FARMER v. AMERICAN HOME MEDICAL
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY CHIEF JUDGE LAWRENCE F. STENGEL ON 2/14/18. 2/14/18 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PLAINTIFF AND EMAILED TO COUNSEL.(jaa, ) Modified on 2/14/2018 (jaa, ).
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
K. KIM FARMER,
AMERICAN HOME MEDICAL
EQUIPMENT AND SERVICES, INC.,
d/b/a AMERICAN HOME MEDICAL,
February 14, 2018
This case involves the alleged discriminatory conduct by American Home Medical
Equipment and Services, Inc. (“AHM”). Plaintiff, a pro se litigant, alleges that she was
prevented from purchasing a TENS unit 1 because of her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. §
1981 and § 1983. Defendant moves to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Fed. R.
Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. (Doc. No. 24.) Plaintiff opposes the motion.
(Doc. No. 27.)
On July 10, 2015, plaintiff went to AHM located on Hamilton Boulevard in
Allentown, Pennsylvania to purchase a TENS unit that was prescribed by her physician.
A TENS unit is a Transcutaneous Electrical nerve Stimulation unit which sends stimulating
pulses across the surface of the skin and along the individual’s nerve strands to help prevent pain
signals from reaching the brain. (Doc. No. 24 at 2 n. 1.)
(Am. Compl. at 2.) Plaintiff provided the following description of events in her Amended
Prior to coming [to AHM], I called and asked questions in regards to obtaining
equipment. They appeared to be nice to me on the phone and said to bring
insurance information and they would contact the insurance company and if my
insurance will pay, then they would give me the equipment that day.
I walked into AHM [at] approximately 4 p.m. that Friday, July 10, 2015. I
immediately became uncomfortable with the front desk lady who gave me an
application to fill out. I presented my insurance information and the name of the
adjustor to contact for my car insurance. The desk lady asked me if I had health
insurance and I said I did but was only able to use my car insurance since this was
related to the accident. I told her that I had Medicare and with that she insulted me
by saying “Do you mean Medicaid?” I repeated again, “No, I have Medicare due
to me having a health matter.” She then insulted me again and said “I didn’t think
you were that old.”
The lady then went to the back with my application saying she didn’t know how to
process car accident insurances [sic] and I was more suspicious how long she was
taking. She finally came back and said I could get the equipment if I showed my
license and that she also spoke to the insurance company. I told her I didn’t have
my license and had to look for it. I went to my car and found it and came back in. I
had wrapped my credit cards and license with a piece of tape around it and it
happen [sic] to have a tiny piece over the color of eye [sic]. She questioned me
about this and I told her it must have stuck [sic] on it. The license was fine, my
name, address and license number was [sic] clearly visible and intact which is the
most important part, not what my body feature is.
I was upset from the Medicaid incident and now this. After she made a copy of the
license she said she could not give me my equipment because they needed my
medical records. I told her [those were] private records and they are not getting my
records for no reason and my insurance did not require them. The desk lady said
she would not be able to provide the equipment until then.
I left and contacted my car insurance and asked why I couldn’t get my equipment.
While on the phone I walked back to [the] American Home Medical building and
asked for the supervisor. I still had the car insurance person on the phone for some
time. So it  probably recorded some of the supervisor’s words to me by the car
insurance company recording of my phone conversation.
I asked the supervisor why I wasn’t allowed my medical equipment and that’s
when she told me they were suspicious of me because originally I said I didn’t
have my license and then I went out and got it. She said my license was altered,
she said that the prescription may not be written from a doctor. She also said that
she’s not sure if she will get payed [sic] by my insurer even after verifying it. She
said “How do I know you really need this equipment and that it’s medically
necessary.” She said I refused to give my Medicare numbers (I feel they thought I
lied, and I have Medicaid.) She also said I didn’t give my SS# which I told her I
did give them the last 4 digits. I also said to the supervisor “Could I get it then if
you originally said I could have it if I gave you my Medicare numbers.” She then
changed her story to “no because we need your medical records from your doctor
to show why you need this equipment and if it’s medically necessary.” Also she
stated we need to make sure we will get paid and have to wait. I told her I would
get my lawyer to fax a letter at that moment guaranteeing payment. The manager
refused that also and said, “that doesn’t mean anything, it could take 2 years for us
to get paid.” Then she changed it again to we need proof that you really need this
equipment. She also used the word that she was suspicious of fraud since I didn’t
want to provide my social security number, which I did.
