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Broxton v. Blue Ridge in Fields

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

July 24, 2019

Tara LeAnn Broxton, Plaintiff,
v.
Blue Ridge in the Fields, Defendant.

          ORDER

          JOSEPH F. ANDERSON, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         The pro se Plaintiff, Tara LeAnn Broxton, filed this action under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq., against Defendant Blue Ridge in the Fields (“Defendant” or “Blue Ridge”) alleging a violation of her constitutional rights. Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. On November 9, 2018, after Defendant Blue Ridge failed to respond or otherwise plead, the Clerk of Court entered default against Defendant. (ECF No. 22). Following entry of default, on November 13, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Default Judgment as to Defendant Blue Ridge. (ECF No. 22). In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2), D.S.C., the case was referred to the Magistrate Judge.

         After reviewing the pleadings, the Magistrate Judge assigned to this action[1] prepared a thorough Report and Recommendation (“Report”) and opines that the Motion for Default Judgment be denied and this matter be dismissed. (ECF No. 33). The Report sets forth, in detail, the relevant facts and standards of law on this matter, and this Court incorporates those facts and standards without a recitation. Following Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment, the Court issued orders directing Plaintiff to supplement her motion for default judgment in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2), and Plaintiff appears to have responded to the best of her abilities. On December 11, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Supplement to the Motion for Default Judgment. (ECF No. 26). After the Court issued another order directing Plaintiff to supplement her motion for default judgment in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2), Plaintiff filed a Motion for an Evidentiary Hearing on March 20, 2019. (ECF No. 30).

         Thereafter, the Magistrate Judge issued the Report on May 6, 2019. (ECF No. 33). Plaintiff filed objections to the Report on July 8, 2019. (ECF No. 40). On that same day, Plaintiff also filed a second Motion for Default Judgment as to Defendant Blue Ridge. (ECF No. 41). Thus, this matter is ripe for review.

         The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report to which specific objections are made, and the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In the absence of specific objections to portions of the Report of the Magistrate, this Court is not required to give an explanation for adopting the recommendation. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983). Furthermore, “general and conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the Magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations” are not specific objections and do no warrant de novo review. Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 48 (4th Cir. 1982).

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 55(b), after the Clerk of Court has entered default, a plaintiff may seek a default judgment. See United States v. Ragin, 113 F.3d 1233 (4th Cir. 1997). Once a defendant is in default, the court accepts a plaintiff's well-pleaded factual allegations as true. See DIRECTV, Inc. v. Rawlins, 523 F.3d 318, 322 n.2 (4th Cir. 2008) (“Due to [the defendant's] default, we accept [the plaintiff's] allegations against him as true.”) (citing Ryan v. Homecomings Fin. Network, 253 F.3d 778, 780 (4th Cir. 2001) (“The defendant, by his default, admits the plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations of fact, is concluded on those facts by the judgment, and is barred from contesting on appeal the facts thus established.”)).

         However, the defendant is not held to have admitted conclusions of law. Ryan, 253 F.3d at 780 (quoting Nishimatsu Constr. Co., Ltd. v. Houston Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir.1975)). Thus, the court must still determine if the unchallenged factual allegations constitute a legitimate cause of action and support the relief sought. See Ryan, 253 F.3d at 780 (“The court must, therefore, determine whether the well-pleaded allegations in Appellants' complaint support the relief sought in this action.”); see also Silvers v. Iredell Cty. Dep't of Soc. Servs., No. 515CV00083RLVDCK, 2016 WL 427953, at *4 (W.D. N.C. Feb. 3, 2016), aff'd, 669 Fed.Appx. 182 (4th Cir. 2016) (“[T]he Fourth Circuit has declared that, upon a plaintiff's application for default judgment, district courts have an obligation to review the complaint to determine whether the plaintiff has alleged well-pleaded facts and, assuming those well-pleaded facts are true, whether the complaint states a ‘sufficient basis' on which judgment may be entered.”) (internal citations omitted).

         III. Discussion

         After detailed consideration of the Report, the pleadings and motions, and the objections, the Court modifies the Report (ECF No. 33) in part as set forth below. Additionally, the Court adopts those portions of the Report (ECF No. 33) which are not inconsistent with this Order.

         A. Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for Discriminatory Discharge based upon a Disability under the ADA.

         Some courts have held that a plaintiff establishes a prima facie case for wrongful discharge based upon a disability under the ADA if a plaintiff demonstrates that “(1) he is within the ADA's protected class; (2) he was discharged; (3) at the time of his discharge, he was performing the job at a level that met his employer's legitimate expectations; and (4) his discharge occurred under circumstances that raise a reasonable inference of unlawful discrimination.” Haulbrook v. Michelin N. Am., 252 F.3d 696, 702 (4th Cir. 2001).

         The Magistrate Judge correctly opines that Plaintiff's factual allegations as pled do not support a claim for discriminatory discharge based upon a disability under the ADA. The Magistrate Judge points out Plaintiff only states that she was “injured” and does not specify what type of injury she received. The Magistrate Judge opines: “Such summary allegations wholly fail to establish that Broxton suffers or suffered from a disability as defined under the ADA or that she otherwise meets the statutory requirements for such a disability. 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1).”

         “Under the ADA, a ‘disability' may take any of the following forms: (1) ‘a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities' (the ‘actual-disability' prong); (2) ‘a record of such an impairment' (the ‘record-of' prong); or (3) ‘being regarded as having such an impairment' (the ‘regarded-as” prong).” Summers v. Altarum Inst., Corp., 740 F.3d 325, 328 (4th Cir. 2014) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1)). As defined by statute, examples of major life activities include “caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.” 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2).

         Plaintiff attempts to object to this portion of the Report by stating “Plaintiff contends that an injury leading to a disability (physical disability) occurred does meet prima facie.” (ECF No. 40 p. 2). However, this general and conclusory objection does not direct the Court to a specific error in the Magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations and is not a specific objection. Next, Plaintiff goes on to state new factual allegations that are not contained in her Complaint or supplement. Plaintiff's objections state the following new factual allegations:

“Plaintiff was injured while working, she was struck in the shoulder by a patient. This incident caused Plaintiff to ...

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