Williamson v. American National Insurance Company

Decision Date02 March 2010
Docket NumberCivil Action No. H-07-3776.
Citation695 F. Supp.2d 431
PartiesJeffrey Alan WILLIAMSON, Plaintiff, v. AMERICAN NATIONAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Texas

Jeffrey Alan Williamson, Houston, TX, pro se.

Janet Larene Wells Rushing, Kelly-Ann F. Clarke, Steven Carl Windsor, Greer Herz & Adams LLP, Galveston, TX, for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

MELINDA HARMON, District Judge.

Pending before the Court in the above referenced cause alleging employment discrimination based on disability and retaliation under both state and federal law1 and seeking to recover compensatory and punitive damages and to obtain injunctive relief, are Defendant American National Insurance Company's ("ANICO's") (1) motion to dismiss and motion for more definite statement (instrument # 67) and (2) motion for summary judgment (instrument # 90). At this stage of the litigation, the Court chooses to address the motion for summary judgment.

Allegations in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (# 65, 74)

Pro se Plaintiff Jeffrey Alan Williamson, at the time of his dismissal a Programmer Analyst, had been employed by ANICO since April 5, 1999 as a programmer in the Systems Planning and Computing ("SP & C") department. With supporting evidence, he claims that his job performance at all times was more than satisfactory (with "full performance" ratings) and that he received an annual increase in salary until he was discharged on January 31, 2006.

Williamson explains that he has suffered recurring "seizures and impairments"2 from approximately May 2004 up to the present. He did not have an annual review in 2004 because on May 23rd of that year he collapsed from an apparent stroke and had surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch on the cognitive side of his brain because of an intra cranial hemorrhage, seizure, stroke, and coma. The surgery was followed by a period of rehabilitation at the Transitional Learning Center in Galveston, Texas from June 14-August 10, 2004. He returned to work on September 13, 2004.

Plaintiff claims disability discrimination, from the date of his stroke, by all individual ANICO employees involved in certain specific acts that he details. First he claims intentional infliction of emotional distress as well as discrimination when ANICO "forced" him to transfer from Galveston to the new data center in League City in January 2005. He claims it put him in an environment that was more damaging, more stressful, with more responsibilities, all of which aggravated his condition.

He also charges that, despite his continuing "seizures and impairments," his direct supervisor, Alec Mendez, and Human Resources designated him to be the floor captain of the third floor of the new data center, which entailed providing first aid and evacuating employees in "dangerous circumstances." He objected to the required training that Human Resources made him take to learn first aid to keep people alive. He charges generally that ANICO "showed a lack of care concerning what I suffered, what I went through, that I continued to suffer during employment and I continue to suffer this day." #90, Ex. 15, at 419:14-16.

Plaintiff claims that he was "harassed" by various individual ANICO employees during his rehabilitation because of his disability before and after he was "forced to transfer from Galveston, Texas to League City, Texas."3 According to the amended complaint, after Plaintiff's stroke, surgery, and period of rehabilitation, and despite continuing "seizures and impairments," Mendez assigned Plaintiff even more responsibilities than before his injury and rehabilitation. He also inflicted emotional distress on Plaintiff by making him take vacation time instead of sick leave when he had to recover from seizures or go for treatment, tests, or doctor's appointments. During his deposition Plaintiff identifies his request for sick leave as a request for reasonable accommodation. Mendez was also "associated with" Plaintiff's transfer to League City. Mendez allegedly harassed Williamson for errors Plaintiff made.

Plaintiff claims that Don Ciaccio was his supervisor during Plaintiff's rehabilitation at the Transitional Learning Center and produces a document stating such, but there is some uncertainty about that allegation.4 Ciaccio drove Defendant's corporate van pool, which transported employees who lived in Galveston back and forth to work. Plaintiff complains that he had a seizure in December 2005 during one of these trips, and that Ciaccio did not call EMS but dropped off the "healthy employees" in League City, then continued to drive with Plaintiff on the floor of the van, while Plaintiff had recurring "seizures and impairments," and finally had him escorted out of the van because Plaintiff could not walk by himself. Plaintiff also complains about Ciaccio's regular "negative" comments and states Plaintiff was embarrassed when he overheard Ciaccio talking about his seizure. Don Ciaccio also harassed him by telling him Defendants were about to lay off employees and that reasons were being collected to "get rid of" Williamson.

