Federal judge denies dismissal in ADA suit against Florida Highway Patrol

By Richard Jones | May 11, 2017

MIAMI — The U.S. District for the Southern District of Florida has ruled that a federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) suit against the Florida Highway Patrol can move forward.

In her order, Judge Beth Bloom denied the highway patrol’s motion to dismiss the suit but disallowed plaintiff Ronald Capps claim of invasion of privacy.

In February 2016, Capps, who was working as a detention guard for the Broward County Sheriff’s office, applied for a trooper position with the highway patrol.

During the background check phase, Capps had several discussions with Trooper Elliot Rosen regarding his service in the U.S. Army and his subsequent diagnoses of post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Capps alleges that during the course of conversation, Rosen mistakenly assumed that Capps was reluctant to move forward in the hiring process and proceeded to place his application in an inactive status.

Capps further alleges that despite being told his application was stalled, Rosen continued to investigate his background and collect private medical and psychological records from the Veteran’s Administration, among others.

Capps claims Rosen disseminated this information to other officers in the highway patrol, which Capps said in the complaint render him unsuitable for employment.

Capps brought suit in January in Broward County Circuit Court, claiming a violation of the ADA, violation of the Florida Civil Rights Act and an invasion of privacy. The Florida Highway Patrol then moved to have the case remanded to federal court. Capps appealed and claimed that issues such as the violation of Florida Civil Rights Act should be settled in state court.  

In her ruling, Bloom denied Capps' claim to remand back to the circuit court.

“Plaintiff’s state law claims under Counts II, III, and IV all arise out of a common nucleus of operative fact with Plaintiff’s federal claim under Count I—thereby rendering the claims part of the same case or controversy for purposes of Article III, Bloom wrote. "The Court will, therefore, exercise its supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s state."

Bloom also denied Capps' claim of invasion of privacy, saying that Florida courts generally do not recognize monetary damages claims for violations of the Florida Constitution.

Bloom also denied the highway patrol’s motion for a dismissal of all claims saying the plaintiff presented evidence against the highway patrol that meets the minimal standards to establish a valid complaint on its face.

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