Ward v. Housatonic Area Regional Transit Dist., No. CIV. A. 398CV2467JCH.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
Writing for the CourtHall
Citation154 F.Supp.2d 339
PartiesJohn WARD, Plaintiff, v. HOUSATONIC AREA REGIONAL TRANSIT DISTRICT, et al. Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. CIV. A. 398CV2467JCH.
Decision Date03 August 2001
154 F.Supp.2d 339
John WARD, Plaintiff,
v.
HOUSATONIC AREA REGIONAL TRANSIT DISTRICT, et al. Defendants.
No. CIV. A. 398CV2467JCH.
United States District Court, D. Connecticut.
August 3, 2001.

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John Ward, Danbury, CT, Pro se.

Mark J. Sommaruga, Nicole Alexandra Bernabo, Sullivan, Schoen, Campane & Connon, Hartford, CT, for Defendants.

HALL, District Judge.


The plaintiff, John Ward ("Ward"), brought suit against the defendants, asserting numerous claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, various provisions of the Connecticut Constitution, various state statutes and under the common law seeking injunctive relief and damages for the alleged unlawful suspensions of his bus riding privileges and the substandard services he received from the defendants. The defendants, Housatonic Area Regional Transit District ("HART"), and its individually named employees,1 seek summary judgment on all counts of the complaint.2 The plaintiff also seeks summary judgment as to all counts of the complaint, excluding Count One.

The defendants argue that 1) the plaintiff has not asserted a cognizable property interest in his bus privileges and so is not entitled to due process and if he is, he was given all the process that was due; 2) the defendants did not retaliate against the plaintiff based on his exercise of his free speech rights, but rather suspended him for his disruptive behavior; 3) HART's rules and regulations regarding the right to suspend passengers are not void for vagueness; 4) suspension of Ward's riding privileges did not violate his equal protection rights; 5) Ward's allegations do not rise to the level of "extreme and outrageous behavior" or "unreasonable conduct" that would support a claim of intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress; 6) the plaintiff has not stated a claim for false imprisonment, "false statements," or "union thuggery." The HART defendants also assert immunity from all the claims, and HART asserts that it cannot be held liable for the claims under a theory of municipal liability.

The plaintiff, in turn, argues that all of his claims are legally supported and factually without issue and that summary judgment should be granted on all claims, excluding Count One.

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For the reasons stated below, the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 65) is DENIED and the defendants' motion (Dkt. No. 62) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

This case is brought by Ward pro se. Ward originally filed this suit in the Superior Court of Connecticut on December 8, 1998. HART and the HART defendants then removed the action to federal court on December 18, 1998. In response to a motion to dismiss filed on January 4, 1999 (Dkt. No. 6), Ward filed an amended complaint (Dkt. No. 25).

This court issued a ruling on the defendants' second motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 19) on September 30, 1999 (Dkt. No. 43), granting the motion in part and denying the motion in part. Specifically, the court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss as to Ward's First Amendment claim contained in Count Thirteen of the Amended Complaint in which Ward alleged that his speech was chilled by being told he could not question the decisions of the executive director of HART. The court found that Ward did not sufficiently allege an adverse action in response to the exercise of his free speech rights. The court dismissed Ward's claims based on Article First, §§ 1,2,8, 20 of the Connecticut Constitution, because those provisions do not provide for a private cause of action. The court dismissed Ward's claims in Count Fourteen and Nineteen brought under the Freedom of Information Act because the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction, Ward having failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. The court dismissed Ward's claims in Counts Three, Nine, and Sixteen in which Ward alleged violation of his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The court found that Ward's accommodation claims under the ADA failed because obesity is not listed as a physical impairment under the Act. Second, the court held that Ward had not made out a claim for being "regarded as disabled" because he had not established a causal connection between HART or the HART defendants perceiving him as being limited in a major life activity and HART and the HART defendants treating him as a threat. Finally, the court dismissed Ward's claims for false imprisonment and union thuggery because he had not named Amorando as a defendant and because Ward failed to allege that defendant Gillotti had a duty to protect him.

