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Butler v. Pepperdam Construction Co. Inc.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

March 21, 2019

Andrew Butler, Plaintiff,
Pepperdam Construction Company, Inc., Defendant.


          Richard Mark Gergel United States District Court Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation ("R & R") of the Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 27) recommending that the Court grant Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 24). For the reasons set forth below, the Court adopts in part and declines to adopt in part the R & R and grants in part and denies in part Defendant's motion.

         I. Background

         In brief, Plaintiff Andrew Butler was hired to work for Defendant, a construction company, on or about October 1, 2015, where he worked as a Supervisor. Plaintiffs duties included ordering materials, supervising a crew, giving assignments, and ensuring that the grading on projects was correct. On December 10, 2015, Plaintiff and a co-worker got into an accident in a company vehicle when another vehicle hit them from behind. While Plaintiff initially had few symptoms from the accident and was able to perform his job duties, by January 22, 2016, Plaintiff presented to a hospital emergency department complaining of a motor vehicle collision. Plaintiff had multiple appointments with medical professionals and therapists from January 22, 2016 to April 2016. As relevant here, Plaintiff received a doctor's report of work status on or about March 3, 2016, which indicated that Plaintiff should be restricted to left hand work, no lifting, no repeated bending/stooping, and no continual standing/walking/sitting. Plaintiff alleges he informed Jennie Blanton, the Vice President, and Brian Blanton, Jennie's son who worked at the Defendant, of his limitations and a text exchange with Brian from May 25, 2016, seems to corroborate that Brian had knowledge of Plaintiff s medical issues. (Dkt. Nos. 25-1 at 5 - 6; 24-20.)

         Regardless of the medical consultations and therapy, Plaintiff continued working after the accident. On or about May 26 or May 27, 2016, [1] Plaintiff was driving a company backhoe when he ran into another company vehicle. After the accident, Plaintiff was asked to take a urine test pursuant to company policy. Defendant refused. Plaintiff subsequently did not show up to work and Brian Blanton wrote to Plaintiff the following day that "I'm assuming you quit since you didn't show up today?," and reiterated on June 2, 2016, in a text "we had no plans to fire you, you quit." (Dkt. No. 24-20 at 9 - 11.) Plaintiff, however, testified that he was terminated by Jennie.

         Plaintiff filed this action on May 24, 2017, alleging violations of the Americans with Disability Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, etseq. (hereinafter referred to, as amended, as "the ADAAA"). As explained by the Magistrate Judge, Plaintiff essentially brings two claims under the ADAAA: first, for a failure to accommodate; second, for retaliation for his requests for accommodation.[2]Defendants moved for summary judgment, and Plaintiff opposed. (Dkt. Nos. 24, 25.) The Magistrate Judged issued an R & R recommending that the Court grant summary judgment on both of Plaintiffs claims. (Dkt. No. 27.) Plaintiff filed objections. (Dkt. No. 28.)

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Summary Judgment

         To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the movant must demonstrate that there is no genuine issue of any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of identifying the portions of the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, any admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The Court will construe all inferences and ambiguities against the movant and in favor of the non-moving party. U.S. v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). The existence of a mere scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party's position is insufficient to withstand a motion for summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). However, an issue of material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the non-movant. Id. at 257.

         "When the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). "In the language of the Rule, the nonmoving party must come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 587. "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Id. (quoting First Nat 7 Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968)).

         B. Report and Recommendation

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility for making a final determination remains with this Court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270 - 71 (1976). This Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which specific objection is made. Additionally, the Court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In the absence of any specific objections, "a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005). Plaintiff filed objections and those portions of the R & R are reviewed de novo. Defendant did not file objections.

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiff objects to the Magistrate Judge's recommendations regarding the second two prongs of his failure to accommodate claim, the Magistrate Judge's recommendations regarding the third prong of his retaliation claim and the recommendation that ...

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