Reed v. Missouri Department of Revenue
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER... IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant's motion to dismiss is GRANTED with respect to Plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief and DENIED with respect to his state and federal claims for damages. (Doc. No. 6 .) Signed by District Judge Audrey G. Fleissig on 7/7/2015. (NEB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
HOMER LEE REED,
MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF
Case No. 4:15CV00642 AGF
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Defendant Missouri Department of Revenue’s
motion to dismiss Plaintiff Homer Lee Reed’s claims for injunctive relief as moot, and
claims for damages as barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity. For the reasons set
forth below, the motion shall be granted in part and denied in part.
Plaintiff alleges in his complaint, filed in state court on February 4, 2015, that in
September 2013, he petitioned for reinstatement of his driver’s license after more than ten
years had elapsed since his ten-year license revocation for an alcohol-related offense. On
November 7, 2013, the state court ordered Plaintiff’s driving privileges reinstated
“pursuant to § 302.060(9) RSMo (2012),1 subject to all reinstatement requirements
Mo. Rev. Stat. § 302.062.2 states, in relevant part:
The ignition interlock device shall further be required to be maintained on
all motor vehicles operated by the person for a period of not less than six
including proof of installation of an ignition interlock device [“IID”] . . . .” (Doc. No. 3
at 3.) An IID is a device into which a driver must exhale to activate a vehicle and which
will disable the vehicle upon the detection of alcohol.
Plaintiff alleges that he is 72 years old, and had problems blowing with enough
force to satisfy the breath volume requirement of the IID due to his chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease and asthma. As a result, the IID would not read a passing test and
would immobilize his vehicle (regardless of his blood alcohol content). After an initial
accommodation, lowering the breath volume requirement for Plaintiff’s IID, Plaintiff
contacted Defendant regarding his ongoing difficulties using the IID and presented a
physician’s statement documenting Plaintiff’s disabilities, but Defendant refused to meet
with Plaintiff to discuss further acceptable accommodations.
On April 15, 2014, Plaintiff filed a charge with the Missouri Human Rights
Commission (“MCHR”). By letter dated October 27, 2014, the MHRC stated that it did
not have jurisdiction over the matter because Plaintiff was “subject to a court order, this
is not a place of public accommodation.” (Doc. No. 14-2.) Plaintiff asserts in his
complaint that Defendant has discriminated against him, and others similarly situated, by
failing to make reasonable accommodation for persons with respiratory disabilities such
as his. Count I of the complaint claims violation of Title II of the Americans with
months immediately following the date of reinstatement . . . . If the person
fails to maintain such proof with the director, the license shall be suspended
for the remainder of the six-month period or until proof as required by this
section is filed with the director. Upon the completion of the six-month
period, the license shall be shown as reinstated, if the person is otherwise
Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq.; Count II claims violation of the
provision of the Missouri Human Rights Act (“MHRA”) prohibiting disability
discrimination in “any place of public accommodation,” Mo. Rev. Stat. § 213.065; Count
III claims violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“RA”), 29 U.S.C. §
794; and Count IV claims violation of Plaintiff’s rights under the Fourteenth Amendment
to the United States Constitution. In each count, Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, as well
as damages and attorney’s fees and expenses. In Counts II, III, and IV, he also asks for
declaratory relief. It is undisputed that Plaintiff was required to use an IID only through
June 21, 2014, and that his driver’s license is currently valid with no restrictions.
Defendant removed the action to this Court on April 17, 2015, on the basis of
federal question jurisdiction. Defendant now moves to dismiss the claims for injunctive
relief as moot on the ground that the conduct Plaintiff seeks to enjoin – Defendant’s
imposition of restricted driving privileges with use of an IID – is no longer imposed on
Plaintiff. According to Defendant, Plaintiff can only argue a threat of future harm by
proposing that he may once again drive while intoxicated, and be subject again to using
an IID; and such a consideration is not a real or immediate threat. Because Plaintiff no
longer has standing to assert his own claims for injunctive relief, he cannot bring such
claims on behalf of similarly situated citizens with respiratory disabilities.
