Peterson v. Next Production, L.L.C.
ORDER AND REASONS Granting 28 Motion for Summary Judgment and Denying as Moot 29 Motion for Sanctions, 31 Motion in Limine, 34 Motion in Limine. The case is hereby dismissed with prejudice, at the plaintiff's costs. Signed by Judge Martin L.C. Feldman on 8/21/2017. (clc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
CHAD ALLEN PETERSON
NEXT PRODUCTION, LLC
ORDER AND REASONS
Before the Court are four motions by Next Production, LLC:
(1) motion for discovery sanctions or, in the alternative, to
extend trial and defendant’s expert deadlines and to award costs;
(2) motion for summary judgment; (3) motion in limine to exclude
all evidence, reference to, and argument concerning plaintiff’s
unalleged wage claim; and (4) motion in limine to limit plaintiff’s
For the reasons that follow, the motion for
summary judgment is GRANTED, and the remaining motions are DENIED
This is an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) case in which
the plaintiff, pro se, alleges that he suffers from anxiety and
depression, and that the defendant failed to accommodate his
disability and wrongfully terminated his employment as a Key
Assistant Location Manager on the production of Season 2 of the
MTV television series Scream.
Chad Allen Peterson sued Next Production, L.L.C. on September
22, 2016, alleging that Next Production refused to provide him
with reasonable accommodations and fired him, in violation of the
ADA, because his major depressive and anxiety disorders made it
difficult for him to maintain the grueling work schedule demanded
This case is set for trial on September 25, 2017.
June 2017, the Court granted the defendant’s motion to extend its
independent medical exam scheduled by the parties.
again cancelled the rescheduled independent medical exam in spite
of a July 19, 2017 order compelling his attendance.
the defendant’s motion for discovery sanctions; the plaintiff’s
incapable of complying with its August 9, 2017 deadline to submit
On August 4, 2017, the Court granted the defendant’s motion
for expedited hearing on its motion for discovery sanctions and
further ordered the plaintiff to file his response or opposition
papers no later than August 8, 2017.
The Court expressly ordered:
“If Mr. Peterson fails to timely file papers into the record
Peterson’s silence as abandonment of his case and acquiescence to
the defendant’s motion for discovery sanctions.”
now moves for discovery sanctions, summary relief, and to limit or
exclude some aspects of the plaintiff’s claims or damages at trial.
Not only has Mr. Peterson failed to respond to the defendant’s
motion for discovery sanctions, but he has also failed to respond
to the defendant’s motion for summary judgment and its two motions
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 instructs that summary
judgment is proper if the record discloses no genuine dispute as
to any material fact such that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.
No genuine dispute of fact exists if
the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of
fact to find for the non-moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).
dispute of fact exists only "if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party."
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
The Court emphasizes that the mere argued existence of a
factual dispute does not defeat an otherwise properly supported
colorable, or is not significantly probative," summary judgment is
Id. at 249-50 (citations omitted).
is also proper if the party opposing the motion fails to establish
an essential element of his case.
477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).
See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
In this regard, the non-moving party
must do more than simply deny the allegations raised by the moving
See Donaghey v. Ocean Drilling & Exploration Co., 974 F.2d
646, 649 (5th Cir. 1992).
Rather, he must come forward with
competent evidence, such as affidavits or depositions, to buttress
Hearsay evidence and unsworn documents that
cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence
at trial do not qualify as competent opposing evidence.
John W. Stone Oil Distrib., Inc., 819 F.2d 547, 549 (5th Cir.
1987); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2).
"[T]he nonmoving party cannot
unsubstantiated assertions, or only a scintilla of evidence."
Hathaway v. Bazany, 507 F.3d 312, 319 (5th Cir. 2007)(internal
quotation marks and citation omitted).
In deciding whether a fact
issue exists, courts must view the facts and draw reasonable
inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007).
Although the Court
must "resolve factual controversies in favor of the nonmoving
party," it must do so "only where there is an actual controversy,
that is, when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory
Antoine v. First Student, Inc., 713 F.3d 824, 830 (5th
Cir. 2013)(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
Disability Discrimination/Wrongful Termination
discrimination, the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework
governs the summary judgment inquiry into the plaintiff’s claim
for wrongful termination under the Americans with Disabilities
Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101.
