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Castay v. Ochsner Health Systems

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 27, 2015

ANNE VICTORIA CASTAY, Plaintiff,
v.
OCHSNER HEALTH SYSTEMS, ET AL., Defendants.

ORDER

SUSIE MORGAN, District Judge.

Before the Court are the following motions: (1) a Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) filed by Defendant Ochsner Health Systems ("Ochsner"), [1] (2) a Rule 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction filed by Defendant Corphealth, Inc. d/b/a LifeSynch ("LifeSynch"), [2] and (3) a Motion to Temporarily Stay Discovery also filed by Ochsner.[3] For the reasons that follow, both motions to dismiss are granted, and the motion to temporarily stay discovery is denied as moot.

BACKGROUND

On April 29, 2013, Plaintiff Anne Victoria Castay filed suit against Ochsner Clinic Foundation alleging interference with her rights under the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") and retaliation for attempting to exercise her FMLA rights.[4] Plaintiff is a former surgical technician who was employed by Ochsner Clinic Foundation until she was terminated on June 4, 2012. This Court granted summary judgment in favor of Ochsner Clinic Foundation on all of Plaintiff's claims.[5] Plaintiff appealed, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the Court's ruling.[6]

On June 10, 2014, after the Court denied Plaintiff's motion to alter judgment but before her appeal was docketed, Plaintiff filed a separate pro se Complaint against Defendants Ochsner Health Systems, Corphealth, Inc. d/b/a LifeSynch, Ochsner EAP, Beth Walker, and Joan Mollohan.[7] On April 20, 2015, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint in which she voluntarily dismissed Defendants Beth Walker and Joan Mollohan.[8]

In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that, for more than twenty years, she has suffered from a mental health condition that constitutes a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA").[9] She claims Ochsner was aware of her condition because she used her health benefits to obtain treatment, and Ochsner made no attempt to accommodate her disability. On June 4, 2012, Plaintiff was discharged from her employment. She asserts Ochsner violated the ADA when it terminated her employment, which caused her loss of income, mental anguish, and other damages.[10] Plaintiff states in the Amended Complaint: "Ochsner's denial of Castay's FMLA request is the subject of a separate proceeding.... Those claims for relief are, therefore, not being reasserted in this instant action."[11]

LAW AND ANALYSIS

Ochsner's Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)[12]

On April 21, 2015, Ochsner filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claims in their entirety, with prejudice.[13] First, Ochsner asserts Plaintiff's Complaint and Amended Complaint are barred by res judicata because her second suit arises out of the same nucleus of operative fact as her first suit, regardless of whether Plaintiff states a different legal theory for her second suit.[14] In the alternative, Ochsner asserts Plaintiff's ADA claim is time-barred.[15]

Plaintiff opposes Ochsner's motion, arguing "the claims or causes of action asserted in the two suits are neither the same nor do they arise out of the same nexus of operative facts, " and her ADA claim is timely.[16] She admits the same employer and employee were involved in both cases and that portions of the cases occurred during similar time periods, but she contends the cases involved separate medical issues afflicting different patients, arose under different Federal statutes, and sought different forms of relief.[17]

"Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) on res judicata grounds may be appropriate when the elements of res judicata are apparent on the face of the pleadings."[18] In deciding such a motion, "the court may consider documents attached to or incorporated in the complaint and matters of which judicial notice may be taken."[19] "Federal law determines the res judicata effect of a prior federal court judgment."[20]

The Fifth Circuit has held that four elements are required for a claim to be barred by res judicata: "(1) the parties must be identical in the two actions; (2) the prior judgment must have been rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction; (3) there must be a final judgment on the merits; and (4) the same claim or cause of action must be involved in both cases."[21] Essentially, "res judicata bars the subsequent litigation of claims that have been litigated or should have been raised in an earlier suit."[22]

1. Identical parties

The Fifth Circuit has held: "Res judicata does not require strict identity of the parties. A non-party defendant to a prior suit may qualify as an identical party' for res judicata purposes if it is in privity with a named defendant."[23] The Fifth Circuit has recognized that privity exists in three circumstances: "(1) where the non-party is the successor in interest to a party's interest in property; (2) where the non-party controlled the prior ...


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