Fariello Bus Serv.LLC v. Old Bridge Bd. of Educ., Civil Action No. 09-4200 (FLW)

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. District of New Jersey
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 09-4200 (FLW)
Decision Date17 June 2011


Civil Action No. 09-4200 (FLW)


Date: June 17, 2011



WOLFSON, United States District Judge:

This case arises out of the rejection of Plaintiff Fariello Bus Service's ("Plaintiff") bid for a public contract involving transportation for students in the Township of Old Bridge. The Amended Complaint alleges that Defendant violated the provisions of the New Jersey Public School Contract Law (the "PSCL"), N.J.S.A. 18A:18A-1, et. seq., and that Defendant violated Plaintiff's right to procedural due process guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. In the instant motion, Defendant Old Bridge Board of Education ("Defendant" or the "Board") moves for summary judgment to dismiss the Amended Complaint. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Defendant's motion.

I. Background

The following relevant facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. On or about July 5, 2008, Defendant publically advertised for bids for student transportation services during the 2008-

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2009 school year ("Contract"). See Adams Cert., Exhibit A. Specifications of the Contract were provided to all bidders. Id. Specifically, the specifications required all bidders to submit copies of valid and existing registrations for all vehicles to be used to fulfill the Contract; if this information was not provided, a bidder would be deemed unresponsive and the bid would be rejected. Id. Plaintiff was a bidder on the Contract.

As part of its bid, Plaintiff submitted current registrations of vehicles owned by Wolfington Body Company, a purchase agreement between Plaintiff and Wolfington to purchase these vehicles, and a deposit check for the purchase. Plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts, ¶ 12-13. On August 5, 2008, all bids were opened, and there is no dispute on this motion that Plaintiff was the lowest bidder. Nevertheless, sometime after the bid opening, Defendant informed Plaintiff that its bid had been disqualified because the bid did not conform to specifications, as Plaintiff did not own the vehicles it intended to use to fulfill the Contract. See Adams Cert., Exhibit C, p. 28. As a result, Plaintiff requested a hearing on the matter, but Defendant refused to grant a hearing.1 Plaintiff's Statement of Material Fact, ¶ 8.

Thereafter, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant in the New Jersey Superior Court, claiming that Defendant violated the provisions of the PSCL. Plaintiff moved for equitable relief to reinstate its bid and to award the Contract to Plaintiff; however, the state court denied the request. See Defendant's Statement of Material Facts, ¶ 14-16. Plaintiff then amended the Complaint to add defendants Denise Capasso, Director of Transportation for Defendant; Carrie Shreder, purchasing

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agent for Defendant; Philip E. Stern, attorney of record representing Defendant; and Adams, Stern, Gutierrez & Lattiboudere, LLC, the law firm representing Defendant. Id., ¶ 17. Plaintiff also asserted three additional causes of action, which allege that 1) defendants collectively violated Plaintiff's procedural due process rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment (Count II); 2) defendants Denise Capasso and Carrie Shreder defamed Plaintiff (Count III); and 3) defendants Philip Stern and his firm breached their duty to inform Defendant of all applicable law (Count IV). On August 14, 2009, defendants removed the matter to the District Court before the Honorable Mary L. Cooper, U.S.D.J., asserting federal question jurisdiction. All defendants then moved to dismiss Plaintiff's claims; Judge Cooper dismissed all claims against all defendants, except for Counts I and II against the Board. This matter was then transferred to this Court. Now, the Board moves for summary judgment on the remaining counts of the Amended Complaint.

II. Motion for Summary Judgment

"Summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine issue of material fact and if, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Pearson v. Component Tech. Corp., 247 F.3d 471, 482 n. 1 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)); accord Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). For an issue to be genuine, there must be "a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party." Kaucher v. County of Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court must view the facts and all reasonable inferences drawn from those facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Curley v. Klem, 298 F.3d 271, 276-77 (3d Cir. 2002). For a fact

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to be material, it must have the ability to "affect the outcome of the suit under governing law." Kaucher, 455 F.3d at 423. Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary judgment.

Initially, the moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must identify, by affidavits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id.; Monroe v. Beard, 536 F.3d 198, 206-07 (3d Cir. 2008). Thus, to withstand a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must identify specific facts and affirmative evidence that contradict those offered by the moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57. The nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to material facts." Id. at 206 (quoting Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586). Moreover, the non-moving party must present "more than a scintilla of evidence showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Woloszyn v. County of Lawrence, 396 F.3d 314, 319 (3d Cir. 2005). Indeed, the plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322.

Moreover, in deciding the merits of a party's motion for summary judgment, the court's role is not to evaluate the evidence and decide the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. Nonmoving party cannot defeat summary judgment simply by asserting that certain evidence submitted by the moving party is not credible. S.E.C. v. Antar, 44 Fed. Appx. 548, 554 (3d Cir. 2002).

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III. Discussion

A. Procedural Due Process

In Count II of the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that agents and employees of Defendant violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights by refusing to grant Plaintiff a due process hearing after improperly awarding a contract to a bidder other than Plaintiff, the lowest responsible bidder. Although Plaintiff recognizes that municipalities cannot be held vicariously liable for their employees' actions, Plaintiff nevertheless argues that Defendant made a policy decision that deprived Plaintiff of its due process rights. Defendant counters that Plaintiff was neither entitled to the Contract nor the hearing, therefore no procedural due process violation had occurred.2

"When a suit against a municipality is based on § 1983, the municipality can only be liable when the alleged constitutional transgression implements or executes a policy, regulation, or decision officially adopted by the governing body or informally adopted by custom." McTernan v. City of York, PA, 564 F.3d 636, 657 (3d Cir. 2009); See Monell, 436 U.S. at 691. Policy is implemented when a "decision maker possessing final authority to establish a municipal policy with respect to the action issues an official proclamation, policy, or edict." Id. at 658. Custom, on the other hand, is

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adopted when, though not authorized by law, "such practices . . . are so permanent and well-settled as to virtually constitute law." Id.

However, a plaintiff need not show a pattern of behavior or a well-settled custom to establish liability.

[I]t is plain that municipal liability may be imposed for a single decision by municipal policymakers under appropriate circumstances. No one has ever doubted, for instance, that a municipality may be liable under § 1983 for a single decision by its properly constituted legislative body - whether or not that body had taken similar action in the past or intended to do so in the future - because even a single decision by such a body unquestionably

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