Douglas v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore City et al
MEMORANDUM ORDER Granting 8 Defendants' Motion to Dismiss; Dismissing 2 Complaint. Signed by Judge Richard D Bennett on 3/4/2016. (nd2s, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL OF
BALTIMORE CITY, ET AL.,
CivilAction No. RDB-15-0718
Plaintiff Joanne Douglas ("Plaintiff' or "Douglas") has brought this action against
Defendants Mayor and City Council of Baltimore (the "City"), Baltimore City Department
of Transportation ("DOT"), and Hazel Crowell ("Crowell"), in her official capacity as a
DOT Office Supervisor (collectively, the "Defendants'').!
Comp!., p. 1, ECF NO.2.
Plaintiff alleges deprivation of her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act
("FMLA"), 29 U.S.c. ~ 2601, et seq., and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42
"Absent a statutory or constimtional
provision creating a government
agency, an 'office' or 'department'
bears no unique legal identity, and thus, it cannot be sued under Maryland law." Owens v. Baltimore City State's
F.3d 379, 393 (4th CU:.2014) "rt. denied sub nom. Baltimore City Poli" Dep't v. Owens, 135 S.
Ct. 1893 (2015) (citing BliYer v. State, 594 A.2d 121, 128 n. 9 (1991)). The Baltimore City Charter states that
"[tJhe inhabitants of the City of Baltimore are a corporation,
by the name of the 'Mayor and City Council of
Baltimore,' and by that name ... may sue and be sued." Id. Maryland law is not unique in this designation, as
federal courts have traditionally recognized that individual government
sued. See, e.g., Strebeck v. Baltimore Cnty. Police Dept., Civ. A. No. JFM-D5-2580,
2005 WL 2897932, at *1 (D.
Md. Oct.17, 2005) (holding that neither the Baltimore County Police Department
Council can be sued). Neither party has cited a statutory or constitutional
lack the capacity to be
nor the Baltimore County
provision authorizing suit of the
DOT, nor can this Court locate one. Therefore, all claims against the DOT are DISMISSED.
Even if the
DOT could be sued, all claims against it would still be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure, as explained infra.
u.s.c. ~ 12101, et seq., retaliation,
and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Id. at p. 1.
This action was initially filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland, but was
removed to this Court on March 16, 2015. Not. of Removal, ECF No. 1. Currently pending
before this Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 8).2 The parties' submissions
have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For
the reasons stated herein, Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss (ECF No.8)
Accordingly, Plaintiffs Complaint (ECF No.2) is DISMISSED.
In ruling on a motion to dismiss, this Court must accept the factual allegations in the
complaint as true and construe those facts in the light most favorable to the
See AZiZ v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F. 3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011). The relevant facts,
construed in Plaintiffs favor, are as follows.
In 2004, Plaintiff Joanne Douglas' ("Plaintiff' or "Douglas") mother was diagnosed
with diabetes and dementia.
Compl., p. 2, ECF NO.2.
Douglas' mother required a family
member to accompany her to medical appointments and to be available in case of flare-ups
of her medical condition.
Id. at Ex. B, ECF No. 2-2.
On August 21, 2013, Douglas
requested a half day's leave from her job as a typist at the Baltimore City Department of
Hazel Crowell ("Crowell"), Plaintiffs
granted her request. !d. Douglas then requested leave for the rest of that day, but Crowell
denied this second request. !d. By e-mail.JimHarkness(
Harkness •• .Chief of the Traffic
Division of the DOT, upheld Crowell's decision denying Douglas's second request for leave.
Plaintiff has not filed a Response to the pending Motion.
Id. In his e-mail, Harkness also asked Douglas to submit the paperwork required for leave
under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") to the DOT's Human Resources office
as soon as possible. Id.
4, 2013, Douglas submitted a "Certification
of Health Provider:
Family Member's Serious Health Condition," as required by the FMLA. Id. In that form,
Dr. Casey Scott explained Douglas' mother's
diagnosis and explained that due to her
memory problems, she needed a family member to accompany her to medical appointments
twice a month. Id. Dr. Scott also estimated that Douglas' mother would have episodic flareups lasting three to four days twice a year, in which case Douglas would be required to
administer her medications and check the "fingersticks" for her diabetes. Id. After Dr. Scott
completed the form, Douglas sent a letter requesting that Dr. Scott amend the form to
indicate that flare-ups could occur four to eight times per month as opposed to two times
On January 21, 2014, Crowell issued a written warning to Douglas accusing her of
abusing FMLA and sick leave policies.
