United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS
ALLISON D. BURROUGHS U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Benoit Baldwin (“Plaintiff”) filed suit alleging
violations of his equal protection and due process rights as
a result of Defendant Town of West Tisbury's
(“Defendant” or the “Town”)
enforcement of its regulatory framework against him and his
taxicab company and not against transportation network
companies (“TNCs”), such as Uber and Lyft. [ECF
No. 28]. Presently pending before the Court is
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).
[ECF No. 29]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court
GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Defendant's
April 15, 2016, Plaintiff filed his original complaint
seeking declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and monetary
damages against the Town of West Tisbury, the Board of
Selectmen of West Tisbury, Richard Knabel, Jeffrey Manter,
Cynthia Mitchell, Town Administrator Jennifer Rand, and Chief
of Police Daniel Rossi. [ECF No. 1]. On August 5, 2016, the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts enacted a comprehensive statute
regulating TNCs, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 159A1/2 (the
“Act”), and shortly thereafter, on August 31,
2016, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim, arguing that the Act preempted local laws that
would regulate TNCs and taxis the same and therefore mooted
Plaintiff's claims. [ECF No. 21, 22]. Plaintiff then
filed a motion seeking permission to file an amended
complaint [ECF No. 23], which the Court allowed on September
23, 2016 [ECF No. 25]. On November 22, 2016, Plaintiff
amended his complaint, limiting his allegations to before
August 5, 2016 (the date of the enactment of the Act). [ECF
No. 28 (“Compl.”)]. On December 8, 2016,
Defendant again moved to dismiss for failure to state a
claim. [ECF Nos. 29, 30]. On December 22, 2016, Plaintiff
filed a memorandum in opposition to the motion in
part. [ECF No. 31].
ALLEGATIONS IN THE AMENDED COMPLAINT
is the co-owner and operator of Alpha Taxi, LLC, which is a
taxi service that is licensed by Defendant, on the island of
Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. Compl. ¶ 3. On or
about April 15, 2015, Plaintiff learned that an Uber driver
was operating in the Town without a license under the
Town's taxi regulations. Compl. ¶ 5, 22, 23. In May
2016, a Lyft driver also began operating on Martha's
Vineyard. Id. ¶ 6. Plaintiff alleges that the
Lyft and Uber drivers are “engaged in the same exact
service” as Plaintiff and his taxicab company.
Id. ¶¶ 5-6. During the entire relevant
time period, the Town enforced taxi regulations against
Plaintiff and his company, but not against the TNCs.
Id. ¶ 10. These regulations required that
taxicab drivers have valid permits, owner's certificates,
and be licensed with the Town's police department.
Id. ¶ 7. A “taxicab” was defined as
“[a]ny motor vehicle with a valid permit used or
intended for use in the conveyance of persons for hire from
place to place.” Compl. ¶ 18.
learning about the Uber driver in April 2015, Plaintiff filed
a complaint with the Town's Administrator and with the
Chief of Police seeking enforcement of the Town's taxi
regulations against Uber and its driver. Id.
¶¶ 24-26. The Town's Board of Selectmen then
placed the issue on its agenda for the weekly meeting on
April 29, 2015, which Plaintiff attended. Id.
¶¶ 27, 29. At the meeting, the Board explained
that, according to the Town's Counsel, the Town's
taxi regulations did not apply to Uber. Id. ¶
28. Plaintiff alleges that, at this meeting, he made it clear
that he did not think that the Town Counsel's verbal
opinion was sufficient to address his concerns and requested
a copy of the opinion, which he received on May 11, 2015.
Id. ¶¶ 29-30. Dissatisfied with the
opinion, Plaintiff again requested that his complaint be
placed on the next available meeting agenda. Id.
¶¶ 30-32. Although Plaintiff's request to be
heard was not posted as a discussion topic on the agenda for
the meeting, the Board deliberated and declined to hear
Plaintiff's complaint again. Id. ¶¶
33-35. On May 21, 2015, the Town Administrator subsequently
e-mailed Plaintiff denying his request, and stating that any
responses to the Town Counsel's opinion should be
submitted in writing. Id. ¶ 35.
2015, Plaintiff implemented an electronic hailing system for
his taxicab service that allowed real-time booking and
payment by credit card through various smartphone apps.
Id. ¶¶ 36-37. Plaintiff alleges that this
system “eras[ed] any difference” between his taxi
service and TNCs. Id. ¶ 37. He further alleges
that there was no rational basis for the disparate treatment
of his taxicab and TNCs, like Lyft and Uber, prior to August
on these facts, Plaintiff alleges violations of the Equal
Protection Clause (Count I) and the Due Process Clause (Count
II) of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The
complaint requests monetary damages only.
evaluating a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the
Court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts, analyze
those facts in the light most hospitable to Plaintiff's
theory, and draw all reasonable inferences from those facts
in favor of Plaintiff. U.S. ex rel. Hutcheson v.
Blackstone Med. Inc., 647 F.3d 377, 383 (1st Cir. 2011).
To avoid dismissal, a complaint must set forth “more
than labels and conclusions, ” Bell Atl. Co. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), and must include
“factual allegations, either direct or inferential,
respecting each material element necessary to sustain
recovery under some actionable legal theory, ”
Gagliardi v. Sullivan, 513 F.3d 301, 305 (1st Cir.
2008) (internal quotations and citation omitted).
facts alleged, when taken together, must be sufficient to
“state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” A.G. ex rel. Maddox v. Elsevier, Inc.,
732 F.3d 77, 80 (1st Cir. 2013) (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 570). The plausibility standard invites a
two-step analysis. Id. “At the first step, the
court ‘must separate the complaint's factual
allegations (which must be accepted as true) from its
conclusory legal allegations (which need not be
credited).'” Id. (quoting Morales-Cruz
v. Univ. of P.R., 676 F.3d 220, 224 (1st Cir. 2012)).
“At the second step, the court must determine whether
the remaining factual content allows a reasonable inference
that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. (internal quotations and
citation omitted). “[T]he combined allegations, taken
as true, must state a plausible, not a merely conceivable,
case for relief.” Sepulveda-Villarini v. Dep't
of Educ. of P.R., 628 F.3d 25, 29 (1st Cir. 2010).
Court will construe Baldwin's allegations liberally
because he is proceeding pro se, Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), however, the Court need
not credit conclusory assertions or subjective
characterizations. Barrington Cove Ltd. P'ship v.
R.I. Hous. & Mortg. Fin. Corp., 246 F.3d 1, 5 (1st
Cir. 2001). Dismissal of a pro se complaint is
appropriate when the complaint fails to state an actionable
claim. Muller v. Bedford VA Hosp., No. ...