United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. GRIMM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a period of homelessness, Plaintiff Shera Woodbury, with the
assistance of Montgomery County, Maryland (the
“County”), spent several weeks living in Stepping
Stones Shelter, Inc. (the “Shelter”), which
provides “short-term temporary housing
assistance” as “a stepping stone to permanent
housing and rejoining the community.” Am. Compl.
¶¶ 2, 31, ECF No. 27; Consumer Rights & Code of
Conduct, ECF No. 27-2. Believing that she was treated
unfairly and discriminated against by the Shelter based on
her disability, religion, and political views, and that the
County failed to intervene promptly enough on her behalf,
despite her requests, Ms. Woodbury filed suit against the
Shelter and the County. Compl., ECF No. 1 (redacted); ECF No.
2 (unredacted). Defendants have moved to dismiss. ECF No. 28.
Because Ms. Woodbury has been given the opportunity to
supplement and amend her pleadings yet still fails to state a
claim under federal law, her federal causes of action will be
dismissed with prejudice, and the Court will decline to
exercise jurisdiction over her state law claims.
early months of 2017, Ms. Woodbury was homeless and pregnant,
and the County “denied [her] help, ” only
providing her with housing (in a hotel) after a doctor deemed
it necessary due to the circumstances of her pregnancy. Am.
Compl. ¶ 20. After she gave birth, Ms. Woodbury, with
the County's assistance, was provided short-term housing
at the Shelter. Id. ¶¶ 2, 31; Consumer
Rights & Code of Conduct. She signed the Shelter's
“Consumer Rights and Code of Conduct” statement
on May 3, 2017; it provided that “there are certain
expectations for [the resident] while in shelter” to
“ensure shelters are safe for everyone and that [the
resident and the Shelter] to help [the resident] move as
quickly as possible from emergency housing to a home.”
Consumer Rights & Code of Conduct. Ms. Woodbury also
signed the Shelter's Non-Discrimination Policy, which
stated that the Shelter “provide[s] services to
residents without regard to race, color, religion, sexual
orientation, age, disability or veteran status.” ECF
No. 27-3. At the time, Woodbury's infant, who was placed
in the Shelter with her, was ten days old and Woodbury was on
medication following the infant's Cesarian-section birth,
as well as for “stress related seizures.” Shelter
Arrival Form 1-2, ECF No. 27-4.
Shelter, Ms. Woodbury requested a first floor room because of
her recent surgery, but the Shelter did not grant the
request. Am. Compl. ¶ 9. Additionally, the Shelter
“forc[ed] the plaintiff into house labor such as
cleaning and cooking.” Id. ¶ 11. Within
days, on May 9, 2017, Ms. Woodbury felt that the Shelter
“failed to uphold the
plaintiff[']s rights, ” and
she complained to the Shelter and the County. Id.
¶ 3. She asserts that the County ignored this and other
complaints she and a friend made on her behalf. Id.
¶¶ 22, 24.
Woodbury alleges that the Shelter then “retaliated
against the plaintiff by violating her rights she
signed” by “voicing their dislikes” with
regard to her “disability (epilepsy and post
pregnancy), religion (Buddhist), [and] political views
(Republican).” Id. ¶¶ 4-5. According
to Ms. Woodbury, the Shelter initially allowed her to use a
computer at the Shelter because she was a student and
involved in a civil lawsuit but, in retaliation for her
complaints, “those accommodations were taken from the
plaintiff resulting in the plaintiff not being able to do
homework or participate fully in the civil case.”
Id. ¶ 8. She alleges that the Shelter
“ma[de] jokes regarding [her] epilepsy and post surgery
wounds and delivery of a newborn, ” id. ¶
11, and that one staff member got “in the
plaintiff['] face and . . .
scream[ed] threats” and “antagonize[d] the
plaintiff [about] her religious beliefs and political views,
” id. at 16. She claims that, as a result of
“the stress that the plaintiff encountered from being
treated differently due to having a disability by the
defendants, ” and “bullying from the staff,
” she “had 6 seizures during the stay at Stepping
Stones Shelter Inc.” Id. ¶¶ 9, 15.
She also claims that another housemate physically threatened
her the day she arrived. Id. ¶ 26.
