Scheffler v. Dohman et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER. 1. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 5 ) is GRANTED; and 2. Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. No. 1 ) is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.(Written Opinion). Signed by Judge Donovan W. Frank on 11/26/2013. (BJS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
Troy K. Scheffler,
Civil No. 13-106 (DWF/SER)
OPINION AND ORDER
Ramona Dohman, 1 in her official
Capacity as the Commissioner of Public
Safety, State of Minnesota;
and State of Minnesota,
Peter J. Nickitas, Esq., Peter J. Nickitas Law Office, LLC, counsel for Plaintiff.
James E. Haase, Assistant Attorney General, Minnesota Attorney General’s Office,
counsel for Defendants.
This matter is before the Court on Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss the Complaint
against Ramona Dohman and the State of Minnesota (together, “Defendants”). (Doc.
No. 5.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion to dismiss.
Plaintiff named “Mona” Dohman, Commissioner of the Department of Public
Safety, but Defendants refer to the Commissioner as Ramona Dohman.
Plaintiff was arrested for driving while impaired (“DWI”) on July 26, 1994,
November 1, 1996, and November 17, 1997. (Doc. No. 1, Compl. ¶ 14; Doc. No. 7,
Ex. 1.) 2 Each of these incidents resulted in the revocation of Plaintiff’s driving
privileges. (Doc. No. 7, Ex. 1.) After the November 1997 incident, Plaintiff’s driving
privileges were cancelled. (Id.) As a condition to regaining his driving privileges,
Plaintiff was required to complete a one-year abstinence-based alcohol rehabilitation
program. (Id.) Plaintiff successfully completed the program and was issued a driver’s
license on December 8, 1998, with the restriction that he abstain from the use of alcohol.
(Id.) Plaintiff’s driving privileges were cancelled again on September 27, 1999. (Id.) As
a condition to regaining driving privileges, Plaintiff was required to complete a three-year
abstinence-based rehabilitation program. (Id.) Plaintiff completed the program and on
December 11, 2002, was issued a driver’s license, again on the condition that he not
consume alcohol. (Id.) On December 13, 2010, Plaintiff was arrested for DWI. (Id.)
Plaintiff’s driving privileges were cancelled. (Id.) Plaintiff was required to complete a
six-year abstinence-based rehabilitation program, or, he could elect to participate in the
Ignition Interlock Program in order to be issued a restricted driver’s license. 3
Plaintiff characterizes his infractions as two DWI convictions and one reckless
driving related to alcohol conviction. (Compl. ¶ 14.)
Defendants represent that an Ignition Interlock device measures breath alcohol
concentration and prevents a motor vehicle’s ignition from being started by a person
whose breath alcohol concentration measures above a certain level.
Plaintiff filed the present action on January 11, 2013. (Compl.) He asserts two
claims, both alleging violations of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42
U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. (the “ADA”). In short, Plaintiff asserts that the Minnesota statute
and rule pursuant to which Plaintiff lost his driving privileges due to his DWIs violate the
ADA. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief restoring his driving privileges without restriction. 4
Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint in its entirety.
Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint adding two claims under the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973. (Doc. No. 17, Am. Compl. ¶¶ 80-107.) Plaintiff filed the
First Amended Complaint on July 16, 2013, roughly six months after he filed his original
Complaint, three months after Defendants filed their motion to dismiss, and ten days after
he filed his opposition to the pending motion to dismiss. In addition, the First Amended
Complaint was filed roughly ten days after the Court’s extended deadline for Plaintiff to
respond to Defendant’s motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 14.)
With respect to amendments before trial, Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure provides in relevant part:
(1) Amending as a Matter of Course. A party may amend its pleading once
as a matter of course within:
(A) 21 days after serving it, or
(B) if the pleading is one to which a responsive pleading is required, 21
days after service of a responsive pleading or 21 days after service of a
motion under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f), whichever is earlier.