Defendant next argues that Eleventh Amendment immunity shields it from
Plaintiff’s claim for damages under the ADA and the RA. Defendant posits that a sixmonth denial of access to a driver’s license does not constitute the denial of a
fundamental right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, and thus the ADA and RA do
not abrogate Defendant’s Eleventh Amendment immunity. Defendant also argues that
Plaintiff lacks standing to bring claims under the ADA and RA because he was not a
“qualified individual” for reinstatement of his license for the six months in question.
Rather, Plaintiff failed to meet an essential eligibility requirement – to properly exhale
into the IID – and waiving that requirement would not be a reasonable accommodation,
but would undermine the statutory scheme altogether.
Defendant argues that Plaintiff has no viable Fourteenth Amendment due process
claim because § 302.060.2 bears a rational relationship to the legitimate state interest of
keeping individuals from driving on the roads while intoxicated. Defendant maintains
that, to the extent Plaintiff is asserting an equal protection claim under the Fourteenth
Amendment, such a claim would be subsumed by the ADA and RA claims. Lastly,
Defendant argues that Plaintiff has no viable claim under the MHRA because he has not
alleged that he was denied “access to the premises of Defendant’s office or subject to
discrimination on Defendant’s premises,” and so has not stated a claim for discrimination
in “a place of public accommodation” under the MHRA.
Plaintiff responds that his claims for injunctive relief fall under the exception to
the mootness doctrine for claims challenging conduct that will likely repeat itself yet
evade review. Because the IID is required to be on a vehicle for only six months, and
Missouri law allows the MHRC six months to investigate a charge before a
discrimination suit may be brought, it would have been impossible, according to Plaintiff,
to bring suit while the action was live.
With respect for his claims for damages under the ADA and RA, Plaintiff
acknowledges that driving may be a privilege rather than a fundamental right, but
contends that the right to be free from discrimination due to disability, “and to be treated
equally,” is a fundamental right, such that the ADA and RA abrogate Defendant’s
Eleventh Amendment immunity from these claims in this case. (Doc. No. 14 at 5.)
Plaintiff argues that because Defendant refused to meet with him, Defendant cannot
claim that accommodations requested are unreasonable, a matter that remains a question
of fact. He asserts that he has stated valid Fourteenth Amendment claims, and that the
failure of Defendant to block Plaintiff’s access to its physical premises is irrelevant to the
viability of his claim of disability discrimination under the MHRA.
To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
which, accepted as true, states “a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
570 (2007)). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere
conclusory statements,” will not pass muster. Id. The reviewing court must accept the
plaintiff’s factual allegations as true and construe them in the plaintiff’s favor, but is not
required to accept the legal conclusions the plaintiff draws from the facts alleged. Id.;
Retro Television Network, Inc. v. Luken Comm’cns, LLC, 696 F.3d 766, 768-69 (8th Cir.
Claims for Injunctive Relief
The Court agrees with Defendant that Plaintiff’s claims for injunctive relief do not
come within the exception to the mootness doctrine for conduct that is capable of
repetition, yet evading review. To come within this “narrow exception, the following two
elements must exist: (1) there must be a reasonable expectation that the same
complaining party will be subjected to the same action again, and (2) the challenged
action must be of a duration too short to be fully litigated before becoming moot.” Iowa
Protection & Advocacy Servs. v. Tanager, Inc., 427 F.3d 541, 544 (8th Cir. 2005); see
also Randolph v. Rodgers, 170 F.3d 850, 856 n.7 (8th Cir. 1999) (characterizing the
exception as “extraordinary and narrow”).