She spoke to my car insurance adjustor, so I am determining that my treatment
was unjust, discriminatory towards my race, black and my disability. The manager
knew I believe [sic] that I couldn’t afford to pay cash for the equipment and that is
why I believe she stated that if I wanted it, I could buy it for myself.
That weekend I was in so much pain and took extra pain medicine.
On Monday I contacted my insurance again and was informed that they never had
a problem like they did with American Home Medical. Not only did they verify I
had insurance and they would pay for my equipment, but my car insurance also
said it was unusual that they wanted them to also fax a letter stating the same
approval that was given verbally.
I saw people that were Caucasian give their insurance and get their items at the
supply company, without being asked to provide all the information I had to, and
without being asked for their medical records. I was also upset that the manager
accused me of fraud while other customers were present. I told the manager that
other places would give me my medical equipment without my records and she
said for me to go there. She took my papers (application also) and said she was
going to walk over to the shredder and I should leave before the other places close
for the weekend. I then left. Obviously, it was too late to see if any other place
could help me because it was now close to 5 p.m. and the other places would be
closed for the weekend.
(Am. Compl. at 2-4.)
Plaintiff filed an initial complaint on December 15, 2016. (Doc. No. 4.)
On March 8, 2017, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. (Doc.
8.) After plaintiff missed the initial deadline to respond to defendant’s motion to dismiss,
I entered an order directing plaintiff to file a response by April 28, 2017. (Doc. No. 12.)
On April 19, 2017, plaintiff moved for an extension of time to respond. (Doc. No. 13.) I
granted plaintiff’s motion, extending the time to respond until May 28, 2017. (Doc. No.
14.) The Order noted, “[n]o further extensions will be granted.” (Id.) On May 24, 2017,
plaintiff moved for a second extension of time (Doc. No. 15), which defendant opposed.
(Doc. No. 16.) On May 30, 2017, I issued an order denying plaintiff’s second request for
an extension of time, and granting defendant’s motion to dismiss without prejudice. (Doc.
No. 18.) Plaintiff was permitted twenty days to file an amended complaint. On June 6,
2017, plaintiff filed an amended complaint. (Doc. No. 23.) Defendant filed a motion to
dismiss for failure to state a claim on June 15, 2017 (Doc. No. 24), and plaintiff opposed
the motion. (Doc. No. 27.)
A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure challenges the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). To sustain this challenge, the factual allegations in
the complaint must be sufficient to make the claim for relief more than just speculative.
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Conclusory allegations are
insufficient to support a facially plausible claim; the facts asserted must allow the court
“to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). In determining whether to grant a motion to
dismiss, a federal court must construe the complaint liberally, accept all factual
allegations as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555; see also D.P. Enters. v. Bucks County Cmty. Coll., 725 F.2d 943, 944
(3d Cir. 1984). The court asks “not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether
the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at
563 n. 8 (2007) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)).
When presented with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, district courts
conduct a two-part analysis. First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be
separated. The court must accept all of the complaint’s well-pleaded facts as true but may
disregard legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Second, a district court must
determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the
plaintiff has a “plausible claim for relief.” Id. In other words, a complaint must do more
than allege entitlement to relief. A complaint has to “show” such an entitlement with its
facts. Id.; see also Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35 (3d Cir. 2008).
“Where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere
possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged — but it has not ‘show[n]’ — ‘that
the pleader is entitled to relief.’” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; see also Phillips, 515 F.3d at
232-34 (holding that: (1) factual allegations of a complaint must provide notice to the
defendant; (2) the complaint must allege facts indicative of the proscribed conduct; and
(3) the complaint’s “‘[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level.’”) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) (alterations in original).
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading need not contain
detailed factual allegations, but must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545. A pleading that
offers “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action will not do.” Id. at 555. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders “naked
assertion[s]” devoid of “further factual enhancement.” Id. at 557.
