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Wehby v. Springer Equipment Company, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

March 7, 2018

THERESA L. WEHBY, Plaintiff,



         This case is before the court on the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Springer Equipment Company, Inc. (“Defendant” or “Springer”). (Doc. # 45). The Motion (Doc. # 45) has been fully briefed, and the parties have filed evidentiary submissions. (Docs. # 45, 48, 51, 54). After careful review, and for the following reasons, the court finds that the Motion (Doc. # 45) is due to be granted.

         I. Relevant Undisputed Facts[1]

         Springer is a forklift and material handling company that sells, rents, and services forklifts.[2] (Doc. # 45 at ¶ 1). It employed Plaintiff Theresa Wehby (“Plaintiff” or “Wehby”) for billing purposes from March 2003 through August 2014. (Docs. # 18 at ¶ 12; 45 at ¶ 2; 45-2 at p. 65). Plaintiff has filed a claim against Springer, alleging that it violated the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, because the company failed to accommodate her request for a certain parking place and, as a result, she suffered a knee injury in July 2014. (Docs. # 18 at p. 6-9; 45 at ¶ 3; 45-2 at p. 298-300; 45-3 at ¶ 9-11).

         Prior to Wehby's departure from Springer in August 2014, Springer entered into government-related transactions, which involved the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (Docs. # 45 at ¶ 12; 45-4 at ¶ 13). In April 2011, Springer entered into a procurement contract with FEMA to assist with disaster relief efforts related to tornado damage in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Docs. # 45 at ¶ 7; 45-4 at ¶ 4; 51 at ¶ 14; 51 at ¶ 14). Under that contract, FEMA leased equipment from Springer at standard rates using Springer's standard price list. (Docs. # 45 at ¶ 8; 45-4 at ¶ 5, 7-8). In 2005 or 2006, Springer charged FEMA its standard rates for completed work for FEMA in connection with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. (Docs. # 45 at ¶ 10-11; 45-4 at ¶ 10-12).

         Springer is also certified under the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) and is considered a Small Business Concern (“SBC”) and a Woman-Owned Small Business Concern (“WOBC”). (Docs. # 51 at ¶ 13-14; 51-14 at p.6; 54 at p. 10). Because of these statuses, Springer has received protected procurement contract awards and has qualified for some set-aside contract awards. (Docs. # 51 at ¶ 8, 15; 51-11). For instance, in November 2012, Springer entered into a subcontracting agreement with Raytheon with the help of the SBA's Subcontractor Assistance Program.[3] (Docs. # 51 at ¶ 24-25; 51-14).

         In its Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendant argues that Springer is not subject to the Rehabilitation Act. (Doc. # 45). Plaintiff counters that Springer is subject to the Rehabilitation Act because the company “availed itself of federal remedial programs.” (Doc. # 48 at p. 1). Accordingly, this dispute centers on whether Defendant may be liable to Plaintiff under the Rehabilitation Act.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment is proper “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party asking for summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the pleadings or filings which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. Once the moving party has met its burden, Rule 56 requires the non-moving party to go beyond the pleadings and -- by pointing to affidavits, or depositions, answers to interrogatories, and/or admissions on file -- designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324.

         The substantive law will identify which facts are material and which are irrelevant. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). All reasonable doubts about the facts and all justifiable inferences are resolved in favor of the non-movant. See Allen v. Bd. of Pub. Educ. for Bibb Cnty., 495 F.3d 1306, 1314 (11th Cir. 2007); Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1115 (11th Cir. 1993). A dispute is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. See Id. at 249.

         When faced with a “properly supported motion for summary judgment, [the non-moving party] must come forward with specific factual evidence, presenting more than mere allegations.” Gargiulo v. G.M. Sales, Inc., 131 F.3d 995, 999 (11th Cir. 1997). As Anderson teaches, under Rule 56(c) a plaintiff may not simply rest on his allegations made in the complaint; instead, as the party bearing the burden of proof at trial, he must come forward with at least some evidence to support each element essential to his case at trial. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. “[A] party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment ‘may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Id. at 248 (citations omitted).

         Summary judgment is mandated “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. “Summary judgment may be granted if the non-moving party's evidence is merely colorable or is not significantly probative.” Sawyer v. Sw. Airlines Co., 243 F.Supp.2d 1257, 1262 (D. Kan. 2003) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250-51).

         “[A]t the summary judgment stage the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. “Essentially, the inquiry is ‘whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to the jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.'” Sawyer, 243 F.Supp.2d at 1262 (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52); see also LaRoche v. Denny's, Inc., 62 F.Supp.2d 1366, 1371 (S.D. Fla. 1999) (“The law is clear . . . that suspicion, perception, opinion, and belief cannot be used to defeat a motion for summary judgment.”).

         III. ...

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