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Sway v. Paratransit

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

December 15, 2017




         BEFORE THE COURT is a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 12(b)(6), ECF No. 20, by all Defendants for dismissal of Plaintiff Jennifer Janequa Sway's third amended complaint, ECF No. 9. The Court has reviewed the parties' filings, including the affidavit and exhibits that Ms. Sway attached to her response to Defendants' motion, has researched the relevant law, and is fully informed.


         Plaintiff's third amended complaint, ECF No. 9, raises claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for alleged constitutional violations, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12141-12143. Ms. Sway names as Defendants Spokane Paratransit, the Spokane Transit Authority (“STA”), Denise Marchioro, Allison Mitchell, Lance Durbin, Susan Millbank, and E. Susan Meyers. ECF No. 9. The Court notes that STA provides paratransit services as an on-demand transportation option for certain riders, but “Spokane Paratransit” does not exist as an independent entity. ECF No. 20 at 1. Ms. Sway does not specify whether she is suing the individual Defendants in their personal or official capacity.

         Ms. Sway alleges that Defendants wrongfully: refused to provide paratransit rides for her to a medical appointment and back to her apartment in February 2016; prohibited her from using STA's paratransit service for twenty days in June 2016 for exceeding the allowable number of “no-shows”; cancelled Plaintiff's prior-scheduled paratransit ride to a medical appointment in October 2016; and treated her differently, as an African-American passenger, from another passenger in February 2017. Plaintiff also alleges that, in conducting STA's administrative review of her complaints to the transit administration, STA staff did not adhere to STA's Rule of Conduct 44 regarding suspension of paratransit service following no-shows, and relied on personal belief rather than facts to make decisions in her case, thus violating her rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

         Ms. Sway alleges that the decision by an STA paratransit driver to call a “snow no-show, ” meaning that the driver cancelled the trip upon determining that Ms. Sway could not safely be picked up, on February 4, 2017, was erroneous and motivated by racial bias. ECF No. 9-1 at 1-3. In support of her allegation, Plaintiff describes a passenger pickup that she heard being discussed over dispatch radio while she was riding on an STA paratransit vehicle approximately two days after her snow no-show. On that day, Ms. Sway recalls hearing a paratransit driver inform dispatch that he could not find a safe place to pick up his passenger, and the dispatcher asked if the driver wanted her to call the passenger to request that the passenger “come out and meet the van.” ECF No. 9-1 at 3. The driver allegedly declined her offer to call because the passenger already had emerged and was waiting in a location where the van could “go around and get him.” Id. Ms. Sway alleges that she is familiar with the passenger at issue in the radio conversation and knows that he is not African-American.

         The Court assumes Ms. Sway's factual allegations to be true for purposes of this Motion. See Zimmerman v. Oregon Dep't of Justice, 170 F.3d 1169, 1171 (9th Cir. 1999), cert. denied, 121 S.Ct. 1186 (U.S. 1999) (for purposes of Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 12(b)(6), courts “accept as true the facts alleged in the complaint”).


         Motions to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)

         A defendant may move to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 12(b)(6). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is plausible 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).

         In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court “accept[s] factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe[s] the pleadings in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008). A court is not required, however, to “assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations.” Fayer v. Vaughn, 649 F.3d 1061, 1064 (9th Cir. 2011) (per curiam) (internal quotation omitted). “[C]onclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss.” Adams v. Johnson, 355 F.3d 1179, 1183 (9th Cir. 2004).

         Violation of Title II of the ADA

         A plaintiff bringing a case under Section 202 of Title II of the ADA, which covers discrimination in the provision of public services, must show that:

(1) she is an individual with a disability; (2) she is otherwise qualified to participate in or receive the benefit of a public entity's services, programs or activities; (3) she was either excluded from participation in or denied the benefits of the public entity's services, programs or activities or was otherwise discriminated against by the public entity; ...

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