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Frogge v. Fox

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia

June 26, 2018

VANESSA FROGGE, Plaintiff,
v.
CRAIG FOX, d/b/a Mountain Line Transit Authority, Defendant.

          ORDER REJECTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [DKT. NO. 16]

          IRENE M. KEELEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On April 20, 2017, the pro se plaintiff, Vanessa Frogge (“Frogge”), filed a complaint in the Magistrate Court of Monongalia County, West Virginia, against the defendant, Craig Fox (“Fox”) (Dkt. No. 3-1 at 1). In the complaint, Frogge sought $10, 000 in damages due to Fox's alleged discrimination at the Mountain Line Transit Authority. Id. Because the action involved more than $2, 500, Fox removed the case to the Circuit Court of Monongalia County, West Virginia (“Circuit Court”), under W.Va. Code § 50-4-8. Id. at 15-17. Although Fox moved to dismiss Frogge's complaint for failure to state a claim, the Circuit Court granted Frogge leave to amend and denied Fox's motion as moot (Dkt. No. 3-4).

         On August 29, 2017, Frogge filed an amended complaint, alleging that Fox, “doing business as the Mountain Line Transit Authority, ” had discriminated against her in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) (Dkt. No. 1-1). According to Frogge, she requested a route deviation from Mountain Line Transit Authority due to her neck condition, but Fox denied the request for the stated reason that Frogge's apartment complex does not have “an acceptable place to turn a bus.” Id. at 1-4. Frogge disagrees with this assessment and asserts that Fox did not consider her disability when making the decision to deny her request for a route deviation. Id. at 4-6. She alleges that Fox discriminated against her in violation of the ADA, and that Fox was acting outside the scope of his employment. Id. at 6-7.

         Given Frogge's ADA allegations, Fox promptly removed the case to this Court on September 8, 2017, in reliance on federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (Dkt. No. 1). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and the local rules, the matter was referred to the Honorable Michael J. Aloi, United States Magistrate Judge, for initial review (Dkt. No. 2). Fox moved to dismiss Frogge's amended complaint on September 15, 2017 (Dkt. No. 4).

         In a report and recommendation (“R&R”) entered on February 27, 2018, Magistrate Judge Aloi recommended that the Court grant Fox's motion (Dkt. No. 16). First, the magistrate judge reasoned that Frogge cannot maintain a cause of action under the ADA against Fox in his individual capacity. Id. at 6. Second, he concluded that Frogge failed to allege sufficient facts to state a plausible claim for relief under the ADA. Id. at 6-8. The Court received Frogge's timely objections on March 12, 2018 (Dkt. No. 18).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) allows a defendant to move for dismissal on the grounds that a complaint does not “state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” When reviewing a complaint, the Court “must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint.” Anderson v. Sara Lee Corp., 508 F.3d 181, 188 (4th Cir. 2007) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)). “[A] complaint must contain ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. at 188 n.7 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A motion to dismiss “does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992).

         III. DISCUSSION

         “The Court will review de novo any portions of the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation to which a specific objection is made . . . and the Court may adopt, without explanation, any of the magistrate judge's recommendations to which the [parties do] not object.” Dellacirprete v. Gutierrez, 479 F.Supp.2d 600, 603-04 (N.D.W.Va. 2007) (citing Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983)). Moreover, the Court must liberally construe pro se pleadings. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Loe v. Armistead, 582 F.2d 1291, 1295 (4th Cir. 1978). Having conducted a de novo review of the R&R and the record, the Court concludes that, as a pro se plaintiff, Frogge has alleged sufficient facts to state a claim for discrimination under the ADA.

         A. Public Entity

         Title 42 U.S.C. § 12132 provides that “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.” A “public entity” includes “any department, agency, special purpose district, or other instrumentality of a State or States or local government.” 42 U.S.C. § 12131(1)(B). “[I]ndividuals sued in their individual capacity are not public entities.” Carter v. Maryland, No. JKB-12-1789, 2012 WL 6021370, at *5 (D. Md. Dec. 3, 2012). But “a suit against a state official in his or her official capacity . . . is no different from a suit against the State itself.” Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989).

         Fox concedes that Mountain Line Transit Authority is an instrumentality of Monongalia County, West Virginia, organized to provide public transportation (Dkt. No. 4-1 at 5). He contends nonetheless that, because he “is being sued in his individual capacity, ” the amended complaint fails to state a claim against a “public entity” under the ADA (Dkt. No. 4-1 at 5-6). This argument is not persuasive. The amended complaint plainly alleges that Fox was “doing business as the Mountain Line Transit Authority” (Dkt. No. 1-1 at 1). As it must, the Court liberally construes this allegation as a claim against Fox in his official capacity as the employee of a public entity. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106.

         B. ADA ...


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