(2) Other Amendments. In all other cases, a party may amend its pleading
only with the opposing party’s written consent or the court’s leave. The
court should freely give leave when justice so requires.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a). It appears that the First Amended Complaint was
improperly filed and, therefore, is not operative. Even so, the Court has
reviewed the First Amended Complaint and concludes that it would be
properly dismissed on the merits for the same reasons discussed herein.
In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a court assumes all
facts in the complaint to be true and construes all reasonable inferences from those facts
in the light most favorable to the complainant. Morton v. Becker, 793 F.2d 185, 187 (8th
Cir. 1986). In doing so, however, a court need not accept as true wholly conclusory
allegations, Hanten v. Sch. Dist. of Riverview Gardens, 183 F.3d 799, 805 (8th Cir.
1999), or legal conclusions drawn by the pleader from the facts alleged, Westcott v. City
of Omaha, 901 F.2d 1486, 1488 (8th Cir. 1990). A court may consider the complaint,
matters of public record, orders, materials embraced by the complaint, and exhibits
attached to the complaint in deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Porous
Media Corp. v. Pall Corp., 186 F.3d 1077, 1079 (8th Cir. 1999).
To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain “enough facts to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
545 (2007). Although a complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations,” it must
contain facts with enough specificity “to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.” Id. at 555. As the United States Supreme Court recently reiterated, “[t]hreadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements,”
will not pass muster under Twombly. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). In sum, this standard “calls for enough fact[s] to raise a
reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [the claim].” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556.
Motion to Dismiss
In this action, Plaintiff argues that Minnesota Statute section 171.09 and Minn.
Rule 7503.1700, subp. 6 (the provisions pursuant to which Plaintiff lost his driving
privileges), violate the ADA and seeks a declaration that Plaintiff is eligible to apply for a
Minnesota motor vehicle driver’s license that does not contain restrictions regarding the
use of alcohol. 5 Defendants move to dismiss this action on two primary grounds: first,
because Plaintiff fails to adequately allege that he is a qualified individual with a
disability under the ADA; and second, that even if Plaintiff is a qualified individual,
Minnesota law provides a reasonable accommodation for Plaintiff’s purported disability
by offering driving privileges through the Ignition Interlock Program or upon completing
an abstinence-based rehabilitation program.
Minn. Stat. § 171.09, subd. 1, provides that the Commissioner of Public Safety of
the State of Minnesota may, when good cause appears, impose restrictions “applicable to
the licensee as the commissioner may determine to be appropriate to assure the safe
operation of a motor vehicle by the licensee.” Minn. Stat. § 171.09, subd. 1(a).
Minn. Rule 7503.1700, subp. 6, provides in relevant part:
Failure to abstain following rehabilitation. The commissioner shall
cancel and deny the driver’s license and driving privilege of a person on
sufficient cause to believe that the person has consumed alcohol or a
controlled substance after the documented date of abstinence. The
commissioner shall not reinstate the driver’s license or driving privilege of
a person until the rehabilitation requirements of this chapter have been
completed. This subpart does not apply to the consumption of a controlled
substance in accordance with a medical prescription.
Minn. R. 7503, subp. 6.
Under the ADA, no “qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such
disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services,
programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such
entity.” 42 U.S.C. § 12132. A “‘qualified individual with a disability’ means an
individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable modifications to rules,
policies, or practices, . . . meets the essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of
services or the participation in programs or activities provided by a public entity.”
42 U.S.C. §12131. The ADA has a three-pronged definition of “disability”: (1) a
physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
(2) a record of such impairment; or (3) being regarded as having such an impairment.
