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K.T. v. Culver-Stockton College

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

August 11, 2016

K. T., Plaintiff,
v.
CULVER-STOCKTON COLLEGE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CHARLES A. SHAW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on defendant Culver-Stockton College’s (“College”) motion to dismiss Count I of plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff opposes the motion and it is fully briefed. For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss will be granted. The Court will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff’s remaining state law claims, and will dismiss the same without prejudice.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint (“Complaint”) alleges that “[o]n and prior to February 8, 2014, plaintiff, K.T., then a high school junior, 16 years of age, was invited to visit Culver-Stockton by the college as a potential recruit for the women’s soccer team, an athletic activity sponsored and promoted by Culver-Stockton College.” Complaint, ¶ 8. Plaintiff alleges that “[o]n or about February 8-9, 2014, while plaintiff was supposedly under the guidance and supervision of the College, she was physically assaulted by defendant, A.B., a student at Culver-Stockton, on the premises of the local Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity house, of which defendant A.B. was then a member.” Id., ¶ 12.

         Plaintiff alleges that she was “subjected to forcible physical and mental coercion by Defendant A.B., either intentionally or in gross disregard for plaintiff’s rights, accompanied by the serving of alcoholic beverages to the minor Plaintiff, and social coercion by Defendant A.B., so as to render her incapable of consent; and was thereafter subjected to a sexual assault by Defendant A.B. grasping her person and private parts and in disrobing Plaintiff without her consent, and causing penetration[.]” Id., ¶ 14.

         Plaintiff alleges that the College became aware of the sexual assault when “[o]ther parties and fraternity members of Lambda Chi Alpha local Chapter reported the incident to the authorities at the College on February 8-9, 2014, but Defendant College failed and neglected to take reasonable corrective action or to adequately investigate the matter or make contact with Plaintiff and her family, until a complaint was registered with law enforcement on February 15, 2014, by plaintiff’s family.” Id., ¶ 15. Plaintiff further alleges, “Thereafter, representatives of the College withdrew from a scheduled conference with Plaintiff and her parents when they discovered the nature of the complaint, rather than conduct an investigation, review all the issues or offer any necessary treatment or counseling to Plaintiff.” Id., ¶ 16.

         Plaintiff alleges that “at all times herein, Defendant College had the right to regulate the conduct of its students, including Defendant A.B. and the Lambda Chi Alpha local Chapter and had the right to control or exert substantial control over student actions so as to prevent sexual violence on fellow students and guests.” Id., ¶ 17. Plaintiff alleges that “Defendant College knew or should have known of the propensity of college students to utilize alcohol and to become involved in assaultive behavior while using alcohol.” Id., ¶ 21. Finally, plaintiff alleges that “Defendant further was aware of the need to provide guidance, supervision and control for the minor athletic invitees on its campus premises, but failed and neglected to do so.” Id., ¶ 22.

         Plaintiff’s claim against the College relates to its response to the alleged assault - “as a direct and proximate result of said assault by A.B. and failure to investigate and provide guidance, counseling and treatment, by Culver-Stockton, Plaintiff sustained mental and emotional distress and was required to expend funds for care and treatment. Id., ¶ 19.

         Count I of the Complaint asserts a claim against the College under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681, et seq. Plaintiff alleges that “[t]he assault upon plaintiff on February 8-9, 2014, constitutes sexual harassment and sexual violence within the meaning of the proscription against the same under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act [sic], which confers separate rights in the nature of a statutory tort.” Id., ¶ 24. Plaintiff asserts “[t]hat the inaction by the college in failing to investigate, take corrective measures and provide post violence care and treatment, constitutes deliberate indifference.” Id., ¶ 25.

         Count II of the Complaint asserts state law assault claims against defendants A.B., Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity, and Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity Inc.[1] Count III asserts state law claims of negligent and careless supervision against Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity and Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity Inc.

         II. Legal Standard

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim for relief “must include sufficient factual information to provide the ‘grounds’ on which the claim rests, and to raise a right to relief above a speculative level.” Schaaf v. Residential Funding Corp., 517 F.3d 544, 549 (8th Cir. 2008) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 & n.3). This obligation requires a plaintiff to plead “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         On a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint, even if it appears that “actual proof of those facts is improbable, ” id. at 556, and reviews the complaint to determine whether its allegations show that the pleader is entitled to relief. Id. at 555-56; Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The principle that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint does not apply to legal conclusions, however. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice”).

         “While courts primarily consider the allegations in the complaint in determining whether to grant a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, courts additionally consider ‘matters incorporated by reference or integral to the claim, items subject to judicial notice, matters of public record, orders, items appearing in the record of the case, and exhibits attached to the complaint whose authenticity is unquestioned;’ without converting the motion into one for summary judgment.” Miller v. Redwood Toxicology Lab, Inc., 688 F.3d 928, 931 & n.3 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting 5B Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1357 (3d ed. 2004)).

         Plaintiff submitted four exhibits with her opposition to the College’s motion to dismiss. Because none of the documents submitted as exhibits are within the categories a court may consider on a motion to dismiss without converting it to a motion for summary judgment, the Court will not consider any of the exhibits in resolving the instant motion to dismiss.

         III. Defendant College’s Motion to Dismiss Count I

         The College’s motion to dismiss asserts that Count I of the Complaint fails to state a plausible claim under Title IX for six reasons:

         1. As a non-student at the College, plaintiff may not assert a claim for money damages under Title IX for alleged “student-on-student” harassment under the Supreme Court’s holding in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, 526 U.S. 629 (1999).

         2. Plaintiff has no standing to sue the College under Title IX for peer harassment because plaintiff was never a student at the College.

         3. Plaintiff fails to allege a plausible claim that the College had “actual notice” of the alleged sex discrimination against plaintiff.

         4. Plaintiff fails to allege a plausible claim that the College was “deliberately indifferent” to alleged sex discrimination against Plaintiff.

         5. Plaintiff fails to allege a plausible claim that the College had control over the setting and circumstances giving rise to alleged discrimination against plaintiff.

         6. Plaintiff fails to allege a plausible claim that the College intentionally discriminated against Plaintiff because of her gender.

         7. Plaintiff fails to allege a plausible claim that the College’s response to notice of the alleged discrimination was “clearly unreasonable.”

         IV. ...


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