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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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. 

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.

Student Athlete Issues; Athletics Compliance (NCAA & more)

McCants v. National Collegiate Athletic Association (M.D.N.C. Apr. 26, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion and Order remanding the case to state court. Plaintiffs filed a putative class action in state court against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill), contending that the University steered them and other student athletes into courses that lacked rigor to ensure continued academic eligibility under NCAA rules. The NCAA removed the case to federal court pursuant to the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), and UNC-Chapel Hill moved to dismiss on Eleventh Amendment grounds. The court concluded that the University did not waive sovereign immunity because the NCAA, not UNC-Chapel Hill, unilaterally invoked federal jurisdiction. Because UNC’s defense of Eleventh Amendment immunity barred federal courts from asserting jurisdiction over UNC in the case, the court found that it was required remand the case back to state court.
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. 

Student Athlete Issues

NCAA releases Report on Mental Health Best Practices for Student-Athlete Mental Wellness

The Sports Science Institute at the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) published a Best Practices for Understanding and Supporting Student-Athlete Mental Wellness. The publication's Best Practices are designed to provide athletics and sports medicine departments with recommendations for supporting and promoting student-athlete mental health. Best practices identified in the report include protocol development for mental health emergencies with student-athletes, pre-participation mental health screening, and creating health–promoting environments that support mental well-being and resilience.
Student Athlete Issues

In re Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n Student-Athlete Concussion Injury Litig. (N.D. Ill., Jan. 26, 2016)

Decision from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois provisionally granting parties' Joint Motion for a Preliminary Approval of Amended Class Settlement and Certification of Settlement Class. This class action matter arose when former collegiate athletes filed lawsuits over the NCAA's management of concussion-related risks over a period of years. The NCAA entered into settlement negotiations with the plaintiffs in an effort to resolve all claims. A number of plaintiffs were able to reach an agreement with the NCAA, but some Plaintiffs objected, and the Court ultimately refused to approve the initial settlement proposal. The parties submitted an Amended Settlement Agreement, but again, some plaintiffs objected. It is this Amended Settlement Agreement that is before the Court. The Court has preliminarily approved a proposed Amended Settlement Agreement, subject to certain modifications, including (1) a limitation on the scope of the settlement class's release of class-wide personal injury claims, (2) modification to the notice program, and (3) modifications to the manner in which settlement funds are utilized.