Compl., Ex. A, ECF No. 2-1. According to the
warning, "[Douglas] called out on (10) Fridays; (8) Tuesdays; (6) days that precede a holiday;
utilized FMLA (13) times for late arrival; requested FMLA after being denied leave on (6)
In addition, [she had] utilized FMLA for pre scheduled doctor appointments
total of (8) times, mainly on Tuesdays and Fridays." Id. The warning further indicated that
Douglas' "FMLA usage is inconsistent with [her] physician's prescription to care for [her]
mother" and that she was "found to have committed FMLA and sick leave abuse."
Douglas has not indicated whether or not Dr. Scott ever responded
to her request.
After Crowell issued the warning, Douglas claims that Crowell "maliciously and without
cause aggressively harassed her about her leave and taking breaks" and that "Crowell's
actions were calculated to embarrass [her] and resulted in shock to her nervous system and
mental wellbeing," but that management
did not address Crowell's behavior
Douglas' numerous complaints and incident reports between 2013 and 2014. CompI., p. 3-4,
Douglas further alleges that she "went to [Equal Employment
and received a finding of work place violation of the FMLA." Id. at 4.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain
a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.
R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the
dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is "to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests
surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Preslry v. City of
Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cit. 2006).
The Supreme Court's opinions in Bell Atlantic Corp v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007),
and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), "require that complaints in civil actions be alleged
with greater specificity than previously was required."
(4th Cit. 2012) (citation omitted).
Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439
In Twombly, the Supreme Court articulated "working
principles" that courts must employ when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss. Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678. While a court must accept as true all the factual allegations contained in the
complaint, legal conclusions drawn from those facts are not afforded such deference.
(stating that "[tJhreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere
conclusory statements, do not suffice" to plead a claim).
The court need not accept
unsupported legal allegations, see Revene v. Charles County Commissioners, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th
Cir. 1989), legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, see Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265,
286 (1986), or conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, see
United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979).
Defendants argue that Plaintiffs case should be dismissed because Plaintiff (1) failed
to provide notice of her claims to the, City Solicitor as required by the Maryland Local
Government Tort Claim Act and (2) fails to put forth sufficient factual allegations in support
of her claims.
Plaintiff failed to provide notice as required
by the Maryland
Tort Claim Act
The Maryland Local Government
Tort Claim Act ("LGTCA") provides that "an
action for unliquidated damages may not be brought against a local government
employees unless the notice of the claim required by this section is given within 180 days
after the injury." Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. ~ 5-304(b)(1). Defendants assert that
Plaintiff has failed to comply with the notice requirements of the LGTCA.
There is no
indication that Plaintiff submitted notice. Furthermore, Plaintiff does not dispute that she
failed to comply with the LGTCA's requirements, nor does she provide an explanation for
her failure to comply.
Indeed, Plaintiff never fJ.ledany sort of opposition to Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss at all. Accordingly, Plaintiffs claims covered by the LGTCA must be
Plaintifffaiis to put forth sufficient factual allegations in support of her claims
The damages provision of the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") limits
recovery to "any wages, salary, employment benefits, or other compensation denied or lost"
on account of the violation.
Montgomery v. Maryland, 266 F.3d 334, 341 (4th Cit. 2001)
(quoting 29 U.S.C ~ 2617 (a)(1)(A)(i)(I», overruledon othergrounds by Montgomery v. Maryland, 535
U.S. 1075 (2002).
In the event that no wages, salary, employment
benefits, or other
compensation are lost, damages are limited to "any actual monetary losses sustained by the
such as the cost of providing care." Montgomery, 266 F.3d at 341 (quoting 29
U.S.C ~ 2617 (a)(1)(A)(i)(II».
Plaintiff has not alleged that she suffered actual monetary
damages, either in lost compensation or in the cost of providing care. Rather, her demand
for "front and back pay, benefits, and equitable relief' as well as "interest, special damages
and any other damages" appears to be rooted solely in her claim of intentional infliction of
The FMLA damages provision
does not authorize
emotional distress. See Settle v. S.W: Rodgers, Co., 998 F. Supp. 657,665-66 (ED. Va. 1998),
affd 182 F.3d 909 (4th Cit. 1999). Additionally, Plaintiffs bald assertion that, "DOT and
Crowell interfered with Iher] exercise of rights under the FMLA from 2013 until 2014 while
she worked for the DOT" is insufficient to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Compl., p. 4, ECF NO.2.
The conclusory facts she alleges in her complaint do not provide
the specificity required to sustain a claim. Walters, 684 F.3d at 439. Therefore, Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss (ECF No.8) is GRANTED.
For the foregoing reasons, IT IS this 4th day of March, 2016, HEREBY ORDERED
The Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No.8) is GRANTED;
Plaintiff Joanne Douglas' Complaint (ECF No.2) is DISMISSED;
Copies of this Order and the accompanying Memorandum Opinion shall be
sent to the Plaintiff and Counsel of record; and
The Clerk of this Court shall CLOSE this case.
. Richard D. Bennett
United States DistrictJudge
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