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Cannimore v. Disability Rights Mississippi, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

January 7, 2019

SUE HARRIS CANNIMORE AND WENDELL C. HUTCHINSON PLAINTIFFS
v.
DISABILITY RIGHTS MISSISSIPPI, INC. AND POLLY TRIBBLE DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          DANIEL P. JORDAN III CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This non-diverse case is before the Court on Defendants Disability Rights Mississippi, Inc. (“DRMS”) and Polly Tribble's Motion to Dismiss [9]. Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiffs Sue Harris Cannimore and Wendell C. Hutchinson's federal claims for lack of standing. Defs.' Mem. [10] at 1. They also ask the Court to decline supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' state-law claims. Id. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [9] is granted as to the third-party claims, but the Court requires additional briefing regarding supplemental jurisdiction, so it is otherwise denied without prejudice.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs Cannimore and Hutchinson-two long-time DRMS employees-say Defendants violated federal and state public policy when they terminated their employment. Compl. [1] ¶ 4. Plaintiffs further assert that Defendants are currently violating the rights of disabled Mississippi children and therefore bring a third-party claim seeking injunctive relief for those individuals.

         DRMS is the Mississippi non-profit organization that is federally mandated and funded to protect and advocate for the rights of disabled Mississippians. Id. ¶ 5. During their employment at DRMS, Plaintiffs worked to ensure that schools provided federally required educational services to disabled Mississippi children. Id. ¶ 6. They say this included, “when necessary, assist[ing] the parents in taking legal action on behalf of the children.” Id.

         Plaintiffs' troubles at DRMS apparently began when Defendant Tribble became DRMS's Executive Director and initially ordered Plaintiffs to scale back the services they provided to disabled children. Id. ¶¶ 9, 10. Fearing that Tribble's order would cause DRMS to violate federal law, Plaintiffs tried to meet with DRMS's Board of Directors. Id. Tribble allegedly disagreed with Plaintiffs' concerns and took umbrage with their efforts, demoting the two for “insubordination.” Id. Tribble then terminated Plaintiffs' employment allegedly for refusing to sign a statement admitting to their insubordination. Id.

         From these facts, Plaintiffs sued DRMS and Tribble. Unfortunately, their Complaint did not include any counts, and their descriptions of the discrete legal claims has led to confusion.

         But according to Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law, they are asserting the following three claims:

First, Plaintiff[s] allege that their “discharges were in violation of federal public policy of the United States, ” and that “[u]nder Mississippi law, a violation of federal policy is actionable under Mississippi state law.” Complaint, ¶ 17. Plaintiffs, therefore, request “actual and punitive damages . . . for violation of the public policy of Mississippi.” Complaint, “Request for Relief, ” ¶ 3.
Second, Plaintiffs request injunctive relief on behalf of the disabled children, requiring Defendants to perform the federally-required function of providing advocacy services for children. Complaint, “Request for Relief, ” ¶ 1.

         Finally, Plaintiffs seek damages against Defendant Tribble, in her individual capacity, Complaint, “Request for Relief, ” ¶ 2, because they allege that Defendant Tribble, individually, and through “intentional acts, ” caused Plaintiffs to be fired “out of malice and ill-will.” Complaint, ¶ 13.

         Pls.' Mem. [14] at 3. Plaintiffs describe the first and second claim as “federal.”

         Defendants now seek dismissal, asserting that Plaintiffs lack standing for the federal claims and that the Court should decline ...


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