United States District Court, D. Maryland
K. Bredar Chief Judge
2016, Plaintiff David Wood sued the Maryland Department of
Transportation (MDOT) and Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA)
("Defendants"), alleging that the denial of his
application to renew his driver's license violated the
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§
12131 et seq., and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C.
§ 794. That suit was dismissed, and the Fourth Circuit
affirmed. Wood v. Md. Dep't of Tramp. (Wood J),
Civ. No. JFM-16-3727 (D. Md. Mar. 17, 2017),
aff'd, 732 Fed.Appx. 177 (4th Cir. 2018)
(unpublished). Plaintiff then filed this lawsuit, renewing
his ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims and seeking the same
declaratory and injunctive relief as his first suit, (ECF No.
1.) Defendants filed a motion to dismiss arguing that the
claims are barred by res judicata. (ECF No. 11.) No. hearing
is required. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For
the reasons stated below, the motion will be granted.
Background and Prior Litigation
has an ocular condition, retinitis pigmentosa, that affects
his peripheral vision. (Compl. ¶ 7, ECF No. 1.) In 2015,
Wood applied to renew his Maryland driver's license, but
his application was denied. (Id.) Maryland law
requires "[a] continuous field of vision of at least 140
degrees" as a condition of eligibility for an
unrestricted noncommercial license and permits restricted
licenses for applicants with "[a] continuous field of
vision of at least 110 degrees." Md. Code Ann., Transp.
§ 16-110.1(a)(1)(ii), (c)(1)(ii). Wood admits he did not
meet the minimum field of vision requirement for a restricted
license at the time of his application. (Compl. ¶ 42.)
Notwithstanding that fact, he contends he is "otherwise
qualified" for a Maryland license because he is a safe
driver with a spotless record. (Id. ¶¶
59-60.) He argues that the visual field requirement is
unreasonable, and that the ADA and Rehabilitation Act require
"an individualized assessment of his driving
ability" before he can be denied a license. (Id.
¶¶ 5, 58.)
first lawsuit, Judge J. Frederick Motz dismissed Wood's
case, concluding, first, that, "[unquestionably, Wood
does not meet Maryland's field of vision
requirement," and, second, that "individualized
consideration [of an applicant's ability to drive] is
unnecessary under the law." Wood I, Civ. No.
JFM-16-3727, at 1 (quotations omitted). Judge Motz cited
guidance from the Department of Justice (DOJ), which states
that "[a] public entity may establish ., . vision
requirements that would exclude some individuals with
disabilities, if those requirements were essential for the
safe operation of a motor vehicle." Id. Judge
Motz acknowledged Wood's contention that Maryland's
field of vision requirement was "outdated," but
held that Wood failed to provide factual allegations in
support of that assertion. Id.
appealed, and the Fourth Circuit affirmed. Wood v. Md.
Dep't of Transp. (Wood II), 732 Fed.Appx. 177, 185
(4th Cir. 2018) (unpublished). The court ruled that Wood
"does not and cannot" meet the field of vision
requirement, with or without an accommodation, id.
at 184-85, that Maryland was permitted under federal law to
promulgate "reasonable vision standards" for
drivers' licenses, id. at 183, that federal
disability statutes do not require an individualized
assessment before denying a license under such a standard,
id., and that Wood "proffer[ed] no plausible
argument for why [Maryland's standard] is
unreasonable" or "somehow inconsistent with
Congress's intent," id. at 183-84, 185.
lawsuit, Wood seeks to "correct factual
misunderstandings in the [Fourth Circuit opinion] [and]
plead facts deemed missing from the first complaint."
(Compl. ¶ 3.) Wood newly alleges: that Maryland's
field of vision standard is inconsistent with decades of
ophthalmological research recommending individualized
assessment for cases like Wood's, (id.
¶¶ 52-60); that crash avoidance technology
available in many modern cars can provide a "reasonable
accommodation" to compensate for visual field
impairment, (id.¶ 40); and that, contrary to
the Fourth Circuit opinion, his field of vision in 2009, when
he was permitted to renew his license without demonstrating a
110-degree field of vision, and in 2015, when his renewal
application was denied, was "substantially
similar," (id. ¶¶ 23-25).
motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead "sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state 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)). The
court takes well-pled allegations as true and views facts in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Ibarra v.
United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir.1997). But,
the court need not accept as true '"naked
assertion[s], '" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557) (alteration
in original), nor "legal conclusions couched as
facts," Wag More Dogs, LLC v. Cozart, 680 F.3d
359, 365 (4th Cir. 2012).
judicata, also known as claim preclusion, bars a party from
relitigating a claim that was decided or could have been
decided in an original suit." Laurel Sand &
Gravel, Inc. v. Wilson, 519 F.3d 156, 161 (4th Cir.
2008); see also Pueschel v. United States, 369 F.3d
345, 355-56 (4th Cir. 2004). Its purpose is to "protect
'litigants from the burden of relitigating an identical
issue with the same party'" and to promote
'"judicial economy by preventing needless
litigation.'" Laurel Sand, 369 F.3d at
161-62 (quoting Parklane Hosiery Co. v. Shore, 439
U.S. 322, 326 (1979)). The doctrine bars an action when three
elements are met:
(1) the prior judgment was final and on the merits, and
rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction in accordance
with the requirements of due process; (2) the parties are
identical, or in privity, in the two actions; and (3) the
claims in the second matter are based upon the same cause of
action involved in the earlier proceeding.
Pittston Co. v. United States, 199 F.3d 694, 704
(4th Cir. 1999) (quoting First Union Commercial
Corp. v. Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough, 81
F.3d 1310, 1315 (4th Cir. 1996)); see also
Restatement (Second) of Judgments § 17 (Am. Law Inst.
1982). Here, the elements are met: this lawsuit involves
parties and claims identical to the prior suit, which was
dismissed with prejudice and affirmed. None of Plaintiff s
arguments to the contrary has merit.
respect to the first element, Plaintiff attempts to
characterize the prior lawsuit as having been "dismissed
without prejudice." (Compl. ¶ 2). He argues that,
because Judge Motz's dismissal order "did not
explicitly say that the case was dismissed for
failure to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted," it should be construed otherwise. (Opp'n
Mot. Dismiss at 5, ECF No. 14.) This reading is incorrect.
The dismissal order plainly granted a motion made under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See
Dismissal Order at ¶ 1, Wood I, Civ. No.
JFM-16-3727 (ECF No. 17) (granting the motion docketed at ECF
No. 9); Motion to Dismiss at 1, Wood I, Civ. No.
JFM-16-3727 (ECF No. 9) (moving under Rule 12(b)(6)).
Plaintiff suggests that, without language to the contrary, a
dismissal is without prejudice, but the Rules set out the
opposite presumption: "[u]nless the dismissal order