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.

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Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration; Practice of Higher Education Law; Disability Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Addahoumi v. University of South Carolina Board of Trustees, et al. (D.S.C. Jan. 30, 2018)

Opinion and Order granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss with prejudice. Plaintiff, a student at the University of South Carolina (USC) who was suspended and who subsequently brought claims against USC under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, objected to the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation that his pleadings be dismissed with prejudice because they violated general federal rules of pleading. Reviewing Plaintiff’s objections de novo, the court found that Defendants were not required to file a motion for a more definite statement and that dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims with prejudice was proper, given the judge’s warning that failure to comply with federal pleading rules would result in dismissal with prejudice. 

Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration; Practice of Higher Education Law; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence

Schmotzer v. Rutgers University-Camden, et al. (D.N.J. Jan. 24, 2018)

Memorandum Opinion granting Defendant Dever’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, a former Rutgers University-Camden (RUC) women’s volleyball player, alleged that RUC was deliberately indifferent to her complaints of sexual assault and harassment by her volleyball coach, Defendant Dever. The court previously granted RUC’s motion for summary judgement after finding that Plaintiff’s claims were time-barred. At issue in the present litigation was whether Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant Dever were also time-barred. Plaintiff argued that her memories of the sexual harassment were repressed until 2014 and that she timely filed her lawsuit within 2 years of regaining her memory of the events. The court found that the statute of limitations had expired on Plaintiff’s claims because she had a reasonable basis for believing she had a claim when the sexual relationship ended in 2010. Plaintiff’s knowledge of her injury was clear based on her contact with Defendant Dever’s wife thirteen months after the end of the relationship. Assuming that Plaintiff could establish repression of her memories from the day she confronted Defendant Dever’s wife to the day her memories resurfaced, Plaintiff did not file her claims until 16 months later. Combining the thirteen months of knowledge Plaintiff had prior to confronting Defendant Dever’s wife and the sixteen months Plaintiff waited to file her claims after her memories resurfaced, the court found that those 29 months exceeded the two-year statute of limitations. 

Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration; Practice of Higher Education Law

Metcalf v. Yale University (D.C. Conn. Dec. 27, 2017)

Ruling and Order awarding a Protective Order to Yale University to prevent Plaintiff from obtaining the mental health records of a Yale employee. Plaintiff was terminated from his position as Curator of Coins and Medals of the Yale University Art Gallery, in part because an employee reported that he entered the women’s bathroom and directed offensive language towards other employees.  Plaintiff sought to obtain the reporting individual’s mental health records from her treating physicians.  In awarding the protective order, the court determined that Yale demonstrated good cause, and that the contents of the medical records were “out of proportion[] to the needs of the case.”

Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration; Practice of Higher Education Law; Constitutional Issues; Due Process

Kramer v. Southern Oregon University, et al. (9th Cir. Jan. 3, 2018)

Opinion reversing the district court’s order that denied Appellant-Cullinan qualified immunity and reversing the district court’s award of summary judgment to the Appellee. Appellee, who served as both the Executive Director of Jefferson Public Radio and the JPR Foundation, Inc., alleged that Appellant-Cullinan, as the former president of Southern Oregon University (SOU), violated his liberty interest without due process of law when she released “stigmatizing” statements about him during a Foundation Board meeting. Appellant-Cullinan argued that she was entitled to qualified immunity because the released statements did not include stigmatizing charges and Appellee’s asserted constitutional right was not clearly established at the time of the alleged violation. The court found in favor of Appellant-Cullinan, noting that the conditional language regarding potential liability in the published statements could not be construed as imputing to Appellee bad faith, willful misconduct, intentional acts, waste, or fraud—charges that would otherwise require a name-clearing hearing to satisfy due process. Further, the court provided that it would have reached the same result in reviewing whether Appellant-Cullinan had violated a clearly established constitutional right, since there was no existing precedent to suggest that the publication of conditional statements (similar to those in this case) would be stigmatizing “beyond debate.” 

Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity; Practice of Higher Education Law

Duffy v. Delaware State University (D. Del. Dec. 21, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion granting Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a former female employee at Delaware State University (DSU), alleged that DSU created a hostile work environment and discriminated against her in violation of Title VII on the basis of her sex and religion when it terminated her employment. The court found that Plaintiff’s claims were time barred because Plaintiff did not file her cause of action within ninety days of receiving a notice of right to sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Further, the court found that Plaintiff’s claims did not qualify for equitable tolling because the record did not indicate that Plaintiff was misled or prevented from asserting her rights, nor did the record show that she filed in the wrong forum or received inadequate notice of her right to file suit. 

Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration; Practice of Higher Education Law

Smith, et al. v. The Ohio State University (Ohio App. Dec. 5, 2017)

Decision affirming the Ohio Court of Claims’ judgement that Plaintiffs-Appellants lacked standing. Plaintiffs-Appellants, a facility manager and housekeeper at the Ohio State University (OSU), on behalf of themselves and a class of similarly situated individuals, alleged that OSU violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), when OSU required as part of its hiring process an applicant’s authorization of background check disclosures that included extraneous information and authorization of a liability release. OSU argued that Plaintiffs-Appellants lacked standing because they failed to plead a particularized injury-in-fact, while Plaintiff-Appellants argued that Ohio courts recognized “statutory standing” where the text of a statute allows for a cause of action, whether or not the common law elements of standing are satisfied. The court found that Plaintiffs-Appellants lacked standing to sue OSU in state court because, among other reasons, there was no supporting case law indicating that a Plaintiff proceeding in an Ohio court had standing on the basis of a federal statute despite their lack of an alleged injury-in-fact.

Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration; Practice of Higher Education Law

Simonelli v. New York University (Cal. App. Nov. 28, 2017)

Unpublished order granting Defendant’s Motion to Quash Summons for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction. Plaintiff, a California resident, sought specific jurisdiction in California over New York University (NYU) stemming from three incidents: 1) Plaintiff’s injury in a bus accident while participating in NYU’s study abroad program with the National University of Singapore (NYU@NUS), 2) NYU’s refusal to grant Plaintiff’s request for an “aegrotat” degree and instead requiring Plaintiff to take exams for the NYU@NUS program while he allegedly recovered from his injuries, and 3) Plaintiff’s denied admission to NYU’s Tax L.L.M. Program. The court found that California lacked specific jurisdiction over NYU because NYU had not purposefully availed itself of the benefits of California when it admitted Plaintiff to its NYU@NUS program or when it received Plaintiff’s application to its graduate program. The court further noted that Plaintiff provided no evidence that NYU specifically targeted California residents beyond merely considering residents from across the U.S. Additionally, the court found that Plaintiff could not establish a substantial connection between California and the claims asserted against NYU. 

Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration; Practice of Higher Education Law; Due Process; Constitutional Issues

Perkins v. University of Nebraska, et al. (D. Neb. Nov. 13, 2017)

Amended Memorandum and Order granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a University of Nebraska (UN) student, alleged that UN deprived him of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment when he was banned from campus following a student altercation that led to Title IX charges against Plaintiff. The court found that Plaintiff could not seek declaratory prospective relief because the deprivations he alleged were moot due to changes in UN’s trespass procedures and appeal process, which allowed Plaintiff’s ban to be lifted while he appealed either in-person or in a telephonic hearing. The court further found that sovereign immunity protected Defendants in their official capacity and qualified immunity protected Defendants in their personal capacity, namely because the rights Plaintiff sought to vindicate were not clearly established and were not clearly deprived from him. The court did not exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remainder of Plaintiff’s state law claims.