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PERALTA v. AVONDALE INDUSTRIES

November 5, 2004.

DANILO PERALTA
v.
AVONDALE INDUSTRIES, A DIVISION OF NORTHROP GRUMMAN SHIP SYSTEMS, INC., ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAY C. ZAINEY, Senior District Judge

ORDER AND REASONS

Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 31), and a Motion to Strike Inadmissible Evidence (Rec. Doc. 37) filed by defendant Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, Inc. ("NGSS") (formerly Avondale Industries, Inc.). Plaintiff, Danilo Peralta, opposes the motions. The motions, set for hearing on October 20, 2004, and October 28, 2004, respectively, are before the Court on the briefs without oral argument. For the reasons that follow, both motions are GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

  Danilo Peralta ("Peralta") began working for NGSS, then Avondale Industries, in 1990 as an outside machinist in the ship building department. Peralta alleges that on July 30, 2001, he sustained "severe personal injury" when his supervisor struck him with a metal chair. Peralta was unable to work and placed on temporary total disability.

  Peralta asserts that he attempted to return to work on August 1, 2002, and October 1, 2002, but could not be medically cleared. Peralta claims that NGSS denied him an extension of leave and later discharged him from employment. Although NGSS discharged Peralta on February 4, 2003, he had not worked since August 8, 2001. The reason cited for his termination was failure to return from a leave of absence. (Pla. Exh. 16).

  Peralta filed the instant suit and invoked a plethora of statutes as a basis for making a claim against NGSS. The gist of Peralta's claim is that NGSS discriminated against him due to his disability in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 621, et seq., and retaliated against him for filing the LHWCA and EEOC complaints. NGSS moved for dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) (6), and March 26, 2004, the Court granted in part and denied in part NGSS's motion. Although Peralta's allegations were sparse, the Court, noting that Rule 8(a) (2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim, dismissed all of Peralta's claims with the exception of his ADA discrimination/retaliation claims. However, the Court warned Peralta that when faced with a properly supported motion for summary judgment his claims would not survive by relying on mere conclusory allegations. (Rec. Doc. 24, at 12 n. 5). NGSS now moves for summary judgment on the remaining ADA claims.

  DISCUSSION

  A. The Parties' Contentions

  NGSS argues that the undisputed facts demonstrate that Peralta's knee injury does not constitute an ADA "disability" and that Peralta is not a "qualified individual" under the ADA.

  In opposition, Peralta asserts that for purposes of this motion for summary judgment, the Court must assume that he is disabled for ADA purposes because the Department of Labor ALJ who decided his longshoreman claim ordered total disability compensation from August 9, 2001 to July 3, 2003. He also argues that his impaired knee has affected his entire life and therefore limits his major life activities. Peralta also contends that he is a qualified individual because he could perform light duty tasks.

  B. Summary Judgment Standards

  Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine issues of material fact and the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Weathersby v. Saks Fifth Avenue, No. 97-1688, 1999 WL 148441, at *1 (E.D. La. 1999) (citing Fed.R. Civ. P. 56(c); Overseas Inns S.A.P.A. v. United States, 911 F.2d 1146 (5th Cir. 1990)). When the mover does not bear the burden of proof at trial, he need only show the court that there is an absence of evidence to support one or more elements essential to the non-moving party's claims. Id. (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986)). Once the mover satisfies this burden, the adverse party cannot rely on argument or unsubstantiated assertions but must produce evidence demonstrating an issue for trial. Id. (citing Herrera v. Millsap, 862 F.2d 1157, 1160 (5th Cir. 1989)).

  C. Peralta's ADA Discrimination Claim

  The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against "a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability of such individual in regard to application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees. . . ." 42 U.S.C.A. § 12112(a) (West 1995). To establish a prima facie case of disability discrimination under the ADA, a plaintiff must show 1) that he is a qualified individual, 2) that he has a disability, and 3) that the negative employment action occurred because of the disability. Holtzclaw v. DSC communications Corp., 255 F.3d 254, 258 (5th Cir. 2001) (quoting Sherrod v. Am. Airlines, Inc., 132 F.3d 1112, 1119 (5th Cir. 1998)). "As a threshold requirement in an ADA claim, the plaintiff, must, of ...


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