United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. BORDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
before the court are a Motion for Summary Judgment (Docs. 76
& 126) and a and a Motion to Strike (Doc. 134) filed by
Defendant Alfa Mutual Insurance Company
Akridge filed this lawsuit on June 9, 2017 and amended her
complaint on July 31, 2017. Doc. 15. She brings a single
count which includes allegations both of the denial of
reasonable accommodation and disability discrimination in
violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73, the parties have
consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United
States Magistrate Judge. Docs. 20 & 21. After careful
consideration of the parties' submissions and the
applicable law, and for reasons discussed below, the motion
for summary judgment is due to be GRANTED and the Motion to
Strike is due to be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
court has subject-matter jurisdiction over the claims in this
action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The parties do not
contest personal jurisdiction or venue, and the court finds
adequate allegations to support both.
facts viewed in a light most favorable to the nonmovant are
as follows: Akridge began working with Alfa in 1989. Her
position was eliminated in December 2016. At the time her
employment ended, Akridge was working in the Underwriting
Department as a Strategic Underwriting Administrator. At the
time her employment was terminated, Akridge was supervised by
Bob Plaster, the Director of Underwriting Services. Plaster
reported to Beth Chancey, the Vice President of the Property,
Commercial, and Automobile underwriting department.
received excellent evaluations during her employment with
Alfa and was named its “Employee of the Year” in
1995. In January 1993, Akridge was diagnosed with Multiple
Sclerosis (“M.S.”). Akridge states in an
affidavit that various Human Resources employees and Alfa
executives were aware of her condition and that her physical
limitations were apparent because she used a walker for one
year. Doc. 129-1 at ¶ 4. Akridge presents evidence that
Plaster was aware of her condition (Doc. 129-1 at ¶ 7),
and that Chancey had heard she had M.S. and knew that she had
migraine headaches in connection with that condition. Doc.
78-4 at 12:13-13:8. The Senior Vice President of Underwriting,
Tommy Coshatt, testified in his deposition that he is aware
that Akridge had migraine headaches but he does not recall
having any conversation about M.S. Doc. 78-3 at 110:15-111:6.
Akridge explains that due to her M.S. she suffers from
migraine headaches and cannot sit for long periods of time.
Akridge presents evidences that her medications cost ten to
twelve thousand dollars per month and that this cost was paid
by Alfa, which was self-insured, during her employment. Doc.
129-1 at ¶ 8.
underwent a corporate reorganization in 2015. Alfa also
implemented a new computer system called Guidewire and other
computer programs that allowed for the automation of some
tasks. Doc. 78-3 at 36:8-21. Coshatt states in his deposition
that Alfa's focus in installing the new system was to
increase operational efficiency in the property and casualty
underwriting department by leveraging any potential for
automation. Doc. 78-3 at 119:9-21. As a result of this
process, Coshatt, Chancey, and Plaster made the decision to
eliminate Akridge's position. Doc. 78-4 at 69:2-6.
Coshatt testified that the responsibilities of Akridge's
position were no longer needed, so Alfa eliminated her
position. Doc. 78-3 at 113:11-14. The position
responsibilities were no longer needed because they had been
automated or absorbed into other areas. Doc. 78-3 at 33:3-7
presents evidence in an attempt to show that the real reason
for her termination was the cost to Alfa of treating her M.S.
In support, Akridge cites to Coshatt's deposition
testimony that Alfa “looked at the salary and the
position responsibilities and whether we needed that or not.
And obviously when we automate, those position
responsibilities go away.” Doc. 78-3 at 116:13-17.
Coshatt agreed when asked the following, “So you're
just talking her salary and what other benefits she may have
gotten as an employee.” Doc. 78-3 at 116:18-21. Akridge
also cites to Plaster's deposition in which he states
that the decision to terminate Akridge was discussed for some
time (Doc. 78-5 at 49:17-20) and that the directive to cut
costs came from the President of Alfa and was communicated
down the corporate structure. Doc. 78-5:12-17. Plaster stated
that this was a business decision and it was “just
numbers.” Doc. 78-5 at 35:12-17. Chancey also testified
that “it's a savings when you eliminate a job that
has a salary like that, ” and agreed with the statement
that “when you eliminate a job, you eliminate not only
the salary but also any of the benefits that go with the
job.” Doc. 78-4 at 44:5-11.
has stated in an affidavit that in the two-year period before
she was terminated, Alfa employees were verbally cautioned
about rising health care costs and expenses and reminded that
their costs and expenses affected employees' healthcare
premiums. Doc. 129-3 at ¶ 6.
her termination, Akridge contacted Al Dees in the marketing
department to see if other jobs were available in that
department. Doc. 78-2 at 85:14-86:3. Akridge says that Dees
told her that he could not create a position for her. Doc.
78-2 at 9:1-13. Akridge testifies that she was not approached
by Alfa about open positions.
contends that Alfa retained similarly situated employees who
did not have her health care costs. Akridge states in an
affidavit-which is subject to Alfa's motion to
strike-that Hillary McCaleb worked on the property/home side
of the underwriting department and worked with agents who
were not profitable. Akridge also points to Emily Davenport
and Kayla Dill as employees from the underwriting department
who still work at Alfa. Akridge further states that Becky
Roper, Terry Williams, Sonya McInvale, Kim Byrum, and Brynnan
Gorey retained their job duties and their salaries remained
presents evidence that she remained insured through COBRA
insurance, but that on August 3, 2017 Blue Cross and Blue
Shield, the administrator of Alfa's insurance plan, wrote
to Akridge and informed her that the cost of her prescription
medication no longer would be covered. Doc. 126-2 at 85.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is proper “if there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party moving for
summary judgment “always bears the initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis
for its motion, ” relying on submissions “which
it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact.” Id. at 323. Once the moving
party has met its burden, the nonmoving party must “go
beyond the pleadings” and show that there is a genuine
issue for trial. Id. at 324.
the party “asserting that a fact cannot be, ” and
a party asserting that a fact is genuinely disputed, must
support their assertions by “citing to particular parts
of materials in the record, ” or by “showing that
the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence
of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce
admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56 (c)(1)(A) & (B). Acceptable materials under Rule
56(c)(1)(A) include “depositions, documents,
electronically stored information, affidavits or
declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes
of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or
avoid summary judgment, the nonmoving party “must do
more than show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to
the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). On the
other hand, the evidence of the nonmovant must be believed
and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in its favor.
See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 255
(1986). After the nonmoving party has responded to the motion
for summary judgment, the court shall grant summary judgment
if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to
any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
has moved to strike aspects of Akridge's evidence offered
in opposition to the motion for summary judgment and has
moved for summary judgment on Akridge's accommodation and
disability discrimination claims.
Motion to Strike
asks that in ruling on the pending motion for summary
judgment the court not consider various aspects of affidavits
submitted by Akridge in 2016, 2018, and 2019, as well as one
affidavit submitted by Tony Bohannon. Akridge has argued that
a motion to strike is not an appropriate way to seek
exclusion of the evidence, and that Alfa should have objected
to the evidence instead. The court will consider Alfa's
arguments in its motion as objections to the admissibility of
the identified portions of the affidavits and, for reasons to
be discussed, will grant in part and deny in part the motion
respect to the 2016 affidavit, Alfa states that it is
improper for Akridge to offer opinions on the costs of her
treatment relative to other employees, the reason for her
termination, and the pay of other employees, including
Executive Vice President Angie Bradwell. Akridge responds