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Murril v. M & M Mars

March 9, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy McDade United States District Judge


Before the Court is Defendant, M & M Mars Co.'s ("M&M/Mars") Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. #23] and Plaintiff, Debra E. Murril's Response [Doc. #25]. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion will be granted.

Initially, the Court points out that Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Local Rule 7.1(D) govern motions for summary judgment in the Central District of Illinois. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56; CDIL-LR 7.1. While the technical requirements of Local Rule 7.1(D) do not apply to pro se litigants, such as Plaintiff, there are no exemptions from the requirements of Rule 56 under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. As a result, the Seventh Circuit requires that all pro se litigants be given adequate notice of the consequences of failing to properly respond to a motion for summary judgment. See Timms v. Frank, 953 F.2d 281, 285 (7th Cir. 1992).

In compliance with the Seventh Circuit's mandate, Plaintiff was provided with the following notice on January 6, 2006:

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that a case-dispositive motion (such as a motion for summary judgment or motion for judgment on the pleadings) has been filed. . . .

When a motion for summary judgment is made and properly supported, you may not simply rely upon the allegations made in your complaint. Rather, you must respond by affidavit(s) or as otherwise provided in Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a copy of which is attached. Your response must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. If you do not submit affidavits or other documentary evidence contradicting the defendants' assertions, the defendants' statement of facts will be accepted as true for purposes of summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(attached). [Doc. #24] (emphasis in original).

To avoid summary judgment, Plaintiff must therefore counter Defendant's factual assertions with "materials of evidentiary quality (such as affidavits or depositions)[,]" pointing to specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Green v. National Steel Corp., 197 F.3d 894, 899 (7th Cir. 1999); see also Bombard v. Fort Wayne Newspapers, Inc., 92 F.3d 560, 562 (7th Cir. 1996) (stating that the evidence relied upon by the non-moving party must be of the type otherwise admissible at trial). Plaintiff, however, has proffered no such materials to controvert Defendant's properly supported factual assertions. Therefore, the Court will accept Defendant's version of the facts as true for purposes of summary judgment. See Dent v. Bestfoods, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14871, at *8-9 (N.D. Ill. August 27, 2003) (stating that the court will accept the non-movant's version of the disputed facts only if the non-movant supports those facts with materials of evidentiary quality).


In 1988, Plaintiff, Debra E. Murril, was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the Illinois Psychiatric Institute in Chicago, Illinois. She continues to receive treatment for her disability at Western Illinois University Psychology Clinic in Macomb, Illinois. At the time of her diagnosis, Murril participated in a work program at Thresholds Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center ("Thresholds"). Murril claims that while participating in the Thresholds program, she packaged bags of M&M candies at a M&M/Mars facility located in Chicago, Illinois from 1988 to 1989.*fn1 She further alleges that although she received her paychecks from Thresholds, she was nonetheless an employee of Defendant, M&M/Mars.

However, M&M/Mars has put forth "materials of evidentiary quality" to establish that Murril was never directly or indirectly employed by M&M/Mars as a result of her participation in the Thresholds program.*fn2 These evidentiary materials establish the following: Mars, Inc. has no record of Murril ever being employed at any of its entities, including M&M/Mars; M&M/Mars does not and, did not in 1988 or 1989, manufacture, package, distribute or otherwise process M&M candies at any facility in or near Chicago, Illinois; M&M/Mars has never participated in the Thresholds program and has only participated in a program called "Bridges," which started sometime after 1990; and Murril has never participated in the "Bridges" program at M&M/Mars. In response to the evidentiary materials proffered by M&M/Mars, Murril simply rest upon her bare, self-serving assertions as stated in her complaint.

Nevertheless, on November 12, 2003, Murril filed a "Charge of Discrimination" against M&M/Mars with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging M&M/Mars engaged in disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"). The EEOC issued a "Dismissal and Notice of Rights" letter on November 17, 2003, informing Murril that her charge was dismissed and that she had 90 days to file suit. Murril then filed suit against M&M/Mars in the McDonough County Circuit Court on January 15, 2004. It is unclear exactly what happened to her state court case, but it appears there are no claims pending in state court at the present time. Months later, Murril tendered a standard-form pro se employment discrimination complaint to the U.S. District Clerk's Office for the Central District of Illinois, which was later filed on September 3, 2004.

After a liberal reading of her pro se employment discrimination complaint, the attachments thereto and several letters to the Court (which will be construed as amendments to the complaint), Murril appears to allege M&M/Mars engaged in employment discrimination and harassment on the basis of her mental disability and race, in violation of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.

In particular, Murril alleges M&M/Mars paid her "piece rate" at approximately ten cents per item packaged rather than the minimum wage paid to other employees. She claims her pay was much lower than that of her non-disabled and non-black co-workers, totaling approximately five to six dollars every two weeks. She further alleges M&M/Mars caused her money and other belongings to be stolen, caused her to be raped, caused her to be attacked while living on the streets, caused her to be in a car accident, and later threatened to do physical harm to her if she was to tell anyone about these events. However, Murril proffers no evidence ...

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