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Riva Janes et al., et al v. Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority

January 23, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul A. Engelmayer, District Judge:


Defendants Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Jay H. Walder, and James Ferrara move for reconsideration of the Court's October 5, 2011 Order granting in part and denying in part plaintiffs' motion for class certification pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2). For the following reasons, defendants' motion for reconsideration is granted.

I. Procedural History

This class action arises out of a differential toll policy administered by defendant Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, which is a constituent agency of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. This toll policy provides discounts on tolls to cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge for certain residents of Staten Island, New York, and discounts on tolls to cross the Marine Parkway and Cross Bay Bridges for certain residents of the Rockaway Peninsula and Broad Channel, also in New York. Drivers must use E-ZPass, an electronic toll debit system, to qualify for the discount.

Plaintiffs are users of E-ZPass within New York and three neighboring states who crossed at least one of these bridges and did not qualify for these discounts. Plaintiffs allege that, because they paid higher prices to cross the bridges than those individuals covered by the discount toll policy did, the policy is unconstitutional. Specifically, they argue that the preferences within the toll policy violate the Commerce Clause, Art. I, § 8, Cl. 3, the Privileges and Immunities Clause, Art. IV, § 2, Cl. 1, the Privileges or Immunities Clause, Amend. XIV, § 1, Cl. 2, and the Equal Protection Clause, Amend. XIV, § 1, Cl. 4, of the United States Constitution and Article I, § II of the New York State Constitution. Plaintiffs seek declaratory relief, an injunction against the continuation of the toll policy, and money damages.

On September 2, 2010, the four named plaintiffs in the case moved for class certification pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(2) and 23(b)(3). (Dkt. 41.) Their proposed class definition was:

With regard to the [federal causes of action] in the First Amended Complaint, all users of E-ZPass who, while residing in, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut and who, since January 17, 2000 [] paid tolls at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge or the Marine Parkway Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge without the benefit of the resident discount that has been made available by Defendants for residents of specific locations in New York State.

Pls.' Mem. of Law in Support of Mot. for Class Cert. 1. (Dkt. 42.)

After the motion for class certification was fully briefed, but before the Court had rendered a decision, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct. 2541 (2011). In light of the importance of the Wal-Mart decision to federal class action law, the Court requested supplemental letter briefing from the parties on the impact, if any, of that decision on the pending motion in the instant case. In their July 11, 2011 letter, defendants noted, inter alia, that the plaintiffs' proposed class definition encompassed members who, if the toll policy were held unconstitutional, might be entitled to damages (because they had paid non-discounted tolls in the past), but who, for various reasons, lacked standing to pursue forward-looking injunctive or declaratory relief. (Dkt. 56.) As examples of such persons, defendants identified persons who: (1) "no longer drive[] at all"; (2) have "moved out of the area and no longer cross[] the three bridges at issue"; or (3) have "moved to an area (such as Staten Island) where [they are] entitled to a residence-based discount." Defs.' Ltr. Br. 15--16. (Dkt. 56.)

On October 5, 2011, the Hon. Barbara S. Jones, to whom this case was then assigned, issued an opinion and order granting in part and denying in part plaintiffs' motion for class certification. (Dkt. 51.) The Court, pursuant to its authority under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(c)(4), certified what it termed "an injunctive class" under Rule 23(b)(2). This class sought solely declaratory and injunctive relief, based on plaintiffs' federal constitutional claims. The Court then bifurcated the proceedings, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(b), with one phase focused on federal claims, none of which seek monetary relief, and a second phase focused on state-law damages claims. The Court declined, for the time being, to address whether a class could properly be certified for the damages phase of the case. The Court did not address defendants' arguments with respect to the proper definition of the injunctive class.*fn1

On October 7, 2011, the case was reassigned to this Court. (Dkt. 52.) On October 19, 2011, defendants filed a timely motion for reconsideration of the motion for class certification, asking the Court to deny plaintiffs' motion "to the extent that the putative class . . . includes persons who lack standing to seek injunctive and declaratory relief." (Dkt. 53.) Specifically, defendants argue that three categories of individuals currently included in the class should be excluded from the 23(b)(2) class: (1) current residents of Staten Island, the Rockaway Peninsula, and Broad Channel; (2) persons who no longer have a driver's license or who no longer in fact drive; and (3) persons who have not crossed any of the bridges at issue within the two years preceding entry of the certification order.

II. Legal Standard on a Motion for Reconsideration

The standard for granting a motion for reconsideration is "strict": to succeed, such a motion must "point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked." Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995). The party seeking reconsideration must show "an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice." Virgin Atlantic Airways, Ltd. v. Nat'l Mediation Bd., 956 F.2d 1245, 1255 (2d Cir. 1992). Where a court overlooked "matters or controlling decisions which, if considered by the Court, would have mandated a different result," a motion for consideration should be granted in order to avoid manifest injustice. Thomas v. United States, 02-cv-6254, 2005 WL 2104998, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Sep. 1, 2005).

In order to be considered under a motion for reconsideration, an argument must have been previously presented to the court. See, e.g., Parrish v. Sollecito, 253 F. Supp. 2d 713, 715 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) (a motion for reconsideration is "not intended as a vehicle for a party dissatisfied with the Court's ruling to advance new ...

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