Here, although the second element would appear to be met, the Court cannot say
that there is a reasonable expectation that Plaintiff will again be required to install an IID
on his car. See, e.g., United States v. Soboroff, 534 F. App’x 571, 572 (8th Cir. 2013)
(affirming the district court’s denial of an injunction requiring a jail to make dietary
accommodations for an inmate as moot, because the inmate had been transferred to
another facility and was not likely to again be subject to the conditions of the same jail);
Baccam v. Ferguson, Civil No. 11–5025, 2014 WL 320425, at *4 (W.D. Ark. Jan. 29,
2014) (holding that the plaintiff’s motion for an injunction requiring a prison to provide
better access to handicapped-accessible showers, was moot, as the plaintiff was no longer
incarcerated and made no showing that he was likely to be re-convicted and again be
subject to the same conditions). Thus, Defendant’s motion to dismiss shall be granted
with respect to Plaintiff’s claims for injunctive relief.
Claims for Damages under the ADA and the RA (and the Fourteenth Amendment)
Title II of the ADA and § 504 of the RA are “similar in substance” and, with the
exception of the RA’s federal funding requirement, “cases interpreting either are
applicable and interchangeable.” Randolph, 170 F.3d at 858 (citation omitted). The
Court will limit its discussion to Plaintiff’s damages claim under Title II of the ADA,
noting that it is equally applicable to his damages claim under the RA.
Title II of the ADA prohibits any public entity from discriminating against
“qualified” persons with disabilities in the provision or operation of public services,
programs, or activities. 42 U.S.C. § 12131(1). The Act defines the term “public entity”
to include state and local governments, as well as their agencies and instrumentalities.
Persons with disabilities are “qualified” if they, “with or without reasonable
modifications to rules, policies, or practices . . . meet the essential eligibility
requirements for the receipt of services or the participation in programs or activities
provided by a public entity.” Id. § 12131(2). The Act authorizes private citizens to
bring suits for money damages.
Moreover, the Act provides that “[a] State shall not be immune under the eleventh
amendment to the Constitution of the United States from an action in [a] Federal or State
court of competent jurisdiction for a violation of this chapter.” Id. § 12202. In United
States v. Georgia, 546 U.S. 151 (2006), the Supreme Court held that this abrogation of
sovereign immunity is valid “insofar as Title II creates a private cause of action for
damages against the States for conduct that actually violates the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Id. at 159. In that case, an inmate claimed that the conditions of his incarceration
violated not only the ADA, but also his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel
and unusual punishment (a right made applicable to the states by the due process clause
of the Fourteenth Amendment). But since the inmates claims still had to be fleshed out in
the district court, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the district court to determine
“on a claim-by-claim basis, (1) which aspects of the State’s alleged conduct violated Title
II; (2) to what extent such misconduct also violated the Fourteenth Amendment; and (3)
insofar as such misconduct violated Title II but did not violate the Fourteenth
Amendment, whether Congress’s purported abrogation of sovereign immunity as to that
class of conduct is nevertheless valid.” Id.
The Court does not believe that this assessment can be made at this stage in the
proceedings, on a motion to dismiss. In Klingler v. Director, Department of Revenue,
State of Missouri, 455 F.3d 888 (8th Cir. 2006), the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals
explained that it could engage in such an analysis, without remanding the case for the
district court to do so, because the appellate court had before it “an extensive record
created for summary judgment.” Id. at 892. Here, however, the Court cannot say that,
for example, as a matter of law, the accommodation Plaintiff seeks is unreasonable, as
Defendant urges. The Court agrees with the following analysis of another district court
addressing the same issue under an analogous statute of another state:
Defendants argue that any accommodation in variance of the statutory
requirement of an interlock device would defeat the purpose of the
requirement, and that plaintiff is essentially asking to be treated better than
those without disabilities. As defendants note, however, the purpose is to
ensure that a person does not drive while under the influence of alcohol or
drugs, and the Court cannot say as a matter of law, at this stage of the
litigation, that there is no way for [defendant] to accommodate plaintiff’s
disability with some other means of allowing plaintiff to drive after some
verification of his sobriety.
McCray v. Kan., Dep’t of Revenue, No. 12-2188-JWL, 2012 WL 3758667, at *4 (D. Kan.
Aug. 30, 2012). Nor can the Court assess an equal protection claim, based on the record
now before it. In sum, Defendant’s motion to dismiss is denied with respect to Plaintiff’s
federal claims for damages.
