Harris v. P.A.M. Transport, Inc., 02-4027.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
Citation339 F.3d 635
Docket NumberNo. 02-4027.,02-4027.
PartiesCharles HARRIS, Appellant, v. P.A.M. TRANSPORT, INC.; P.A.M. Transportation Services, Inc., Appellees.
Decision Date05 August 2003
339 F.3d 635
Charles HARRIS, Appellant,
v.
P.A.M. TRANSPORT, INC.; P.A.M. Transportation Services, Inc., Appellees.
No. 02-4027.
United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.
Submitted: August 5, 2003.
Filed: August 5, 2003.

Page 636

Marc I. Baretz, argued, West Memphis, AR, for appellant.

Kenneth S. Hixson, argued, Tonitown, AR, for appellee.

Before WOLLMAN, MAGILL, and BEAM, Circuit Judges.

BEAM, Circuit Judge.


Charles Harris appeals from the dismissal of his claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (ADA), and Arkansas law. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

P.A.M. Transport, Inc. and P.A.M. Transportation Services, Inc. (collectively, "PAM") operate a contract and common motor carrier business and are licensed for interstate commerce by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). PAM has a contract with Midwestern Transportation Center (MTC), a truck-driving school in St. Louis, Missouri, under which MTC trains prospective drivers for PAM. Drivers who successfully complete MTC's training program, obtain a commercial driver's license, and satisfy DOT medical standards receive conditional offers of employment from PAM in most instances.

Harris reported to MTC on April 30, 2001, and signed a Student Training Agreement.1 During the course of his training, he received a medical examination by Dr. James Hussey, a physician retained by MTC to perform DOT physicals on prospective drivers. Dr. Hussey

Page 637

concluded that Harris satisfied DOT medical regulations and issued a medical examiner's certificate of physical qualification as required by 49 C.F.R. § 391.41(a). Dr. Hussey's office faxed a report of Harris's physical to PAM's medical review office on June 26, 2001. The report revealed that Harris was taking four prescription medications and had recently undergone a bilateral kidney transplant. PAM's medical review manager had concerns about these conditions, so she contacted Harris and requested additional medical records. Eventually, PAM obtained records from Harris's physicians at the University of Tennessee Medical Group and forwarded the records for review by a physician retained directly by PAM, Dr. Craig Cooper.

Dr. Cooper reviewed Harris's records, including Dr. Hussey's report of the DOT physical, and concluded that Harris did not qualify for employment as a commercial driver under DOT regulations. PAM informed Harris that it would not hire him as a driver. When Harris subsequently began receiving bills for repayment of his tuition, he filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that was then converted into this federal lawsuit.

Harris alleges that PAM discriminated against him on the basis of a perceived disability in violation of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12112(d). Specifically, he argues that PAM discriminated against him by requesting and reviewing his medical records after he had already passed his initial DOT physical and when all entering employees were not subjected to the same medical review. He also asserts a number of related state-law claims. The district court2 found that Harris had failed to exhaust the administrative remedies available under the DOT regulations in 49 C.F.R. § 391.47 or, in the alternative, that primary jurisdiction rested with the DOT. Accordingly, the court dismissed all of Harris's claims without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.3 This appeal followed.

II. DISCUSSION

When a dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), is based on the complaint alone or on undisputed facts in the record, our "review is `limited to determining whether the district court's application of the law is correct and, if the decision is based on undisputed facts, whether those facts are indeed undisputed.'" Osborn v. United States, 918 F.2d 724, 730 (8th Cir.1990) (quoting Williamson v. Tucker, 645 F.2d 404, 413 (5th Cir.1981)). But where, as here, "the court relied ... on its own determination of disputed factual issues, the appellate court must then review those findings under the `clearly erroneous' standard." Id. Because the district court in this case had to consider affidavits and physicians' findings4 in order to determine whether or not Harris had exhausted his administrative

Page 638

remedies, we review its findings for clear error.

Congress has delegated to the Secretary of Transportation the authority to prescribe driver qualifications. See 49 U.S.C. § 31102(b)(1). Pursuant to this authority, the DOT promulgated the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, under which a person "shall not drive a commercial motor vehicle" without a "medical examiner's certificate that [the person] is physically qualified." 49 C.F.R. § 391.41(a). Specifically, "the medical examiner is required to certify...

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