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Lavella v. Stockhausen

United States District Court, Third Circuit

May 1, 2013



ARTHUR J. SCHWAB, District Judge.

I. Introduction

This case centers on injuries that Alexandria Lavella ("Plaintiff") suffered during cheerleading activities. Doc. No. 1. Plaintiff has sued her cheerleading coach, Chelsea Stockhausen ("Defendant"), for allegedly involving her in dangerous stunting moves, even though Defendant knew Plaintiff had recently experienced a concussion and other head injuries. Id . Plaintiff contends that Defendant violated her constitutionally protected right to be free from bodily injury pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On April 15, 2013, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss which seeks dismissal of all claims against her with prejudice. Doc. No. 6. After careful consideration of Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. No. 1), Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 6) and brief in support thereof (Doc. No. 7) and Plaintiff's brief in opposition thereto (Doc. No. 11), Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 6) will be GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

II. Statement of the Facts

Accepting the well-pleaded factual allegations as true for purposes of this discussion, the facts of this case are as follows:

In August 2010, Plaintiff was a senior at Peters Township High School and a member of the varsity cheerleading squad. Doc. No. 1, § 7. Defendant was the head coach of the school's cheerleading program. Id. at § 6. On August 23, 2010, Plaintiff was participating in a stunt move and suffered a concussion after she was struck in the head by a flyer. Id. at § 11. Defendant was aware of Plaintiff's injury and symptoms. Id . Plaintiff received medical treatment and was medically restricted from practice for two weeks. Id. at § 12.

Plaintiff returned to practice on September 8, 2010, without restriction. Id. at § 18. During this practice, Defendant had Plaintiff fully participate in stunting practice. Id . Plaintiff was struck in the head by a flyer during practice and Plaintiff suffered concussion-like symptoms. Id . Defendant observed the injury and failed to file a written report of the injury with the high school's athletic director. Id. at § 21. Plaintiff's mother emailed Defendant to inform her of Plaintiff's "repeat stunting-related head injury and related symptoms, her concern about the level of safety at practice and that [Plaintiff] was not to stunt until the flyers are under control.'" Id. at § 20. Defendant kept Plaintiff out of the September 9, 2010, practice and the September 10, 2010, football game. Id. at § 22.

Defendant asked Plaintiff to spot gaps and serve as a front-base during a September 11, 2010, soccer game. Id. at § 23. Plaintiff also participated in stunting during practice on September 13 and 14, 2010. Id. at § 24. On September 15, 2010, Defendant kept all of the cheerleaders at stunting practice instead of permitting them to attend their scheduled Immediate Post Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing ("ImPACT"). Id. at § 25. During this practice, Defendant directed Plaintiff to serve as a back-base during the middle elevator group with members who were relatively inexperienced. Id. at §§ 27, 28. This was the second most dangerous position in that stunt. Id . The flyer in Plaintiff's group fell onto her. Id. at § 29. Plaintiff was hit in the head and then fell to the track and hit her head. Id . Plaintiff continued practice, but became disoriented and distraught. Id. at §§ 30, 32. Defendant called Plaintiff after practice, but did not alert Plaintiff's mother of Plaintiff's injuries. Id. at § 31. Plaintiff's mother took Plaintiff to the hospital where she was diagnosed and treated for a concussion. Id. at § 33. Since this concussion, Plaintiff has suffered serious bodily injury, pain and suffering, anxiety, embarrassment, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, and has required extension medical treatment and follow-up. Id. at §§ 34-38.

III. Standard of Review

In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, Federal Courts require notice pleading, as opposed to the heightened standard of fact pleading. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds on which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).

Building upon the landmark United States Supreme Court decisions in Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit explained that a District Court must undertake the following three steps to determine the sufficiency of a complaint:

First, the court must take note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim. Second, the court should identify allegations that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Finally, where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.
Connelly v. Steel Valley Sch. Dist., 706 F.3d 209, 212 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation omitted).

The third step of the sequential evaluation requires this Court to consider the specific nature of the claims presented and to determine whether the facts pled to substantiate the claims are sufficient to show a "plausible claim for relief." Covington v. Int'l Ass'n of Approved Basketball Officials, 710 F.3d 114, 118 (3d Cir. 2013). "While legal conclusions can provide the ...

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