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Dalton v. ManorCare of West Des Moines IA, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

April 7, 2015

Lucinda Dalton, Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
ManorCare of West Des Moines IA, LLC, et al., Defendants - Appellees

Submitted December 9, 2014

Page 956

Appeal from United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa - Des Moines.

For Lucinda Dalton, Plaintiff - Appellant: Melissa Hasso, Mark D. Sherinian, SHERINIAN & WALKER, West Des Moines, IA.

For Manor Care, of West Des Moines, IA, LLC, ManorCare Health Services, LLC, HCR ManorCare, Inc., Heartland Employment Services LLC, Holly Benedict, Dean Hagen, Scott Keefer, Defendants - Appellees: Rhiannon Camille Beckendorf, George Richard Wood, LITTLER & MENDELSON, Minneapolis, MN.

Before LOKEN, BYE, and SMITH, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 957

LOKEN, Circuit Judge.

Nurse Lucinda Dalton was terminated from her supervisory position as Director of Care Delivery (DCD) at the ManorCare of West Des Moines skilled nursing facility. Dalton brought this action against ManorCare, various ManorCare affiliates, and three ManorCare managers (collectively, ManorCare), alleging they interfered with her statutory rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. § § 2601 et seq., and discriminated against her because of her Chronic Kidney Disease disability in violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act, Iowa Code Ch. 216, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § § 12101 et seq. Defendants removed the suit to federal court. After extensive discovery, the district court[1] granted defendants summary judgment, dismissing all claims. Dalton appeals the dismissal of her FMLA claims, arguing that Manor Care wrongfully interfered with her FMLA rights by terminating her during an FMLA-protected absence. Reviewing the district court's decision de novo, we affirm. See

Page 958

Phillips v. Mathews, 547 F.3d 905, 909 (8th Cir. 2008) (standard of review).

I.

Dalton served as a ManorCare nurse from May to July of 2009. Rehired in March 2010, she was promoted to DCD in September. That summer and fall, Dalton began experiencing significant weight gain and edema (excess fluid that makes tissues appear doughy). Her primary health care provider, Karen Heffernan, P.A., discontinued a high blood pressure medication, suspecting Dalton's edema was a side effect. This did not resolve the problems. In late December, Dalton had gained fourteen pounds and had pitting edema; Heffernan prescribed a fluid retention medication, noting Dalton expressed concern about kidney failure but her kidney functions had been normal in October. At a December 29 appointment, Heffernan noted concern that Dalton had not lost weight and sent her to Penn Avenue Internal Medicine in early January 2011 for a chest x-ray and for testing of her kidney functions and thyroid. The examining physician noted " weight gain of 15 pounds and edema, uncertain etiology," shortness of breath, and a history of mild persistent asthma. Dalton's chest x-ray was normal. He referred Dalton to a kidney specialist, Robert Leisy, D.O., for an evaluation of her edema and excess fluids.

Dalton saw Dr. Leisy on January 25, 2011. He diagnosed Stage One Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), " secondary to obesity," not edema,[2] and referred Dalton to Iowa Radiology for renal[3] testing. On February 4, it reported no abnormal kidney function. To treat Dalton's persistent edema, Dr. Leisy replaced the fluid retention medications prescribed by Heffernan because of a possible allergy. Dalton came to a follow-up appointment with Dr. Leisy on February 15. He noted modest improvement in her edema (a five pound weight loss) and no " renal etiology." In a deposition, Dr. Leisy testified that, on this second visit, he did not identify the cause of Dalton's edema. He described a number of ...


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