New Cases and Developments

NACUA's Legal Resources staff summarizes current higher education cases and developments and provides the full text of selected cases to members. New cases and developments are archived here for up to 12 months.  Cases provided by Fastcase, Inc.

Selected Topics: Athletics & Sports
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Sex Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity; Athletics Operations; Athletics & Sports

United States v. N.M. State Univ. and N.M. State Univ. Bd. of Regents (D.N.M. Feb. 6, 2018)

Memorandum Opinion and Order denying Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment. The United States brought a claim of pay discrimination under Title VII against Defendants after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found reasonable cause to believe that New Mexico State University (NMSU) engaged in wage discrimination against a female NMSU assistant coach, Meaghan Harkins. The court concluded that Plaintiff had established a prima facie case of discrimination based on evidence that two male comparators were paid more despite having duties and responsibilities that were similar to, or at least as demanding as, the female NMSU assistant coach. As to pretext, the court found that disputed facts about coaches’ duties and qualifications would need to be resolved at trial. 

Title IX; Due Process; Student Athlete Issues; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Constitutional Issues; Athletics & Sports

John Doe v. Wright State University (S.D. Ohio August 24, 2017)

Order sustaining Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss and overruling as moot Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Proceed Anonymously, but granting Plaintiff Limited Leave to Amend. Plaintiff is a former member of the Wright Student University (WSU) Men’s Varsity Tennis Team and alleged that Defendants, the Chair of the Student Appeals Panel and WSU Administrators, as well as WSU, violated his due process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment, as well as the Ohio Constitution, when it removed Plaintiff from the tennis team and expelled him from WSU for sexual misconduct, verbal harassment, and hazing of his fellow teammates. The court found that Plaintiff did not raise claims against any government officials, nor against any individual defendants acting on behalf of the U.S. government, and therefore, his Fifth Amendment claims were dismissed with prejudice. The court also dismissed Plaintiff’s procedural due process claim because he had sufficient notice and opportunity to defend against the charged allegations.  The court denied as moot Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Proceed Anonymously, as all his claims were dismissed, though the court granted Plaintiff limited leave to amend his complaint within twenty-one days as to his right to call exculpatory witnesses, instances of prejudice he experienced as a result of being prevented from doing so, and whether WSU’s hearing was effected by animus, prejudice, or impermissible stake in the outcome by WSU officials. 

Athletics Compliance (NCAA & more); Athletics & Sports

NCAA Sexual Violence Policy Announcement (Aug. 10, 2017)

Announcement issued by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) stating that its Board of Governors has adopted a new policy on sexual violence. The NCAA’s Commission to Combat Sexual Violence, convened a year ago by the Board to address sexual violence on campus, recommended the new policy to the Board. Among other things, the new policy requires coaches, administrators, and athletes to undergo sexual violence prevention training on an annual basis, and for campus leaders to attest annually that such trainings took place.   

Title IX; Minors on Campus; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Student Athlete Issues; Athletics & Sports

K.T. v. Culver-Stockton College (8th Cir. Aug. 1, 2017)

Opinion and Order affirming the district court’s grant of Culver-Stockton College’s (CSC) Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff-Appellant, a sixteen-year-old junior in high school who was invited to visit Culver-Stockton as a potential recruit to the women’s soccer team, claimed that she was physically and sexually assaulted by a fraternity member at an on-campus fraternity during her visit. The district court granted CSC’s Motion to Dismiss, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed. Even assuming that Plaintiff-Appellant's status as a non-student did not preclude her from asserting a Title IX harassment claim, the Eighth Circuit found that Plaintiff failed to plausibly allege that CSC had actual knowledge of discrimination, since actual knowledge requires institutions to have “more than after-the-fact notice of a single instance in which the plaintiff experienced sexual assault.” Moreover, she failed to plausibly plead deliberate indifference or that the College's response to her report had a systemic effect such that she was denied equal access to educational opportunities provided by the College.

Gender Equity; Athletics & Sports

Robb v. Lock Haven University (M.D. Pa. June 9, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion and Order denying Plaintiffs’ Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order. A group of female swimmers and field hockey players at Lock Haven University filed a Title IX action over the potential elimination, demotion, or reduction of certain female athletics teams at the University and their resources. In addition to their Complaint, Plaintiffs moved for a Temporary Restraining Order enjoining the University from implementing its plans for the athletic department and requiring it to pursue other plans. The court was not persuaded that all members of the swimming and field hockey teams would suffer an injury in fact, concluding that there exists a material difference between eliminating an athletics team altogether and the other proposed changes to the programs. Additionally, although Plaintiffs asserted that the uncertainty of whether the University would eliminate or demote either of the teams was harming the teams’ recruitment and scheduling, the court found these alleged harms too speculative to constitute irreparable harm for the purposes of a Temporary Restraining Order.

Student Athlete Issues; Athletics & Sports

Feleccia v. Lackawanna College (Pa. Super. Ct., Feb. 24, 2017)

Opinion and order reversing the entry of summary judgment and remanding for trial. Two student athletes were injured during football practice at Lackawanna College. At the time, the two athletic trainers on duty were not certified as athletic trainers. The student athletes filed suit against the College alleging negligence, negligence per se, gross negligence, and recklessness. The trial court granted summary judgment to the College, concluding that the waiver Plaintiffs signed prior to participating in practice was enforceable and thus precluded liability on behalf of the College. The Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed. While the waiver’s exculpatory clause was valid, when applied to the facts of this case, its language was not “sufficiently particular and without ambiguity as to preclude liability” for the College’s own acts of negligence. Moreover, the trial court erred in failing to consider whether the College's failure to provide qualified medical personnel during practice was grossly negligent or reckless, and thus outside the scope of the waiver, or whether such conduct rendered the waiver unenforceable. 

Athletics & Sports

Keel v. Palmer (Mich. App., Feb. 16, 2016)

Decision from the State of Michigan Court of Appeals affirming an award of summary disposition to Defendant Palmer on the grounds of proximate causation and governmental immunity. Plaintiff sustained an injury after falling from a cheer leading stunt. She alleged that Defendant Palmer, the coach of the cheer leading squad, was grossly negligent in her supervision of the team and caused her injury. The Court disagreed, concluding that Defendant Palmer had engaged in no behavior that could be deemed "grossly" negligent and thus was entitled to governmental immunity. The Court also opined from the record that a "timing" issue was the proximate cause of the injury, not any act or omission on the part of the Defendant.
FLSA & Categorization of Employees; Athletics & Sports

Berger v. Nat.'l Collegiate Athletic Assoc., et al. (Feb. 16, 2016)

Order from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, dismissing with prejudice Plaintiffs' claims against the NCAA and 123 member institutions. Plaintiffs alleged that they were entitled to minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") because of their participation as student-athletes on the University of Pennsylvania ("Penn") track team. The Court concluded that the Plaintiffs lacked standing to sue any defendant other than Penn, and with respect to Penn, that Plaintiffs' participation on an athletic team did not make them employees for FLSA purposes.