Johnson v. Lucent Technologies

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Disability Law
  • Date Filed: 08-04-2011
  • Case #: 09-55203
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge B. Fletcher for the Court; Circuit Judges Reinhardt and Wardlaw
  • Full Text Opinion

Since a § 1981 retaliation claim was subject to the federal four-year statute of limitations and not the state law’s two-year statute of limitations, the claim was timely. Furthermore, in an IIED claim, since the two possibly harmful events occurred less than two years before a complaint was filed, the court could not determine if the claim was time barred. Finally, since the defendant failed to alert the court to what new facts could have been alleged in his later claims, the claims were properly dismissed.

In 1987, Russell Johnson was terminated from his job at AT&T Bell Laboratories (“AT&T”), after taking disability leave on grounds of a mental disability. After being ordered to pay Johnson disability benefits twice in district court, Johnson sued Lucent Technologies, Inc. (“Lucent”), AT&T’s successor, in state court for additional violations, but all claims were dismissed as time-barred. After Lucent’s petition to terminate Johnson’s benefits was granted, Johnson filed an action in state court alleging retaliation in violation of Title VII, § 1981, and intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”). After the case was removed to district court, Johnson’s claims were dismissed. Johnson appealed to determine if the dismissal of his claims was proper. With regard to Johnson’s § 1981 retaliation claim, the Ninth Circuit determined his claim was subject to the four-year statute of limitations in § 1658, and not the state’s two-year statute applicable to personal injury actions, thus making his retaliation claim timely. With regard to Johnson’s IIED claim, the Ninth Circuit held that since the two possibly harmful events (the filing of the petition or when the benefits payments stopped) occurred less than two years before Johnson’s complaint was filed, the Ninth Circuit could not determine as a matter of law, whether his claim was time-barred. In regard to Johnson’s Title VII claim, the Ninth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse it’s discretion in holding that equitable estoppel and equitable tolling did not apply to Johnson’s claims. With regard to Johnson’s later claims of fraudulent concealment and abuse of process, the Ninth Circuit held that since he failed to alert the Court to what new facts could have been alleged, they were properly dismissed. AFFIRMED in part, REVERSED in part, REMANDED.

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