732 Fed.Appx. 177 (4th Cir. 2018), 17-1388, Wood v. Maryland Department of Transportation

Docket Nº:17-1388
Citation:732 Fed.Appx. 177
Opinion Judge:GREGORY, Chief Judge:
Party Name:David WOOD, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION; Motor Vehicle Administration, Defendants-Appellees.
Attorney:Jack Lawrence Benoit Gohn, GOHN HANKEY STICHEL & BERLAGE LLP, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellant. Leight Douglas Collins, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Glen Burnie, Maryland, for Appellees. H. Mark Stichel, GOHN HANKEY STICHEL & BERLAGE LLP, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellant. Brian E. Frosh, A...
Judge Panel:Before GREGORY, Chief Judge, DUNCAN, and FLOYD, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:May 07, 2018
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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Page 177

732 Fed.Appx. 177 (4th Cir. 2018)

David WOOD, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION; Motor Vehicle Administration, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 17-1388

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

May 7, 2018

UNPUBLISHED

Argued: January 23, 2018

Editorial Note:

Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit. (See Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure Rule 32.1)

Page 178

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Baltimore. J. Frederick Motz, Senior District Judge. (1:16-cv-03727-JFM)

ARGUED:

Jack Lawrence Benoit Gohn, GOHN HANKEY STICHEL & BERLAGE LLP, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellant.

Leight Douglas Collins, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Glen Burnie, Maryland, for Appellees.

ON BRIEF:

H. Mark Stichel, GOHN HANKEY STICHEL & BERLAGE LLP, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellant.

Brian E. Frosh, Attorney General, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MARYLAND, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellees.

Before GREGORY, Chief Judge, DUNCAN, and FLOYD, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Affirmed by unpublished opinion. Chief Judge Gregory wrote the opinion, in which Judge Duncan and Judge Floyd joined.

Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit.

GREGORY, Chief Judge:

Page 179

The Appellant, David Wood, suffers from a degenerative eye disease that restricts his field of vision. As a result, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), a unit within the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), denied his application to renew his driver’s license. Wood sued, alleging that the State of Maryland’s field of vision requirements violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act. The district court dismissed the Complaint for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). We affirm.

I.

When this case began, David Wood was 75 years old and had been licensed to drive in Maryland. For over thirty years, Wood maintained an impeccable driving record— without any driving infractions or civil liability.

Maryland requires drivers to periodically renew their licenses and in September 2015, Wood began that renewal process. Maryland applicants seeking a driver’s license renewal must meet certain field-of-vision requirements. Md. Code Ann., Transp. § 16-115(i)(1). For unrestricted licenses, applicants must have a continuous field of vision of at least 140 degrees. Md. Code Ann., Transp. § 16-110.1(a)(1)(ii). For restricted licenses, applicants must have a continuous field of vision of at least 110 degrees with at least 35 degrees of vision lateral to the midline of each side. Md. Code Ann., Transp. § 16-110.1(c)(1)(ii).

Adults typically have a field of vision extending roughly 180-200 degrees horizontally and about 100 degrees vertically. J.A. 27. But Wood suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that restricts his peripheral vision. As a result of his condition, Wood has a total field of vision of only 60 degrees and does not meet Maryland’s field-of-vision requirement for even a restricted license. Accordingly, the MVA denied Wood’s application to renew his license.

Shortly after being denied, Wood petitioned the MVA Medical Advisory Board to have his license renewed. The Board consists of physicians with varying specialties who assess the impact of medical conditions on an applicant’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. As a part of the Board’s review, Wood’s primary care physician and ophthalmologist completed a medical survey, which confirmed that Wood had a total field of vision of about 60 degrees. After the Board reviewed Wood’s completed medical survey, the MVA informed Wood that his license renewal application

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was again denied. On November 29, 2015, Wood’s driver’s license expired.1

Seemingly out of options with the MVA, Wood next wrote a series of letters to Maryland’s Secretary of Transportation and Attorney General, seeking to have his license reinstated. On February 29, 2016, an Assistant Attorney General wrote Wood explaining that the MVA could not issue him a license because he does not meet the field of vision requirements.

On November 16, 2016, Wood filed a two-count complaint against the MDOT and the MVA (collectively, "the State"), seeking to have his license reinstated. Count One asserts a violation of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 701; Count Two alleges a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12131. In support of both counts, Wood alleges that (1) his retinitis pigmentosa constitutes a disability; (2) despite his disability, he is "otherwise qualified" to receive a driver’s license; and (3) the State did not provide an individualized inquiry into his fitness for a driver’s license. There does not appear to be any available means of correcting or augmenting Wood’s field of vision. Accordingly, Wood does not seek any accommodation from the State.

In lieu of answering the Complaint, the State filed a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim. As an attachment to its Motion to Dismiss, the State included ten pages of testimony from the 1997 Maryland Senate Bill 303 (hereinafter "bill file excerpts"). Bill 303 aimed to "expand[ ] the criteria under which an individual is granted a drivers’ license to include those with more severe vision problems than is currently allowed." J.A. 40. The bill successfully passed through the Maryland Legislature and became the current version of Maryland’s vision requirements to operate a vehicle.2 The bill file excerpts describe a Vision Standards Work Group, composed of vision experts, driving specialists and license examiners, which recommended most...

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