, with little or no long term or permanent impact, 16 are usually not disabilities. Such impairments may include, but are not limited to, broken 17 limbs, sprained joints, concussions, appendicitis, and influenza.” Sanders, 91 F.3d at 18 1354 (quoting 29 CFR Part 1630 App., § 1630.2(j)) (emphasis added). 19 Here, Rue declared that as of August 28, 2015 (the date of her Declaration), she 20 was “still unable to stand or walk for more than thirty minutes of time before the pain in 21 [her] ankle . . . requires [her] to rest” and was “still receiving on-going pain management 22 treatment for the pain.” (Doc. 47-2 at ¶ 3-4.) “At the summary judgment stage, . . . ‘a 23 plaintiff’s testimony may suffice to establish a genuine issue of material fact.’” Rohr, 24 555 F.3d at 858-59 (quoting Head v. Glacier Northwest Inc., 413 F.3d 1053, 1058 (9th 25 Cir. 2005)). 26 existence of a disability must not be merely self-serving and must contain sufficient detail 27 to convey the existence of an impairment.” Id. Rue provides no information about the 28 intensity of her pain, the amount of time she must rest, what kind of pain management “However, to survive summary judgment, an affidavit supporting the -4- 1 treatment she is receiving, or from whom. 2 The record of treatment includes an initial consultation on April 24, 2013, a follow 3 up appointment two weeks later on May 6, and a second follow up appointment a month 4 later on June 5. (Doc. 47-6.) Test results indicated “progressive healing.” (Id. at MIHS 5 000016, PDF 14; MIHS 000020, PDF 18.) Rue provides no record of any treatment after 6 June 5, 2013, which was less than two months after her injury. 7 Rue conceded during her deposition on June 29, 2015 that she can walk and bear 8 weight on her right leg now, and that she no longer uses crutches or a wheelchair and no 9 longer has the cart she used to prop her right leg on. (Doc. 47-1 at p. 67, PDF 11.) She 10 claims, however, that she is not “at 100%.” (Id. at p. 70, PDF 13.) Rue also conceded 11 that no doctor has ever suggested that she is disabled, although her doctor told her she 12 could not run a marathon, wear high heels, or go out dancing. (Doc. 47, Exh. 4 at p. 100, 13 PDF 47.) 14 Neither the nature nor the severity of Rue’s broken ankle suggests that she is 15 disabled. 16 demonstrate progressive healing, and she currently has no medical restrictions from 17 walking, standing, or working. Rue’s broken ankle is a “non-chronic impairment[] of 18 short duration, with little or no long term or permanent impact” that does not 19 substantially limit any major life activities as contemplated by the ADA. Sanders, 91 20 F.3d at 1354. 21 The record establishes treatment for less than two months, her records Furthermore, Rue was not “regarded as having such an impairment” by 22 Hickman’s. 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1)(C). The “regarded as” prong of the disability 23 definition does not apply to “transitory and minor” impairments. Id. § 12102(3)(B). “A 24 transitory impairment is an impairment with an actual or expected duration of 6 months 25 or less.” Id. A broken ankle is a relatively minor impairment that is expected to heal 26 within six months. 27 progressively during her two months of treatment and that she no longer sought treatment 28 after two months. Moreover, the record indicates that Rue’s ankle was healing -5- 1 “[A] temporary injury with minimal residual effects cannot be the basis for a 2 sustainable claim under the ADA.” 3 substantially limited one or more major life activities, nor was she regarded as having 4 such an impairment, Rue fails to establish that she had a “disability” under the ADA. 5 Summary judgment is therefore appropriate. CONCLUSION 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Because Rue did not have an impairment that Rue’s broken ankle was not a “disability” as that term is used in the ADA, and therefore she fails to state a prima facie case under the ADA. IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 41) is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 43) is DENIED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED directing the Clerk of Court to enter judgment accordingly. Dated this 12th day of February, 2016. 16 17 18 Honorable G. Murray Snow United States District Judge 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 -6-

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