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Alonso v. Alonso

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

July 25, 2019

Carlos Alonso, as guardian of Angie Alonso, Plaintiff.
v.
Dr. Gladys Y. Alonso, M.D., Defendant.

          OPINION ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS

         Carlos Alonso (“Carlos”), as guardian of his son Angie Alonso (“Angie”), sues Defendant Dr. Gladys Alonso. M.D. (“Gladys”), Angie's former physician, for injunctive relief under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA, ” 42 U.S.C. § 12182), and other claims under Florida law.

         Now before the Court is a motion to dismiss filed by the Gladys. (the “Motion, ” ECF No. 41.) Having considered the parties' submissions and the applicable law, the Court denies the Motion (ECF No. 41) as set forth below.

         1. Background [1]

         Carlos is the legal guardian for his permanently disabled adult son, Angie, with whom he lives in Hialeah, Florida. Angie suffers from, among other things, cognitive impairments, severe cerebral palsy and spasticity resulting from hypoxia during a complex childbirth. (ECF No. 40 at ¶ 2.) These conditions have rendered Angie unable to walk without the assistance of others. As such, he must use a wheelchair when traveling outside his home. (Id.) Angie cannot meaningfully speak or communicate with others and requires twenty-four-hour assistance to complete tasks of daily living, such as bathing, eating and using the bathroom. (Id.) This assistance is provided almost exclusively by Carlos and Angie's mother.

         Angie received Home Health Aid Services (“HHAS”) through an assigned Personal Care Assistant (“PCA”) through Florida's Medicaid program. (Id. at ¶¶ 7, 8, 19-21.) “This PCA worker would typically visit Angie's home for three (3) hours to assist Angie with everyday living activities that he could not perform on his own.” (Id. at ¶ 20.) To receive this service, Angie was required to obtain a medical assessment every sixty-days with a physician who certified to the State of Florida that Angie still required a PCA. (Id.) From September 2012 through December 2016, Gladys was that physician for Angie. (Id. at ¶¶ 3, 15, 22.)

         At the beginning of their relationship, Angie would visit Gladys' medical office in Hialeah (the “Office”). (Id. at ¶ 5.) But “Angie's wheelchair could not easily fit through the elevator doors and office door” and the Office's “waiting room was too small for a handicapped person like Angie.” (Id. at ¶ 16.) So, to complete the assessments required for PCA services, the parties sought alternative arrangements. Ultimately, Angie agreed to forgo “receiving medical care at the Office, ” and instead Gladys “would visit Angie in his apartment.” (Id. at ¶ 17.)

         Home visits occurred sporadically. “From 2012 to the end of the physician-patient relationship in 2016, [Gladys] continually missed scheduled meetings with Angie.” (Id. at ¶ 18.) Her medical staff also “did not respond to Angie's case worker when [Gladys] failed to visit every month.” (Id.) By “ignoring her obligation to do a medical assessment of Angie and submit every (60) days the paperwork to the State of Florida, ” Angie “lost hundreds of hours of service from the PCA.” (Id. at ¶¶ 19-21.) “The only replacement for this worker was through [Carlos] and Angie's mother.” (Id. at ¶ 21.)

         In late 2016, Angie received emergency treatment for medical ailments that Carlos claims “could have been ameliorated if [Gladys] had been providing medical care to Angie.” (Id. at ¶ 24.) At that point, Carlos began looking for a new physician for Angie and eventually settled on a doctor at the Lennar Center in Coral Gables, Florida. (Id. at ¶¶ 9, 26.) But traveling from Hialeah to Coral Gables can take over an hour and making this trip “is an arduous task for Angie and his parents.” (Id. at ¶¶ 9, 42.) Indeed, Angie's “actual spasticity” causes “him a lot of pain when sitting in the wheelchair or traveling in the car for more than thirty (30) minutes.” (Id. at ¶¶ 9, 42.) Because of this, “Angie would reasonably intend to stay a medical patient of Gladys' Hialeah medical practice “but for [Gladys'] failure to reasonably accommodate [Angie's] disability.” (Id. at ¶ 41.)

         On September 7, 2018, Carlos filed this lawsuit pro se. (ECF No. 1.) He served Gladys on November 6, 2018. (ECF No. 20.) Gladys failed to timely respond to the complaint and the clerk entered default against her on December 6, 2018. (ECF No. 25.) Before Carlos moved for default judgment, on January 10, 2019, Gladys appeared through counsel and moved to vacate clerk's default. (ECF No. 31.) She attributed her failure to timely respond to this case to her practice of “review[ing] her incoming mail on a monthly basis.” (Id. at p. 2.) Over Carlos' objection, the Court granted that motion and vacated clerk's default on January 15, 2019. (ECF No. 33.) Thereafter, counsel appeared on behalf of Carlos and the Court ordered the complaint replead. (ECF Nos. 36, 37.)

         On February 28, 2019, Carlos, through counsel, filed the operative amended complaint asserting three causes of action: (1) Count I under Title III of the ADA for declaratory and injunctive relief, seeking an order “requiring [Gladys] to alter the Office and/or its facilities to make them accessible to an usable by individuals with disabilities, ” like Angie, (ECF No. 40 at pp. 5-8); (2) Count II for breach of oral contract under Florida law, (id. at pp. 8-9); and (3) Count III for promissory estoppel under Florida law, (id. at p. 9). Carlos asserts federal question jurisdiction for Count I and supplemental jurisdiction for Counts II and III. (Id. at ¶ 10.)

         Gladys moves to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(1) on two grounds: (1) that Count I for prospective injunctive relief under Title III of the ADA is time-barred, (ECF No. 41 at pp. 4-6); and should the Court dismiss the ADA claim, (2) that the Court lacks supplemental jurisdiction over Counts II and III, brought under Florida law, (id. at pp. 6-8). Carlos opposes the Motion. (ECF No. 42.) Gladys filed a reply brief. (ECF No. 43.)

         2. Legal Standard

         A court considering a motion to dismiss, filed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), must accept the complaint's allegations as true, construing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Pielage v. McConnell, 516 F.3d 1282, 1284 (11th Cir. 2008). Although a pleading need only contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, a plaintiff must nevertheless articulate “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not shown-that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)) (internal punctuation omitted). A court must dismiss a plaintiff's claims if she fails to nudge her “claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         3. Count I for Injunctive Relief Under Title III of the ...


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