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Rose v. Myers

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 17, 2015

TRAVIS ROSE, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN J. MYERS, et al., Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

CLAIRE C. CECCHI, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court upon motion of Defendants, members of the Board of Trustees of Seton Hall University, to dismiss the Amended Complaint of pro se Plaintiff Travis Rose ("Plaintiff') pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). [ECF No. 39.] Plaintiff opposes the motion. [ECF No. 58.] The motion is decided without oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is granted.

II. BACKGROUND

This case arises from the dismissal of Plaintiff from the Physician Assistant program (a graduate-level course of study) jointly run by Seton Hall University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey ("UMDNJ"). In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff contends that the Program director, Joseph Thornton, [1] was "caught in the act of fraud"; namely, he allegedly "wrongful calculate[ed]" Plaintiff's Grade Point Average ("GPA") and "altered" his educational transcripts "in order to fabricate an argument with the Chairperson of the department of Medicine (Doctor Mark Johnson)." (Am. Compl. at 2.) Unlike his classmates, Plaintiff claims, he was forced to repeat courses that he previously passed with "A" grades. (Id.) Moreover, Plaintiff asserts that other students who failed their clinical rotations never had to repeat any courses and their grades were changed from "F" to "A". (Id.) Lastly, Plaintiff contends that he was "wrongfully terminated from the program" and that the program itself was terminated as a result of "evidence collected." (Id.) Plaintiff does not indicate the specific dates of his enrollment in the program or the date of his purported wrongful dismissal.

Plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit in March 2013 in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint-filed in April 2013 [ECF No. 6] asserts claims under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against Seton Hall administrators and individual members of the Seton Hall Board of Trustees. (Id. at 2-3.) Plaintiffs case was transferred to this Court in November 2013. [ECF No. 32.] In February 2014, Defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss Plaintiffs Amended Compliant pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). [ECF No. 39.] Plaintiff opposed the motion. [ECF No. 58.]

III. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Rule 12(b)(6) Standard

For a complaint to survive dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), it "must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint, the Court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Furthermore, "[a] pleading that offers labels and conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.' Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s]' devoid of further factual enhancement.'" Iqbal, U.S. at 678.

B. Liberal Pleading Standard for Pro Se Litigants

A pro se litigant's complaint is held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). Courts have a duty to construe pleadings liberally and apply the applicable law, irrespective of whether a pro se litigant has mentioned it by name. Mala v. Crown Bay Marina. Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 244 (3d Cir. 2013); Dluhos v. Strasberg, 321 F.3d 365, 369 (3d Cir. 2003); Higgins v. Beyer, 293 F.3d 683, 688 (3d Cir. 2002). A pro se complaint "can only be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976) (citing Haines, 404 U.S. at 520-21); Bacon v. Minner, 229 F.App'x 96, 100 (3d Cir. 2007).

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Statute of Limitations

Defendants' primary argument is that Plaintiffs suit is barred by the applicable statute of limitations.[2] While, as a general matter, a statute of limitations defense is not properly raised by way of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Third Circuit has long "permit[ted] a limitations defense to be raised by a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) [] if the time alleged in the statement of a claim shows that the cause of action has not been brought within the statute of limitations." Schmidt v. Skolas, 770 F.3d 241, 249 (3d Cir. 2014) (citing Robinson v. Johnson. 313 F.3d 128, 134-35 (3d Cir. 2002)); W. Penn Allegheny Health Sys., Inc. v. UPMC, 627 F.3d 85, 105 n. 13 (3d Cir. 2010). Here, Defendants mainly rely on a declaration from Brian Shulman (Dean of the School of Health and Medical Sciences at Seton Hall University) to support their limitations argument. (See Defs.' Mot. at 2-5 (primarily citing the Shulman Declaration for pertinent facts).) Indeed. Defendants note that "[t]he Amended Complaint fails to disclose when plaintiff was a student in the [graduate p]rogram" and instead rely on the Shulman Declaration for relevant dates. (Id ...


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