Westin v. Mercy Medical Services, Inc., No. C 97-4051-MWB.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
Writing for the CourtBennett
Citation994 F.Supp. 1050
Decision Date12 February 1998
Docket NumberNo. C 97-4051-MWB.
PartiesDorothy WESTIN, Plaintiff, v. MERCY MEDICAL SERVICES, INC., an Iowa Corporation, d/b/a Marian Medical Services, Inc., and Mercy Health Services, a Michigan Corporation, f/k/a Sisters of Mercy Health Corporation d/b/a Marian Health Center, Defendants.
994 F.Supp. 1050
Dorothy WESTIN, Plaintiff,
v.
MERCY MEDICAL SERVICES, INC., an Iowa Corporation, d/b/a Marian Medical Services, Inc., and Mercy Health Services, a Michigan Corporation, f/k/a Sisters of Mercy Health Corporation d/b/a Marian Health Center, Defendants.
No. C 97-4051-MWB.
United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division.
February 12, 1998.

Page 1051

Irene Schrunk of Al Sturgeon Law Firm, Sioux City, IA, for Plaintiff.

Maureen B. Heffernan of Berenstein, Moore, Moser, Berenstein & Heffernan, L.L.P., Sioux City, IA, for Defendants.

ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS PURSUANT TO FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 12(b)

BENNETT, District Judge.


Page 1052

 TABLE OF CONTENTS
                 I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND ..................................... 1052
                 II. STANDARDS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT .................................. 1053
                 A. General Standards For Summary Judgment ....................... 1053
                 B. Cautions In Employment Discrimination And Retaliation Cases .. 1054
                III. FINDINGS OF FACT ................................................. 1055
                 A. Facts Drawn From The Complaint ................................ 1055
                 B. Facts Related To Question Of Jurisdiction ..................... 1055
                 IV. LEGAL ANALYSIS ................................................... 1056
                 A. Preemption Of State Common Law Claims ......................... 1056
                 B. Timeliness Of Westin's ICRA Claim ............................. 1058
                 1. Filing requirements under the Iowa Civil Rights Act ........ 1058
                 2. Equitable tolling doctrine ................................. 1059
                 V. CONCLUSION ........................................................ 1060
                

A central issue raised in the motion for summary judgment currently before the court evokes the bard's observation in King Henry VI: "Defer no time, delays have dangerous ends." WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, KING HENRY VI, PART I, Act III, scene ii, line 33. It is uncontested that plaintiff failed to file her claims of discrimination under the Iowa Civil Rights Act within ninety days of the issuance of the administrative release, as required by Iowa Code § 216.16(3). The court is called upon here to determine, inter alia, whether plaintiff's delay in bringing her discrimination claims will result in "dangerous ends" for those claims.

I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Dorothy Westin filed her complaint in this lawsuit on June 11, 1997, against her former employers, defendants Mercy Medical Services, Inc. and Mercy Health Services, Inc. Westin, who was fifty-five years of age at the time she filed her complaint in this case and suffers from an undisclosed vision problem, alleges in her complaint that she was terminated because of her age and disability. Westin asserts claims for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., the Iowa Civil Rights Act ("ICRA"), Iowa Code Ch. 216, and two pendent state law claims. Specifically, in Count I, Westin alleges that she is a qualified individual with a disability — a vision problem — and that defendants terminated her because of that disability, in violation of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2)(A). The complaint further asserts, in Count II, that age was a determining factor in her termination in violation of the ADEA, 29 U.S.C. § 623. In Count III, the complaint alleges that defendants violated the Iowa Civil Rights Act, Iowa Code § 216.6, by terminating Westin's employment because of her age and disability. Westin alleges in Count IV that defendants' actions give rise to a supplemental state law claim for tortious discharge in violation of public policy. Finally, in Count V, Westin alleges that defendants' behavior toward her constitutes intentional infliction of emotional distress. Before filing her complaint in this case, plaintiff Westin filed an identical action in the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County on May 30, 1997.

