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Stickhost v. 3-D Leasing

September 21, 2010

ROY M. STICKHOST PLAINTIFF,
v.
3-D LEASING, INC., AND LSSD, INC. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael P. McCUSKEY Chief U.S. District Judge

ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS

This case is before the court for ruling on a Motion to Dismiss (#5) filed by the defendants, 3-D Leasing, Inc. and LSSD, Inc.. This court has carefully considered the arguments of the parties and the documents presented by the parties. Following this careful and thorough consideration, the defendants' Motion to Dismiss is DENIED.

JURISDICTION

Jurisdiction of this court is premised on 28 U.S.C. § 1331, federal question jurisdiction. Plaintiff institutes the action pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et. seq.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

For the purpose of this Motion, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations contained in the Complaint (#1), and draw all inferences in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Santiago v. Walls, 599 F.3d 749 (7th Cir. 2010); Covington Court, Ltd. v. Village of Oak Brook, 77 F.3d 177, 178 (7th Cir. 1996).

Plaintiff alleges that he had been employed by Defendant 3-D Leasing, Inc. for a number of years as a truck driver, and had received health insurance, life insurance, participated in a 401k plan, and received other benefits as an employee/beneficiary of LSSD, Inc. As a result, Plaintiff alleges that he was an "eligible employee" of Defendants within the meaning of the FMLA. Complaint ¶¶ 6-10 (#1).

Plaintiff alleges that between February 15 and 16, 2010, he had a serious health condition within the meaning of the FMLA. Complaint ¶ 21 (#1). Plaintiff alleges the following facts in support of this claim: that (1) starting in the evening of February 14, 2010, he began suffering intense abdominal pain; (2) on February 15, 2010, his wife contacted their family doctor and received instructions regarding medication that had previously been prescribed; (3) when the problem continued, he went to his family doctor on February 16, 2010, who diagnosed him with, among other things, gastroenteritis and dehydration; and (4) he has a history of suffering from gallstones. Complaint ¶¶ 11-14 (#1).

Plaintiff further alleges that, pursuant to the FMLA, he and/or his wife gave notice to Defendants of his need to take medical leave. He alleges that (1) on February 15, 2010, his wife called Defendants, and informed the agent that her husband was sick, unable to work, under the care of a doctor, and might be passing a gallstone; and (2) that his doctor provided an off-work slip for February 15 and 16, and that this documentation was provided to Defendants. Complaint ¶¶ 15-16, 22 (#1). Finally, Plaintiff alleges that on February 16, 2010, Defendants fired him. Complaint ¶ 18 (#1).

Plaintiff has filed the instant action, claiming that 29 U.S.C. § 2614 provides eligible employees who take FMLA leave with the right to be restored to the position that they held prior to the leave, or an equivalent position when they return from leave. Plaintiff claims that by terminating Plaintiff's employment while he was on FMLA leave, Defendants (1) violated the FMLA, and (2) willfully and intentionally discriminated against Plaintiff in violation of the FMLA. Complaint ¶¶ 19, 23-24 (#1).

PLEADING STANDARD

The American civil justice system uses notice pleading and private discovery to resolve disputes. In this approach to litigation, a valid claim for relief requires only a "short and plain statement" explaining why the plaintiff is entitled to such relief. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8. Dismissal is appropriate only when there are not "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). This plausibility inquiry involves a two-pronged approach to be used in civil actions. The court must first (1) distinguish between factual allegations and legal conclusions and only grant the presumption of truth to the former and then must (2) use these collected "facts" to determine whether they plausibly, not possibly, give rise to an entitlement to relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009). ("Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era, but it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.").

A claim is plausible if it merely provides the defendant fair notice of what the claim is, and the grounds upon which it rests, George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 608 (7th Cir. 2007), and by "plead[ing] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. The determination of plausibility is "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950.

Therefore, to withstand a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff "must give enough details about the subject-matter of the case to present a story that holds together. In other words, the court will ask itself could these things have happened, not did they happen." Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., ---F.3d ----, 2010 WL 2977297 at *3 (7th Cir. 2010). The amount of detail that the plaintiff must provide in the pleading depends on the type of claim, with simpler cases requiring less detail and more complex cases requiring more alleged facts. Swanson, 2010 WL 2977297 at *3 ("[I]n many straightforward cases, it will not be any more difficult today for a plaintiff to meet that burden than it was before the Court's recent decisions.") (comparing a straightforward sex discrimination case, which would require minimal detail, with a case involving financial derivatives or an antitrust violation, which would require more detail to give the opposing party "notice of what the case is all about and to show how, in the plaintiff's mind at least, the dots should be connected"); Limestone Development Corp. v. Village of Lemont, Ill., 520 ...


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