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Awodiya v. Ross University School of Medicine

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

June 17, 2019




         THIS MATTER came before the Court upon the parties' responses [ECF Nos. 192 & 193] to the Court's May 15, 2019 Omnibus Order (“Omnibus Order”) [ECF No. 191]. The Omnibus Order required the parties, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(f), to brief the following questions: (1) whether Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (“RA”) apply extraterritorially; and (2) what impact, if any, the answer to this question has on the Plaintiff's remaining claims.

         On March 2, 2019, this Court entered partial summary judgment against the Plaintiff [ECF No. 154] and, as a result, only four of the Plaintiff's claims against the Defendant, Ross University School of Medicine (“RUSM”), have survived: Count I (failure to accommodate under the RA); Count II (failure to accommodate under the ADA); Count VIII (fraudulent inducement); and Count IX (negligent misrepresentation). At the motions hearing on June 11, 2019, the Plaintiff moved in open court to voluntarily dismiss Count IX (negligent misrepresentation) with prejudice under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2), and the Court granted that motion. Accordingly, as of this Order, only Counts I, II, and VIII remain.

         As the Omnibus Order made clear, neither party had raised-and so the Court did not consider-the question of the ADA's and the RA's extraterritorial application. With the benefit of the parties' supplemental briefing and oral argument, the Court does so now.

         THE FACTS

         The facts of this case are thoroughly detailed in the Court's March 2, 2019 Order on the parties' motions for summary judgment.[1] As relevant here, the Plaintiff is a former medical student at RUSM, a private medical school in Dominica. Pl.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 1, 9. The Plaintiff applied to RUSM in 2013. Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 4. On its website, RUSM represented that “[i]t is the policy and practice of [RUSM] to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act as applicable and practical in Dominica.” Id. RUSM requires its students to take the National Board of Medical Examiners' Comprehensive Basic Science Exam (“COMP Exam”) at the end of their fifth semester. Def.'s 56.1 ¶ 36. The Plaintiff took and failed the COMP Exam five times. Def.'s 56.1 ¶¶ 39-50. As a result, on June 29, 2017, RUSM dismissed him from the university. See Dismissal Letter [ECF No. 119-28 at 2].

         The Plaintiff's remaining contentions are that: (1) RUSM failed to honor his alleged requests for an accommodation under the ADA and the RA for extra test-taking time; and (2) RUSM's statement that it complies with the ADA “as applicable and practical in Dominica” constitutes fraudulent inducement because RUSM never had any intention of complying with either federal statute.


         Summary judgment is appropriate where there is “no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In determining whether to grant summary judgment, the Court must consider “particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). “By its very terms, this standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original). An issue of fact is “material” if it might affect the outcome of the case under the governing law. Id. at 248. A dispute about a material fact is “genuine” if the evidence could lead a reasonable jury to find for the non-moving party. Id.

         At summary judgment, the moving party has the burden of proving the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, and all factual inferences are drawn in favor of the non-moving party. See e.g., Allen v. Tyson Foods Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997). Once the moving party satisfies its initial burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to come forward with evidence that a genuine issue of material fact precludes summary judgment. See Bailey v. Allgas, Inc., 284 F.3d 1237, 1243 (11th Cir. 2002); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). “If reasonable minds could differ on the inferences arising from undisputed facts, then a court should deny summary judgment.” Miranda v. B & B Cash Grocery Store, Inc., 975 F.2d 1518, 1534 (11th Cir. 1992). Notably, assessments of credibility-no less than the weighing of evidence-are jury questions not susceptible of disposition at summary judgment. Strickland v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co., 692 F.3d 1151, 1154 (11th Cir. 2012). The Court must analyze the record as a whole-and not just the evidence the parties have singled out for consideration. See Clinkscales v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 831 F.2d 1565, 1570 (11th Cir. 1987). If there are any genuine issues of material fact, the Court must deny summary judgment and proceed to trial. Whelan v. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., No. 1:12-CV-22481, 2013 WL 5583970, at *2 (S.D. Fla. Aug. 14, 2013) (citing Envtl. Def. Fund v. Marsh, 651 F.2d 983, 991 (5th Cir. 1981)).


         I. Counts I and II (Failure to Accommodate under the RA and the ADA)

         Two federal courts have already held, in the precise circumstances presented here-a lawsuit by an RUSM student against RUSM for violations of the ADA and the RA-that the ADA and the RA do not apply extraterritorially. See Archut v. Ross Univ. Sch. of Veterinary Med., 580 Fed.Appx. 90 (3d Cir. 2014) and Galligan v. Adtalem Glob. Educ. Inc., No. 17 C 6310, 2019 WL 423356 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 4, 2019).

         The Plaintiff's Response (“Pl. Resp.”) [ECF No. 192] to the Court's Omnibus Order raises three principal arguments: (1) that the Supreme Court “overruled” Archut in RJR Nabisco, Inc. v. European Cmty., 136 S.Ct. 2090 (2016); (2) that the express language of both the ADA and the RA indicates that Congress intended the statutes to apply extraterritorially; and (3) that “most of” the acts in this case occurred in the United States-thus obviating any need to determine whether the ADA applies extraterritorially.

         In its Response (“Def. Resp.”) [ECF No. 193], RUSM says (1) that all of the conduct pertaining to the Plaintiff's alleged requests for an accommodation occurred in Dominica; and (2) that neither the ADA nor the RA contains any express indication of congressional intent with respect to the statutes' extraterritorial application-as a result of which, RUSM contends, ...

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