On July 14, 1997, defendants filed their Motion To Dismiss Or Stay/Alternative Motion To Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b). In their motion, defendants argued that the court should stay or dismiss this case pursuant to the Colorado River abstention doctrine. See Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 96 S.Ct. 1236, 47 L.Ed.2d 483 (1976). In the alternative, defendants asserted that Westin's pendent state law claims for tortious discharge in violation of public policy and intentional infliction of emotional distress should be dismissed for failure to state a claim. On August 13, 1997, defendants filed their Supplemental Motion To Dismiss

Page 1053

Or Stay/Alternative Motion To Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b). In their supplemental motion, defendants reassert all the contentions raised by their original motion and also assert that Westin's state discrimination claims should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Defendants assert that Westin's claim is barred by her failure to file her complaint in this case within ninety days of the issuance of the administrative release, as required by Iowa Code § 216.16(3).

The court heard oral arguments on the parties' motions on September 18, 1997. At oral argument the court informed counsel that it would accept additional briefing on those portions of defendants' motions to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.1 As a result, the court deferred ruling on those portions of defendants' motions until after the parties' additional briefing had been submitted. Westin was required to file an accompanying affidavit in support of her position which provides an explanation for why the right-to-sue letter could not have been delivered to her in March of this year. On October 9, 1997, Westin filed a supplemental brief on the issue of whether the court may retain jurisdiction over her ICRA claims. The gist of Westin's supplemental brief is that, because she did not receive an initial right-to-sue letter, the doctrine of equitable tolling should have extended the 90-day time period for filing a discrimination suit until after she had actually received the letter. The court subsequently ordered the parties to submit further briefs solely on the issue of whether the doctrine of equitable tolling is applicable in this case. The parties have now submitted their supplemental briefs in this case, along with supporting documents.

Where on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss "matters outside the pleading are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56." FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6). Here, both parties have now submitted material outside the pleadings in support of their respective positions. Therefore, on December 31, 1997, the court notified the parties that the court would treat defendants' motions to dismiss as motions for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. The court permitted the parties ten days in which to file such documents and materials permitted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and any supplemental briefs the parties desired to file on the issues raised by defendants' respective motions. No further materials have been submitted by any of the parties.

The court turns first to the standards applicable to motions for summary judgment. The court will next turn to the factual background of this case as set forth in the complaint and the supporting documents filed with the court, and then to a legal analysis of whether any of Westin's claims must be dismissed.

II. STANDARDS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
A. General Standards For Summary Judgment

This court has considered in some detail the standards applicable to motions for summary judgment pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 56 in a number of recent decisions. See, e.g., Dirks v. J.C. Robinson Seed Co., 980 F.Supp. 1303, 1305-07 (N.D.Iowa 1997); Laird v. Stilwill, 969 F.Supp. 1167, 1172-74 (N.D.Iowa 1997); Rural Water Sys. # 1 v. City of Sioux Center, 967 F.Supp. 1483, 1499-1501 (N.D.Iowa 1997); Tralon Corp. v. Cedarapids, Inc., 966 F.Supp. 812, 817-18 (N.D.Iowa 1997); Security State Bank v. Firstar Bank Milwaukee, N.A., 965 F.Supp. 1237, 1239-40 (N.D.Iowa 1997); Lockhart v. Cedar Rapids Community Sch. Dist., 963 F.Supp. 805 (N.D.Iowa 1997). Thus, the court will not consider those standards in detail here.

Page 1054

Suffice it to say that Rule 56 itself provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Rule 56. Summary Judgment

(b) For Defending Party. A party against whom a claim ... is asserted ... may, at any time, move for summary judgment in the party's favor as to all or any part thereof.

(c) Motions and Proceedings Thereon.... The judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

FED.R.CIV.P. 56(b) & (c) (emphasis added). Applying these standards, the trial judge's function at the summary judgment stage of the proceedings is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there are genuine issues for trial. Quick v. Donaldson Co., 90 F.3d 1372, 1376-77 (8th Cir.1996); Johnson v. Enron Corp., 906 F.2d 1234, 1237 (8th Cir.1990). "An issue of material fact is genuine if it has a real basis in the [summary judgment] record." Hartnagel v. Norman, 953 F.2d 394, 395 (8th Cir.1992) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986)). As to whether a factual dispute is "material," the Supreme Court has explained, "Only disputes over facts that might affect...

