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Ruggieri v. City of Hoover

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

May 3, 2019

CHRISTOPHER TODD RUGGIERI Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF HOOVER, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          LILES C. BURKE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The plaintiff, Christopher Todd Ruggieri[1], filed a complaint on March 26, 2018, pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) against his former employer, the City of Hoover (“City”). Ruggieri also named as defendants two City employees in their individual capacities. The City moved to dismiss all of Ruggieri's claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Fed. R. Civ. P., and filed a counterclaim. The judge previously assigned to this case[2] dismissed all claims against the individual defendants as well as Ruggieri's claim regarding purported violations of HIPAA. However, the Court denied the City's motion to dismiss Ruggieri's ADA claim and granted him leave to amend his complaint. On August 31, 2018, Ruggieri filed a document which contained a response to the defendant's answer, a response to the defendant's counterclaim, and what appeared to be additional causes of action. (Doc. 29). However, the Court struck that filing insofar as it constituted a response to the defendant's answer, and again gave Ruggieri leave to file a proper amended complaint. (Doc. 30). On October 19, 2018, Ruggieri filed another amended complaint. However, that filing was stricken for its failure “to comply with several of the requirements set out by the Court” in its prior order granting leave to amend. (Doc. 33). On November 13, 2018, Ruggieri filed an “Amended Claim Statement” (Doc. 35), which this Court will construe as his second amended complaint. In the present complaint, Ruggieri re-alleged his ADA claim and added several additional claims related to his termination. Before the Court is the City's motion to dismiss Ruggieri's Amended Claim Statement. (Doc. 41). The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for review.

         In its motion, the City included a footnote in which it reasserted its claim that Ruggieri's ADA claim should be dismissed and noted that this Court could revisit the ruling denying the previous motion. See (Doc. 41), citing Solutia, Inc. v. McWane, Inc., 726 F.Supp.2d 1316, 1328 (N.D. Ala. 2010). Because this Court agrees with the reasoning set forth in the previous judge's memorandum opinion and order denying the City's first motion to dismiss Ruggieri's ADA claim, the Court declines to revisit that ruling.

         However, for the reasons that follow, the Court finds that the City's motion to dismiss the remaining claims in Ruggieri's Amended Claim Statement is due to be GRANTED.

         Background

         Ruggieri was employed by the City in its information technology (“IT”) department. Ruggieri alleged that, on July 7, 2017, the City required him to begin anger-management counseling with Dr. Lita Clark. Ruggieri stated that Dr. Clark informed him that he would be required to waive his HIPAA rights or the sessions would end, and the City would terminate his employment. According to Ruggieri, he attended three therapy sessions with Dr. Clark after which she released him and “stat[ed] that there was nothing wrong with [him].” (Doc. 35). Ruggieri asserted that he was the only employee in the IT department who was required to attend such counseling; that the counseling was not consistent with his job requirements; and that the counseling was not a business necessity for the City.

         Ruggieri claimed that, on the day he was released from counseling, he spoke to Mesha Dacus, the City's Assistant Human Resources Director, to voice concern over the City's decision to send him to counseling. A week later, Ruggieri said, he was called in to Melinda James Lopez's office and told that his fears were unfounded. According to Ruggieri, he had been recording his conversations with people in his office as well as his therapy sessions with Dr. Clark. Ruggieri stated that Lopez told him that he was forbidden to record any more conversations at work.

         On October 11, 2017, Ruggieri was placed on administrative leave. Ruggieri alleged that “[s]ome [] time between October 11, 2017, and November 16, 2017, the hard drives were pulled from [his] machine and subject[ed] to a forensics search.” (Doc. 35). According to Ruggieri, his files were encrypted. Therefore, he said, someone would have had to log in under his profile in order to access his files. On November 16, 2017, Ruggieri claimed that the City leveled “certain charges”[3] against him and set a hearing in front of a tribunal for the following Monday, November 20, 2017. Ruggieri opted not to attend the hearing and resigned from his position on November 16, 2017.

         Standard of Review

         Rule 12(b)(6) enables a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a complaint against the “liberal pleading standards set forth by Rule 8(a)(2).” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). When evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a district court accepts as true the allegations in the complaint and construes the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Brophy v. Jiangbo Pharms. Inc., 781 F.3d 1296, 1301 (11th Cir. 2015). Generally, a complaint should include “enough information regarding the material elements of a cause of action to support recovery under some ‘viable legal theory.'” Am. Fed'n of Labor & Cong. of Indus. Orgs. v. City of Miami, Fla., 637 F.3d 1178, 1186 (11th Cir . 2011), quoting Roe v. Aware Woman Ctr. for Choice, Inc., 253 F.3d 678, 683-84 (11th Cir. 2001). In reviewing this case, this Court notes that “[p]ro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys and will, therefore, be liberally construed.” Tannenbaum v. United States, 148 F.3d 1262, 1263 (11th Cir. 1998)(per curiam)(citation omitted).

         Ruggieri's Claims and the City's Counterclaim

         In his amended complaint, Ruggieri first reasserted his ADA claim. Additionally, Ruggieri raised the following claims: (1) “Tampering with Evidence”; (2) “False Light Defamation of Character”; (3) a violation of the Electronic Communication Privacy Act (“ECPA”); (4) invasion of privacy; (5) a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights; (6) slander and libel; (7) and “Targeting.” (Doc. 35). The City asserted a counterclaim against Ruggieri in which it asserted that Ruggieri is required to reimburse the City for tuition payments that it made for Ruggieri to attend classes at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Although Ruggieri denied that he owes any money to the City, he has not moved to dismiss its counterclaim.

         The City's Motion to Dismiss

         In its motion to dismiss, the City addressed each of Ruggieri's claims in turn. As noted, this Court declines to revisit the previous judge's ruling in which she denied the City's motion to dismiss Ruggieri's ADA claim. The Court will now proceed to ...


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