United States District Court, S.D. Florida
ORDER ON MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE
BLOOM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
CAUSE is before the Court upon Defendant Prisoner
Transportation Services, LLC's (“PTS”) Motion
for Judgment on the Pleadings, ECF No.  (the
“Motion”). The Court has carefully reviewed the
Motion, all opposing and supporting materials, the record in
this case, the applicable law, and is otherwise fully
advised. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is
Jeffrey Emil Groover (“Groover”), filed this
action, individually and on behalf of all others similarly
situated, against PTS, U.S. Corrections LLC
(“USC”), and John Does 1-100 alleging civil
rights violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF No.
. In the Amended Complaint, Groover, an inmate at the
Butner Low Security Federal Correctional Institution in
Butner, North Carolina, alleges that between August 14, 2015
and August 16, 2015, USC transported him from Butner, North
Carolina to Fort Lauderdale, Florida in a windowless
transport van lacking sufficient ventilation and air
conditioning. Id. at. ¶ 6. Groover claims that
he was deprived of sleep, water, and refuge from the heat.
Id. at ¶ 6. As a result of the purported
excessively hot conditions and lack of adequate ventilation
in the van, Groover experienced physical, mental, and
emotional exhaustion as well as a heat stroke. Id.
at ¶ 6. According to the Amended Complaint, USC knew of
the conditions to which Groover was subjected and failed to
take appropriate measures. Id. at ¶ 30. Groover
also states that numerous other pretrial detainees that USC
and PTS transported suffered similar inhumane conditions and
harm as a result of their transportation practices.
Id. at. ¶ 28. Groover alleges that these
conditions violate his and other pretrial detainees'
Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Id. at
Groover alleges in the Amended Complaint that USC transported
him in its van. Id. at ¶ 6. Groover does not
claim that PTS was involved in his transportation. Instead,
he states that fifteen months after the alleged incident
occurred, in November of 2016, the Surface Transportation
Board approved PTS' acquisition of USC. Id. at
¶ 16, n. 5. Since November of 2016, Groover claims that
USC has operated as a wholly-owned subsidiary of PTS.
Id. at ¶ 21. In Count I, Groover, individually,
asserts a claim for a violation of his Eighth and Fourteenth
Amendment rights against all Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C
§ 1983. Id. at 24. In Count II, Groover, filed
the same claim against Defendants on behalf of the putative
class members. Id. at 26.
issue now is PTS' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings in
which PTS requests the entry of final judgment in its favor.
ECF No. . In support of the Motion, PTS argues that it is
not liable as a matter of law for the actions of USC - the
entity that transported Plaintiff. Id. With regard
to Count I, PTS argues it did not acquire USC until after the
incident occurred and it cannot be directly liable.
Id. Further, it cannot be liable for USC's
actions as Groover failed to allege facts to pierce the
corporate veil or disregard the well-established principle
that a parent corporation and its wholly-owned subsidiary are
separate and distinct legal entities. Id. at 8. As
to Count II, PTS argues that PTS did not transport Groover
and did not, therefore, injure Groover. As a result, Groover
cannot be a member of the putative class injured by PTS'
transportation practices, lacking standing to bring a class
action lawsuit against PTS. Id. at 11. In addition,
as to PTS' request for judgment on the pleadings
regarding the claim for injunctive relief, PTS argues a party
cannot seek equitable relief unless it proves “real and
immediate harm.” Id. Because Groover's
transportation occurred in the past, PTS states that he lacks
standing to seek equitable relief and, in any event, the
request is now moot.
response, Groover denies that his claim against PTS is based
on vicarious liability and instead alleges that PTS is
directly liable under a successor-in-interest theory of
liability. ECF No. . Groover supports this position by
alleging that: (1) PTS assumed all of USC's assets and
liabilities in the merger; (2) PTS' acquisition of USC
constitutes a de facto merger; and (3) as PTS'
subsidiary, USC remains a mere continuation of its
predecessor business. Id. at 3. As to Count II,
Groover claims that PTS is directly liable for his harm and
he has, therefore, sufficiently established PTS' Article
III standing and membership within the putative class.
Id. at 12. Regarding PTS' argument seeking
judgment on the pleadings on his request for equitable
relief, Groover argues that equitable relief is a remedy, not
a claim, and a judgment cannot be entered on a remedy. Even
if it could, Groover argues that he has alleged a real and
immediate harm of future transportation, satisfying the
standing necessary for a claim for injunctive relief.
Reply, PTS refutes Groover's successor-in-interest theory
of liability. ECF No. . Specifically, PTS argues that
neither Groover's Amended Complaint nor the exhibits he
references in his pleading demonstrate that PTS acquired
USC's liabilities. Id. at 4. Furthermore, PTS
argues that there was no de facto merger between PTS
and USC because the exhibits demonstrate PTS' formal
acquisition of USC, which in turn made USC the wholly- owned
subsidiary of PTS. ECF No. [78-1] at 1. Furthermore, PTS
argues that it is not a mere continuation of USC because PTS
and USC remain separate, distinct entities independent of one
another. Id. at 7.
the Motion was pending, Plaintiff sought leave to file
supplemental materials in further support of his Response
consisting of documents that were recently produced in
discovery. See ECF No. . PTS did not object to
supplementing the record as such documents were central to
Plaintiff's claims against PTS and were undisputed. ECF
No.  at 1. PTS further argued that such documents
“corroborate and further support PTS' position that
it is entitled to entry of judgment on the pleadings . .
.” Id. The Court thereafter granted Plaintiff
leave to file the documents, which were filed under seal.
See ECF No.  and . The Motion is now ripe
the pleadings are closed - but early enough not to delay
trial - a party may move for judgment on the
pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A party may move for
judgment on the pleadings if there are no material facts in
dispute. See Palmer & Cay, Inc. v. Marsh &
McLennan Cos., 404 F.3d 1297, 1303 (11th Cir. 2005);
Riccard v. Prudential Ins. Co., 307 F.3d 1277, 1291
(11th Cir. 2002). In rendering judgment, a court may consider
the substance of the pleadings and any judicially noticed
facts. Cunningham v. Dist. Attorney's Office for
Escambia Cty., 592 F.3d 1237, 1255 (11th Cir. 2010).
“A motion for judgment on the pleadings is governed by
the same standard as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss.” Guarino v. Wyeth LLC, 823 F.Supp.2d
1289, 1291 (M.D. Fla. 2011). As such, a complaint must
provide “more than labels and conclusions, and a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007); see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (explaining that Rule 8(a)(2)'s
pleading standard “demands more than an unadorned,
the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation”). Nor
can a complaint rest on ‘“naked assertion[s]'
devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 557 (alteration in original)). “To survive
a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
Through this lens, the Court considers the instant Motion.
seeks judgment in its favor on all claims Groover asserts in
the Amended Complaint on behalf of himself and the putative
class. ECF No. . As explained above, the Motion
challenges Plaintiff's claims as to Count I, Count II,
and his request for injunctive relief. The Court will address
each argument in turn.