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Davis v. Megabus Northeast, LLC

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 26, 2018

LYNETTE DAVIS, et al., Plaintiffs,
MEGABUS NORTHEAST LLC, et al., Defendants.



         I. Introduction

         This case concerns allegations brought by Lynette Davis, on behalf of herself and her minor child Coltan Edwards, and Michael Banks ("plaintiffs") against Megabus Northeast LLC and Megabus Southeast LLC ("defendants") for (1) violations of Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 ("Section 1981"), 42 U.S.C § 1981, et seq., as amended, (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"), and (3) assault. [ECF No. 1]. Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all three counts. [ECF No. 23]. Plaintiffs have moved for partial summary judgment on their Section 1981 claim. [ECF No. 24]. Because there is an issue of material fact on defendants' liability under Section 1981, the Court DENIES both defendants' and plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on this claim. The Court GRANTS defendants' motion for summary judgment on the IIED claim because the plaintiffs fail to allege more than mere mental and emotional distress in their pleadings. The Court also GRANTS defendants' motion for summary judgment on the assault claim because it is barred by the one-year statute of limitations.

         II. Background

         The factual allegations in this case center on a confrontation that occurred between the plaintiffs and a Megabus employee on January 4, 2015. The plaintiffs purchased bus tickets from the defendants to travel from New York City to Orlando, Florida by way of three different busses. Upon boarding the second bus of their trip at Union Station in Washington, D.C., Bernard Antoine, a Megabus baggage handler, began loading luggage behind plaintiff Davis and plaintiff Edwards' seats. Plaintiff Davis voiced her concern to Antoine that the baggage placement was unsafe. In response, Antoine began using a number of highly offensive racial slurs towards plaintiff Davis and her two sons. Antoine also threatened to remove them from the bus. Antoine allegedly continued to speak to Davis and Edwards in a derogatory manner for a period of roughly 15 minutes. During this period, another passenger on the bus, plaintiff Banks, intervened on behalf of Davis and her sons. After intervening, plaintiff Banks was also threatened and called derogatory names by Antoine. After exiting the bus, Antoine approached the window nearest the plaintiffs and pointed his hands in the form of a gun shape at plaintiff Edwards.

         The bus then departed from Union Station and the plaintiffs allege that they "were forced to ride nearly 17 hours on the Megabus bus feeling humiliated, scared, distressed, and upset." [Compl. ¶ 23, ECF No. 1]. Plaintiffs assert that they continue to suffer mental and emotional distress due to the actions of the Megabus baggage handler.

         III. Legal Standards

         a. Rule 56

         Under Rule 56, summary judgment is appropriate when "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., Ml U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). "A fact is material if it 'might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, ' and a dispute about a material fact is genuine 'if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'" Steele v. Schafer, 535 F.3d 689, 692 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (quoting Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248). All inferences drawn from the facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144 (1970). To prevail on a summary judgment motion there must be enough evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the moving party. Id. at 252.

         b. 42 U.S.C. § 1981

         Under Section 1981, all persons within the United States are entitled to (1) the right to make and enforce contracts and (2) the right to enjoy all benefits, privileges, terms, and conditions of their contractual relationships. 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a) reads:

"All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefits of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of every kind, and to no other."

         While "Section 1981 claims most commonly involve contracts of employment, " the provision "also prohibits refusal of service based on race." Mitchell v. DCX, Inc., 274 F.Supp.2d 33, 44 (D.D.C. 2003). "To establish a claim under § 1981, a plaintiff must show that (1) [he or she is a member] of a racial minority [group]; (2) the defendant had an intent to discriminate on the basis of race; and (3) the discrimination concerned one or more of the activities enumerated in the statute." Id. at 44-45.

         c. Intentional Infliction of ...

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