Anderson v. Bristol, Inc.

Decision Date16 March 2012
Docket NumberNo. 4:11–cv–418.,4:11–cv–418.
Citation847 F.Supp.2d 1128
PartiesLana ANDERSON, as Administrator of the Estate of Norman Anderson, Plaintiff, v. BRISTOL, INC. d/b/a Emerson Process Management and/or d/b/a Remote Automated Solutions, Inc.; Irene Bielen (individually and in her corporate capacity); and Craig Rossman (individually and in his corporate capacity), Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Iowa


Bradley M. Beaman, Gordon R. Fischer, Bradshaw Fowler Proctor & Fairgrave, Des Moines, IA, for Plaintiff.

Gene R. La Suer, Michael C. Richards, Deborah M. Tharnish, Davis Brown Koehn Shors & Roberts PC, Des Moines, IA, for Defendants.


ROBERT W. PRATT, District Judge.

On July 25, 2011, a petition captioned “ The Estate of Norman Anderson v. Emerson Process Management, Irene Bielen, Craig Rossman (individually and in their official and corporate capacity) ” was filed in the Iowa District Court in and for Marshall County. Clerk's No. 1.3. The defendants named in the state court petition removed the action to this Court on September 8, 2011. Clerk's No. 1. On September 15, 2011, the named defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), asserting that the action must be dismissed for, among other things, lack of standing of “The Estate of Norman Anderson to bring suit. Clerk's No. 2. On October 11, 2011, an Amended Complaint was filed, naming Lana Anderson as Administrator of the Estate of Norman Anderson as the operative named plaintiff. Clerk's No. 6. On October 19, 2011, the Court found the Motion to Dismiss the original state court petition moot.

On October 21, 2011, a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) was filed by Bristol, Inc. d/b/a Emerson Process Management and/or d/b/a Remote Automated Solutions, Inc. (Emerson Process Management), Irene Bielen (Bielen), and Craig Rossman (Rossman) (collectively Defendants). Clerk's No. 9. Lana Anderson, as Administrator of the Estate of Norman Anderson (Plaintiff) filed a resistance to the Motion on January 19, 2012. Clerk's No. 16. Defendants filed a reply on February 6, 2012. Clerk's No. 21. The matter is fully submitted.


Norman Anderson (Anderson) began working for Emerson Process Management in Marshalltown, Iowa in 1990. Am. Compl. ¶ 11. He held a variety of positions and, in the relevant time period, was supervised by Rossman and Human Resources Manager Bielen. Id. ¶¶ 12–17. Anderson's last full year of employment with Defendant was 2008 and, during that year, he received a promotion and a raise. Id. ¶¶ 21–23. According to Plaintiff, Defendants had either constructive or actual knowledge that Anderson had severe mental health impairments and suffered from alcohol and prescription drug addictions, depression, a personality disorder, and severe and chronic insomnia. Id. ¶¶ 26–28.

On July 13, 2009, Anderson's mother was ill. Id. ¶ 30. Anderson emailed Rossman about his mother's situation on July 13, 2009, but did not receive a response.1Id. ¶ 33–34. Anderson's mother passed away on July 16, 2009. Id. ¶ 31. On July 17, 2009, Anderson again emailed Rossman, stating that his mother had passed away and services would likely be the following Tuesday. Id. ¶ 36. Rossman told Anderson to keep him updated on his requirements for leave. Id. ¶ 37. Anderson took bereavement leave from July 20–22, 2009. Id. ¶ 38. On July 23, 2009, Anderson performed his work from home. Id. ¶ 40. On July 26, 2009, Anderson was hospitalized for depression and severe mental health problems and was incapacitated until August 5, 2009. Id. ¶ 41. On July 30, 2009, Bielen wrote Anderson a letter stating that he had not reported for duty since July 24, 2009 2 and that his employment was terminated. Id. ¶ 46.

