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Presmarita v. Metro-North Commuter Railroad Co.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

December 21, 2017

TIMOTHY PRESMARITA, Plaintiff,
v.
METRO-NORTH COMMUTER RAILROAD COMPANY, Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          KATHERINE B. FORREST, DISTRICT JUDGE

         On February 14, 2017, plaintiff Timothy Presmarita filed suit against Metro-North Commuter Railroad Company (“Metro-North”) seeking damages and injunctive relief after he was injured trying to disembark from a train at Grand Central Station. The core federal assertion is that Metro-North was required to provide him with a wheelchair at the point of disembarkation and to the street. He asserts that Metro-North's failure to do so violated his rights to equal access to a public accommodation under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12131, et seq., and pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (the “Rehabilitation Act”), 29 U.S.C. 794. Additionally, he has asserted state law claims that mirror these but also broadly capture specific conduct by Metro-North pursuant to which plaintiff alleges Metro-North assumed a duty of care which it then breached.

         On April 17, 2017, defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that Metro-North had no obligation under the ADA and Rehabilitation Acts to provide plaintiff with a wheelchair, and that the Court should dismiss the remainder of the claims for lack of supplemental jurisdiction. (ECF No. 14.) On August 30, 2017, the Court noted that all previous argument had assumed that Metro-North was subject to Title II, Part A of the ADA, which applies to public entities broadly, when in fact it seemed that commuter railroads such as Metro-North were actually subject to Part B, which applies only to public entities providing public transportation; thus, it requested supplemental briefing. (ECF No. 19.) The parties submitted additional briefing at the end of September 2017-both sides agreed that Part B was the relevant law. (ECF Nos. 20, 21, 25, 26.)

         Because the Court finds that the relevant service at issue is point-to-point transportation on the rail line, and not transportation within a station to the street, the Court further finds that the ADA does not require Metro-North to provide its customers with wheelchairs, at the point of disembarkation and to the street. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS the motion to dismiss in its entirety.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The factual allegations discussed below are drawn from the complaint (ECF No. 1, Compl.) and assumed true for the purposes of this decision.

         Plaintiff is a resident of New York who was injured in an automobile accident in or about 2001, in which he broke his neck; he has had thirteen surgeries as a result of this accident. (Compl. ¶¶ 10-11.) Even after these surgeries, plaintiff has limited functionality in his cervical spine, right leg, and right arm, and thus requires a wheelchair to walk more than a few steps. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13.)

         Defendant is a public benefit corporation organized pursuant to the Public Authorities Law of the State of New York, with its principal place of business in New York; it operates commuter railroad service between New York City and locations surrounding New York, including Connecticut. (Id. ¶¶ 14-16.)

         On November 8, 2016, defendant was operating a commuter train between New Haven, Connecticut, and Grand Central Station. (Id. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff purchased a ticket on the 9:55 p.m. train, due to arrive in New York at 11:47 p.m. (Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiff traveled with a friend, Javier Quinonze, so that he would have assistance as he traveled. (Id. ¶ 23.) Upon his arrival at his departure point, Union Station in New Haven, plaintiff requested a wheelchair in order to navigate the station and platform and to board the train. (Id. ¶ 24.) He was told by defendant that no wheelchair was available; he therefore boarded with the assistance of his friend, who carried him through the station. (Id. ¶¶ 25-26.)

         Plaintiff alleges that once on board, two separate conductors employed by defendant approached him and asked if he would require a wheelchair upon arrival at Grand Central; plaintiff said yes, and both conductors indicated that they would call ahead to Grand Central to make the necessary arrangements. (Id. ¶¶ 27-30.) Plaintiff was informed that he should wait on board the train until everyone else had disembarked, at which time defendant's employees would assist him in disembarking with a wheelchair. (Id. ¶ 31.)

         The train arrived at Grand Central at or about 11:47 p.m.; the wheelchair was not waiting on the platform. (Id. ¶¶ 33-35.) Despite several interactions with conductors about the wheelchair, plaintiff and his friend waited for more than one hour on the empty train. (Id. ¶¶ 33-37.) At or about 1 a.m., plaintiff attempted to exit the train and station without a wheelchair and with the assistance of his friend. (Id. ¶ 37.) While walking, plaintiff fell twice and injured his left ankle. (Id. ¶¶ 38-42.) Quinonze and Presmarita asked a Station Master if they could use an orange motorized cart to help them traverse the station; they were refused. (Id. ¶¶ 44-47.) The Station Master further informed plaintiff that there was an ample supply of wheelchairs, but a lack of personnel to push them. (Id. ¶ 49.) Quinonze offered to push plaintiff; the Station Master told him this was not allowed. (Id. ¶ 51.)

         At this time, the Station Master offered a wheelchair to the station's exit, which was pushed by another of defendant's employees. (Id. ¶ 52.) Initially this employee refused to take plaintiff to the curb, however when plaintiff offered him a $20 tip, he agreed. (Id. ¶¶ 53-54.) Plaintiff got into a taxi without tipping the employee. (Id. ¶ 55.)

         Plaintiff was subsequently diagnosed with a left ankle injury and placed in a ...


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