Claim for Damages under the MHRA
The MHRA prohibits disability discrimination in “any place of public
accommodation,” as follows:
All persons within the jurisdiction of the state of Missouri are free
and equal and shall be entitled to the full and equal use and enjoyment
within this state of any place of public accommodation, as hereinafter
defined, without discrimination or segregation on the grounds of . . .
It is an unlawful discriminatory practice for any person, directly or
indirectly, to refuse, withhold from or deny any other person, or to attempt
to refuse, withhold from or deny any other person, any of the
accommodations, advantages, facilities, services, or privileges made
available in any place of public accommodation, as defined in section
213.010 and this section . . . on the grounds of . . . disability.
Mo. Rev. Stat. § 213.065.1 & .2.
Section 213.010 defines “Places of public accommodation” as “all places . . .
offering or holding out to the general public . . . services [or] privileges . . . for the peace,
comfort, health, welfare and safety of the general public or such public places providing
food, shelter, recreation and amusement . . . .” § 213.010(15). The non-exclusive
examples that follow include inns, hotels, restaurants, theaters, as well as “[a]ny public
facility owned, operated, or managed by or on behalf of this state or any agency or
subdivision thereof, or any public corporation; and any such facility supported in whole
or in part by public funds.” Id. § 213.010(15)(e). The statute does not define “public
“The MHRA’s prohibition against discrimination serves a remedial purpose: it is
designed to be conducive to public welfare and the public good. As such, it must be
interpreted ‘liberally to include those cases which are within the spirit of the law and all
reasonable doubts should be construed in favor of applicability to the case.’” State ex rel.
Washington Univ. v. Richardson, 396 S.W.3d 387, 392-93 (Mo. Ct. App. 2013) (quoting
Doe ex rel. Subia v. Kansas City, Mo. Sch. Dist., 372 S.W.3d 43, 48 (Mo. Ct. App. 2012).
Although Plaintiff has not cited, nor has the Court found any cases directly on
point, the Court concludes that the public roads and highways of the state constitute a
“public facility owned, operated, or managed by or on behalf of this state or any agency
. . . thereof” under § 213.010(15)(e). Although as noted above, “public facility” is not
defined by the MHRA, another Missouri statute defines “public facility” as “any public
institution, public facility, public equipment, or any physical asset owned, leased, or
controlled by this state or any agency or political subdivisions thereof.” Mo. Rev. Stat. §
188.200(2) (emphasis added).
In addition, Missouri courts recognize that although dictionary definitions are not
the final source of guidance in statutory interpretation, a dictionary “is often a useful tool
in determining the ordinary meaning of statutory language.” State v. Payne, 250 S.W.3d
815, 820 (Mo. Ct. App. 2008); see also Richardson, 396 S.W.3d at 393 (turning to
Black’s Law Dictionary for definition of “holding out” in phrase “holding out
[priveleges] to the general public,” in determining that a private university was a place of
public accommodation under the MHRA). Looking to such definition, the Court notes
http://definitions.uslegal.com/p/public-facility/ which states as follows: “Generally
speaking public facility can be any facility, including, but not limited to, buildings,
property, recreation areas, and roads, which are owned, leased, or otherwise operated, or
funded by a governmental body or public entity.”
Given the remedial purpose of the MHRA, and the meaning of the term “public
facility,” as gleaned from another Missouri statute and general usage, the Court concludes
that the state roads and highways of Missouri are places of public accommodation under
the MHRA. Cf. Coleman v. Carnahan, 312 .W.3d 377 (Mo. Ct. App. 2010) (holding that
state securities laws did not constitute a “place of public accommodation,” to encompass
an investment advisor’s claim that state officers’ racially motivated investigation denied
the advisor use of a public accommodation in violation of the MHRA).
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant’s motion to dismiss is GRANTED
with respect to Plaintiff’s claims for injunctive relief and DENIED with respect to his
state and federal claims for damages. (Doc. No. 6.)
AUDREY G. FLEISSIG
UNITED STATES DISTRCIT JUDGE
Dated this 7th day of July, 2015.
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