Plaintiff also complains about the Human Resources department and Jason Broussard. Claiming that Plaintiff was subjected to a hostile work environment and suffered severe emotional distress, which could cause more seizures, Williamson alleges that despite his recurring seizures and impairments, he was harassed by Mendez and Broussard to be trained as a floor captain, able to provide first aid and to evacuate employees during "dangerous circumstances."

Plaintiff names Sarah Sparks, who stated that she was "taking care of Jeffrey's personal affairs."5 Williamson also claimed that he was harassed by ANICO's Medical Director, the Human Resources Department, and the management team in the Computing Division who were privy to "his medical status, doctor's reports, doctor's releases, etc." He claims that ANICO, as his employer, had a duty to supervise him and other employees and to prevent unlawful conduct that could damage him, but that ANICO breached that duty. He charges that ANICO was negligent in supervising and training, and in transferring him from Galveston to League City despite his recurring "seizures and impairments," in making him a floor captain, and in requiring him to be trained and certified in first aid for evacuation of employees at dangerous times.

Plaintiff claims he was terminated by ANICO, specifically by Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer James Pozzi6 and Assistant Vice President of Human Resources Carol Ann Kratz, on January 31, 2006. Amended Complaint (# 72) seeks to Sparks, Don Ciaccio, Alec Mendez Plaintiff's Supplemental to his add as parties James Pozzi, Sarah and Carol Ann Kratz.7 During his deposition, Plaintiff testified that Kratz harassed him in two ways because, although she was aware of his medical condition, she (1) had him transferred to League City and (2) required him to train as floor captain to provide first aid to employees and to evacuate them in dangerous situations. Ex. 15-A at 358:2-17. Broussard "works right underneath Ms. Kratz." Id. at 359, 1.7. Williamson also charges that Sarah Sparks, Don Ciaccio, Alec Mendez, Carol Ann Kratz, James Pozzi, and other ANICO employees acted with malice, lack of care, lack of duty, and reckless disregard of Plaintiff's rights and welfare. He claims that in the employer-employee relationship, and as an insurance policyholder, Plaintiff was owed by ANICO a duty to prevent injury and to aid him during his recurring seizures and impairments.

Plaintiff conclusorily asserts that he was "harassed to the point that he, and other employees of the Defendant were subject to a hostile work environment and that he was discharged because of his disability." # 65, ? 34.

Plaintiff alleges that he filed a timely Charge of Disability Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Plaintiff received a Dismissal Notice of Right to Sue letter dated August 17, 2007 stating that the EEOC was unable to conclude that his charge established violations of the relevant statutes.

The Social Security Administration found that Williamson was "disabled" on the day he was terminated, January 31, 2006, and provided disability benefits retroactively to that date.

ANICO's conduct purportedly caused Williamson humiliation, emotional distress, mental and physical pain and suffering, damage to his personal reputation, need for medical services and medications in the past and in the future, damage to his earning capacity, and damage to recurring seizures and impairments that he might suffer for the rest of his life.

Plaintiff claims that threats of lay offs and the hostile work environment caused him severe emotional distress. He also maintains that ANICO breached its duty as his employer to supervise him and other employees and to prevent or correct unlawful conduct by employees in the workplace and, apparently, during his seizures. Plaintiff also charges ANICO with negligence in forcing his transfer to Galveston in spite of his recurring seizures and impairments.

Plaintiff also, without providing any supporting facts, alleges retaliation in violation of Title VII and violation of 42 U.S.C. ? 1981.

In his "Supplemental" to his Amended Complaint (# 74 at ?? 5-7) Plaintiff states that six other employees were also terminated by Defendant, but names only Pete Haswell, who died of cancer shortly after his termination, and Gordon Hughes, who was re-hired in a different position. In his response to the motion for summary judgment (# 91 at 15), Plaintiff emphasizes that he and Haswell both had a "health related issue" and were both terminated.

Standard of Review

Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to...

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