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Riley v. Zayas

United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage

January 29, 2019

TAMMY RILEY, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
VICTOR ZAYAS, et al., Defendants.

          ANDRE A. NORWOOD, JR., ESQ. 116 N. Second Street, Suite 107 Camden, New Jersey 08102 Attorney for Plaintiffs

          SCARINCI HOLLENBECK By: Roshan Deven Shah, Esq. 1100 Valley Brook Avenue, P.O. Box 790 Lyndhurst, New Jersey 07071 Attorneys for Defendant Rouhanifard

          STATE OF NEW JERSEY, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL By: Lauren Amy Jensen, Esq. 25 Market Street, P.O. Box 112 Trenton, New Jersey 08625 Attorneys for Defendant Dr. Pugh-Bassett

          CAPEHART SCATCHARD By: Jessica M. Anderson, Esq. 8000 Midlantic Drive, Suite 300S P.O. Box 5016 Mount Laurel, New Jersey 08054 Attorneys for Defendant Manuel Delgado

          LANDMAN CORSI BALLAINE & FORD, P.C. By: Rachel Marie Shields, Esq. One Gateway Center, 4th Floor Newark, New Jersey 07102 Attorneys for First Student Inc., and First Student Inc. Bus Driver

          OPINION

          Renée Marie Bumb, U.S.D.J.

         As alleged in the Amended Complaint, during the relevant time period, Plaintiff D.R. and Defendant Victor Zayas were both students at LEAP Academy University Charter High School. On December 21, 2015, on the school bus after school, Zayas allegedly punched D.R. in the nose. As a result of this incident, Plaintiff and his parents have sued Zayas; Zayas' guardian; the school bus company, First Student, Inc.; the school bus driver; the COO of LEAP Academy, Manuel Delgado; the Interim County Superintendent, Dr. Lovell Pugh-Bassett; and the Superintendent of Camden City School District, Paymon Rouhanifard. (See generally, Amended Complaint).

         This case is presently administratively terminated. Plaintiffs' Motion to Reopen is before the Court. The Court heard oral argument on the motion on January 24, 2019. For the reasons stated herein, the Motion to Reopen will be granted for the limited purpose of dismissing Defendants Delgado, Pugh-Bassett, and Rouhanifard from this suit, and remanding this suit to New Jersey Superior Court.

         I.

         The day before the statute of limitations was to expire, Plaintiff filed this suit in New Jersey Superior Court. (Notice of Removal ¶ 1, Ex. G) The original complaint was not a model of clarity. In one place, it identified the Defendants as “[1] LEAP Academy University Charter School; [2] Camden County Office of Education, Paymon Rouhanifard, Superintendent Camden City School District; [3] Executive County Superintendent of Schools; [4] Chief Executive Officer of First Student, Inc. Bus Company & Insurance Carrier et al.; [and 5] John Does 1 through 10.” (Notice of Removal, Ex. A, ¶ 3) In other places, it named as Defendants Victor Zayas; Victor M. Zayas (the alleged “guardian” of Victor Zayas); “School Bus Driver, Jane Doe”; “Chief Executive Officer of First Student, Inc.”; “Manuel Delgado, Lead Person/Chief Operations Officer, LEAP Academy”; “Dr. Lovell Pugh-Bassett, Interim Executive County Superintendent”; and “Paymon Rouhanifard, Superintendent Camden County School District.” (Id. ¶¶ 13-19)

         Not long after the original complaint was filed, “[o]n February 15, 2018, attorneys [sic] for plaintiffs and attorneys for First Student, Inc., First Student, Inc. Chief Executive Officer, and First Student, Inc. School Bus Driver executed and filed a stipulation dismissing with prejudice” the CEO as a Defendant, and adding First Student Inc. as a Defendant to the suit. (Notice of Removal, Ex. B)[1] The original complaint was eventually amended to reflect the stipulation, although paragraph 3 of the Amended Complaint still refers to “Defendant[]” “Chief Executive Officer of First Student, Inc. Bus Company & Insurance Carrier et al.” (Notice of Removal, Ex. E) The Amended Complaint was filed on July 2, 2018.

         “On July 7, 2018, the Superior Court dismissed defendant LEAP Academy without prejudice for lack of prosecution.” (Notice of Removal, ¶ 6, Ex. F)[2]

         At the time Defendant First Student, Inc. removed the case to this Court on August 1, 2018, “Plaintiffs ha[d] not provided proof of service of the Amended Complaint to any defendant.” (Notice of Removal, ¶ 12)

         The Notice of Removal asserts that this Court has federal question subject matter jurisdiction by virtue of the Amended Complaint's assertion that “[t]his is a civil rights action . . . to seek relief for the Defendants [sic] violations of their [sic] rights secured by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth ...


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