Orria-Medina v. Metropolitan Bus Authority

Citation565 F.Supp.2d 285
Decision Date06 September 2007
Docket NumberCivil No. 06-1643 (JAG).
PartiesORRIA-MEDINA, et al., Plaintiff(s) v. METROPOLITAN BUS AUTHORITY, et al., Defendant(s).
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Puerto Rico

Juan Jose Nolla-Acosta, Urb. Valle De Andalucia, Ponce, PR, Nicolas Nogueras-Cartagena, Nicolas Nogueras Law Offices, San Juan, PR, for Plaintiffs.

Gerardo A. De-Jesus-Annoni, Quinones, Sanchez & Guzman, PSC, Joy C. Vilardi-Rizzuto Teresa S. Zapata-Valladares, P.R. Department of Justice-Federal Litigation, San Juan, PR, for Defendants.

Adaline Torres-Santiago, Hato Rey, PR, pro se.

OPINION AND ORDER

GARCIA-GREGORY, District Judge.

The original complaint in this case was filed on June 28, 2006 (Docket No. 1). Amended Complaints were filed on July 10, 2006, on November 14, 2006 and on January 23, 2007. (Docket Nos. 3, 23, 45). In the Second Amended Complaint (of January 23, 2007), plaintiffs Emilio Orria-Medina, Emilio R. Orria-Cruz, Agnes L. Repullo, Iliana Rivera Reyes, Violeta Albino, Alba Toro, Aileen G. Curas-Negron, Jose J. Ocasio-Rodriguez, Jose M. Nieves-Rios, Wanda D. Diaz-Gomez and Vanessa Delgado-Rodriguez (collectively "plaintiffs") seek compensation for economic, emotional and moral damages and injunctive relief from certain actions allegedly performed by defendants (1) the Metropolitan Bus Authority ("MBA"); (2) the Puerto Rico Department of Transportation and Public Works ("DTPW"); (3) the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. ("Commonwealth"); (4) Mr. Gabriel Alcaraz-Emanuelli ("Alcaraz-Emanuelli"), in his official capacity as Secretary of the DTPW and in his personal capacity, his spouse "X" and the conjugal legal partnership constituted between them; (5) Ms. Adaline Torres-Santiago ("Torres-Santiago"), in her personal capacity only; (6) Mr. Evans Gonzalez-Baker ("Gonzalez-Baker") in his official capacity as President of the MBA and in his personal capacity, his spouse "Y" and the conjugal legal partnership constituted between them; (7) Mr. Manuel Mirabal ("Mirabal") in his official capacity as Administrator of the "Llame y Viaje" ("Call & Ride") program of the MBA and in his personal capacity, his spouse "Z" and the conjugal legal partnership constituted between them; and (8) John Doe, Jane Roe, and insurance companies A, B, C, D & E (collectively "defendants"), under (1) the First, Fifth and/or Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, (2) Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12165, (3) Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C.A. § 794, (4) the Civil Rights Remedies Equalization Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d-7 ("CRREA"), (5) 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and/or 1981a, 1983, 1985 and 1988 ("Sections 1981, 1981a, 1983, 1985 and 1988" respectively) and (6) several provisions of the Code of Federal Regulations. Also, plaintiffs invoke the Court's supplemental jurisdiction alleging violations to §§ 1, 4, 6-8 and 16 of Article II of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; Act No. 238 of August 31, 2004 (Bill of Rights for Persons with Disabilities), P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 1, §§ 512(a)-512(k); Act No. 170 of August 12, 1988 (Uniform Administrative Procedures Act), P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 3, §§ 2101-2201 ("UAPA"); Act No. 21 of May 31, 1985 (Uniform Rate Revision and Modification Act), P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 27, §§ 261-261(e) ("URRMA"); and Art. 1802 of the Puerto Rico Civil Code (the Commonwealth's general tort statute), P.R. Civil Code, P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 31, § 3151.

On October 2, 2006, the MBA, Gonzalez-Baker, Mirabal and the Commonwealth filed a Motion to Dismiss under Fed. R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (Docket No. 9). On October 13, 2006, the DTPW and Alcaraz-Emanuelli requested leave to join the Motion to Dismiss and the Court granted said request. (Docket Nos. 18, 19). On December 13, 2006, plaintiffs filed a "Response in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss." (Docket No. 33). On January 2, 2007, Commonwealth, the MBA, Gonzalez-Baker and Mirabal filed a motion replying to the Opposition to Motion to Dismiss. (Docket No. 36).

