United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
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R. LeBlanc, Craig D. Levey, Lauren B. Haskins, Bennett &
Belfort PC, Cambridge, MA, for Plaintiff.
P. Coakley, Susan E. Devlin, Murphy & Riley, PC, Paul G.
Boylan, Thomas K. McCraw, Jr., Freeman Mathis & Gary,
LLP, Boston, MA, Marielise Kelly, Elise R. Marshall,
Gargiulo/Rudnick, LLP, Mashpee, MA, John J. Lang, Lang &
Associates, Lynnfield, MA, for Defendants.
present motions for summary judgment raise, among other
questions as to the applicability of several Massachusetts
anti-discrimination statutes to governmental entities. Scant
judicial ink has been spilled addressing governmental
liability under some of these laws. These lacunae are perhaps
understandable for the Massachusetts Equal Rights Act, passed
in 1989, but it is more surprising for the Massachusetts
Public Accommodation Law, first enacted in 1865 and amended
many times since. With old and new statutes alike, the Court
strives rightly to interpret and justly to apply the law.
reasons that follow, the Court DENIES the motion of
Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority for summary judgment
as to the claims under the Massachusetts Public Accommodation
Law (Count I) and the Massachusetts Equal Rights Act (Count
II), but GRANTS the motion as to the claims under section
1981 (Count III), negligent infliction of emotional distress
(Count V), and chapter 93A (Count VI). The Court further
DENIES the motion of Transit Connection, Inc. for summary
judgment as to Counts I, II, III, and VI but GRANTS the
motion as to Count V.
Undisputed Facts and Procedural History
motions for summary judgment arise from an incident on
Martha's Vineyard, in which the following facts are
undisputed. On July 11, 2018, Kevin Brooks
("Brooks") sought to board a bus in Edgartown,
Massachusetts. Concise Statement Material Facts Pursuant L.R.
56.1 ("Vineyard Transit Auth. SOF") ¶ 19, ECF
No. 54; Statement Material Facts Def. Transit Connection Inc.
Supp. Mot. Summ. J. ("Transit Connection's
SOF") ¶¶ 2-3, ECF No. 51. When the Route 13
bus passed without picking Brooks up on the way to the ferry
terminal, he ordered a ride on Uber, a ride sharing
application. Id.; Vineyard Transit Auth. SOF ¶
28. Brooks caught up with the bus and asked the bus driver,
James Taylor ("Taylor"), why the bus passed him.
Id. ¶ 40; Transit Connection's SOF ¶
10. During a brief back-and-forth, Taylor first responded
"I don't know," then stated "I was
full," which led to a dispute between Brooks and Taylor
as to whether the bus was full. Id. ¶¶
13-14; Vineyard Transit Auth. SOF ¶¶ 41-45. Taylor
then said "[w]ell, it's because you're
black," and the two continued to debate whether the bus
was full. Transit Connection's SOF ¶ 14; Vineyard
Transit Auth. SOF ¶ 46. The interaction was captured on
video, a portion of which has been provided to the Court.
Id., Ex. 5, BUSWATCH Software Brooks v. Martha's
Vineyard Regional Transit Auth. (CDROM, 11, Jul. 2018), ECF
No. 54-5. Two days after the incident, on July 13, 2018,
Taylor was fired by Transit Connection. Transit
Connection's SOF ¶ 15.
claims that he "felt utter shock and disbelief" and
began to cry. Vineyard Transit Auth. SOF ¶¶ 53-55.
Brooks states that he has since replayed the incident over
and over in his mind. Id. ¶ 56. Brooks believes
the incident "exacerbated preexisting emotional distress
caused by discrimination he has previously suffered" and
asserts he has lost sleep due to the incident. Id.
15, 2019, Brooks filed a complaint in this Court against
Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority ("Vineyard
Transit Authority"), Transit Connection, Inc.
("Transit Connection"), and Taylor (collectively,
"Defendants"). Pl.'s Compl. Demand Jury Trial
("Compl."), ECF No. 1. Specifically, Brooks asserts
the following counts: (1) Defendants violated the
Massachusetts Public Accommodation Law; (2) Defendants
violated the Massachusetts Equal Rights Act; (3) Defendants
violated 42 U.S.C. § 1981; (4) Taylor is liable for
intentional infliction of emotional distress; (5) Defendants
are liable for negligent infliction of emotional distress;
and (6) Vineyard
Transit Authority and Transit Connection violated the
Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act. Compl. ¶¶
26-55. Brooks is seeking compensatory, consequential, treble
and punitive damages, as well as costs and attorneys'
fees. Id. 8.
October 1, 2019, Vineyard Transit Authority and Transit
Connection each moved for summary judgment. Def. Martha's
Vineyard Transit Auth.'s Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 49; Mot.
Summ. J. Def. Transit Connection Inc., ECF No. 50. All
parties fully briefed the issues. Mem. Law Def. Transit
Connection Inc. Supp. TCI Mot. Summ. J. ("Transit
Connection's Mem."), ECF No. 52; Def. Martha's
Vineyard Transit Auth.'s Mem. Law Supp. Mot. Summ. J.
("Vineyard Transit Authority's Mem."), ECF No.
53; Opp'n. Pl., Kevin Brooks, Def. Martha's Vineyard
Transit Auth.'s Mot. Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Opp'n
Vineyard"), ECF No. 60; Pl.'s Opp'n Def. Transit
Connection Inc.'s Mot. Summ. J ("Pl.'s Opp'n
Transit Connection"), ECF No. 62; Def. Marthas Vineyard
Transit Auth.'s Reply Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J.
("Vineyard Transit Authority's Reply"), ECF No.
67. The Court heard argument on the motions for summary
judgment on November 25, 2019 and took the matter under
advisement. Electronic Clerk's Notes, ECF No. 70.
judgment is appropriate "if 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). A dispute regarding a material fact is
genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury
could return a verdict for the nonmoving party."
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248,
106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). "The party with
the burden of proof must provide evidence sufficient for the
court to hold that no reasonable fact-finder could find other
than in its favor." South Middlesex Opportunity
Council, Inc. v. Town of Framingham, 752 F.Supp.2d 85,
95 (D. Mass. 2010) (Woodlock, J.) (quoting Scottsdale
Ins. Co. v. Torres, 561 F.3d 74, 77 (1st Cir. 2009)).
Massachusetts Public ...