United States District Court, D. New Jersey
C. CECCHI, U.S.D.J.
matter comes before the Court on the motion of Montclair
State University ("MSU") and 28 of its employees
(collectively, "Defendants") to dismiss the Amended
Complaint ("Am. Compl.") of Christine
Peoples ("Plaintiff'), who is proceeding pro
se. (ECF No. 45 ("Mot.")). The Court has
considered the submissions made in support of and in
opposition to the instant motion. (ECF Nos. 46
("Opp'n"), 47 ("Reply")). The Court
decides this matter without oral argument pursuant to Rule
78(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the
reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is
Amended Complaint states that "[t]he 28 defendants named
in the complaint are employees of [MSU], " and that
these Defendants harassed, discriminated against, and
ultimately retaliated against Plaintiff in the form of
wrongful termination. (Am. Compl. at 1). Plaintiff claims
that this harassment continued even following her
termination, and that Plaintiffs civil rights were violated.
(Id.). Plaintiff maintains that, as a result of
these alleged actions, she now "suffer[s] from [a] major
depressive dis, " and is consequently unable to work.
(Id.). Plaintiff avers that this has further caused
her financial hardship, and that she has recently been
diagnosed with breast cancer, in part due to related stress.
(Id.). Plaintiff therefore seeks compensatory
damages in the amount of $420, 000 in back wages and for her
emotional distress, as well as $2.4 million in punitive
damages. (Id.). Plaintiff specifically avers that
she is not bringing these claims under the Americans with
Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), but rather the
New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD").
response, Defendants contend that: "(1) [they] are
immune from suit in federal court by virtue of the Eleventh
Amendment; (2) plaintiff failed to file a timely charge of
discrimination with the EEOC and, therefore, her ADA claims
are barred; (3) the Third Circuit does not recognize claims
against individuals under Title I of the ADA; and (4)
plaintiffs claims under the NJLAD, first asserted on October
7, 2016, are time-barred by the NJLAD's two-year statute
of limitations." (Mot. at 1). Therefore, Defendants
maintain that they are entitled to judgment on the pleadings
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c).
III. LEGAL STANDARD
motion under Rule 12(c) is decided under the same standards
which apply on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim under Rule 12(b)(6)." In re Lamictal Indirect
Purchaser & Antitrust Consumer Litig., 172 F.Supp.3d
724, 737 (D.N.J. 2016) (citing Turbe v. Gov't of
Virgin Islands, 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991)).
Consequently, a motion for judgment on the pleadings
"will not be granted unless the movant clearly
establishes that no material issue of fact remains to be
resolved and that he is entitled to a judgment as a matter of
law." See Rosenau v. Uniford Corp., 539 F.3d
218, 221 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Jablonski v. Pan Am.
World Airways, Inc., 863 F.2d 289, 290-91 (3d Cir.
1988)). The Court must "view the facts presented in the
pleadings and the inferences to be drawn therefrom in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party."
moreover, well settled that 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). "Nevertheless,
pro se litigants must still allege facts, which if taken as
true, will suggest the required elements of any claim that is
asserted. " Martin v. U.S. Dep 't of Homeland
Sec, No. 17-3129, 2017 WL 3783702, at *3 (D.N.J. Aug.
30, 2017) (citing Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc.,
704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013)). In other words,
"[e]ven a. pro se complaint may be dismissed
for failure to state a claim if the allegations set forth by
the plaintiff cannot be construed as supplying facts to
support a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief."
Palmer-Carri v. Poland Springs, No. 13-4376, 2014 WL
3448663, at *2 (D.N.J. July 10, 2014) (citing Milhouse v.
Carlson, 652 F.2d 371, 373 (3d Cir. 1981)).
Defendant contends that Plaintiffs claims are barred by
virtue of the Eleventh Amendment. (Mot. at 5-6). "Under
the Eleventh Amendment, a state is immune to suit from its
own citizens." Denkins v. State Operated Sch. Dist.
of City of Camden, No. 16-4223, 2017 WL 5186335, at *2
(3d Cir. Nov. 9, 2017) (citing Pennhurst State Sch. &
Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984)). "That
immunity extends to entities that are not the state itself if
the state is the real party in interest in the suit."
(Id.) (citing Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S.
651, 663 (1974)). In other words, the Supreme Court has
"read the Amendment to bar not only suits against States
themselves, but also suits for damages against 'arms of
the State'-entities that, by their very nature, are so
intertwined with the State that any suit against them renders
the State the 'real, substantial party in
interest.'" Maliandi v. Montclair State
Univ., 845 F.3d 77, 83 (3d Cir. 2016) (quoting
Edelman, 415 U.S. at 663).
recent case Maliandi v. Montclair State Univ., 845
F.3d 77 (3d Cir. 2016), the Third Circuit held that MSU
amounted to an "arm of the State, " which was
entitled to protection under the Eleventh Amendment.
(Id. at 99). The Third Circuit therefore concluded
that, while the plaintiff "may have limited and
unsatisfying avenues to obtain relief for the alleged
discrimination she suffered" at the hands of MSU, the
"constitutional precepts" of "comity and state
sovereignty" required that the plaintiffs claims under
the NJLAD be dismissed, unless the lower court on remand
determined MSU had waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity.
Plaintiff brings claims of employment discrimination and
wrongful termination against MSU. Regardless of whether
Plaintiffs claims arise under the ADA or the NJLAD, the
Eleventh Amendment therefore bars Plaintiffs claims against
MSU. See Maliandi, 845 F.3d at 99 (3d Cir. 2016)
("[U]nless the District Court determines on remand that
New Jersey has waived its immunity for [plaintiffs] NJLAD
claim, the suit against MSU must be dismissed."); AH
v. N.J. Superior Court Bd. of Bar Examiners, 494
Fed.Appx. 262, 263-64 (3d Cir. 2012) ("[B]ecause Title I
does not abrogate the States' sovereign immunity, the
District Court lacked federal subject matter jurisdiction
over the ADA claim ... and dismissal was therefore
appropriate."). Plaintiffs Amended Complaint
additionally contains no allegations that MSU has waived its
Eleventh Amendment immunity. Plaintiffs claims against MSU
are therefore dismissed.
claims against the 28 unnamed individual Defendants,
"[t]he ADA does not create private causes of action
against individuals." Owens v. Armstrong, 171
F.Supp.3d 316, 331 (D.N.J. 2016) (citing Boggi v. Med.
Review and Accrediting Council, 415 Fed.App'x 411,
415 (3d Cir. 2011)); see also Koslow v. Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania,302 F.3d 161, 178 (3d Cir. 2002)
("[T]here appears to be no individual liability for
damages under Title I of the ADA."). While parties may,
however, seek "prospective relief against state
officials acting in their official capacities"
Koslow, 302 F.3d at 178 (emphasis added), Plaintiff here
seeks purely monetary damages. Plaintiff's Amended
Complaint is, moreover, devoid of factual allegations
concerning the actions of the unnamed 28 individual
Defendants, leaving the Court unable to ascertain if and how
the individual Defendants acted in their official capacities.
Accordingly, Plaintiffs claims under the ADA must be
dismissed as against the individual Defendants. See
Ashcroft v. Iqbal,556 ...