Davila v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 02-13767.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtMarcus
Citation326 F.3d 1183
PartiesManuel DAVILA, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. DELTA AIR LINES, INC., Defendant-Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 02-13767.,02-13767.
Decision Date03 April 2003
326 F.3d 1183
Manuel DAVILA, Plaintiff-Appellant,
DELTA AIR LINES, INC., Defendant-Appellee.
No. 02-13767.
United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.
April 3, 2003.

Page 1184

Roderick Victor Hannah, Becker & Poliakoff, P.A., Ft. Lauderdale, FL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

William H. Boice, Kilpatrick Stockton, LLP, Atlanta, GA, Sheila M. Cesarano, Shutts & Bowen, Miami, FL, for Defendant-Appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Before HULL, MARCUS and FARRIS*, Circuit Judges.

MARCUS, Circuit Judge:

Manuel Davila appeals the district court's dismissal pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) of his claims sounding in breach of contract and an alleged violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. On appeal, Davila argues that the district court erred by holding that his claims are barred under the doctrine of res judicata. Delta Air

Page 1185

Lines, Inc. ("Delta") defends the district court's application of res judicata, and also argues that Davila's breach of contract claim is preempted by the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq., and that both of his claims are untimely.

We review de novo the dismissal of a complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Next Century Communications Corp. v. Ellis, 318 F.3d 1023, 1025 (11th Cir.2003); Harris v. Ivax Corp., 182 F.3d 799, 802 (11th Cir.1999). The plaintiff's factual allegations are accepted as true. South Fla. Water Mgm't Dist. v. Montalvo, 84 F.3d 402, 406 (11th Cir.1996). Dismissal is not appropriate unless it is plain that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts that would support the claims in the complaint. See id. However, conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual deductions or legal conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent dismissal. See id. at 408 n. 10.

Upon thorough review of the record and a careful consideration of the parties' briefs and oral argument, we find no reversible error and affirm.

Davila, who was a pilot employed by Delta, injured his lower back in December, 1989 when he accidentally fell over a planter. He sought medical treatment for his injury, and was prescribed medication that disqualified him for flight duty. Nonetheless, he asserts that he chose to undergo an FAA physical examination on January 31, 1990 in an attempt to obtain a first-class medical certificate, which was necessary to qualify him for a return to flight status. On May 3, 1990, the FAA approved him for this certificate with the caveat that "[b]ecause of your history of low back condition, operation of aircraft is prohibited at any time new symptoms or adverse changes occur or for 12 hours after use of medication."

On July 19, 1990, Davila informed Delta of his flight eligibility. However, he said that he was still experiencing back problems and taking medication that prohibited him from piloting a commercial aircraft. Accordingly, on August 21, 1990, Delta approved him for disability payments for 6 months. On February 6, 1991, these benefits were extended for two additional months, i.e., until April 6, 1991. On March 19, 1991, Davila was reexamined by Dr. Jose Berrios, an Aviation Medical Examiner, who found that he was not qualified for a first-class medical certificate. Based on this finding, Delta's payment of disability benefits continued past April 6, 1991.

Davila alleges that on his own initiative he again sought a first-class medical certificate from Dr. Berrios on January 31, 1992. Davila says that although he was found to be qualified, Berrios told him that the certificate could not issue because of his previous denial and that the FAA would need to approve and issue the certificate. Importantly, Davila asserts that instead of marking the space on the relevant form corresponding to the disposition: "No Certificate Issued — deferred for further evaluation," Berrios's secretary accidentally checked the box corresponding to: "Has been issued medical certificate." Delta, by contrast, says that the secretary checked this box because Davila actually received the certificate. On June 30, 1992, the FAA approved Davila's first-class medical certification, but repeated its caveat concerning the operation of an aircraft during "flair-ups" or periods of medication. However, Davila asserts that he never physically received the certificate. He also says that his back problems (and his attendant need for medication) persisted.

Davila adds that in 1993 this precise sequence of events — from his voluntary pursuit of a medical certificate to the secretary's typographical error — was repeated,

Page 1186

and that on October 12, 1993 the FAA advised him that he was flight-eligible. Davila asserts that he finally received a first-class certificate on November 15, 1993, and that he notified Delta of its issuance on November 25, 1993.

After receiving this notification, Delta had Davila examined by its own physician, Dr. Michael Berry, who found him to be qualified for flight status. However, Berry further reported that Davila had withheld from Delta the fact that he had possessed a first-class medical certificate since May 3, 1990. Delta began an investigation into whether Davila had defrauded it since that time, and deferred his reinstatement pending the conclusion of its inquiry. Because he had not been restored to active flight status, Davila filed a grievance with Delta on August 24, 1994 (the "pay status grievance"), but that grievance was denied on October 28, 1994. Despite this denial, however, on May 17, 1995 Delta settled the grievance and awarded Davila back pay for the period between December 13, 1993 and May 17, 1995. Within one hour following the parties' agreement to this settlement, Delta fired Davila, justifying this action on the grounds that he had fraudulently obtained disability benefits since January 31, 1990.

Davila filed a grievance pertaining to his termination on May 18, 1995 (the "discharge grievance"), but this second grievance was denied on June 7, 1995. The following day Davila appealed his discharge to Delta's System Board of Adjustment ("System Board"),1 which ultimately found on April 18, 1997 that his firing was justified, as Delta had "submitted clear and compelling evidence that ... Davila intentionally defrauded" the company. After the System Board issued its adverse ruling, Davila petitioned the district court pursuant to 45 U.S.C. §§ 153(q) and 184 to vacate its decision ("Davila I"), arguing that the Board had ignored the settlement agreement. Delta filed a motion to dismiss, which the court granted, reasoning that there are only limited grounds on which a RLA arbitration award may be vacated, and that none of those circumstances were present. The district court then said that Davila had "presented no grounds that would support the jurisdiction of this Court over this matter." Davila appealed the order of dismissal to this Court, and we issued a summary affirmance on the basis of the district court's opinion.

Subsequently, on July 31, 2000, Davila filed an EEOC charge in which he alleged that his termination violated the ADA. The EEOC dismissed Davila's charge on May 7, 2001, stating that it had been unable to find a violation. However, it did issue Davila a right to sue letter. Davila then filed this action in the...

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