McInnis v. Alamo Cmty. Coll. Dist., 207
F.3d 276, 279 (5th Cir. 2000).
The plaintiff first must prove
(1) he has a disability as defined by the ADA;
(2) he was qualified for the job;
(3) he was subject to an adverse employment action
because of his disability; and
(4) he was treated less favorably than a similarlysituated non-disabled employee.
Id. (citation omitted); Henry v. Cont’l Airlines, 415 Fed.Appx.
537, 539 (5th Cir. 2011).
discrimination, the burden shifts to the employer to articulate a
legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the employment decision.
McInnis, 207 F.3d at 280.
Once the employer articulates such a
reason, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to establish by a
preponderance of the evidence that the articulated reason was
merely a pretext for unlawful discrimination.
Under the ADA, an employer is only required to “accommodate
the known limitations of an employee’s disability.”
United Parcel Serv., Inc., 661 F.3d 216, 224 (5th Cir. 2011).
prima facie case of failure-to-accommodate requires that: “(1) the
plaintiff is a ‘qualified individual with a disability;’ (2) the
disability and its consequential limitations were ‘known’ by the
covered employer; and (3) the employer failed to make ‘reasonable
accommodations’ for such known limitations.”
Neely v. PSEG Texas,
Ltd. P’ship, 735 F.3d 242, 247 (5th Cir. 2013).
the disability, resulting limitations, and necessary reasonable
accommodation are not open, obvious and apparent to the employer,
specifically identify the disability and resulting limitations,
and to suggest the reasonable accommodations.”
EEOC v. Chevron
Phillips Chem. Co., LP, 570 F.3d 606, 621 (5th Cir. 2009).
employee establishes a prima facie case of failure to accommodate,
then the employer may invoke the affirmative defense that the
accommodation would constitute an undue burden or that it would
counteract a business necessity.
Riel v. Elec. Data Sys. Corp.,
99 F.3d 678, 682 (5th Cir. 1996).
Next Production submits that it is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law dismissing the plaintiff’s ADA claims for wrongful
judgment record indisputably shows that Mr. Peterson suffered from
no substantial limitations as a result of his depression and
anxiety disorders; the record supports the defendant’s submission
that it legitimately disciplined Mr. Peterson, who suffers from no
substantial limitations due to his anxiety and depression, for
poor job performance, including repeated absences from the job,
insubordinate conduct, and other disciplinary violations.
other words, Next Production submits, because the ADA does not
protect Peterson from his own bad behavior, it is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.
The Court agrees.
The following record facts, which are undisputed, mandate
summary judgment in Next Production’s favor as to each of the
Chad Peterson admits that he suffered from no
limitations (let alone substantial limitations) as a result of his
alleged major depressive and anxiety disorders. None of Peterson’s
healthcare providers have ever identified any kind of substantial
substantial limitations suffered by Peterson.
responsible for finding locations for the production to film all
odd numbered episodes of the MTV television series Scream and then
securing and managing these locations.
To perform his job duties,
Peterson was required to be on set, or else at another location
that required his attention.
While on location, Peterson was
expected to attend production meetings and work with other members
of the production team; these duties were essential to Peterson’s
role as Key Assistant Location Manager.
As part of his job duties,
Peterson was required to report to and work with his direct
supervisor, Stanley Pearse.
On February 18, 2016, Peterson overslept and arrived late to
work, causing Peterson to miss a meeting that he was required to
Peterson failed to notify his supervisor that he would be
coming in to work late on that day.
On March 15, 2016, Peterson
again overslept and failed to show up to work at all.
failed to show up that day, Peterson missed a meeting, other
Locations Department members were forced to cover Peterson’s job
Peterson did not notify his supervisor that he would
not be coming in to work on March 15, 2016.
At 7:14 p.m. that
evening, Peterson’s supervisor ordered Peterson to call and cancel
an electrician that had been scheduled for production.
refused to comply; instead, he replied to his supervisor (copying
other crew members on the email) by suggesting that his supervisor
do it instead.
