ROSE v. SETON HALL UNIVERSITY
OPINION & ORDER granting 39 Motion to Dismiss; that the Clerk of the Court shall close this matter, and that, to the extent the deficiencies in Pltf's claims can be cured by way of amendment, Pltf is granted thirty (30) days to reinstate this matter upon the filing of a Second Amended Complaint, etc., ***CIVIL CASE TERMINATED. Signed by Judge Claire C. Cecchi on 3/17/15. (dc, )
NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
Civil Action No.: 13-7797
OPINION & ORDER
JOHN J. MYERS, et aL,
CECCHI, District Judge.
This matter comes before the Court upon motion of Defendants, members of the Board of
Trustees of Seton Hall University, to dismiss the Amended Complaint of pro se Plaintiff Travis
Rose (“Plaintiff’) pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). [ECF No. 39.] Plaintiff opposes the
motion. [ECF No. 58.] The motion is decided without oral argument. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78. For
the reasons set forth below, Defendant’s motion is granted.
This case arises from the dismissal of Plaintiff from the Physician Assistant program (a
graduate-level course of study) jointly run by Seton Hall University and the University of
Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (“UMDNJ”). In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff
contends that the Program director, Joseph Thornton,’ was “caught in the act of fraud”; namely,
he allegedly “wrongful calculate[ed]” Plaintiffs Grade Point Average (“GPA”) and “altered” his
‘Joseph Thornton is not named as a defendant.
educational transcripts “in order to fabricate an argument with the Chairperson of the department
of Medicine (Doctor Mark Johnson).”
(Am. Compl. at 2.) Unlike his classmates. Plaintiff
claims, he was forced to repeat courses that he previously passed with “A” grades.
Moreover, Plaintiff asserts that other students who failed their clinical rotations never had to
repeat any courses and their grades were changed from “F” to “A”.
contends that he was “wrongfully terminated from the program” and that the program itself was
terminated as a result of “evidence collected.” (Id.) Plaintiff does not indicate the specific dates
of his enrollment in the program or the date of his purported wrongful dismissal.
Plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit in March 2013 in the United States District Court for the
District of Connecticut. Plaintiffs Amended Complaint—filed in April 2013 [ECF No. 6]—
asserts claims under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against Seton Hall administrators
and individual members of the Seton Hall Board of Trustees. (Id. at 2-3.) Plaintiffs case was
transferred to this Court in November 2013. [ECF No. 32.] In February 2014, Defendants filed
the instant motion to dismiss Plaintiffs Amended Compliant pursuant to Rule 1 2(b)(6). [ECF
No. 39.] Plaintiff opposed the motion. [ECF No. 58.]
Rule 12(b)(6) Standard
For a complaint to survive dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). it “must contain sufficient factual matter. accepted as true. to ‘state a claim to relief that
is plausible on its face” Ashcroft v. IgbaL 556 U.S. 662. 678 (2009) (quoting
Iombl, 550 US. 544, 570 (2007)). In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint, the Court
must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See fflipy. Cnt. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224,
231 (3d Cir, 2008). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Furthermore, “[a] pleading that offers ‘labels and
conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.’ Nor
does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]’ devoid of ‘further factual
enhancement.” Igbal, U.S. at 678.
Liberal Pleading Standard for Pro Se Litigants
A pro se litigant’s complaint is held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings
drafied by lawyers.” Haines v. Kemer, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). Courts have a duty to
construe pleadings liberally and apply the applicable law, irrespective of whether apro se litigant
has mentioned it by name. Mala v. Crown Bay Marina. Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 244 (3d Cir. 2013);
Dluhos v. Strasberg, 321 F.3d 365, 369 (3d Cir. 2003); Higgins v. Beyer, 293 F.3d 683, 688 (3d
Cir. 2002). A pro se complaint “can only be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it appears
beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would
entitle him to relief.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976) (citing Haines, 404 U.S. at
520-2 1); Bacon v. Minner, 229 F. App’x 96, 100 (3d Cir. 2007).
Statute of Limitations
Defendants’ primary argument is that Plaintiffs suit is barred by the applicable statute of
limitations. While, as a general matter, a statute of limitations defense is not properly raised by
In opposition, Plaintiff fails to address this argunent. However, given Plaintiffs pro se status, th.e Court will not
pyçrv.Cit’ofWiImjton, 966 F. Supp. 2d 417, 428 (D, Del,
deem Plaintiff to have waived his opposition.
2013> (plaintiff waived opposition to defendant’s argument because plaintiffs counsel made a “reasoned
,er v. Bo danoyic, 2010 WL 1462548, at *5 (M.D. Pa. Apr. 9, 2010)
professional judgment” not to address it);
note that, as a matter of course, the Court could dismiss [p]laintiffs’ claims because [p]laintiffs failed to
respond to the arguments for dismissal of those claims set forth in the Defendants’ Brief in Support of the instant
erojp&CasjnsCo 2010 WL 891838 at *5 (E D Pa Mar 8 2010) (granting an
way of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. the Third Circuit has long “permit[ted] a limitations
defense to be raised by a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) [j if the time alleged in the statement of a
claim shows that the cause of action has not been brought within the statute of limitations.”
