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Lisa Douglas, Individually and As the Parent and Natural v. Brookville Area School District

May 4, 2011

LISA DOUGLAS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS THE PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF K. E., A MINOR,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
BROOKVILLE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, SANDRA CRAFT, SUPERINTENDENT OF THE BROOKVILLE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT;
AND KARIN HETRICK,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McVerry, J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

Pending before the Court is MOTION TO DISMISS PURSUANT TO RULE 12(b)(6) filed by Defendant Sandra Croft (Doc. No. 37), with brief in support (Doc. No. 38), and PLAINTIFFS‟ RESPONSE AND BRIEF IN OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT SANDRA CRAFT‟S MOTION TO DISMISS PURSUANT TO RULE 12(b)(6) (Doc. No. 40). The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff, Lisa Douglas, in her individual capacity, and as parent and natural guardian of her minor daughter, K.E., initiated this civil action with the filing of a four count complaint against Defendant Brookville Area School District ("Defendant School District") and Brookville Area School District teacher/athletic coach/extracurricular activities coordinator Karin Hetrick ("Defendant Hetrick"). Counts I and II were brought against Defendant School District, with Count I alleging a civil rights violation under section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and, in Count II, a violation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681, et seq. See Doc. No. 1. Counts III and IV, a section 1983 claim and a state law cause of action for unlawful battery, were brought against Defendant Hetrick. All claims generally stem from the period between November 2009 and March 2010 during which K.E., a 15 year old female student at the Brookville Area High School at the time, was allegedly sexually assaulted by Defendant Hetrick on a continuing basis. Id.

On October 18, 2010, Defendant Brookville Area School District moved to dismiss the complaint, see Doc. No. 11, which the Court denied on December 20, 2010, see Doc. No. 25. Defendant School District answered the Complaint on December 27, 2010. Doc. No. 26. The Case Management/Scheduling Order followed, and set March 15, 2011 as the deadline for the parties to move to join additional parties. Doc. No. 27. Following a stipulation between the parties, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on March 14, 2011. Doc. No. 33. Plaintiffs‟ amended complaint included the original four counts, and added Defendant Craft as an additional party, as well as added a section 1983 claim against her (Count V). Id. According to the amended complaint, at all relevant times, Defendant Craft was employed as the Superintendent of Schools for the Brookville Area School District. Id. at ¶ 3.

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Defendant Craft now moves to dismiss the claim against her for the failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Doc. Nos. 37 & 38.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a pleading which "states a claim for relief must contain .... (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." The Rule further provides that "[e]ach allegation must be simple, concise, and direct" but "[n]o technical form is required." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d). "The touchstone of Rule 8(a)(2) is whether a complaint's statement of facts is adequate to suggest an entitlement to relief under the legal theory invoked and thereby put the defendant on notice of the nature of the plaintiff's claim." In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 2010 U.S.App. LEXIS 17107, *45-*46, n. 18 (3d Cir. Aug.16, 2010) ("Brokerage Antitrust"), citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 565, n. 10, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007).

In the aftermath of Twombly and the decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. ---, ---, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009), and the interpretation of those two cases by the United States Court of the Appeals for the Third Circuit in a series of precedential opinions, the pleading standards which allow a complaint to withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) have taken on slightly new parameters. Beginning in Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224 (3d Cir.2008), the Court of Appeals noted, "After Twombly, "it is no longer sufficient to allege mere elements of a cause of action;‟ instead "a complaint must allege facts suggestive of [the proscribed] conduct.‟" Phillips, 515 F.3d at 233, quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563, n. 8 (alteration in original.) In its next important case to address the standard for motions to dismiss, Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203 (3d Cir.2009) the Court of Appeals noted that following Twombly and Iqbal, conclusory "bare-bones" allegations that "the defendant unlawfully harmed me" no longer suffice. A civil complaint must now include "sufficient factual matter to show that the claim is facially plausible." Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, holding that a complaint which offers only "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." The Fowler court further directed that: after Iqbal, when presented with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, district courts should conduct a two-part analysis. First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The District Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions.

Second, a District Court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a plausible claim for relief. In other words, a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to show such an entitlement with its facts. As the Supreme Court instructed in Iqbal, "[w]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not shown-that the pleader is entitled to relief."

Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210-211 (quotations and citations omitted.)

Thus, the current formulation of the standard of review for a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) requires the court to determine if the plaintiff's claims are "plausible." "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949; see also Gelman v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 583 F.3d 187, 190 (3d Cir.2009); Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 230 (3d Cir.2010); and Bob v. Kuo, No. 10-1615, 2010 U.S.App. LEXIS 14965, *4 (3d Cir. July 20, 2010). "[W]hat suffices to withstand a motion to dismiss necessarily depends on substantive law and the elements of the specific claim asserted." Brokerage Antitrust, 2010 U.S.App. LEXIS 17107 at *46, n. 18. "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will ... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Brokerage Antitrust, id. at *177, quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950.

The Third Circuit's latest summation of the standard is that "[w]e must accept as true the factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, but we require more than mere assertions devoid of further factual enhancement." Dawson v. Frias, CA No. 10-2200, 2010 U.S.App. LEXIS 21278, *2 (3d Cir. Oct. 14, 2010) (internal citations and quotations omitted.) "The assumption of truth does not apply, however, to legal conclusions couched as factual allegations or to "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.‟" Bamigbade v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., Nos. 09-3868 and 09-4229, 2010 U.S.App. LEXIS 17033, *3-*4, 2010 WL 3096035 (3d Cir. Aug. 9, 2010), quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. "A complaint may not be dismissed merely because it appears unlikely that the plaintiff can prove those facts or will ultimately prevail on the merits. The Supreme Court's formulation of the pleading standard in Twombly does not impose a ...


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