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Brehm v. Tompkins Consol. Transit, Inc.

United States District Court, Second Circuit

June 13, 2013

CRYSTAL L. BREHM, Plaintiff,
v.
TOMPKINS CONSOL. TRANSIT, INC., Defendant.

WIGGINS & KOPKO, LLP, EDWARD E. KOPKO, ESQ., Ithaca, New York, Counsel for Plaintiff.

SMITH, SOVIK, KENDRICK & SUGNET, P.C., EDWARD J. SMITH, ESQ., Syracuse, New York, Counsel for Defendant.

DECISION and ORDER

GLENN T. SUDDABY, District Judge.

Currently before the Court, in this action filed by Crystal Brehm ("Plaintiff" or "Brehm") against Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit, Inc., ("Defendant" or "TCAT") is Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction and/or insufficient process pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), (4) and C.P.L.R. § 305(b). (Dkt. No. 3.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is denied.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Complaint and Supporting Allegations

Liberally construed, Plaintiff's Complaint asserts the following four claims against Defendant: (1) violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12132, et seq.; (2) violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("Section 504"), 29 U.S.C. § 794(a); (3) common-law negligence premised on the violation of duties imposed by the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and associated federal regulations; and (4) negligence per se, premised on the violation of federal regulations. (Dkt. No. 1, Attach. 4.) Generally, Plaintiff's claims arise from the following factual allegations. ( See generally id. )

Brehm is a resident of Tompkins County, New York, who has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. TCAT is a public transportation company that owns and operates a bus system in Tompkins County. On January 23, 2009, Brehm boarded and payed fare as a passenger on a TCAT bus. As a result of her cerebral palsy, and because of the design of the securement system on the bus, Brehm was unable to operate the securement system without assistance. The operator knew that Brehm as a result of her disabilities was unable to operate the securement system and that assistance was necessary for Brehm to be safely secured. However, the operator failed to secure Brehm's wheelchair to the floor of the bus or to the wall of the bus.

At about 12:45 p.m., Brehm pressed the "disabled passenger request for stop/disembarkation" button, which signaled that a disabled passenger had made a request to stop or disembark. Because Brehm's wheelchair was not secured by a securement system to the bus, Brehm's wheelchair was caused to rotate and tilt suddenly when the bus forcefully lurched into a turn. This violent rotation caused her to be thrown sideways in a dangerous fashion and caused her upper body, with great force, to flip over the side of her wheelchair, resulting in serious injuries to her neck and spine, along with other parts of her body.

B. Relevant Procedural History

Plaintiff served a summons in Tompkins County Supreme Court on January 9, 2012. (Dkt. No. 3, Attach. 2.) Defendant served a notice of appearance and a demand for the Complaint on February 16, 2012. (Dkt. No. 3, Attach. 3.) Plaintiff filed a Complaint in the office of the Tompkins County Clerk on March 7, 2012. (Dkt. No. 3, Attach. 4.) Defendant filed for notice of removal to this Court on April 5, 2012. (Dkt. No. 1.) Defendant then filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(4) and C.P.L.R. § 305(b) on May 3, 2012. (Dkt. No. 3.)

C. Parties' Briefing on Defendant's Motion

Generally, in support of its motion to dismiss, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction and/or insufficient process for the following two reasons: (1) Plaintiff's cryptic and vague use of the non-specific designation "negligence" in the notice, without any accompanying description, was ambiguous and confused Defendant, who could not be expected, based on such a description, to ascertain the nature of the possible cause(s) of action against it, which also included a violation of the ADA, a violation of the Rehabilitation Act, and negligence per se; and (2) the notice required by C.P.L.R. § 305(b) has an important purpose of ensuring that a defendant is placed on notice of a claim against it and allowed preparation of a defense before evidence is lost, discarded or grows stale. (Dkt. No. 3, Attach. 5.)

Generally, in response, Plaintiff asserts that following two arguments: (1) Plaintiff's summons with notice meets the requirements of CPLR § 305(b) because it provides Defendant with "at least basic information concerning the nature of Plaintiff's claim and the relief sought"; and (2) Defendant has not shown that it's ...


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