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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Contract Administration; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Practice of Higher Education Law

Hewlett v. Utah State University, et al. (D. Utah Feb. 8, 2018)

Memorandum Decision and Order granting-in-part and denying-in-part Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Defendant Relopez assaulted Plaintiff at an off-campus fraternity party while both were students at Utah State University (USU). Plaintiff brought section 1983 claims and a breach of contract claim against USU, Individual Defendants, and various Greek fraternity entities for not doing more to protect and help her. At issue was whether Individual Defendants were protected by qualified immunity and whether UTU’s Code of Policies and Procedures for Students constituted a valid contract. The court found that qualified immunity protected the Individual Defendants from Plaintiff’s section 1983 claims because they did not violate a clearly established constitutional right. The court directed the parties to examine whether they should certify a question to the Utah Supreme Court to obtain a ruling about whether a university policy can be enforced as a contract.

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. 

Contract Administration; Practice of Higher Education Law; Faculty & Staff

Koul v. University of Rochester, et al. (W.D.N.Y. Jan. 25, 2018)

Decision and Order granting Defendant University’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, a part-time clinical faculty member at the University of Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital, alleged that the University breached its employment contract with Plaintiff by failing to follow certain policies and procedures in its Handbook and Regulations before terminating Plaintiff’s one-year term appointment. The court found that Plaintiff failed to state a claim for breach of contract because the Handbook afforded the  University broad discretion to renew or decline to renew Plaintiff’s appointment. 

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. 

Contract Administration; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Practice of Higher Education Law

John Doe v. Columbia College Chicago, et al. (N.D. Ill. Jan. 22, 2018)

Memorandum Opinion and Order granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a Columbia College Chicago (CCC) student who was suspended for sexual assault and who unsuccessfully brought Title IX claims against CCC, sought to amend the complaint to include a claim for breach of contract against CCC for purportedly violating its own policies. The court determined Plaintiff’s breach of contract claim “failed to allege that CCC’s actions or decisions were arbitrary or capricious, that they were without rational basis, or that they were a substantial departure from academic norms” since Plaintiff was provided notice and investigative materials in advance of his hearing, CCC’s investigation was prompt and thorough, CCC’s Panel considered the evidence in reaching its decision, and there was no indication that CCC treated male students accused of harassment differently than female students. 

Research; Freedom of Information & Public Record Laws; Practice of Higher Education Law

Uhr v. University of Minnesota (Minn. App. Jan. 16, 2018)

Unpublished Opinion affirming Respondent’s Motion to Dismiss. Appellant brought claims under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act to obtain training materials, recruiting materials, and the identity of participants in Respondent’s research on illegal alcohol sales to intoxicated individuals. The court found that Respondent was required under its grant application to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, as consistent with federal regulations, to keep individually identifying data of participants confidential. The court further found that training and recruiting materials requested by Appellant were protected as trade secret information because they had “independent economic value.”

Contract Administration; Practice of Higher Education Law

Wilson v. Northland College (D. Wis. Jan. 9, 2018)

Opinion and Order granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss with prejudice. Plaintiff resigned as athletic director and head women’s basketball coach at Northland College, after he was investigated for two separate sexual harassment complaints.  He brought breach of contract, invasion of privacy, and negligent supervision claims against the College after the College’s radio station broadcast a series of interviews relating to the alleged misconduct and published related content online.  The court dismissed Plaintiff’s contract claim because he failed to identify any term in his separation agreement that would have prevented a university employee from reporting on statements made by students about Plaintiff’s conduct.  The court also dismissed Plaintiff’s tort claims, since the radio broadcasts and online publications did not disclose any public content, and since Plaintiff failed to identify a duty to support his negligent supervision claim.

Collective Bargaining; Contract Administration; Practice of Higher Education Law; Faculty & Staff

Asberry v. Los Angeles Community College District, et al. (Cal. Ct. App. 2d Jan. 3, 2018)

Order reversing the decision of the Los Angeles County Superior Court.  Plaintiff, an adjunct faculty member at Los Angeles Southwest Collage (LASC), alleged that LASC breached the collective bargaining agreement with Plaintiff’s union when LASC neglected to assign her to teach a second class over a 10-year period.  Plaintiff also brought a claim of promissory estoppel, alleging that the college’s Vice President for Academic Affairs promised to compensate her in the amount of $50,000 for the alleged oversight.  The appeals court found that the trial court had weighed too heavily the characterization of the action as one of tortious misrepresentation.  Rather, the court found that Plaintiff’s claims sounded in contract, not tort, and thus that the Defendants were not immune from suit.