According to Plaintiff, Defendants became aware of Anderson's hospitalization on July 27, 2009. Id. ¶ 42. Plaintiff also claims that Defendants were notified of Anderson's continued hospitalization on or before July 31, 2009. Id. ¶ 48. And, on or before August 4, 2009, Anderson spoke with Bielen, explained that he had been involuntarily hospitalized pursuant to a court order and was unable to call to report his absences, “and literally begged for reinstatement to his job.” Id. ¶ 49–50. Defendants declined to reinstate Anderson to his position. Id. ¶ 52. At some point, McFarland Clinic provided a work status report dated August 7, 2009 to Defendants stating that Anderson was excused from work for July 26–30, 2009 “for illness” and that he was “unable to call in—did not have telephone access.” 3Id. ¶ 68. In another undated doctor's note, it was stated that Anderson “was in this hospital from 7/30/09 to 8/4/09 and would be able to return to work on August 5, 2009.4Id. ¶ 71. Anderson committed suicide on August 12, 2009. Id. ¶ 74.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant terminated Plaintiff for being absent for three days, in direct violation of its Sick Leave Policy, which provided that, “to be eligible for salary continuance, each employee absent due to illness or injury in excess of three (3) days is required to submit a signed doctor's certificate to the Human Resources Department.” Id. ¶ 56–58 (emphasis altered from original). Plaintiff further contends that, at the time of Anderson's termination, he was owed 7.5 days of vacation time. Id. ¶¶ 60–63. Plaintiff brings claims against Defendants for: 1) breach of written contract; 2) intentional interference with written contract; 3) fraud; 4) intentional infliction of emotional distress; 5) violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act (“ICRA”); 6) wrongful discharge; 7) wrongful death; 8) unlawful interference, restraint, or denial of FMLA rights; 9) retaliation for exercising FMLA rights; and 10) disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).


To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In reviewing a complaint, a court must “accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint,” and must draw “all reasonable inferences ... in favor of the plaintiff.” Schaaf v. Residential Funding Corp., 517 F.3d 544, 549 (8th Cir.2008) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555–56, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)).

A viable complaint must include “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955).

While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the “grounds” of his “entitle[ment] to relief” requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.

Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955. “The plausibility standard requires a plaintiff to show at the pleading stage that success on the merits is more than a ‘sheer possibility.’ It is not, however, a ‘probability requirement.’ Braden v. Wal–Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir.2009) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949).

The Supreme Court, in Iqbal, described a “two-pronged approach” for evaluating complaints challenged under Rule 12(b)(6). 129 S.Ct. at 1949–50. First, a court should divide the allegations between factual and legal allegations; factual allegations should be accepted as true, but legal allegations should be disregarded. Id. Second, the factual allegations must be parsed for facial plausibility. Id. at 1950.

A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.... Where a complaint pleads facts that are “merely consistent with” a defendant's liability, it “stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of ‘entitlement to relief.’

Id. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955).

The “parsing” process requires careful examination of the plaintiff's allegations, however, “the complaint should be read as a whole, not parsed piece by piece to determine whether each allegation, in isolation, is plausible.” Braden, 588 F.3d at 594. Indeed, [r]equiring a plaintiff to rule out every possible lawful explanation for the conduct he challenges would invert the principle that the complaint is construed most favorably to the nonmoving party, and would impose the sort of probability requirement at the pleading stage which Iqbal and Twombly explicitly reject.” Id. at 597 (internal quotations and citations omitted).

A court will “draw on its judicial experience and common sense” when determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. Thus, the Court may consider other, more likely explanations for the acts described in the complaint when determining whether the pleaded factual allegations give rise to a plausible entitlement to relief. Id. at 1950–51. But, the Court must always be mindful that “a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of the facts alleged is improbable, and ‘that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.’ Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974)). [W]hile a plaintiff must offer sufficient factual allegations to show that he or she is not merely engaged in a fishing expedition or strike suit, [a court] must also take account of [his or her] limited access to crucial information.” Braden, 588 F.3d at 597.

A. Named Plaintiff

Iowa Code § 611.20 provides that [a]ll causes of action shall survive...

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