Ms. Woodbury claims that the Shelter “filed false
claims against the plaintiff to Children Protective Service,
stating the plaintiff sleeps with her newborn baby in a bed
with a p[ie]ce of ply wood [sic] separating the baby from the
plaintiff” and that she “verbally abused her
newborn baby, ” causing “Child Protective Service
[to come] to the shelter to speak with the plaintiff
regarding these allegations.” Id. ¶ 12.
She views this as “defamation of character.”
Id. And, she alleges that the Shelter gave her
expired baby formula, which caused her baby to have to spend
three days in the pediatric intensive care unit. Id.
Woodbury, who is proceeding without counsel, filed suit in
this Court against the Shelter and the County on June 22,
2017. ECF Nos. 1, 2. She alleged only generally that she was
“discriminated against due to having a
disability” and “retaliated against for
complaining about issues, ” and that her
“contract was breached by defendants, ” who
“used defamation of character mechanisms towards
plaintiffs.” Compl. 6. Accordingly, I ordered her to
supplement her Complaint, ECF No. 6, which she did on July
20, 2017, ECF No. 7. She alleged:
Montgomery County (defendant) is forcing Plaintiff to leave
the state of Maryland and refuses to help Plaintiffs after
Stepping Stones Shelter Inc. retaliated against Plaintiff by
forcing them to leave. Montgomery County is not accommodating
Plaintiff due to disability and post partum [sic] depression.
Plaintiff [A.C.R.] is going to have to be on a prescribed
formula for at least a year due to the formula that she
received from defendants. Having a total of 6 seizures, which
would lead to other results [sic].
Supp. 7. Ms. Woodbury claimed that the baby formula was moldy
and expired; the bathroom had mold; the staff discriminated
against her based on her disability, harassed her, and
invaded her privacy; she “was kicked out of the shelter
program, ” and the County “did nothing to help
plaintiffs” after Ms. Woodbury complained about these
events. Id. at 9.
County and the Shelter sought leave to file motions to
dismiss for failure to state a claim; the Shelter also
asserted that Ms. Woodbury lacked standing to bring a claim
for injunctive relief under the Americans with Disabilities
Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101- 12213.
ECF Nos. 14, 19, 20. I held a conference call on October 12,
2017 regarding Defendants' proposed motions. ECF No. 18.
I gave Ms. Woodbury the opportunity to amend her Complaint to
address the alleged deficiencies, after which Defendants
could file a consolidated motion to dismiss if they believed
that the deficiencies persisted in the amended pleading.
Id.; Ltr. Order, ECF No. 19.
Woodbury filed an Amended Complaint, adding factual details
to the events that allegedly occurred before she filed suit,
as well as details to the allegations she made in her
Supplement with regard to events that occurred after she
filed suit. Am. Compl., ECF No. 27. For example, on June 26,
2017, two days after the staff member screamed in her face,
the Shelter “accused the plaintiff of being a
racist” and informed her that she had one day “to
exit the shelter program . . . due to a claim that the
plaintiff physically detained 2 toddlers to barricade them in
the kitchen, ” which Plaintiff insists she did not do.
Id. ¶¶ 13-15. Ms. Woodbury asserts that
the agreement that she signed with the Shelter provided for
“a two week notice to vacate.” Id.
¶ 17. She alleges that the Shelter's Board of
Directors met with the Shelter staff three days before she
was asked to leave. Id. ¶ 25.
the County informed Ms. Woodbury that it “would put her
and her newborn in a hotel room for 30 days only, ”
during which time she had to find housing or “give up
rights to her child or move out of the state of
Maryland.” Id. ¶ 18. She alleges that the
new case manager the County assigned to her “pressured
the plaintiff every week to relocated out of the state of
Maryland” and “insisted the plaintiff get a
job.” Id. ¶ 19.
I can discern, Ms. Woodbury's claims in her Amended
Complaint are that the Shelter was negligent in giving her
baby expired baby formula; discriminated against her based on
her disability, religion, and political views, in violation
of the agreement she signed with the Shelter; discriminated
against her based on her disability, in violation of the ADA;
and defamed her “reputation and character.”
Id. ¶¶ 2-4, 30, 31. As for Montgomery
County, she acknowledges that it “helped the plaintiff
by referring her to a housing program and paid for the hotel
room for [her] and the baby, ” but complains that
“it took a legal suit to get that assistance.”