42 U.S.C. § 12102(1).
Defendants argue that Plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged facts to show that he is
a qualified individual with a disability. Plaintiff summarily asserts that he has pleaded
“his record of chemical dependency and alcoholism de jure.” (Doc. No. 16 at 21 (citing
Compl. ¶¶ 14-21 and Exs. 1 & 2).) In the Complaint (and the First Amended Complaint),
Plaintiff’s allegations as to his alleged disability are limited to the following basic facts:
(1) that Plaintiff has a record of alcohol-related driving offenses; (2) that the
Commissioner of Public Safety compelled Plaintiff to sign a pledge of alcohol abstinence
as a condition of receipt of driving privileges; (3) that his license states that any use of
alcohol will invalidate his license; (4) that the pledge indicates Plaintiff’s last
consumption of alcoholic beverage took place on November 1, 1999; (5) that Plaintiff
acknowledged that his driving privileges would be cancelled if there is sufficient cause to
believe that he consumes alcohol; and (6) that the pledge prohibits Plaintiff, a practicing
Roman Catholic, from partaking of the sacrament of Holy Communion. (Compl.
¶¶ 14-21; Am. Compl. ¶¶ 14-21.) Plaintiff appears to argue that, “in the eyes of the
state,” he is an alcoholic based on the abstinence requirement that has been applied to
him as a result of his record of DWIs. (Doc. No. 16 at 28.)
The Court now considers whether Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a disability
under the ADA.
Impairment That Substantially Limits a Major Life Activity
Under the first prong, a plaintiff can establish a disability by demonstrating a
physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the individual’s
major life activities. 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1)(A). In general, major life activities include,
but are not limited to caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating,
sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading,
concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2)(A). In
addition, a major life activity includes the operation of a major bodily function, including
but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel,
bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive
functions. 42 U.S.C. § 12012(2)(B).
Alcoholism may be recognized as a disability under the ADA. Miners v. Cargill
Commc’ns, Inc., 113 F.3d 820, 823 (8th Cir. 1997) (recognizing alcoholism as a
disability within the meaning of the ADA where plaintiff introduced sufficient evidence
that her employer regarded her as being an alcoholic). However, a plaintiff asserting an
ADA claim based on alcoholism still must establish a disability under one of the prongs
of 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1)(A). See, e.g., Miners, 113 F.3d at 823 n.5 (noting the ADA’s
definition of disability); Ames v. Home Depot U.S.A. Inc., 629 F.3d 665, 670 (7th Cir.
2011) (explaining that alcoholism may qualify as a disability under the ADA; granting
summary judgment for employer where employee’s alcoholism did not substantially limit
a major life activity). In other words, alcoholism is not a disability per se. See Burch v.
Coca-Cola Co., Inc., 119 F.3d 305, 316 (5th Cir. 1997). Here, Plaintiff makes no
allegation that would support a finding that he has a physical or mental impairment due to
alcoholism that substantially limits one or more major life activities. In fact, Plaintiff
does not actually allege that he is an alcoholic, let alone any facts showing how any
purported alcoholism has any limiting effect on a major life activity. 6 Thus, the Court
concludes that Plaintiff has failed to allege a disability under the first prong of 42 U.S.C.
Record of Impairment
Under the second prong, a plaintiff can establish a disability by demonstrating a
record of a past physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the
individual’s major life activities. 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1)(B). For the same reasons as
discussed above, Plaintiff has not alleged that he has a past record of alcoholism. The
only support offered that could conceivably apply to this prong is Plaintiff’s assertion that
The Court acknowledges that Plaintiff might very well have a problem with
alcohol or be an alcoholic. Plaintiff has simply not sufficiently alleged such a condition
or that any such condition constitutes a disability under the ADA. See also Footnote 7.
his record of three DWIs “gives him a record of alcoholism and chemical dependence
de jure in the eyes of the state,” particularly “because relapse is a foreseeable feature of
the disability and disease of alcoholism.” (Doc. No. 16 at 28.) The Court disagrees.
Driving while intoxicated on multiple occasions does not, in and of itself, establish that
Plaintiff is an alcoholic. Plaintiff does not allege a diagnosis of alcoholism or how any
such diagnosis limits a major life activity, or even that his decisions to drive while
intoxicated were due to the disease of alcoholism. 7 The Court therefore concludes that
Plaintiff has failed to allege a disability under the second prong of 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1).
