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Woofter v. Logan County Hospital

United States District Court, D. Kansas

July 21, 2017

CARL WOOFTER and LEE WOOFTER, Plaintiffs,
v.
LOGAN COUNTY HOSPITAL and MELDON SNOW Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CARLOS MURGUIA United States District Judge

         This matter is before the court on defendants' Motion for Partial Dismissal of Plaintiffs' Complaint (Doc. 8). For the reasons below, the court grants defendants' motion, dismissing Count V against defendant Snow, and dismissing Counts II and VII against both defendants.

         I. Factual Background

         This case arises from an employment relationship between plaintiffs, Mr. Carl Woofter and Mrs. Lee Woofter, and defendants, Logan County Hospital (LCH) and Mr. Meldon Snow. Defendant Snow works for LCH as an administrator. Mr. Woofter worked for LCH as a physician's assistant, and Mrs. Woofter worked for LCH as a clinic manager. Mr. Woofter was employed pursuant to a written contract of definite duration, which automatically renewed each year unless terminated. This agreement provided multiple clauses for termination, including “Automatic, ” “Without Cause, ” and “With Cause.” Mr. Woofter worked for LCH from January 1, 2012 until his termination on October 30, 2015. Mrs. Woofter was an at-will employee of LCH from August of 2012 until her termination on October 31, 2015.

         Mr. Woofter alleges that during his employment, defendant Snow attempted to pressure him into referring more patients to the services of defendant LCH. Mr. Woofter further alleges that Snow's conduct violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), the Patients' Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, and 42 C.F.R. § 411.351. Mr. Woofter believed that altering his practice would run counter to patients' best interests, and did not change his referral practice as requested.

         Mr. Woofter claims that he took approved leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) on or about October 1, 2015. He was notified of his termination by registered mail on November 4, 2015. The termination letter stated that he was terminated for “exhibiting disruptive behavior, unprofessional or immoral conduct, ” triggering the employment agreement's “Automatic Termination” provision. Mr. Woofter claims that defendants “automatically” terminated him “for a clearly ‘with cause' reason.” He further alleges that his termination was retaliatory, for refusing to violate professional standards by changing his referral practices, or alternatively, for taking FMLA leave.

         Mrs. Woofter was approved for FMLA leave on June 27, 2015. Plaintiffs claim that Mrs. Woofter was still experiencing health issues at the end of her twelve-week leave period. Plaintiffs allege that defendants were required to accommodate her under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but instead terminated her the day after firing Mr. Woofter. Plaintiffs claim that defendants admitted that they knew Mrs. Woofter was “disabled” and “not able to return to work due to ongoing health issues.” Plaintiffs allege that the firing of Mrs. Woofter, one day after her husband, was also wrongful and retaliatory.

         II. Procedural Background

         Following their termination, plaintiffs brought several employment discrimination and other claims against both defendants. At issue in this motion are Mr. Woofter's claim for Retaliatory Discharge in Violation of Public Policy (Count II); Mrs. Woofter's claim for Retaliation and Wrongful Termination in Violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (Count V); and both plaintiffs' claims for Negligent Interference with Prospective Economic Relations (Count VII).

         Defendants move for partial dismissal on Count V against defendant Snow only, and on Counts II and VII against both defendants. Defendants ask the court to dismiss Count VII with prejudice. Defendants argue that Kansas does not recognize individual liability under the ADA claims of Count V, and that no Kansas law recognizes the cause of action in Count VII. On Count II, defendants argue that the retaliatory discharge claim is an exception to the at-will employment rule, and that Mr. Woofter cannot pursue this claim because he was not an at-will employee. Defendants also argue that even if plaintiff may pursue this claim, Count II should be dismissed against defendant Snow because Kansas does not recognize supervisor liability in retaliatory discharge suits.

         Plaintiffs have agreed to dismissal of Count V against defendant Snow only, and to dismissal of Count VII against both defendants. The court sees no reason why these claims should not be dismissed, and therefore dismisses them without prejudice. As a result, the court will address only Count II, Mr. Woofter's claim against both defendants for Retaliatory Discharge in Violation of Public Policy.

         III. Legal Standard

         The court will grant a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) only when a plaintiff's factual allegations fail to “state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). When evaluating a motion under this rule, the court (1) assumes all well-pleaded facts to be true; (2) disregards legal conclusions; and (3) views the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 681 (2009); Tal v. Hogan, 453 F.3d 1244, 1252 (10th Cir. 2006). To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff's factual allegations need not be detailed, but must be more than merely “labels, conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” In re Motor Fuel Temperature Sales Practices Litig., 534 F.Supp.2d 1214, 1216 (D. Kan. 2008).

         IV. ...


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