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Jeffries v. Walmart Stores East, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

August 28, 2019

MONICA JEFFRIES, Plaintiff,
v.
WALMART STORES EAST, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case involves Plaintiff Monica Jeffries' failure-to-accommodate, retaliation, and wrongful discharge claims against her former employer, Defendant Walmart Stores East, LLC (“Walmart”), pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12112 et seq, and her attempt to add two related claims under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 22601 et seq. This Memorandum Opinion and accompanying Order address Walmart's Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 15, and its Motion to Strike Reply to Response to Motion, ECF No. 26. A hearing is not necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md.). For the reasons stated below, both motions are granted.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Ms. Jeffries was formerly employed as an Overnight Supervisor at Walmart's Waldorf location until her termination in 2013 or 2014.[2] ECF No. 10 at 2.[3] At the time of her termination, Ms. Jeffries was suffering from breast cancer, the side effects of chemotherapy treatment, and a work-related leg injury. Id. at 5, 8, 14. Ms. Jeffries alleges that Walmart was aware of her breast cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy treatment when she was hired and permitted her to work a modified schedule of four ten-hour shifts per week. Id. at 2-3. During the October prior to her termination, Ms. Jeffries was injured when a coworker pushed a cart into her left leg. Id. at 5. Her chemotherapy had weakened her immune system, so she took an extended leave of absence to treat the leg injury. Id. Ms. Jeffries alleges that she regularly forwarded “disability certificates” to her supervisor and “remained in constant contact with Walmart about [her] situation.” Id. at 5, 6. After six weeks of treatment, Ms. Jeffries was released to return to work without restrictions. Id. at 5. When she called her supervisor to ask when she could return to work, she was informed that she had been terminated. Id.

         Ms. Jeffries filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging disability discrimination and retaliation against Walmart, see Jeffries v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, No. GJH-15-473, ECF No. 1-4 (D. Md.) (“Jeffries I”), and she was issued a “right-to-sue” notice on January 29, 2015, id. at ECF No. 1-5. Ms. Jeffries filed a Complaint in this Court on February 28, 2015 and, after receiving leave from the Court, she filed an Amended Complaint on March 7, 2016 alleging failure-to-accommodate, retaliation, and wrongful discharge claims under the ADA related to her employment and termination by Walmart. Id. at ECF No. 22. This Court dismissed the case with prejudice for failure to state a claim on July 11, 2016. Id. at ECF No. 31. On February 17, 2017, Ms. Jeffries filed a second case in this Court with the same claims based on the same set of facts. See Jeffries v. Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P., No. PJM-17-514, ECF No. 1 (D. Md.) (“Jeffries II”). The Court dismissed the case sua sponte based on principles of res judicata. Id. at ECF No. 3.

         On August 30, 2017, Ms. Jeffries filed her Complaint in the instant case. ECF No. 1. On October 2, 2017, Ms. Jeffries filed a Motion to Extend Time to Amend the Complaint, ECF No. 4, which the Court granted on December 21, 2017. ECF No. 5. Instead of filing an Amended Complaint, Ms. Jeffries filed three additional motions on January 1, March 8, and September 5, 2018 requesting additional time to amend the Complaint. ECF Nos. 6, 7, 8. On September 27, 2018, the Court granted Ms. Jeffries twenty-one days to file an Amended Complaint, ECF No. 9, and Ms. Jeffries filed her Amended Complaint on October 19, 2018.

         On December 14, 2018, Walmart filed a Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint. ECF No. 15. On February 21 and March 29, 2019, Ms. Jeffries filed motions requesting additional time to respond to Walmart's Motion to Dismiss and file an Amended Complaint. ECF Nos. 17, 21. On April 22, 2019, the Court granted Ms. Jeffries twenty-one days to respond to Walmart's Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 22. On May 15, 2019, instead of filing a response to the Motion to Dismiss, Ms. Jeffries filed a Second Amended Complaint that alleged the same three ADA claims and added two new claims under the FMLA. ECF No. 23. Walmart filed a response in support of its motion on May 29, 2019, ECF No. 24, and Ms. Jeffries filed a surreply[4] on June 14, 2019, ECF No. 25. On June 28, 2019, Walmart filed a Motion to Strike Ms. Jeffries' surreply, ECF No. 26, which Ms. Jeffries opposed, ECF No. 27.

         II. MOTION TO STRIKE

         The first issue to be considered is whether Walmart's Motion to Strike Ms. Jeffries' surreply should be granted. “Unless otherwise ordered by the Court, surreply memoranda are not permitted to be filed.” Loc. R. 105.2.a (D. Md.); see Nicholson v. Volkswagen Grp. of Am., Inc., No. RDB-13-3711, 2015 WL 1565442, at *3 (D. Md. Apr. 7, 2015) (citing Loc. R. 105.2.a (D. Md. 2001)) (“As a general rule, this Court will not allow parties to file sur-replies.”). A “party moving for leave to file a surreply must show a need for a surreply, ” MTB Servs., Inc. v. Tuckman-Barbee Const. Co., No. RDB-12-02109, 2013 WL 1224484, at *6 (D. Md. Mar. 26, 2013), and “[s]urreplies may be permitted when the moving party would be unable to contest matters presented to the court for the first time in the opposing party's reply, ” id.

         Here, Ms. Jeffries never asked for leave to file a surreply and the Court never permitted a surreply to be filed. Moreover, a surreply is not necessary here because, aside from addressing the new claims that Ms. Jeffries included in the Second Amended Complaint that she also filed without leave of court, [5] Walmart did not introduce any new facts, legal issues, or theories in its reply brief. Thus, there was no need to file a surreply, and Walmart's Motion to Strike is granted.

         III. MOTION TO DISMISS

         A. Standard of Review

         Walmart contends that Ms. Jeffries' Amended Complaint is barred by the doctrine of res judicata, thus depriving the Court of subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). When a defendant challenges subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), “the district court is to regard the pleadings as mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment.” Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999).

         Walmart also moves to dismiss the Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Rule 12(b)(6) permits a defendant to present a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss invoking 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain 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) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. at 678; Twombly, ...


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