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Christine Mary Jones v. Regional Transportation Authority

July 16, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Edmond E. Chang


Plaintiff Christine Mary Jones alleges that the Regional Transportation Authority and Lillian G. Wallace, in her official capacity, discriminated against her in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12143, and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794.*fn1 Jones also brings a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants move to dismiss [R. 20] all claims in Jones' first amended complaint [R. 19] pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons explained more fully below, Defendants' motion is granted, but Jones may file an amended complaint by July 30, 2012.


In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept as true the complaint's factual allegations. Christine Mary Jones is a resident of Oak Park, Illinois. R. 19 (Am. Compl.) ¶ 5. She has a psychological impairment that substantially limits her in "the major life activity of caring for herself," particularly in her ability to independently locate and use public transportation, to comprehend public transportation schedules and fixed routes, and to travel to a boarding location or from a disembarking location. Id.

Defendant Regional Transportation Authority is a public entity that receives federal funding and operates a fixed-route bus service throughout Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties. Id. ¶ 6. The RTA is responsible for the financial oversight of the region's three public transit operators: the Chicago Transit Authority, the Metra commuter rail, and the Pace Suburban Bus Service. Id.; see also R. 22-1 (Defs.' Exh. 1) at 1. The RTA also operates a paratransit system for people with disabilities pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Id. The RTA oversees the eligibility determination process for paratransit services. Id. ¶¶ 7, 8.

In May 2010, Jones applied for paratransit services. Id. ¶ 7. The RTA decided Jones was not eligible. Id. ¶ 8. Jones appealed the decision within the agency's internal review system, see 70 ILCS 3615/2.30(c)(9), but her appeal was denied. Id. ¶ 9. Jones now alleges that the RTA's denial of paratransit services violates the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. Jones also claims that although she is qualified to receive paratransit services, the RTA has "implemented a policy and practice" that denies her services, and she tries to bring this claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. ¶¶ 12, 21.


Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a complaint generally need only include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). This short and plain statement must "give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quotation and citation omitted). The Seventh Circuit has explained that this rule "reflects a liberal notice pleading regime, which is intended to 'focus litigation on the merits of a claim' rather than on technicalities that might keep plaintiffs out of court." Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002)).

"A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of Chicago Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). "[W]hen ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56); McGowan v. Hulick, 612 F.3d 636, 637 (7th Cir. 2010) (courts accept factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor). "[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). These allegations "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The allegations that are entitled to the assumption of truth are those that are factual, rather than mere legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79.


Jones' complaint must be dismissed in its entirety. First, although the Court agrees with Jones that there does exist a private right of action under Title II of the ADA, the allegations in the amended complaint are insufficient, as a matter of law, to state a claim of disability discrimination. Second, Jones cannot rely on § 1983 as a procedural vehicle for remedying a violation of a statutory right covered by Title II of the ADA. Finally, even if Jones could rely on § 1983 to bring a claim against Defendants, the complaint inadequately alleges a basis for municipal liability against the Regional Transportation Authority and is completely devoid of any allegations as to Defendant Wallace in her official capacity as an agent of the RTA.


As explained below, on the threshold matter of the cause of action's existence, the Court holds that there does exist a private right of action to enforce Title II of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12143(a).*fn2 But whether a federal private right of action exists is a separate matter from whether Jones has sufficiently pled her claims. ...

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