Plaintiff alleges that AHM discriminated against her based on race in violation of
42 U.S.C. § 1981 and § 1982. 2 I will address each in turn.
A. Plaintiff fails to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981.
Section 1981 prohibits discrimination in the “making and enforcement of
contracts on the basis of race.” Singh v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. 98-1613, 1999 WL
374184, at *4 (E.D.Pa. Jun. 10, 1999). Although 1981 claims typically arise in the
context of employment contracts, claims involving retail transactions are also actionable.
Id. at *5. To state a claim for relief under Section 1981, a plaintiff must demonstrate that
AHM read plaintiff’s complaint liberally to include a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 2000a which
prohibits discrimination in a place of public accommodation based on race, color, religion, or
national origin. Plaintiff concedes that she did not bring a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 2000a. (See
Doc. No. 27 at ¶¶ 7, 8.) Therefore, I need not reach the merits of this claim. Even if I were to
reach the merits, AHM’s business is not one of the establishments delineated in § 2000a(b) as
constituting a place of public accommodation. Therefore, plaintiff cannot sustain a claim under
42 U.S.C. § 2000a. See McCrea v. Saks, Inc., No, 00-1936, 2000 WL 1912726, at *5 (E.D.Pa.
Dec. 22, 2000) (“[E]stablishments not listed in Section 2000a(b)(2) should not be read into that
“(1) she is a member of a racial minority; (2) the defendant had an intent to discriminate
on the basis of race; and (3) the discrimination concerned one or more of the activities
enumerated in the statute (i.e. the making and enforcing a contract).” McCrea, 2000 WL
1912726, at *3.
Plaintiff is African American which satisfies the first prong of the plaintiff’s prima
facie case. Ackaa v. Tommy Hilfiger Co., No. 96-8262, 1998 WL 136522, at *3 (E.D.Pa.
Mar. 24, 1998) (“Since plaintiffs are of African origin, there is no dispute in this action
that they can prove that they are members of a racial/ethnic minority, the first element of
the prima facie case.”); see also, Ackerman v. Food-4-Less, No. 98-1011, 1998 WL
316084, at *2 (E.D.Pa. Jun. 10, 2008).
With respect to the second element, plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to
demonstrate that AHM’s actions were “racially motivated and intentionally
discriminatory.” Ackaa, 1998 WL 136522, at *3. Plaintiff’s amended complaint does not
set forth any facts tending to demonstrate that AHM’s actions were based on plaintiff’s
race. The complaint alleges that plaintiff spoke with an AHM employee on the phone
who advised plaintiff that if the equipment was covered by insurance, plaintiff would
receive the TENS unit that same day. Plaintiff arrived at AHM and they attempted to
confirm payment of the equipment. Specifically, an AHM employee requested plaintiff’s
insurance information and informed her that they were unable to process her application
without her license and a copy of her medical records. Plaintiff declined to provide her
medical records. A supervisor then informed plaintiff that they were “suspicious” of her,
noting that her license was altered and the prescription may not have been written by a
doctor. (Id. at 3.) The supervisor stated, “we need to make sure we will get paid” and
advised plaintiff that she could pay for the equipment in cash. (Id.)
Nothing in the complaint demonstrates that AHM’s actions were racially
motivated or intentionally discriminatory. There were no references to plaintiff’s race or
any evidence to support the inference that AHM’s actions were the result of racially
biased conduct. Cf. Ackerman, 1998 WL 316084, at *2 (Plaintiff sufficiently pled the
second element where the complaint alleged that numerous racial slurs were lodged
against her and plaintiff was told that she “should could not be married to her husband
because he was white and she was a minority.”). Not only does the complaint fail to
demonstrate racial motivations, it affirmatively demonstrates a race-neutral basis for
AHM’s actions: financial gains. AHM is in the business of selling medical devices and
cannot be held liable under § 1981 for operating the business with an eye towards profits.
Construing the amended complaint liberally and drawing all inferences in plaintiff’s
favor, I find that plaintiff failed to plead facts demonstrating that AHM’s actions were
based on plaintiff’s race.