The court granted Ward's motion to amend the Amended Complaint and HART and the HART defendants' motion to strike those parts of the amended complaint which the court had dismissed in its ruling on the motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 50). Ward then filed his Second Amended Complaint on December 5, 2000 (Dkt. No. 55). The Second Amended Complaint is the subject of the cross-motions for summary judgment addressed in this ruling.

HART is a regional transit district created under Conn.Gen.Stat. § 7-273b and is a provider of public bus services. HART provides both local bus services within Connecticut, as well as operates a shuttle bus between Connecticut and New York. Besides fixed route buses which run along scheduled routes, HART provides "Sweet-HART" bus services which can be reserved in advance and are primarily used for transporting the elderly and disabled. Defendant Troy Boyd is a bus driver currently employed by HART. Defendant Andrew Ziegler was HART's director of operations until August 1999. Defendant Richard Cockfield is HART's operations supervisor. Defendant Eric Bergstraesser is HART's executive director. Defendant Beverly Durante is HART's personnel administrator. Defendant "John Doe" (Thomas Felker) is a bus operator and defendant Roxanne Erdogan a/k/a Roxanne

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Torres is a trolley operator; both are currently employed by HART.

Ward, who regularly utilizes HART bus services, brought claims against HART and the HART defendants based on an ongoing and lengthy dispute between himself and the defendants. This dispute has, at various times, resulted in HART suspending Ward's right to use its bus services and has caused the Danbury Police Department to become involved.

Ward filed a number of complaints with HART during 1997 about its bus services, specifically regarding drivers who had not picked him up at designated bus stops. Among the drivers that Ward filed complaints about was defendant Troy Boyd. HART responded to these complaints in writing and, at times, provided Ward with free bus passes. In 1998, Ward requested, through FOIA, to see the records and files of HART drivers. In addition, Ward continued filing complaints during 1998. Specifically, he complained a number of times about Boyd refusing to pick him up at bus stations.

One of these incidents occurred on July 7, 1998, when Boyd refused to allow Ward to board his bus. The parties disagree about why Ward was refused bus services on that day. A second incident occurred on September 19, 1998, when Ward confronted Boyd after Boyd had passed him at a stop but did not pick him up. The incident escalated into a shouting match between Ward, Boyd and a second driver, Felker. There is disagreement as to what was said, but both parties agree that Boyd and Felker called the police and an officer was dispatched to the scene but no arrest was made. As a result of this incident, HART barred Ward from riding on buses operated by Boyd. HART has a written policy which provides that the company retains the right to deny bus services to passengers who act in a "manner threatening to the safety of the drivers or passengers" or who engage in "seriously disruptive or objectionable behavior." Defendants' Local Rule (9)(c)(1) Statement, (Dkt. No. 64), attachment J. Ward spoke on the phone with Ziegler about the incident and, as a follow-up to their conversation, Ward faxed Ziegler a letter entitled "Complaint and Petition for Redress of Grievance" (referred to by both parties as the "Plato Letter"). The letter included a lengthy quote of Plato. Ward claims in his Facts Not in Dispute, (Dkt. No. 74 at 9), that the letter expressed tenants of his religious beliefs, but the HART defendants contend in their Local Rule 9(c)(1) Statement, (Dkt. No. 64 at ¶ 15), that they viewed the letter as threatening.

On October 2, 1998, Ward was involved in a verbal altercation with Torres. The incident occurred on the bus that Torres was operating. Torres pulled the bus over and involved her supervisors, Cockfield and Ziegler. On November 25, 1998, Boyd filed a complaint with his supervisors about an attempt by Ward to board his bus in violation of the ongoing suspension.

On November 27, 1998, Ward brought a notice of intent to sue to the Kennedy Avenue bus stop in order to give it to union president Amorando. After the letter was exchanged, Amorando followed Ward and boarded the bus behind him. HART claims that Ward and Amorando had a short conversation on the bus while Ward was waiting for the bus to take him home. Ward claims, however, that he was not allowed off the bus as Amorando blocked the exit.

