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Yan Yan v. Penn State University

December 7, 2010

YAN YAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PENN STATE UNIVERSITY, ZHI-CHUN LAI, LI-LUN HO DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge McClure

MEMORANDUM

BACKGROUND:

On January 26, 2010, plaintiff, Yan Yan ("Yan"), commenced the instant civil action by filing a complaint against defendants Penn State University ("Penn State"), Zhi-Chun Lai ("Dr. Lai"), and Li-Lun Ho ("Ho"). Yan filed an amended complaint on May 26, 2010. (Rec. Doc. No. 16). The amended complaint alleges: Count I: Hostile Educational Environment in Violation of Title IX, 20 U.S.C. §1681(a); Count II: Retaliation/Discrimination in Violation of 20 U.S.C. §1681(a); Count III: Violation of the Rehabilitation Act 29 U.S.C. §794; Count IV: Retaliation in Violation of the First Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983; Count V: Violation of Equal Protection pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983; Count VI: Violation of Equal Protection pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983; and Count VII: Discrimination on the Basis of National Origin and Race pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983.

On May 28, 2010, defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss (Partially) Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, which was granted by this court on August 13, 2010. On August 25, 2010, plaintiff filed a Motion for Reconsideration. (Rec. Doc. No. 22). Plaintiff filed her supporting brief on September 3, 2010. (Rec. Doc. No. 23). On September 10, 2010, defendants filed their opposing brief. (Rec. Doc. No. 24). On September 24, 2010, plaintiff filed her reply brief. (Rec. Doc. No. 25). Thus, the matter is ripe for disposition.

Now, therefore, for the following reasons we will grant the motion for reconsideration, and Count V will remain as an allegation of the traditional theory of Equal Protection.

DISCUSSION:

I. Motion for Reconsideration

A motion for reconsideration is a device of limited utility. Its purpose is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence. Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir. 1985). Accordingly, a party seeking reconsideration must demonstrate at least one of the following grounds prior to the court's altering, or amending, a standing judgment: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court entered judgment; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice. Max's Seafood Cafe v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999) (citing North River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995)).

A motion for reconsideration is appropriate in instances where the court has "patently misunderstood a party, or has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the Court by the parties, or has made an error not of reasoning but of apprehension." Rohrbach v. AT & T Nassau Metals Corp., 902 F.Supp. 523, 527 (M.D. Pa. 1995), vacated in part on other grounds on reconsideration, 915

F.Supp. 712 (M.D. Pa. 1996) (quoting Above the Belt, Inc. v. Mel Bohannan Roofing, Inc., 99 F.R.D. 99, 101 (E.D.Va.1983)). It may not be used as a means to reargue unsuccessful theories, or argue new facts or issues that were not presented to the court in the context of the matter previously decided. Drysdale v. Woerth, 153 F. Supp. 2d 678, 682 (E.D. Pa. 2001). "Because federal courts have a strong interest in the finality of judgments, motions for reconsideration should be granted sparingly." Continental Cas. Co. v. Diversified Indus., Inc., 884 F.Supp. 937, 943 (E.D. Pa. 1995).

Plaintiff filed her motion requesting that we reconsider our dismissal of Count V of plaintiff's amended complaint. Count V of plaintiff's complaint is an Equal Protection claim based on gender. Count V seems to allege the traditional theory of Equal Protection*fn1 as it asserts that she was treated differently because of her gender, i.e. the protected class to which she belongs. Section B of plaintiff's brief opposing defendants' motion for partial dismissal of plaintiff's amended complaint argues that her equal protection class-of-one claim is viable in the university context. Section C of plaintiff's brief argues that the facts she pled are sufficient to form the basis of an equal protection claim. The court believed then, that section B was narrowing her claims to the class-of-one theory and that section C was illustrating the facts in the complaint that support her claims.

Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration argues that section C of her brief was intended to substantiate the traditional theory of Equal Protection. The court read that section many, many times before rendering its decision. The court had misunderstood this section of plaintiff's brief to be an argument that she had "pled enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1960 (2007) sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. Clearly, this is a situation in which a motion for reconsideration is appropriate because the court has "patently misunderstood a party. . . or has made an error not of reasoning but of apprehension." Rohrbach v. AT & T Nassau Metals Corp., 902 F.Supp. 523, 527 (M.D. Pa. 1995), vacated in part on other grounds on reconsideration, 915 F.Supp. 712 (M.D. Pa. 1996) (quoting Above the Belt, Inc. v. Mel Bohannan Roofing, Inc., 99 F.R.D. 99, 101 (E.D.Va.1983)).

Because plaintiff's motion for reconsideration only requests reconsideration of Count V of the complaint, we will only address Count V ...


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