The third element requires a showing that the “discrimination concerned one or
more of the activities enumerated in the statute.” McCrea, 2000 WL 1912726, at *3. The
court in Ackaa, supra, explained,
In the context of a contract discrimination claim arising from a retail transaction,
the courts have universally required that in order to successfully establish the third
element of a prima facie case . . . plaintiffs must produce evidence of something
more than the same type of racially based, discriminatory conduct sufficient to
support the second element of a § 1981 prima facie case.
1998 WL 136522, at *5. The plaintiff must allege that she was “actually prevented, not
merely deterred, from making a purchase or receiving a service after attempting to do
so.” Id. (citing Henderson v. Jewel Food Stores, Inc., No. 96-3666, 1996 WL 617165
(N.D. Ill. Oct. 23, 1996)).
Plaintiff failed to set forth sufficient facts demonstrating that she was denied the
“enjoyment of all rights, privileges, [and] terms and conditions” of the contractual
relationship with AHM. Ackaa, 1998 WL 136522, at *6. AHM did not actually prevent
plaintiff from purchasing the equipment. In fact, the supervisor advised plaintiff that she
could purchase the TENS unit with cash. At worst, plaintiff was deterred from making
the purchase, which is insufficient to sustain a claim under § 1981. Cf. Henderson, 1996
WL 617165 (denying summary judgment where plaintiff was detained and ultimately
ejected from the store on the way to the cash register, which was sufficient to
demonstrate that plaintiff was prevented from making a purchase.) 3
I find that plaintiff failed to set forth sufficient facts to demonstrate a claim under
§ 1981, and defendant’s motion to dismiss is granted.
B. Plaintiff fails to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1982.
Plaintiff also alleges AHM discriminated against her based on race in violation of
§ 1982. (Sec. Am. Compl.)
Plaintiff alleges that she “saw people that were Caucasian give their insurance and get their
items at the supply company, without being asked to provide all the information I had to, and
without being asked for their medical records.” (Sec. Am. Compl. at 3.) This conclusory
allegation is insufficient to demonstrate preferential treatment of another customer who was
similarly situated in “all relevant respects.” Singh, 1999 WL 374184, at *7.
“Section 1982 prohibits racial discrimination in transactions relating to real and
personal property by securing the right of all citizens to ‘inherit, purchase, lease, sell,
hold, and convey real and personal property.’” Rose v. Rothrock, No. 08-3884, 2009 WL
1175614, at *5 (E.D.Pa. Apr. 29, 2009) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 1982). To state a claim under
42 U.S.C. § 1982, a plaintiff must allege “1) the defendant’s racial animus; 2) intentional
discrimination; and 3) that the defendant deprived plaintiff of [her] rights because of
race.” Id. (citing Brown v. Phillip Morris Inc., 250 F. 3d 789, 797 (3d Cir. 2001))
(internal citations omitted). “These elements are ‘virtually identical’ to those of § 1981.”
Id. (citing Soo San Choi v. D’Appolonia, 252 F.R.D. 266, 272 (W.D.Pa. 2008)).
Plaintiff’s §1982 claim fails for the same reasons discussed above. Plaintiff is
unable to demonstrate that AHM acted with intentional discrimination or that plaintiff
was deprived of her rights because of race. I find that Plaintiff failed to set forth facts
sufficient to demonstrate a claim under § 1982 and defendant’s motion to dismiss is
Plaintiff also alleges that she was discriminated against based on her disability. Title III of the
ADA prohibits discrimination based on a person’s disability in places of public accommodation.
Anderson v. Macy’s, Inc., 943 F. Supp. 2d 531, 542 (W.D.Pa. 2013); 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a). The
plaintiff’s complaint fails to identify her disability, and fails to set forth any facts demonstrating
plaintiff’s right to recovery under Title III of the ADA. Plaintiff’s opposition papers also fail to
address this claim. What is more, a claim under Title III of the ADA permits only prospective
injunctive relief and plaintiff, here, seeks only monetary damages. Anderson, 943 F. Supp. 2d at
538. For these reasons, the amended complaint fails to state a claim under Title III of the ADA.
I find that plaintiff’s amended complaint fails to state a claim on which relief can
be granted. Defendant’s motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is granted with
prejudice and the amended complaint is dismissed.
An appropriate Order follows.
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