Schmidt v. Skolas. 770 F.3d 241. 249 (3d Cir. 2014) (citing Robinson v. Johnson, 313 F.3d 128,
134—35 (3d Cir. 2002)); W, Penn Allegheny Health Sys., Inc. v. UPMC. 627 F.3d 85. 105 n. 13
(3d Cir. 2010). Here, Defendants mainly rely on a declaration from Brian Shulman (Dean of the
School of Health and Medical Sciences at Seton Hall University) to support their limitations
(See Defs.’ Mot. at 2-5 (primarily citing the Shulman Declaration for pertinent
facts).) Indeed, Defendants note that “[t]he Amended Complaint fails to disclose when plaintiff
was a student in the [graduate p]rogram” and instead rely on the Shulman Declaration for
( at 2.) While such evidence is certainly compelling, Defendants may not rely
on a source outside the Amendment Complaint to form the basis of their 1 2(b)(6) motion on
limitation grounds. See Robinson, 313 F.3d at 134-35. Accordingly, Defendants’ motion to
dismiss is denied on this ground.
Defendants as Improper Parties
Defendants also argue that the Amended Complaint must be dismissed because Plaintiff
does not sue the institution responsible for the alleged wrongful conduct but instead names
individual members of Seton Hail University and the Seton Hall Board of Trustees. (Defs.’ Mot
at 11-12.) The Court agrees.
Title VI states: “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or
national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to
uncontested portion of motion to dismiss because plaintiffs failed to respond to particular arguments raised in
discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 42 U.S.C.
2000d. Courts have held that. because Title VI forbids discrimination only by recipients of
federal funding, individuals cannot be held liable under Title VI.
See. e.g., Shotz v. City of
Plantation. 344 F.3d 1161. 1169 (11th Cir. 2003); Buchanan v. City of Bolivar. 99 F.3d 1352,
1356 (6th Cir, 1996).
The Third Circuit, and this Court, have adhered to the principle that
Title VI cannot be used to impose liability on individual defendants. Whitfield v. Notre Dame
Middle Sch., 412 F. App’x 517, 521 (3d Cir. 2011) (“Individual liability may not be asserted
under Title VI.”); Shannon v. Lardizzone, 334 F. App’x 506, 508 (3d Cir. 2009) (“Courts have
held that, because Title VI forbids discrimination only by recipients of federal funding,
individuals cannot be held liable under Title VI.
We agree with this reasoning.” (citations
omitted)); Nears v. Bd. of Educ. of the Sterling Reg’l High Sch. Dist., 2014 WL 1309948, at *6
(D.N.J. Mar. 3 1, 2014) (“With regard to the individual defendants, plaintiffs’ Title VT claims
against the individual defendants will be dismissed because individual liability may not be
asserted under Title VI.”); Bethea v. Roizman, 2012 WL 2500592, at *15 (D.N.J. June 27, 2012)
(“Individual liability may not be asserted under Title VI because an individual is not a ‘program’
receiving federal funds.”);
New Jersey Sand Hill Band of Lenape & Cherokee Indians v.
Corzine, 2010 WE 2674565, at *15 (D.N.J. June 30, 2010) (“The Court agrees that individuals
are not the proper defendants in a Title VI case”); Carter v. Hamilton Affordable Hous., EEC,
2009 WE 3245483, at *6 (D.N.J. Oct. 6, 2009) (“the named defendant,
as an individual who
did not receive federal financial assistance, cannot be liable on Plaintiffs Title VI claim.’): Lee
Bd. of Educ, 2009 WL 900174, at *5 (D.N.J. Mar. 31. 2009)
(“Title VI. however. ‘does not recognize individual liability”)
Accordingly. the Amended
Complaint must be dismissed because Plaintiff asserts only Title VI claims against individuals.
For the reasons set forth above, IT IS on this
day of March 2015,
ORDERED that Defendant’s motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) [ECF No. 39]
is GRANTED without prejudice; and it is further
ORDERED that the Clerk of the Court shall close this matter; and it is further
ORDERED that, to the extent the deficiencies in Plaintiff’s claims can be cured by way
of amendment, Plaintiff is granted thirty (30) days to reinstate this matter upon the filing of a
Second Amended Complaint that states, in accordance with Rule 8(a), a short and plain
statement of Plaintiff’s claims, including the relevant facts and dates of enrollment and dismissal
from the Physician Assistant program, supporting Plaintiff’s causes of action.
CLAIRE C. CECCIII, U.S.D.J.
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