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CODDINGTON v. ADELPHI UNIVERSITY

March 29, 1999

STEWART CODDINGTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ADELPHI UNIVERSITY, ADELPHI UNIVERSITY BOARD OF TRUSTEES, JAMES A. NORTON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PRESIDENT OF ADELPHI UNIVERSITY, AND MATTHEW GOLDSTEIN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PRESIDENT OF ADELPHI UNIVERSITY AND CARYLE G. WOLAHAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS DEAN OF THE ADELPHI SCHOOL OF NURSING AND CAROL A. LOMANNO, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF THE ADELPHI SCHOOL OF NURSING, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wexler, District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff commenced this case alleging discrimination based upon his learning disabilities while a student at the School of Nursing at Adelphi University ("Adelphi"). Named as Defendants are Adelphi University ("Adelphi" or the "University"), the Adelphi University Board of Trustees ("Trustees"), James A. Norton, the former acting president of Adelphi University ("Norton"), Dr. Matthew Goldstein, the current President of Adelphi University ("Goldstein"), Caryle G. Wolahan, the Dean of the Adelphi School of Nursing ("Wolahan") and Carol A. Lomanno, an associate professor at the Adelphi School of Nursing ("Lomanno").*fn1 Defendants Goldstein, Norton, Wolahan, Lomanno and the Trustees are named in their individual and official capacities.

BACKGROUND

I. The Allegations Of The Complaint

Plaintiff's amended complaint sets forth four separate causes of action against the University, the Trustees and defendants Norton, Goldstein and Wolahan. Specifically, each of these defendants is alleged to have violated: (1) the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. (the "ADA"); (2) Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq. (the "Rehabilitation Act"); (3) the New York Education Law and, (4) a contract between defendants and plaintiff. Against defendant Lomanno, plaintiff alleges three causes of action. Lomanno is alleged to have violated: (1) the ADA; (2) the Rehabilitation Act and, (3) the New York Education Law. Lomanno is the sole defendant who is not alleged to have breached a contract with plaintiff.

II. Defendants' Motion

Presently before the court are the motions of defendants Norton, Goldstein, Wolahan, Lomanno and the Trustees (the "Individual Defendants"), to dismiss the complaint on various grounds. First, all Individual Defendants seek dismissal of the complaint on the ground that individuals cannot be held personally liable under the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act. Second, all Individual Defendants seek dismissal of the breach of contract claims on the ground that no contractual relationship between plaintiff and defendants either exists or has been pleaded. Third, all Individual Defendants seek dismissal of any claim brought pursuant to the New York State Education Law on the ground that plaintiff has pleaded no specific violation of any provision of that law or facts in support thereof. Fourth, the Trustees seek dismissal of the state law claims on the ground that the Trustees are immune from liability under section 720-a of the New York Not-For-Profit Corporation Law. Finally, defendants Norton and Goldstein seek dismissal of all claims on the ground that they have never been properly served with process. The court considers each motion below.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

II. The Motions To Dismiss

  A. Individual Liability Under the ADA and the Rehabilitation
    Act

i. Legal Principles

All Individual Defendants move to dismiss the ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims on the ground that individuals cannot be held personally liable under these statutes. In support of their argument for dismissal, defendants rely on Tomka v. Seiler Corp., 66 F.3d 1295 (2d Cir. 1995), wherein the Second Circuit held that individual employees cannot be held personally liable as "employers" under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. See Tomka, 66 F.3d at 1313. The Second Circuit in Tomka interpreted the term "employer," under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e ("Title VII"). That statute defines "employer" as "a person . . . who has fifteen or more employees . . . and any agent of such a person." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(b).

In Tomka, the Second Circuit rejected the notion that the "and any such agent" clause of the definition of employer was intended to impose individual liability upon all agents of employers. Instead, the court interpreted this clause as establishing respondeat superior liability for the actions of agents. The court reasoned that when Congress limited Title VII liability to employers with fifteen or more employees, it intended to shield individuals from liability. It would be anomalous, then, to allow for individual liability under title VII. Id. at 1313-1314.

Courts interpreting employment discrimination cases brought pursuant to the ADA have looked to Tomka to decide whether individual liability exists under the ADA. In this circuit, Tomka's analysis has been applied consistently to hold that there is no individual liability for employment discrimination under the ADA. See, e.g., Corr v. MTA Long Island Bus, 27 F. Supp.2d 359, 369-70 (E.D.N.Y. 1998); Harrison v. Indosuez, 6 F. Supp.2d 224, 229 (S.D.N.Y. 1998); Lane v. Maryhaven Center of Hope, 944 F. Supp. 158, 160-162 (E.D.N.Y. 1996); Cerrato v. Durham, 941 F. Supp. 388 (S.D.N.Y. 1996); Yaba v. Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, 931 F. Supp. 271 (S.D.N.Y. 1996).

Denying claims for individual liability under the ADA, the foregoing courts rely on the fact that the statutory definitions of the term "employer" are the same under Title VII as under the ADA. Compare 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(b) with 42 U.S.C. § 12111(5)(A). This, coupled with the fact that courts apply similar standards and reasoning to discrimination cases brought pursuant to these two statutes, see, e.g., EEOC v. Amego, Inc., 110 F.3d 135, 145 n. 7 (1st Cir. 1997); AIC Security Investigations, Ltd. 55 F.3d at 1280; Corr, 27 F. Supp.2d at 370 n. 8, has led to the overwhelming weight of authority applying Tomka to dismiss claims of employment discrimination seeking to hold individuals personally liable under the ADA.

Applying the same analysis, it has been similarly held that individual liability for employment discrimination does not exist under the Rehabilitation Act. See Meling v. St. Francis College, 3 F. Supp.2d 267, 275-76 (E.D.N.Y. 1997); Romand v. Zimmerman, 881 F. Supp. 806, 812 (N.D.N.Y. 1995); Lane, 944 F. Supp. at 162; but see Lee v. Trustees of Dartmouth College, 958 F. Supp. 37, 45 (D.N.H. 1997) (individuals may be personally liable under Rehabilitation Act if in a position to accept or reject federal funds).

This is not a case alleging employment discrimination in violation of Title I of the ADA, but instead, is brought pursuant to Title III of the ADA — the same statute construed in ADA employment discrimination cases ...


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