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9 practice notes
  • Cole v. Wells Fargo Bank, No. 4:06-CV-00086-JEG.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Southern District of Iowa
    • July 11, 2006
    ...Meyer v. Iowa Mold Tooling Co., No. C99-3087-MWB, 2000 WL 34031796, at *4-*7 (N.D.Iowa Aug.15, 2000); Westin v. Mercy Med. Servs., Inc., 994 F.Supp. 1050, 1056-58 (N.D.Iowa 1998). Dismissing (or granting summary judgment on) intentional infliction of emotional distress claims on preemption ......
  • Lucht v. Encompass Corp., No. 4:06-CV-00562-JEG.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Iowa
    • June 18, 2007
    ...the date the letter is mailed. Saemisch v. Ley Motor Co., 387 N.W.2d 357, 359 (Iowa 1986); see also Westin v. Mercy Med. Servs., Inc., 994 F.Supp. 1050, 1058 (N.D.Iowa 1998) (ninety days began to run "the date the Iowa Civil Rights Commission mailed a closure letter and administrative relea......
  • Richards v. Farner-Bocken Company, No. C 00-3014-MWB (N.D. Iowa 6/1/2001), No. C 00-3014-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • June 1, 2001
    ...a claim of retaliatory discharge for filing worker's compensation claims. As this court explained in Westin v. Mercy Med. Servs., Inc., 994 F. Supp. 1050 (N.D.Iowa 1998), The ICRA, Iowa Code Chapter 216, established the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and provides statutory remedies for enforc......
  • Martinez v. Cole Sewell Corp., No. C 01-3052-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • December 6, 2002
    ...infliction of emotional distress is preempted by the Iowa Civil Rights Act a few years ago in Westin v. Mercy Medical Servs., Inc., 994 F.Supp. 1050 (N.D.Iowa 1998). In Westin, this court explained the applicable principles, in pertinent part, as The ICRA, Iowa Code Chapter 216, established......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
9 cases
  • Cole v. Wells Fargo Bank, No. 4:06-CV-00086-JEG.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Southern District of Iowa
    • July 11, 2006
    ...Meyer v. Iowa Mold Tooling Co., No. C99-3087-MWB, 2000 WL 34031796, at *4-*7 (N.D.Iowa Aug.15, 2000); Westin v. Mercy Med. Servs., Inc., 994 F.Supp. 1050, 1056-58 (N.D.Iowa 1998). Dismissing (or granting summary judgment on) intentional infliction of emotional distress claims on preemption ......
  • Lucht v. Encompass Corp., No. 4:06-CV-00562-JEG.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Iowa
    • June 18, 2007
    ...the date the letter is mailed. Saemisch v. Ley Motor Co., 387 N.W.2d 357, 359 (Iowa 1986); see also Westin v. Mercy Med. Servs., Inc., 994 F.Supp. 1050, 1058 (N.D.Iowa 1998) (ninety days began to run "the date the Iowa Civil Rights Commission mailed a closure letter and administrative relea......
  • Richards v. Farner-Bocken Company, No. C 00-3014-MWB (N.D. Iowa 6/1/2001), No. C 00-3014-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • June 1, 2001
    ...a claim of retaliatory discharge for filing worker's compensation claims. As this court explained in Westin v. Mercy Med. Servs., Inc., 994 F. Supp. 1050 (N.D.Iowa 1998), The ICRA, Iowa Code Chapter 216, established the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and provides statutory remedies for enforc......
  • Martinez v. Cole Sewell Corp., No. C 01-3052-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • December 6, 2002
    ...infliction of emotional distress is preempted by the Iowa Civil Rights Act a few years ago in Westin v. Mercy Medical Servs., Inc., 994 F.Supp. 1050 (N.D.Iowa 1998). In Westin, this court explained the applicable principles, in pertinent part, as The ICRA, Iowa Code Chapter 216, established......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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