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Niki Mcguire v. Northwest Area School District; and Hunlock Creek Elementary School

April 5, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo


Presently before the Court is the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. (Doc. 14.) Plaintiff Niki McGuire's action stems from an alleged sexual assault that occurred against her in Defendant Hunlock Creek Elementary School's bathroom on November 7, 1997. Plaintiff alleges that by allowing the assault to occur, Defendants caused a denial of Plaintiff's right of equal protection. Plaintiff therefore asserts a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as several state-law tort claims. As McGuire fails to sufficiently plead an equal protection claim, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and will decline supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims.


Plaintiff alleges the following facts which are essentially identical to those contained within her original Complaint. On November 7, 1997, while McGuire was a student at Hunlock Creek Elementary School, a seventeen (17) year-old male sexually assaulted her in the school's restroom. The assailant was not a student and he was not permitted to be on the premises, although the Defendants were aware of his repeated visits to the school.

Plaintiff alleges the harm that befell her was ultimately foreseeable, and that McGuire was "the only student in their custody that Defendants failed to keep free from harm at the hands of [the assailant]." (Am. Compl. at ¶ 19, Doc. 13.) As a result of the assault, McGuire has suffered physical and psychological harm.

McGuire filed her original Complaint with the Court on May 27, 2011, alleging a violation of her right of equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment and various state-law tort claims. (Doc. 1.) The Defendants moved to dismiss that Complaint, and the Court granted that Motion as to McGuire's constitutional claim--holding that McGuire failed "to present any factual allegations of disparate treatment as her victimization alone does not automatically constitute a denial of equal protection." McGuire v. Nw. Area Sch. Dist., 3:11-CV-1022, 2011 WL 5444084 at *3 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 9, 2011). The Court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law tort claims, but granted McGuire leave to file an amended complaint.

In her Amended Complaint, McGuire again brings a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for a violation of her Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection, alleging specifically that she was "deprived of her equal protection in that Defendants failed to prevent or stop her attack and she was the only student so harmed." (Am. Compl. at ¶ 31, Doc. 13.) She also lodges state-law claims against the Defendants, including assault, battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligence, gross negligence, negligent hiring, retention, and supervision. The Defendants have again moved to dismiss, stating, in essence, that each of Plaintiff's claims still fails as a matter of law. (Doc. 14.) The Motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for the Court's review.


A. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court's role is limited to determining if a plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of their claims. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The Court does not consider whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See id. A defendant bears the burden of establishing that a plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim. See Gould Elecs. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).

"A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). The statement required by Rule 8(a)(2) must give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Detailed factual allegations are not required. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. However, mere conclusory statements will not do; "a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009). Instead, a complaint must "show" this entitlement by alleging sufficient facts. Id. "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009).

As such, the inquiry at the motion to dismiss stage is "normally broken into three parts: (1) identifying the elements of the claim, (2) reviewing the complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) looking at the well-pleaded components of the complaint and evaluating whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently alleged." Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011).

Dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting as true all the facts alleged in the complaint, a plaintiff has not pleaded "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, meaning enough factual allegations "'to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of'" each necessary element, Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. at 1950.

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court should consider the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, and matters of public record. See Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). The Court may also consider "undisputedly authentic" documents when the plaintiff's claims are based on the documents and the defendant has attached copies of the documents to the motion to dismiss. Id. The Court need not assume the plaintiff can prove facts that were not alleged in the complaint, see City of Pittsburgh v. W. Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 & n.13 (3d Cir. 1998), or credit a complaint's "'bald assertions'" or ...

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