• ADA Claims Dismissed Because of Implausibility on Face of Complaint
  • July 27, 2009 | Author: Brian M. Molinari
  • Law Firm: Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. - New York Office
  • In recently dismissing claims under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) based on the sheer "implausibility" of the factual allegations on the face of the complaint, Judge Vanessa Bryant of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut correctly applied the much-discussed stringent pleading standards described by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949-50 (2009) and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). The case is Logan v. SecTek, Inc., No. 3:08cv00209 (July 8, 2009).

    You may recall that in Iqbal and Twombly, the Court set forth pleading standards for complaints to survive a motion to dismiss:

    • The complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face
    • 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
    • The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully
    • Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief
    • The court need not accept as true all of the allegations that are legal conclusions
    • Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice
    • Only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss
    • Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will be a context-specific task that requires the court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense

    Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949-50 (reiterating Twombly and clarifying that Twombly is not limited to antitrust claims only).

    In Logan, two of the three defendants moved to dismiss Logan's disability claims against them based on Logan's failure to plead sufficient facts to support the second element of a prima facie case under the ADA, viz., that he was disabled or that defendants perceived him to be disabled. Judge Bryant reviewed the complaint's allegations and found Logan's allegation that defendants regarded him as being "disabled" because of their awareness that Logan had missed work due to a back injury was insufficient to meet the Iqbal pleading standard.

    The only "factual enhancement" alleged by plaintiff was a statement that defendant "decided not to hire [Logan] because he had been out of work due to an injury and had not completed the required 40-hour classroom training." Noting that "an injury is not necessarily a disability as defined in the ADA," the court found the allegations to indicate only that it was "merely possible, but not plausible, that [defendant] perceived Logan to be disabled in accordance with the ADA definition." The court suggested that Logan "could have alleged, but does not allege, other facts that would have taken his ADA claim from the realm of possibility to plausibility."

    Reading the Logan decision is a chance to see Iqbal in action. It provides comfort to those of us in the trenches representing employers accused of discriminatory conduct -- which turns largely on intent and state of mind -- and often spending years in tedious factual discovery to obtain dismissal at the summary judgment stage. With courts now requiring a factual enhancement of plausibility at the initial pleading stage, Rule 12(b)(6) is finally becoming a reliable mechanism for early disposition of factually deficient claims.