At 7:42 p.m., Peterson sent the following email to
his supervisor, Pearse, and again he copied other crew members:
Today is not a good day for this Stanley [Pearse]. I
know already that you messed up with security last night.
You forgot to order them and then tried to cover it up,
you keep lying to me and other people on the crew and
it’s becoming a huge problem on the show and I don’t
understand it. I’m trying to work and do a good job and
I’m constantly having to do my job and yours. People on
the crew don’t even call you when there are problems and
updates, Transpo didn’t even know how to contact you
last night because none of them had your phone number.
It’s my phone that’s ringing off the hook constantly,
I’m not going to have a pissing contest with YOU AND AND
I REFUSE TO LET YOU TREAT ME THAT WAY, just like
yesterday, WHEN YOU WERE SHOUTING AT THE TOP OF YOUR
LUNGS THAT YOU WERE GOING TO FIRE YOUR ENTIRE DEPARTMENT
– it’s not us IT’S YOU!!!!
Peterson was fired because of his increasingly poor job
performance, which included his hostile attitude toward coworkers
culminating in the events of March 15.
None of Peterson’s healthcare providers have any identified
or recommended any accommodations needed by Peterson.
did not need any accommodations to perform the essential functions
of his job.
Reorganizing the entire Locations Department, finding
and hiring a new map maker to work on the production, reorganizing
how security was arranged and/or excusing Peterson from attending
production of the show and would be impractical, if not impossible,
to accomplish in the middle of production.
Finding and hiring a
new map maker to work on the production would require hiring
attending work in order to rest would mean that all of the job
duties of the Key Assistant Location Manager position would have
to be borne by other crew members or else would require hiring
Applying the McDonnel Douglas framework to the plaintiff’s
disability discrimination/wrongful termination claim, it is clear
that the plaintiff has not proved any of the prima facie elements
of his disability discrimination claim.
Simply put, the plaintiff
admits that he suffers from no limitations as a result of his
evidence that he was terminated because of a disability rather
than because of his absenteeism and insubordination; the plaintiff
has identified no similarly situated, non-disabled employee that
was treated more favorably.
Even if he had created a fact issue
Production has satisfied its burden to articulate a legitimate,
non-discriminatory reason for terminating Peterson’s employment:
Peterson failed to report to work without advance notice and
displayed an insubordinate and disrespectful attitude.
also fails to carry his burden to show that Next Production’s nondiscriminatory
testimony “I think I was terminated because Stanley [Pearse] was
embarrassed that I had these disorders and that it was unacceptable
and that he refused to meet my accommodation.”
insufficient to withstand summary judgment.
See Raina v. Veneman,
152 Fed.Appx. 348, 350 (5th Cir. 2005)(citing Byers v. Dallas
Morning News, Inc., 209 F.3d 419, 427 (5th Cir. 2000)).
entitled to judgment as a matter of law dismissing the plaintiff’s
ADA wrongful termination claim.
Next Production is likewise entitled to judgment as a matter
of law dismissing the plaintiff’s failure-to-accommodate claim.
Just as the plaintiff has not proved that he is “disabled” or
“qualified” under the ADA’s wrongful termination framework, the
plaintiff is not a “qualified individual with a disability,” a
necessary element of his failure-to-accommodate claim.
the plaintiff shown that he suffered from any limitations from his
alleged disabilities; in fact, Peterson admits that he suffers
from no limitations as a result of his depression and anxiety.
Because the plaintiff suffers from no limitations that could
require an accommodation, Next Production is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law dismissing Peterson’s failure-to-accommodate
The Court need not consider the other independent grounds
for dismissal advanced by Next Production in its request for
summary relief on the plaintiff’s failure-to-accommodate claim.
Accordingly, for the foregoing reasons, IT IS ORDERED: that
the defendant’s motion for summary judgment is GRANTED and the
defendant’s remaining motions are DENIED as moot.
The case is
hereby dismissed with prejudice, at the plaintiff’s costs.
New Orleans, Louisiana, August 21, 2017
MARTIN L. C. FELDMAN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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