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Walker v. inVentiv Health, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

July 19, 2018

LAURA L. WALKER, Plaintiff,



         I. Plaintiff's Allegations

         The plaintiff, Laura L. Walker, initiated this suit against the defendant, inVentiv Health, Inc. (inVentiv Health) in state court, asserting claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). InVentiv Health removed the case, asserting federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         According to Ms. Walker's petition, she was hired by inVentiv Health on October 13, 2014, to serve as a Neuroscience Specialty Representative. (Doc. 2-4). On July 16, 2015, she was hospitalized for a thyrotoxic crisis and she was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, which caused muscle weakness, difficulty walking, exhaustion, insomnia, rapid heart rate and palpitations, unstable blood pressure, shortness of breath and several other problems. An endocrinologist subsequently diagnosed Ms. Walker with subacute autoimmune thyroiditis, requiring bedrest and anti-inflammatory medication. Ms. Walker promptly notified inVentiv Health of her serious medical condition.

         Ms. Walker experienced severe abdominal pain that resulted in her emergency hospitalization four times over the week of August 9, 2015. She had planned to return to work on August 13, 2015, but was unable to as a result of the abdominal pain. She communicated with her direct supervisor and inVentiv Health's Human Resources Manager about her inability to work on August 13. InVentiv Health responded by e-mail, informing her that her employment would be terminated if she did not return to work by August 17, 2015.

         Ms. Walker underwent emergency exploratory surgery on August 14, 2015. From the hospital, she e-mailed her Human Resources manager, direct supervisor, and Cigna, which was inVentiv Health's third-party leave management contractor, to notify them that her medical condition and hospitalization rendered her temporarily unable to complete all of the required leave paperwork. Plaintiff alleges that inVentiv Health was “unwilling to grant Plaintiff's request regarding submission of the FMLA paperwork to be complete[d] by [her] physicians, and refused to waiver [sic] from the position [she] would be terminated if she did not return to work by August 17, 2015, with a release from her doctor. To no avail, Plaintiff urged Defendant for accommodation, explaining to Defendant that it would be impossible to meet such a demand.” (Doc. 2-4 at ¶ 26). When she did not return to work on August 17, 2015, inVentiv Health sent Ms. Walker an e-mail terminating her employment.

         Ms. Walker alleges that inVentiv Health discriminated against her on the basis of disability, in violation of the ADA (First Claim). She further contends that inVentiv Health violated the FMLA by interfering with her FMLA rights (Second Claim), refusing to reinstate her to her former position (Third Claim), and discharged her in retaliation for exercising her FMLA rights (Fourth Claim).

         InVentiv Health moves to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), (6) and 56 based on its arguments that the Court does not have personal jurisdiction and plaintiff's FMLA claims should be dismissed as she was not an employee for the required minimum amount of time (12 months) to qualify for FMLA benefits.

         II. Discussion

         A. Personal Jurisdiction

         InVentiv Health asserts that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over it. (Doc. 13 at 2). For a court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, the plaintiff must demonstrate the existence of facts satisfying both the forum's long-arm statute and the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. See Niemi v. Lasshofer, 770 F.3d 1331, 1348 (10th Cir. 2014). “Because Oklahoma's long-arm statute permits the exercise of any jurisdiction that is consistent with the United States Constitution, the personal jurisdiction inquiry under Oklahoma law collapses into the single due process inquiry.” Intercon, Inc. v. Bell Atl. Internet Solutions, Inc., 205 F.3d 1244, 1247 (10th Cir. 2000) (citing Rambo v. Am. S. Ins. Co., 839 F.2d 1415, 1416 (10th Cir. 1988)); see Niemi, 770 F.3d at 1348; see also 12 Okla. Stat. § 2004(F).

         “In order to evaluate whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction comports with due process, ” the court “must first assess whether ‘the defendant has such minimum contacts with the forum state that [it] should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there.'” Niemi, 770 F.3d at 1348 (quoting Emp'rs Mut. Cas. Co. v. Bartile Roofs, Inc., 618 F.3d 1153, 1159-60 (10th Cir. 2010)). If a defendant has minimum contacts with the forum state, the court then determines “whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction over [that] defendant offends traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Id.

         The minimum contacts standard may be satisfied by showing general or specific jurisdiction. Id. Specific jurisdiction exists “‘if the defendant has purposefully directed his activities at residents of the forum, and the litigation results from alleged injuries that arise out of or relate to those activities.'” Intercon, 205 F.3d at 1247 (quoting Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472 (1985)). When a plaintiff's claim does not arise directly from a defendant's forum-related activities, the court may nonetheless maintain general personal jurisdiction over the defendant based on the defendant's contacts with the forum state. See Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414-16 & n.9 (1984). “[D]ue process is not offended by a State's subjecting the corporation to its in personam jurisdiction when there are sufficient contacts between the State and the foreign corporation.” Id. at 414. Thus, “[a] court may assert general jurisdiction over foreign (sister-state or foreign-country) corporations to hear any and all claims against them when their affiliations with the State are so ‘continuous and systematic' as to render them essentially at home in the forum State.” Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. __, ___, 134 S.Ct. 746, 754 (2014) (quoting Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. __, ___, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 2851 (2011)). The inquiry “calls for an appraisal of a corporation's activities in their entirety, ” and a “corporation that operates in many places can scarcely be deemed at home in all of them.” Id. at 762, n. 20.

         Where the Court determines a motion to dismiss based on an alleged absence of personal jurisdiction without an evidentiary hearing, “the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction to defeat the motion.” See Old Republic Ins. Co. v. Continental Motors, Inc., 877 F.3d 895, 903 (10th Cir. 2017) (quoting Soma Med. Int'l v. Standard Chartered Bank, 196 F.3d 1292, 1295 (10th Cir. 1999). In determining whether plaintiff has made a prima facie showing, all ...

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