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Bishop v. Abbott Laboratories

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

December 20, 2019

DAVID BISHOP, Plaintiff,
v.
ABBOTT LABORATORIES and DOES 1-25, Defendants.

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS AND MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND

          Nancy E. Brasel United States District Judge

         David Bishop sued Abbott Laboratories, Inc. and Michael Basnight in California state court for alleged violations of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Cal Gov't Code §§ 12900, et seq. (“FEHA”) and common law wrongful termination in violation of public policy. Abbott Laboratories, Inc. removed to the District Court for the Central District of California. After Bishop filed an amended complaint substituting Abbott Laboratories (“Abbott”) for Abbott Laboratories, Inc. as the sole named corporate defendant, the District Court for the Central District of California transferred venue to this Court. Abbott now moves for judgment on the pleadings [ECF No. 57], contending, among other things, that it was not Bishop's employer at the time of the alleged violations and cannot be held liable for the acts of Bishop's employer. Bishop opposes Abbott's motion. Bishop also seeks leave to file a second amended complaint adding Abbott's subsidiaries St. Jude Medical, LLC (“LLC”) and St. Jude Medical S.C., Inc. (“SC”) as defendants. [ECF No. 61.] Abbott opposes the amendment on futility grounds. For the reasons stated below, this Court GRANTS Abbott's motion for judgment on the pleadings and GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Bishop's motion for leave to amend.

         BACKGROUND

         The Court draws the following background from the pleadings, accepting as true all facts pleaded by Bishop and construing all reasonable inferences from the pleadings in his favor. See Corwin v. City of Independence, 829 F.3d 695, 699 (8th Cir. 2016).

         I. Bishop's employment with S.C. ends

         Bishop began his employment with S.C. in July 1999. [ECF No. 15 (“First Amended Complaint” or “FAC”) ¶¶ 8, 13.] ¶ 2012, he transferred to the Global Education Department in Austin, Texas. (FAC ¶ 15.) Although the Department is in Austin, Bishop continued to work at SC's location in Sylmar, California, traveling to Austin on occasion for teaching purposes. (FAC ¶ 15.) Michael Basnight became his supervisor in early 2014. (FAC ¶ 16.)

         Bishop received a diagnosis of transverse myelitis in 2015. (FAC ¶ 17.) Among other things, this disorder causes significant pain. (FAC ¶ 17.) Bishop explained his condition to Basnight and another supervisor and told Basnight that he could not travel extensively within a 36-hour period. (FAC ¶¶ 18-19.)

         Bishop and Basnight traveled to Austin, Texas, for a conference In August 2016. (FAC ¶ 20.) Bishop experienced significant pain and discomfort throughout the conference. (FAC ¶ 21.)

         On August 22, 2016, Bishop and Basnight had a confrontation while Bishop was experiencing severe pain. (FAC ¶¶ 22-25.) The argument culminated in Bishop asking Basnight if he would leave him alone if Bishop quit. (FAC ¶ 26.) Basnight told Bishop that he would not accept Bishop's resignation. (FAC ¶¶ 26-27.) Bishop returned to his hotel room and fell asleep. (FAC ¶ 28.) He woke to a call from Meghan Nelson, Senior HR Generalist, who called to say that Basnight had notified his supervisor that Bishop wanted to quit and that they had decided to accept Bishop's resignation. (FAC ¶ 28.) In the following days, Bishop repeatedly told S.C. representatives that he had not intended to resign and that he wished to stay employed by SC. (FAC ¶¶ 28-33.)

         On August 29, Bishop sent Nelson an email reaffirming that he did not want to end his employment, and that he had repeatedly tried to resolve the issue. (FAC ¶ 34.) On August 31, he received a letter stating that his last day of work would be August 31. (FAC ¶ 35.)

         II. Abbott creates LLC and acquires SC

         In January 2017, Abbott acquired SC's parent corporation, St. Jude Medical, Inc, (“SJMI”).[1] [See ECF No. 71-2 at 5; FAC ¶ 7.] Abbott completed the acquisition by merging SJMI with two of its wholly owned subsidiary corporations. [See ECF No. 71-2 at 5.] The wholly owned subsidiary resulting from that merger process became LLC. [See ECF No. 71-2 at 5; FAC ¶ 7.] By the end of the merger process, LLC was SC's corporate parent. [See FAC ¶ 7.] S.C. is now a wholly owned subsidiary of LLC and LLC's sole member is Abbott. [See FAC ¶ 7.]

         III. Bishop sues Abbott in California

         On August 29, 2017, a year after the events in Austin, Bishop filed a complaint with California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) against Abbott and Michael Basnight. [ECF No. 64 ¶ 3]. In that complaint, Bishop claimed that he has a disability, that his employer did not discuss accommodations with him, did not provide him with accommodations, and terminated him claiming that he had resigned. [ECF No. 64-1, Ex. A.] He amended his DFEH complaint in May 2019 to add LLC and S.C. as respondents. [ECF No. 64-1, Ex. C.]

         On August 15, 2018, Bishop sued Abbott Laboratories, Inc. and Basnight for alleged violations of FEHA in California state court. [See ECF No. 1-2.] Abbott Laboratories, Inc. removed the case to federal court, asserting the existence of diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. [See ECF No. 1.] Bishop filed an amended complaint substituting Abbott for Abbott Laboratories, Inc. as the sole named corporate defendant. [See ECF No. 15.]

         Abbott then moved to dismiss under forum non conveniens and, in the alternative, sought to transfer venue to this District. [See ECF No. 17-1 at 1.] In support of its motion, Abbott argued that the employment agreement Bishop had signed with S.C. contained a forum-selection clause requiring disputes to be brought “in a Minnesota State or Federal Court located in Ramsey County, Minnesota.” (Id. at 2-3.) In arguing this motion, Abbott claimed that it could enforce the employment agreement as an affiliate of SC. (Id. at 3.) The District Court for the Central District from California agreed that Abbott was an affiliate of S.C. and therefore could enforce the forum-selection clause in Bishop's employment agreement with SC. (ECF No. 27 at 7-8.) It then transferred venue to this Court and denied Abbott's motion to dismiss as moot. [See ECF No. 27 at 9.]

         IV. In Minnesota, Abbott seeks dismissal and Bishop seeks to amend

         After the case was transferred to this Court, Abbott filed an answer to Bishop's amended complaint. [See ECF No. 39.] Abbott, the only corporate defendant[2] now moves for judgment on the pleadings. [ECF No. 57.] This time Abbott argues that dismissal is proper because it was never Bishop's employer and it cannot be held liable for the acts of Bishop's employer. [See, e.g., ECF No. 59 at 10-20; ECF No. 71 at 9 n.9.]

         Bishop opposes Abbott's motion and also seeks to amend his complaint to add LLC and S.C. as defendants. [See ECF Nos. 61, 70.]

         ANALYSIS

         I. Abbott's motion for ...


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