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Lisa Douglas, Individually and As the Parent and Natural Guardian of v. Karin Hetrick

January 11, 2012

LISA DOUGLAS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS THE PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF K.E., A MINOR, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
KARIN HETRICK, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. Introduction

Before the Court for disposition are the Plaintiff's MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF No. 55), along with her supporting brief, supplement and exhibits (ECF Nos. 56-58), the Plaintiff's MOTION FOR ENTRY OF JUDGMENT (ECF No. 72), along with her supporting brief (ECF No. 73), and the response to the motion for entry of judgment filed by former Defendants Brookville Area School District ("District") and Sandra Craft ("Craft") (ECF No. 76). For the reasons that follow, the motion for summary judgment and the motion for entry of judgment will be granted.

II. Background

Plaintiff Lisa Douglas ("Douglas"), the mother and natural guardian of K.E., a minor female, commenced this action against Defendant Karin Hetrick ("Hetrick"), the District and Craft to redress alleged violations of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 ("Title IX") [20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq.], and the common law of Pennsylvania respecting the tort of battery. ECF Nos. 1 & 33. The claims stemmed from a sexual relationship existing during the 2009/2010 school year between Hetrick, a 42-year-old female mathematics teacher and softball coach at Brookville High School ("Brookville"), and K.E., a 15-year-old sophomore at Brookville. Id. Douglas alleged that Hetrick had violated K.E.'s substantive due process right to "bodily integrity" and committed the tort of battery. ECF No. 33 at ¶¶ 33-40. She further alleged that the District had violated Title IX by failing to stop the relationship, and that both the District and Craft, the District's superintendent, were liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for "caus[ing]" K.E. "to be subjected to" violations of her Fourteenth Amendment rights. Id. at ¶¶ 18-32, 41-57.

Douglas filed a motion for summary judgment on August 24, 2011, seeking a judgment in her favor with respect to all of her claims. ECF No. 55. Two days later, the District and Craft moved for summary judgment with respect to the claims asserted against them. ECF No. 59. Hetrick did not respond to Douglas' motion for summary judgment. The Court granted the motion for summary judgment filed by the District and Craft in a memorandum opinion and order dated December 8, 2011. ECF No. 71 at 38-39. The District and Craft were dismissed as defendants in this case, and the caption was amended accordingly. Id. at 39-40. The portion of Douglas' motion for summary judgment pertaining to her claims against the District and Craft was denied, but the portion of her motion pertaining to the claims against Hetrick was not resolved. Id. at 38. Hetrick's counsel was ordered to respond to Douglas' motion for summary judgment on or before January 6, 2012. Id. at 39. A determination as to whether Douglas was entitled to summary judgment with respect to her substantive due process and battery claims against Hetrick was delayed so that the parties could "supplement their filings and inform the Court of their respective positions." Id. at 38. Copies of the Court's memorandum opinion and order were sent to Hetrick, who is presently incarcerated, and to her counsel. Id. at 40. The memorandum opinion clearly stated that summary judgment would be entered against Hetrick "without further inquiry" if she refused or failed to file a timely response to Douglas' motion for summary judgment. Id. at 21.

On December 20, 2011, Douglas filed a motion for entry of judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) and expressed a desire to immediately appeal the Court's decision granting summary judgment in favor of the District and Craft. ECF No. 72. In her motion, Douglas averred that her counsel had spoken with Hetrick's counsel, and that Hetrick had no objection to the entry of judgment in favor of the District and Craft. Id. at ¶ 30. In a response filed on January 9, 2012, the District and Craft expressed opposition to Douglas' motion, contending that the claims against Hetrick should be resolved before an appeal is taken. ECF No. 76 at ¶¶ 14-15, 20-30. The matter is presently before the Court and ripe for resolution.

III. Discussion

The sexual contact between Hetrick and K.E. was prohibited under Pennsylvania law because of the respective ages of the two individuals. 18 PA. CONS. STAT. § 3125(a)(8). It is not clear from the record whether the sexual contact was otherwise consensual. In the prior memorandum opinion, the Court expressed uncertainty as to whether Hetrick's sexual encounters with K.E. had constituted actionable violations of the Fourteenth Amendment and the tort law of Pennsylvania. ECF No. 71 at 18-21, 36-38. It was determined that a response by Hetrick and supplemental briefing by Douglas would facilitate the proper resolution of those issues. Id. Nevertheless, Hetrick has not complied with the order requiring her to file a response to Douglas' motion for summary judgment on or before January 6, 2012. Id. at 39. Accordingly, the remaining portion of that motion is deemed to be unopposed. Stackhouse v. Mazurkiewicz, 951 F.2d 29, 30 (3d Cir. 1991). Summary judgment will be entered in favor of Douglas as to the issue of Hetrick's liability for violating K.E.'s rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and Pennsylvania law. ECF No. 33 at ¶¶ 33-40. Only the amount of damages incurred by K.E. remains to be determined.

Douglas asks that judgment be entered in favor of the District and Craft so that she can immediately appeal the decision dismissing her Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX claims against them. ECF No. 73 at 2. She posits that Hetrick is "judgment proof," and that she would not be able to recover any monetary award entered against Hetrick. Id. at 3. Douglas further contends that "the possibility of two trials in this case" would force her to incur a "significant financial hardship." Id. at 4.

Douglas' motion is governed by Rule 54(b), which provides:

When an action presents more than one claim for relief-whether as a claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim-or when multiple parties are involved, the court may direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims or parties only if the court expressly determines that there is no just reason for delay. Otherwise, any order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities.

FED. R. CIV. P. 54(b). A decision may be regarded as "final" where it constitutes "an ultimate disposition of an individual claim entered in the course of a multiple claims action." Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Mackey, 351 U.S. 427, 436, 76 S.Ct. 895, 100 L.Ed. 1297 (1956). Once it is determined that a decision is "final," a district court presented with a motion for entry of judgment "must go on to determine whether there is any just reason for delay." Curtiss-Wright Corp. v. General Electric Co., 446 U.S. 1, 8, 100 S.Ct. 1460, 64 L.Ed.2d 1 (1980). "[I]n deciding whether there are no just reasons to delay the appeal of individual final judgments in a setting such as this, a district court must take into account judicial administrative interests as well as the equities involved." Id. Factors relevant to a determination under Rule 54(b) include "the relationship between the adjudicated and unadjudicated claims," "the possibility that the need for review might or might not be mooted by future developments in the district court," "the possibility that the reviewing court might be obliged to consider the same issue a second time," "the presence or absence of a claim or counterclaim which could result in a set-off against the judgment sought to be made final," and "miscellaneous factors such as delay, economic and solvency considerations, shortening the time of trial, frivolity of competing claims, expense, and the like." Berckeley Investment Group, Ltd. v. Colkitt, 455 F.3d 195, 203 (3d Cir. 2006), quoting Allis-Chalmers Corp. v. Philadelphia Electric Co., 521 F.2d 360, 364 (3d Cir. 1975)(footnotes omitted).

It cannot be doubted that the Court's decision granting the Defendants' motion for summary judgment constituted "an ultimate disposition" of the claims asserted against them. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 351 U.S. at 436. The District and Craft were dismissed as defendants in this action. ECF No. 71 at 38-39. The caption was amended to reflect the fact that only the claims asserted against Hetrick remain pending. Id. at 40. Thus, the ...


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