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Naughton v. Gilbane, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

September 10, 2014

WILLIAM NAUGHTON and MARIA HORRIDGE, Plaintiffs,
v.
GILBANE, INC. and ROBERT A. MCDONALD,[1] SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, Defendants

For William Naughton, Maria Horridge, Plaintiffs: Christopher J. Trombetta, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Office of Christpher J. Trobetta, Mansfield, MA.

For Gilbane, Inc., Defendant: Holly R. Rao, Olenn & Penza, Warwick, RI.

For United States of America, through the Veterans Administration, Secretary of Veteran's Affairs, Defendants: Zachary A. Cunha, LEAD ATTORNEY, Office of the U.S. Attorney, District of Rhode Island, Providence, RI.

Page 153

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

John J. McConnell, Jr., United States District Judge.

Plaintiff William Naughton, M.D. filed this suit against the Defendant Secretary of Veterans Affairs (" Secretary" ), claiming damages for a failure to accommodate his disability under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. (the " Rehabilitation Act" ). The Secretary moves to dismiss his complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, claiming that the Federal Employee Compensation Act, 5 U.S.C. § 8101 et seq. (" FECA" ), is Dr. Naughton's exclusive remedy for his claims. After a thorough review of the record, the law, and all counsels' excellent advocacy, this Court concludes that it has subject-matter jurisdiction because Dr. Naughton has set forth a valid federal discrimination claim under the Rehabilitation Act, and based on the existing record, that FECA does not provide the exclusive remedy for such discrimination claims. Therefore, the Secretary's motion to dismiss is DENIED.

I. FACTS

Defendant Gilbane, Inc. has been performing extensive construction work at the Providence Veterans Administration Hospital, including the area around the podiatry clinic. The work includes brick pointing and fabrication, demolition, and construction as well as heating, ventilation, and plumbing work. Dr. Naughton is a part-time podiatrist in the podiatry clinic at the hospital. He alleges that construction dust and other irritants stream into the podiatry clinic.

Dr. Naughton suffers from asthma, " a condition, handicap, and disability which ha[s] substantially limited [his] major life activities." (ECF No. 23 at ¶ 147).[2] He asserts, however, that prior to Gilbane doing construction work at the hospital he was without any detrimental effects to his breathing, the construction seriously exacerbated his breathing disability, and the hospital refused to reasonably accommodate him. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 83, 149). Dr. Naughton's claim under the Rehabilitation Act is that he suffered personal injury because the Veteran Affairs' failed to accommodate his disability due to asthma

Page 154

bye refusing to move him to an environment free of construction dust and materials. ( Id. at ¶ 149). Dr. Naughton details numerous complaints he made to Veterans Affairs and Veterans Affairs' failure to accommodate his breathing disability, alleging that the failure to accommodate was a punishment for Dr. Naughton's complaints about the clinic's conditions. (ECF No. 26 at 2-7). He claims that the failure to accommodate his disability " has caused him significant harm" and seeks damages and injunctive relief. ( Id. ; ECF No. 23 at ¶ ¶ 149-150).

II. ANALYSIS

The Court must first determine whether Dr. Naughton has set forth a valid claim under the Rehabilitation Act. If he has, then the Court turns to Veterans Affairs' position that this Court is divested of subject ...


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