On April 4, 2007, the MBA filed another Motion to Dismiss the complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).1 (Docket Nos. 58, 59). On April 30, 2007, plaintiffs responded in opposition to this Motion to Dismiss. (Docket No. 73). The MBA replied to plaintiffs' response on May 7, 2007. (Docket No. 76).

On April 4, 2007, plaintiffs filed a Motion Requesting Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction. (Docket No. 61). On April 5, 2007, the Court denied plaintiffs' motion for temporary restraining order and referred the motion for preliminary injunction to Magistrate-Judge Marcos Lopez. (Docket No. 62). The Court also referred to the Magistrate-Judge all pending motions in this case for Report and Recommendation, where appropriate. On May 16, 2007, the Magistrate-Judge issued his Report and Recommendation on the two Motions to Dismiss (Docket Nos. 9, 18, 58, 59).

On May 31, 2007, the MBA filed objections to the Report and Recommendation (Docket No. 80) and so did plaintiffs (Docket No. 81). For the reasons discussed below, the Court ADOPTS in PART and REJECTS in PART the Magistrate-Judge's Report and Recommendation.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND2

This suit involves the Call and Ride program administered by the MBA. The MBA is a public corporation and instrumentality of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico created by the Metropolitan Bus Authority Act, Act No. 5 of May 11, 1959, as amended. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 23, §§ 601-620 ("MBA's enabling act"). The MBA's primary goal is to provide, develop, maintain and administer a public mass transportation system to residents and visitors of the San Juan Metropolitan area. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 23, § 606. As part of its services, the MBA created the Call and Ride program to provide paratransit transportation services to persons with physical and/or mental disabilities that are not able to benefit from the MBA's regular services. Users must be subscribed to the Call and Ride program and make reservations in order to receive transportation services from said program. All plaintiffs in this case claim to be participants and regular users of the Call and Ride program.

According to the Second Amended Complaint, until June 2005, the rates for the Call and Ride services had been held constant at around $0.50 per trip per customer, up to a maximum of $1.50. These rates were twice the rates paid by users of the "regular" bus service. However, on or around June 2005, the MBA determined to revise its tariff schedule for all its services, including the Call and Ride program.

The MBA published advertisements announcing the holding of public hearings with the purpose of revising the MBA's tariff system, without making a specific indication that the rates for the Call and Ride program were going to be revised as well. In particular, plaintiffs claim that the MBA did not specifically inform the users of the Call and Ride program that it was considering raising the rates, and that a reasonable person would have thought based on the announcements, that only the rates for the MBA's regular routes, not the Call and Ride program's rates, would be revised. These actions, plaintiffs assert, constitute a violation of the procedures set forth by 49 C.F.R. § 37.137(c), the UAPA, the URRMA and the Bill of Rights for Persons with Disabilities, inasmuch the notices of the public hearings on the proposed rate increase were not specific enough and did not allow those affected by the increase to become aware that any opposition to the raise had to be presented at the hearings.

On November 10, 2005, defendant Torres-Santiago, the MBA's then-president, mailed a letter to the users of the Call and Ride program informing that on November 16, 2005, the rates for the program would be increased. Plaintiffs claim that this notification was defective, as any change in the program has to be notified no less than 10 days before the scheduled date of implementation of such change and therefore, even if the rate increase had been properly authorized, it could not become effective until November 20, 2005, at the earliest.

After users of the Call and Ride program became aware of the proposed increase, they began to publicly complain about the decision. As a result of said complaints, the Puerto Rico House of Representatives' Committee on Consumer Affairs ("Committee") decided to hold public hearings between mid-December 2005 and February 2006 on how the rates had been increased and on whether the proceedings for raising the rates were conducted in compliance with the law. The Committee scheduled hearings for December 7, 2005, and its chairman, Representative Jorge Navarro-Suarez, publicly announced the holding of hearings to investigate the matter.

Several users of the Call and Ride program, including plaintiff Emilio Orria-Medina, upon learning of the hearing, called to make reservations to be transported to the Capitol building in San Juan to participate in the hearings, instead of their usual routes. The reservations were entered in the system normally. However, around December 6, 2005, Torres-Santiago became aware that many users of the program wanted to attend the hearings held by the Committee to complain about the rate increase, as well as about other problems and alleged abuses. Plaintiffs assert that Torres-Santiago became enraged at the prospect of clients of the Call and Ride program complaining. Furthermore, plaintiffs allege that Torres-Santiago was well aware of who these clients were and what they would complain about since she had personally met with some of them. Plaintiffs not only wanted to complain about the rate increase, but also about the continuous mistreatment they are subjected to, including rude comments by bus drivers, bus drivers of the regular service who do not want to activate ramps for users who need them to enter the buses, and other types of verbal and psychological abuse.

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