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Harrison v. New Jersey Transit Bus Operations

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

November 21, 2017

NEW JERSEY TRANSIT BUS OPERATIONS, and Angel Marchione, Defendants.


          PETER G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 7).


         Facts and Procedural History

         This matter was removed to this Court on September 15, 2017. The Second Amended Complaint was filed on September 26, 2017. Defendant filed this motion to dismiss on October 6, 2017 pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim.

         The following facts were gathered from Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. On August 12, 2015, at 1:20 pm, Plaintiff boarded a New Jersey Transit bus in Camden, N.J. (2ndAmend. Compl. at ¶5). Approximately 25 minutes later, the bus operator, Defendant Angel Marchione (“Marchione”) pulled the bus over onto the shoulder on Interstate 676 and summoned the police in response to an altercation on the bus. (Id. at ¶7, 9). Officers of Camden City Police and the New Jersey Transit Police, as well as a New Jersey Transit Bus Operations supervisor, arrived to the scene at approximately 2:20 p.m. (Id. at ¶¶11-12). Plaintiff alleges that at that time, Marchione accused her of instigating the argument with another passenger. (Id. at ¶12) Plaintiff is an African American female. (Id. at ¶4). The other passenger involved was a Caucasian female. (Id. at ¶13). In response to what had been told, Officer Ciavino of the Camden City Police Department, boarded the bus and rode on the bus until Plaintiff's stop, at which point he alighted the bus with Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶17). The other female passenger remained on the bus to travel to her destination in Millville, NJ. (Id. at ¶18).

         Plaintiff filed this suit against Defendants, Marchione and the N.J. Transit Bus Operation (“NJT”) alleging: (1) violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1981; (2) violation of NJLAD, N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(f)(1); (3) violation of N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(e); and (4) lastly arguing that she was unreasonably placed in “false light” before the public by the accusations made by Marchione. The Complaint does not state the nature and substance of the accusations by Plaintiff.


         Standard of Review

         On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court is required to accept as true all allegations in the Complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and to view them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 (3d Cir. 1994). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint 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, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). While a court will accept well-pleaded allegations as true for the purposes of the motion, it will not accept bald assertions, unsupported conclusions, unwarranted inferences, or sweeping legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; see also Morse v. Lower Merion School District, 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). A complaint should be dismissed only if the well-pleaded alleged facts, taken as true, fail to state a claim. See In re Warfarin Sodium, 214 F.3d 395, 397-98 (3d Cir. 2000). The question is whether the claimant can prove any set of facts consistent with his or her allegations that will entitle him or her to relief, not whether that person will ultimately prevail. Semerenko v. Cendant Corp., 223 F.3d 165, 173 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, Forbes v. Semerenko, 531 U.S. 1149, 121 S.Ct. 1091 (2001). The pleader is required to ‘set forth sufficient information to outline the elements of his claim or to permit inferences to be drawn that these elements exist.'” Kost v. Kozakewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993) (quoting 5A Wright & Miller, Fed. Practice & Procedure: Civil 2d § 1357 at 340). “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do, . . . . Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, . . . on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact), . . . .” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65 (internal citations and quotations omitted).

         We review Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to this standard.


         COUNT I

         Plaintiff first brings a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1981. Specifically she argues violations of “equal benefits” and “like punishment” clauses, arguing that the accusation that Plaintiff had been the aggressor in the circumstances, was “purposefully made on account of Plaintiff's race.” (Id. at ¶25) She further contends that said accusation subjected her to disparate treatment given that only her behavior was monitored on the bus by Officer Ciavino. (Id. at ΒΆ26). The ...

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