United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING DENYING DEFENDANT METROPOLITAN TRANSPORTATION
AUTHORITY'S MOTION TO DISMISS
Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge
Metropolitan Transportation Authority (“MTA”)
moves pursuant to Fed R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) to dismiss
plaintiffs' remaining claims against MTA. See
Doc. #413. MTA argues in principal part that it cannot be
liable, because plaintiffs have abandoned any theory of
liability against MTA that is based on MTA's police
patrol activity and because MTA cannot otherwise be liable by
reason of any theory that it engaged in a joint venture with
co-defendant Metro-North Commuter Railroad Company
(“Metro-North”). Because I do not agree with
MTA's arguments, I will deny the motion to dismiss.
Omar Colon suffered a severe electrocution injury after he
climbed up a catenary pole along the Metro-North railroad
tracks in Connecticut. The factual background of this case
has been described in detail in the Court's ruling on
motions for summary judgment. See Colon v. Metro-N.
Commuter R.R. Co., ___ F.Supp.3d ___, 2017 WL 987844 (D.
Conn. 2017). As part of that ruling, the Court held that a
“reasonable jury could conclude that the MTA's
significant police presence along the railroad right-of-way
constitutes ‘control' over the property, more so
when coupled with the fact that the MTA is a signatory to the
contract with the CT DOT and Metro-North, and the fact that
it owns Metro-North.” Id. at *7 (internal
citations omitted). Subsequently, at a pretrial conference on
June 1, 2017, plaintiffs' counsel stated repeatedly that
plaintiffs' claim against MTA was not based on alleged
negligence by MTA police officers. See Doc. #383 at
27-31, 93-97. Defendant MTA then filed this motion to dismiss
all remaining claims against it, arguing that, if plaintiffs
are not alleging negligence on the part of MTA's police
officers, they have no valid claim against MTA.
background principles governing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss are well established. The Court must accept as true
all factual matters alleged in a complaint, although a
complaint may not survive unless its factual recitations
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.
See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009); Mastafa v. Chevron Corp., 770 F.3d 170,
177 (2d Cir. 2014).
undisputed that MTA employed police to engage in patrols
along Metro-North's railway tracks including in the area
where plaintiff Colon was injured. MTA understands
plaintiffs' theory of liability against MTA to rely on
the inadequacy of these police patrols to prevent incursions
by trespassers. That is not correct. Rather than relying on
any inadequacy of MTA police patrols, plaintiffs
rely on the presence of MTA police patrols as
evidence of MTA's control of the premises, such that
MTA-along with Metro-North-may be subject to liability as
possessors of the land where plaintiff Colon was injured.
See Lin v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp., 277 Conn.
1, 16 n.10 (2006) (“liability in a premises liability
case is based solely on control and possession . . .”).
Regardless of the adequacy of the MTA's police patrols,
the fact of MTA's police presence along the railroad
right-of-way is relevant to plaintiffs' overall effort to
demonstrate that MTA did in fact control or possess those
premises. See Gazo v. Stamford, 255 Conn. 245, 249
(2001) (“premises liability . . . requires that the
party to be held liable be in control of the
property”). If the jury finds that MTA did control the
right of way, then MTA may possibly be liable to those
injured along the right-of-way under the general principles
of Connecticut premises liability law. Accordingly,
notwithstanding any statement by plaintiffs that they do not
seek to hold MTA liable for having inadequate police patrols,
any such statements do not as a matter of law absolve MTA
from potential liability in this case.
Joint Venture Liability
otherwise argues that it may not be held liable on the basis
of a joint-venture theory of liability, because any joint
venture between MTA and Metro-North was not for the purpose
of money-making profit. See Doc. #413 at 6. This
argument, however, relies on a misunderstanding of
Connecticut law. In Doe v. Yale University, 252
Conn. 641 (2000), the Connecticut Supreme Court held that
Yale University and Yale-New Haven Hospital, two nonprofit
organizations, could form a joint venture together.
Id. at 676-80. The court held that “although a
profit motive is often recognized as one factor suggesting
the existence of a joint venture, the absence of a profit
motive is not fatal, as a matter of law, to the existence of
a joint venture, ” and “nonprofit organizations
are not precluded, as a matter of law, from forming joint
ventures.” Id. at 677.
there is no merit to MTA's argument that as a matter of
Connecticut law it may not be deemed to have engaged in a
joint venture with Metro-North. Because MTA's liability
may be premised on evidence that it controlled the property
and/or its participation in a joint venture with Metro-North,
I need not further consider MTA's arguments at this time
that its liability may not be premised on its ownership of
foregoing reasons, defendant MTA's motion to ...