An additional incident occurred on December 3, 1998, when Ward was accused, in a driver comment form written by driver Kelly Legg, of referring to her as "he/ she/it, whatever." The next day, HART suspended Ward from riding on all fixed

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route buses. This suspension lasted until March 17, 1999. During the suspension, Ward remained able to make reservations for bus services on SweetHART buses. Ward had purchased a "fast pass" (an advance monthly ticket) for $19.50 for use on the fixed route buses and the SweetHART buses during the month of December.

Upon resumption of Ward's full riding privileges, new disputes arose. On April 24, 1999, Torres complained that Ward pounded on her bus window,...

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  • Traylor v. Hammond, Civil No. 3:12cv01625AWT.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • March 18, 2015
    ...and due process provisions (Art. First, § § 1, 8 and 20) of the Connecticut Constitution.” Ward v. Housatonic Area Reg'l Transit Dist., 154 F.Supp.2d 339, 356 (D.Conn.2001).Given that Traylor raises “novel and undeveloped issues of state law, and out of the deference owed to the State as th......
  • Lopez v. Smiley, No. 3:02CV1020 (MRK).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • June 24, 2005
    ...710 A.2d 688 (no private cause of action for damages under Article First § 10). See also Ward v. Housatonic Area Reg'l Transit Dist., 154 F.Supp.2d 339, 356 (D.Conn.2001) ("The court finds that there is no private cause of action for monetary damages under the equal protection and due proce......
  • Latham v. Acton, Case No. 3:19-cv-00258-SLG
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Alaska
    • October 9, 2020
    ...Thornton v. City of St. Helens, 425 F.3d 1158, 1164 (9th Cir. 2005)). 118. See, e.g., Ward v. Housatonic Area Reg'l Transit Dist., 154 F. Supp. 2d 339, 347-48 (D. Conn. 2001) ("The court is unable to find that [plaintiff] has a property interest in riding the bus and, therefore, holds that ......
  • Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp., No. 08-2820.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • October 15, 2009
    ...trial appellant orally filed a motion for a jury trial, which the court denied."); Ward v. Housatonic Area Reg'l Transit Dist., 154 F.Supp.2d 339, 351 (D.Conn.2001) ("Clearly, any written or oral complaints that Wa[rd] filed with HART were protected speech. . . ."); Rallis v. Holiday Inns, ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
30 cases
  • Traylor v. Hammond, Civil No. 3:12cv01625AWT.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • March 18, 2015
    ...and due process provisions (Art. First, § § 1, 8 and 20) of the Connecticut Constitution.” Ward v. Housatonic Area Reg'l Transit Dist., 154 F.Supp.2d 339, 356 (D.Conn.2001).Given that Traylor raises “novel and undeveloped issues of state law, and out of the deference owed to the State as th......
  • Lopez v. Smiley, No. 3:02CV1020 (MRK).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • June 24, 2005
    ...710 A.2d 688 (no private cause of action for damages under Article First § 10). See also Ward v. Housatonic Area Reg'l Transit Dist., 154 F.Supp.2d 339, 356 (D.Conn.2001) ("The court finds that there is no private cause of action for monetary damages under the equal protection and due proce......
  • Latham v. Acton, Case No. 3:19-cv-00258-SLG
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Alaska
    • October 9, 2020
    ...Thornton v. City of St. Helens, 425 F.3d 1158, 1164 (9th Cir. 2005)). 118. See, e.g., Ward v. Housatonic Area Reg'l Transit Dist., 154 F. Supp. 2d 339, 347-48 (D. Conn. 2001) ("The court is unable to find that [plaintiff] has a property interest in riding the bus and, therefore, holds that ......
  • Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp., No. 08-2820.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • October 15, 2009
    ...trial appellant orally filed a motion for a jury trial, which the court denied."); Ward v. Housatonic Area Reg'l Transit Dist., 154 F.Supp.2d 339, 351 (D.Conn.2001) ("Clearly, any written or oral complaints that Wa[rd] filed with HART were protected speech. . . ."); Rallis v. Holiday Inns, ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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