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Aaron Private Clinic Management, LLC v. Berry

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

November 16, 2017

AARON PRIVATE CLINIC MANAGEMENT, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
FRANK W. BERRY, in his Official Capacity as Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health; and NATHAN DEAL, in his Official Capacity as Governor of Georgia, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM S. DUFFEY, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Frank W. Berry and Nathan Deal (together, “Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss [23].

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 4, 2017, Plaintiff Aaron Private Clinic Management, LLC (“Plaintiff”) filed its First Amended Complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, and damages, for violations of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 793 (“Rehabilitation Act”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. (“ADA”). Plaintiff, a for-profit company that “intends to meet the standards to establish an [opioid treatment program] in Georgia, ” alleges that two recently promulgated Georgia statutes-O.C.G.A. § 26-5-21 (“Licensing Moratorium”)[1] and O.C.G.A. § 26-5-40 et seq. (“Licensing Cap”)[2]-“illegally discriminate against the disabled, including barring the Department of Community Health (‘DCH') from accepting new licenses to expand treatment for the disabled in Georgia.” (First Amended Complaint [19] (“FAC”) at 3-4). Plaintiff contends that “[t]hese rules illegally block [it] from establishing an [o]pioid [t]reatment [p]rogram.” (Id.).

         Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint asserts six counts, all based on the overarching claim that the Licensing Moratorium and Licensing Cap violate the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the ADA because they are are facially invalid, discriminatory, and, through disparate treatment, “cause disproportionate impact to APC and the disabled persons APC intends to serve.” (FAC ¶¶ 56-85). Each count also includes the following claim:

APC has suffered economic injury from the State of Georgia's disparate impact violations of the ADA. APC's economic injuries include, without limitation, damage caused by interference and delays with planning, raising investment funds, hiring, and other normal processes related to opening a business. This has illegally caused APC damages, including, without limitation, additional costs and expenses, attorney's fees, interest, and cost of capital.

(FAC ¶ 62, 70, 73, 77, 81, 85).

         On May 18, 2017, Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss arguing that (1) Plaintiff lacks standing under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act; (2) the Eleventh Amendment and sovereign immunity bar APC's money damages claims; (3) APC cannot recover money damages because its Complaint lacks plausible, fact-based allegations of intentional discrimination; and (4) APC is not entitled to declaratory or injunctive relief. ([23.1] at 12-30).

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         On a motion to dismiss, the Court must “assume that the factual allegations in the complaint are true and give the plaintiff[] the benefit of reasonable factual inferences.” Wooten v. Quicken Loans, Inc., 626 F.3d 1187, 1196 (11th Cir. 2010). Although reasonable inferences are made in the plaintiff's favor, “‘unwarranted deductions of fact' are not admitted as true.” Aldana v. Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., 416 F.3d 1242, 1248 (11th Cir. 2005) (quoting S. Fla. Water Mgmt. Dist. v. Montalvo, 84 F.3d 402, 408 n.10 (1996)). Similarly, the Court is not required to accept conclusory allegations and legal conclusions as true. See Am. Dental Ass'n v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1290 (11th Cir. 2010) (construing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)); see also White v. Bank of America, NA, 597 F. App'x 1015, 1018 (11th Cir. 2014) (“[C]onclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions of facts or legal conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent dismissal.”) (quoting Oxford Asset Mgmt., Ltd. V. Jaharis, 297 F.3d 1182, 1188 (11th Cir. 2002)).

         “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Mere “labels and conclusions” are insufficient. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). This requires more than the “mere possibility of misconduct.” Am. Dental, 605 F.3d at 1290 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). The well-pled allegations must “nudge[] their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Id. at 1289 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

         B. Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

         Title II of the ADA provides that “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.” 42 U.S.C. § 12132.

In order to state a Title II claim, a plaintiff generally must prove (1) that he is a qualified individual with a disability; (2) that he was either excluded from participation in or denied the benefits of a public entity's services, programs, or activities, or was otherwise discriminated against by the public entity; and (3) that the exclusion, denial of benefit, or discrimination was by reason of the plaintiff's disability.

Bircoll v. Miami-Dade Cnty., 480 F.3d 1072, 1083 (11th Cir. 2007). “The term ‘qualified individual with a disability' means an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable modifications to rules, policies, or practices, the removal of architectural, communication, or transportation barriers, or the provision of auxiliary aids and services, meets the essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of services or the participation in programs or activities provided by a public entity.” 42 U.S.C. § 12131(2). “A plaintiff can proceed on theories of intentional discrimination, disparate treatment, or failure to make reasonable accommodations.” Rylee v. Chapman, 316 F. App'x 901, 906 (11th Cir. 2009). Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act states, in part, that “[n]o otherwise qualified individual with a disability . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance . . . .” 29 U.S.C. § 794(a). Subject to limited exceptions, “[d]iscrimination claims under the [Rehabilitation Act] are governed by the same standards used in ADA cases.” J.A.M. v. Nova Se. Univ., Inc., 646 F. App'x 921, 926 (11th Cir. 2016); see also Allmond v. Akal Sec., Inc., 558 F.3d 1312, 1316 n.3 (11th Cir. 2009) (“Because the same standards govern discrimination claims under the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA, we discuss those claims together and rely on cases construing those statutes interchangeably.”).

         III. ...


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