United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
J. McConnell, Jr. United States District Judge
the Court is Anchor Medical Associates' motion to dismiss
Plaintiff Denise Dacier's Complaint. For the following
reasons the motion is DENIED.
Dacier was attacked and assaulted by a patient while
performing a medical examination. The assault resulted in her
being transported, via ambulance, for medical treatment. Ms.
Dacier was fired a week after the assault for unexcused
absences from work. Anchor offered an unsolicited alternative
excuse for the dismissal-we were going to fire you anyway.
17, 2017, Ms. Dacier was working for Anchor Medical
Associates ("Anchor") as a nurse practitioner when
she was "subjected to an unprovoked attack by [a]
patient" where "the patient pulled [her] hair,
grabbed her head and struck her in the face, causing her to
fall backwards into [a] wall and then ground," thus
causing her to be transported to Rhode Island Urgent Care by
ambulance for treatment. ECF No. 1-1 ¶¶ 16-18. The
Warwick Police Department responded and a report was
generated. Id. Ms. Dacier alleges she
"sustained severe physical and emotional injuries"
and "was compelled to undergo various medical
evaluations and treatments for her injuries." ECF No.
1-1 ¶¶ 17, 19-20. On July 24, 2017, Dacier was
terminated by letter from her position as nurse practitioner
at Anchor for an "unnoticed absence" and because
'"prior to her recent injury' the employer had
determined that the Plaintiffs performance 'was not
acceptable and not correctable and that [her] employment
would have been terminated for those reasons
anyway.'" ECF No. 1-1 ¶¶ 22, 26-27. Ms.
Dacier is seeking relief for the Defendant's alleged
discriminatory employment practices and retaliation. ECF No.
satisfying administrative prerequisites, Ms. Dacier filed her
complaint in The Rhode Island Superior Court. ECF No. 1-1.
The Defendant removed the case to federal court. ECF No. 1-2.
The Defendant filed a motion to dismiss under the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 12(b)(6). ECF No. 6. The
Plaintiff opposed the motion to dismiss. ECF No. 10.
a battlefield surgeon sorting the hopeful from the hopeless,
a motion to dismiss invokes a form of legal triage, a paring
of viable claims from those doomed by law." Iacampo
v. Hasbro, Inc., 929 F.Supp. 562, 567 (D.R.I. 1996).
"To avoid dismissal, a complaint must provide 'a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief.'" Garcia-Catalan
v. United States, 734 F.3d 100, 102 (1st Cir. 2013)
(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). The complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face. Bell Atl. Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The Court must
accept a plaintiffs allegations as true and construe them in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Gargano v.
LibertyInt'l Underwriters, 572 F.3d 45, 48 (1st Cir.
2009). "A Rule 12(b)(6) motion will be granted only if,
when viewed in this manner, the pleading shows no set of
facts which could entitle plaintiff to relief."
Gooley v. Mobil Oil Corp., 851 F.2d 513, 514 (1st
Cir. 1988) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41,
45-48 (1957)), "We augment those facts with facts
extractable from documentation annexed to or incorporated by
reference in the complaint and matters susceptible to
Judicial notice." Jorge v. Rumsfeld, 404 F.3d
556, 559 (1st Cir. 2005).
I, II & III
Court finds Ms. Dacier has plead sufficient facts to make her
disability claim plausible. The statutory language and
definition of "disability" is similar in the Rhode
Island Civil Rights Act (R.I.G.L. § 42-112-1 et seq.),
Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. § 12101 et
seq.), and Rhode Island Fair Employment Practices Act
(R.I.G.L. § 28-5-1 et seq.), as such, the Court will
address those claims together. ECF No. 1-1 Counts I, II,
& III. The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted to
eliminate or reduce "the physical and social structures
that impede people with some present, past, or perceived
impairments from contributing, according to their talents, to
our Nation's social, economic, and civic life."
Tennessee v. Lane, 541 U.S. 509, 535-36 (2004)
(Ginsburg, J., concurring). "To prevail on a disability
discrimination claim, a plaintiff must show by a
preponderance of the evidence that [s]he (1) has a disability
within the meaning of the ADA; (2) is qualified to perform
the essential functions of the job, with or without
reasonable accommodations; and (3) was subject to an adverse
employment action based in whole or part on [her]
disability." Ramos-Echevarria v. Pichis, Inc.,
659 F.3d 182, 186 (1st Cir. 2011) (alterations in original).
"The term 'disability' means ... a physical or
mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major
life activities . . . or . . . being regarded as having
such an impairment." 42 U.S.C. § 12102
(alterations in original) (emphasis added), "An
individual meets the requirement of 'being regarded
as having such an impairment if the individual
establishes that [ ] she has been subjected to an action
prohibited under this chapter because of an actual or
perceived physical or mental impairment whether
or not the impairment limits or is perceived to
limit a major life activity." Id.
(emphasis added). "[M]ajor life activities include, but
are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual
tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing,
lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading,
concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working."
Id. (alteration in original). "[T]he statute
seems to us to offer protection as well to one who is not
substantially disabled or even disabled at all but is wrongly
perceived to be so." Katz v. City Metal Co., 87
F.3d 26, 33 (1st Cir. 1996) (alteration in original).
Dacier alleges that her "medical impairment(s), and the
Employer's perception that she suffer(s) from a chronic
impairment(s) were the motivational factors in the
Employer's decision to terminate." ECF No, 1-1
¶ 29. The crux of Anchor's motion to dismiss is Ms.
Dacier was not disabled. Ms. Dacier was under medical care
due to an assault. Anchor had actual and constructive
knowledge that she was under medical care. ECF No. 1-1
¶¶ 23, 24. The Court realizes that Ms. Dacier was
fired before being able to acutely identify a disability
and/or request any reasonable accommodations. However, the
Court is reminded of the blue-collar folktale where a
construction site foreman yells, "you're
fired," to a worker falling from a scaffold in an effort
escape liability. The Court can infer that until released
from medical care, the type and level of actual disability
and/or accommodations required, if any, cannot be determined
with a quantum of clarity. The Court finds it plausible that
while under medical care, as a direct result of a workplace
injury, Anchor could have perceived Ms. Dacier as disabled-at
least until able to attempt a return to work.