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No claim for ACA retaliation outside employment arena

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//September 28, 2023

No claim for ACA retaliation outside employment arena

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//September 28, 2023//

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While the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or ACA, allows a person to assert a claim for discrimination, the court is unaware of any case law that supports an independent cause of action under the ACA for retaliation outside the employment context.


Nia Lucas and her minor child, A.M., who are proceeding pro se, bring this action under § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, and § 1557 of the ACA, alleging disability discrimination and retaliation.

After defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, plaintiff withdrew all claims made on behalf of her minor child. Based upon other statements made by the plaintiff, the court will construe the complaint as alleging discrimination and retaliation claims under the ACA alone and not under the Rehabilitation Act or the ADA.


To state a claim for a § 1557 violation under the ACA, plaintiff must allege facts adequate to state a claim under one of the four federal nondiscrimination statutes incorporated into § 1557. Because plaintiff speaks of both race and disability discrimination in her complaint, the court will analyze whether plaintiff has alleged facts adequate to state a claim of race discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and disability discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act.

Taking the complaint as a whole, the court finds that the complaint fails to plausibly allege that defendants engaged in intentional racial discrimination. After the court disregards conclusory statements that the court need not accept as true for purposes of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint contains only a single allegation concerning defendants’ racially discriminatory conduct with respect to plaintiff: Dr. Mir’s statement, which is undated, that “she does not take care of … ‘Blacks.’” Even if plaintiff had alleged the date on which this statement was made, a lone statement of racial animus is not sufficient to plead a plausible claim of race discrimination.

Similar to the race discrimination claim, plaintiff’s disability discrimination claim fails because the complaint does not plausibly allege that plaintiff was excluded from defendants’ services and treatment solely by reason of her handicap.


Plaintiff brings a retaliation claim under the ACA, alleging that defendants “retaliated against [plaintiff] because [of] her complaint of intentional discrimination against her and another patient of color, that was Muslim.” Defendants argue that plaintiff fails to state such a claim because the available case law only supports a retaliation claim alleged by an employee against an employer. The court agrees.

The court is unaware of any case law that supports an independent cause of action under § 1557 of the ACA for retaliation. In addition, retaliation claims brought under § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, one of the federal statutes incorporated into the ACA, can only be brought in the employment context. Because plaintiff does not allege that she is an employee or job applicant of either defendant, the court must dismiss the retaliation claim brought under the ACA for failure to state a claim.

The court finds that further amendment of the complaint would be futile because no amendment can cure the discussed deficiencies. Thus, plaintiff’s claims are dismissed with prejudice.

Defendants’ motions to dismiss granted.

Lucas v. VHC Health, Case No. 1:22-cv-00987, Aug. 30, 2023. EDVA at Alexandria (Giles). VLW 023-3-526. 11 pp.

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