Regarded as Having an Impairment
In light of the above, it appears that Plaintiff makes his disability claim under the
third prong: that Defendants regard him as being an alcoholic. Under the third prong, a
plaintiff can establish a disability by demonstrating that he has been subjected to an
action prohibited under this chapter because of an actual or perceived physical or mental
impairment whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life
activity. 42 U.S.C. § 12102(3)(A). This prong, however, does not apply to impairments
The Court notes that neither party makes reference to the Minnesota Department
of Public Safety’s Rehabilitation Requirements, which require and provide an
opportunity for each individual to submit a “discharge summary” showing successful
completion of a chemical dependency treatment program, as well as confirmation that
they are participating in an aftercare program such as a 12-step program like AA. (See
Doc. No. 7-3 ¶¶ 2 & 3.) Moreover, there is no reference to a “discharge summary” or a
chemical use assessment. (See Minn. Stat. 169A.70, subds. 2 and 3.) On the current
record, the Court respectfully observes that the submissions of the parties indicate little
knowledge of the protocols followed in many cases for individuals dealing with DWIs,
the rehabilitation requirements associated with DWIs, and the use of chemical use
that are transitory or minor—a transitory or minor impairment being one with an actual or
expected duration of six months or less. 42 U.S.C. § 12102(3)(B). In his brief, Plaintiff
generally discusses alcoholism and relapse. (Doc. No. 16 at 17-18.) Plaintiff also
maintains that he has pleaded “his record of chemical dependency and alcoholism
de jure.” (Id. at 21.) In support, Plaintiff again cites to paragraphs 14 through 21 in his
Complaint and Exhibit 1 attached to the Complaint. The portions of the Complaint cited,
however, do not support the assertion that Plaintiff is an alcoholic, or that Defendants
regarded him as an alcoholic. Instead, the allegations relate to the simple facts that
Plaintiff has a record of alcohol-related driving offenses, the Commissioner of Public
Safety compelled Plaintiff to sign a pledge of alcohol abstinence as a condition of
regaining his driving privileges, and that Plaintiff’s license states that any use of alcohol
will invalidate his license. (Compl. ¶¶ 14-21; Am. Compl. ¶¶ 14-21.)
Plaintiff appears to argue that because the Commissioner of Public Safety
cancelled Plaintiff’s driving privileges and required Plaintiff to abstain from alcohol as a
condition for reinstatement of those privileges, Defendants must regard him as an
alcoholic. Again, the Court disagrees. As explained above, without more, the fact that
Plaintiff has multiple DWIs does not establish a record of alcoholism. Likewise, the fact
that Defendants placed conditions on Plaintiff’s driving privileges in response to
Plaintiff’s multiple DWIs does not suggest that Defendants regard Plaintiff as an
alcoholic. Choosing to drive while intoxicated is not a behavior that is limited to
alcoholics. Again, while it may be that Plaintiff has a problem with alcohol, the
allegations in his Complaint fail to establish that he is a qualified individual under the
ADA. 8 Thus, Plaintiff’s Complaint is properly dismissed with prejudice. 9
Based upon the foregoing, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:
Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. ) is GRANTED; and
Plaintiff’s Complaint (Doc. No. ) is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.
Dated: November 26, 2013
s/Donovan W. Frank
DONOVAN W. FRANK
United States District Judge
Even if Plaintiff had established that he was a qualified individual under the ADA,
Defendant offers reasonable accommodations through an abstinence-based rehabilitation
program and the Ignition Interlock Program.
The Court has reviewed Plaintiff’s proposed First Amended Complaint and finds
that it would not survive a motion to dismiss. Thus, the Court concludes that dismissal
with prejudice is appropriate. The Court also declines to reach alternative grounds for
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