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Lashgari v. Zoll Medical

Appeals Court of Massachusetts

August 9, 2013

Sohail LASHGARI
v.
ZOLL MEDICAL & another.[1]

Editorial Note:

This decision will not appear in printed volume. The Disposition will appear in the North Eastern Reporter table. See MA R A PRAC Rule 1:28

This decision has been referenced in an "Appeals Court of Massachusetts Summary Dispositions" table in the North Eastern Reporter. And pursuant to its rule 1:28 are primarily addressed to the parties and, therefore, may not fully address the facts of the case or the panel's decisional rationale. Moreover, rule 1:28 decisions are not circulated to the entire court and, therefore, represent only the views of the panel that decided the case. A summary decision pursuant to rule 1:28, issued after February 25, 2008, may be cited for its persuasive value but, because of the limitations noted above, not as binding precedent.

TRAINOR, MEADE & FECTEAU, JJ.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER PURSUANT TO RULE 1:28

The plaintiff appeals from the dismissal of his complaint pursuant to Mass.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), 365 Mass. 754 (1974). He makes three arguments on appeal: (1) that the judge erred in construing G.L. c. 151B to exclude standing for associational handicap discrimination; (2) that the judge improperly dismissed his claim of interference with advantageous business relations; and (3) that the judge improperly dismissed his claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. We affirm.

Standard of review.

" We review the allowance of a motion to dismiss de novo. We accept as true the allegations in the complaint and draw every reasonable inference in favor of the plaintiff." Curtis v. Herb Chambers I-95, Inc., 458 Mass. 674, 676 (2011) (citation omitted). " We consider whether the factual allegations in the complaint are sufficient, as a matter of law, to state a recognized cause of action or claim, and whether such allegations plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief." Dartmouth v. Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High Sch. Dist., 461 Mass. 366, 374 (2012).

Discussion.

1. Handicap discrimination based on associational standing.

First, the plaintiff argues that his claim against ZOLL Medical for associational handicap discrimination was improperly dismissed. The Supreme Judicial Court recently adopted associational handicap discrimination under G.L. c. 151B, ยง 4(16), in a case where the employee was terminated in order to reduce the company's health insurance costs that would be incurred by the employee's disabled wife. Flagg v. AliMed, Inc., 466 Mass. 23, 37 (2013). We need not decide whether associational handicap discrimination should be extended beyond that context, see id. at 43-44 (Gants, J., concurring), because we agree with the judge below that the plaintiff's complaint, as alleged, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be based.

According to the complaint, in or about February of 2010, the plaintiff explained to his supervisor, Shawn Price, that he could not work additional hours because his autistic son required constant care. The vice president of ZOLL Medical, Clifford King, then demoted the plaintiff from his lead role on a project and placed him on a performance improvement plan.[2] This, in turn, led to severe emotional distress for the plaintiff and, ultimately, to what he considered to be his constructive discharge.

These factual allegations simply do not " plausibly suggest[ ] ... an entitlement to relief." Iannacchino v. Ford Motor Co., 451 Mass. 623, 636 (2008), quoting from Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007). To establish a prima facie case for associational handicap discrimination, the employee must show that " he was fired because of his association with his handicapped [son]." Flagg, supra. Nothing in the complaint demonstrates or even alleges a connection between the plaintiff's conversation about his son's autism with Price and the subsequent adverse employment actions imposed by King. Nor can the plaintiff rectify these causal deficiencies by merely casting the timing of the demotion as suspect or illogical. Such conclusory and speculative allegations are not enough to survive the pleading stage under Iannacchino. The judge correctly dismissed count I.

2. Intentional interference with advantageous business relations.

The test for intentional interference with advantageous business relations is set forth in Blackstone v. ...


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