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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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. 

Antitrust; Athletics & Sports; Athletics Compliance (NCAA & more); Authorizations & Regulations

In re National Collegiate Athletic Association Athletic Grant-in-Aid Cap Antitrust Litigation (N.D. Cal. Feb. 3, 2017)

Proposed order granting Plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary approval of a class action settlement in the case In re National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Grant-in-Aid Cap Antitrust Litigation. The class action suit was filed in 2014 by a former student-athlete at West Virginia University alleging that the NCAA violated antitrust law by capping the value of athletic scholarships below the full cost of attendance. As part of the settlement, the NCAA and 11 NCAA Division I conferences will establish a $208.7 million fund to benefit current and former NCAA Division I basketball and Football Bowl Subdivision student-athletes. The NCAA issued a press release announcing the settlement. 

Student Athlete Issues; Athletics & Sports; Collective Bargaining; Faculty & Staff

National Labor Relations Board Memo on Statutory Rights of University Faculty and Students in the Unfair Labor Practice Context (Jan. 31, 2017)

Memo sent by National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel Richard Griffin, Jr., to NLRB regional directors regarding the statutory rights of university faculty and students in the context of unfair labor practices. The memo summarizes three recent NLRB decisions—Pacific Lutheran University, Columbia University, and Northwestern University—and offers an explanation of how the NLRB Office of the General Counsel will apply these decisions to unfair labor practice charges. Notably, the memo states that scholarship football players in Division I Football Bowl Subdivision private-sector colleges and universities are employees under the National Labor Relations Act, and are thus are entitled to campaign for their interests as employees.

Student Athlete Issues; Athletics & Sports

Schmitz v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (Ohio App. Dec. 8, 2016)

Plaintiff filed suit against the University of Notre Dame and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), claiming that Defendants failed to warn him of the debilitating long-term dangers of repeated concussions. Schmitz was diagnosed in 2012 with severe cognitive decline, traumatic encephalopathy, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia as a result of repeated head injuries he suffered as a student athlete. The Court found that the discovery rule—which states that a cause of action does not arise until a plaintiff knows or should know of the defendant’s injurious conduct--applied in this case, thus allowing Plaintiff’s claims of negligence, fraudulent concealment, constructive fraud against the University, and loss of consortium, to proceed under the Ohio statute of limitations. However, the discovery rule did not apply to Plaintiff’s claims of breach of contract against both Defendants and constructive fraud against the NCAA.