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Moeck v. Pleasant Valley School District

United States District Court, Third Circuit

November 14, 2013

LORI MOECK, in her capacity as parent and natural guardian of C.M. and A.M.; C.M., a minor; and A.M., a minor, Plaintiffs
PLEASANT VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT; DOUGLAS C. ARNOLD, Superintendent of Schools, Pleasant Valley School District; ANTHONY A. FADULE, Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Pleasant Valley School District; JOHN J. GRESS, Principal, Pleasant Valley School District; MARK GETZ, Wrestling Coach Pleasant Valley School District, Defendants


JAMES M. MUNLEY, District Judge.

Before the court for disposition is the motion to dismiss plaintiffs' Amended Complaint filed by Defendants Pleasant Valley School District, Douglas C. Arnold, Anthony A. Fadule, and John J. Gress. The matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.


At all relevant times, C.M. (hereinafter "John Doe") and his sister A.M. (hereinafter "Jane Doe")[2] were members of Defendant Pleasant Valley School District's high school wrestling team. Defendant Getz is the coach of the wrestling team, and the other individual defendants are school officials.

John Doe brings various causes of action relating to an incident that occurred on December 3, 2012. At that time, he weighed 145 pounds, and he was compelled by his wrestling coach to wrestle another student who weighed 220 pounds. The larger student threw Plaintiff John Doe through a pair of double doors. Then an argument and physical altercation occurred between John Doe and Defendant Getz. John Doe suffered injuries and was taken to the hospital.

Based upon these factual allegations, John Doe asserts various civil rights claims including the following: Count I, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Fourteenth Amendment versus all defendants; Count II, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, State Created Danger versus all defendants; Count III, State Claim - Assault and Battery versus Defendant Getz; Count IV, State Claim - Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, versus Defendant Getz.

Plaintiff Jane Doe was also a member of the wrestling team. She asserts facts relating to a pattern of sexual harassment, misogynist insults and gender discrimination relating to her membership on the team. She asserts one cause of action, Count V, Title IX, Federal Claim, - Unequal Treatment versus the defendant school district. This cause of action is brought under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, specifically 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a), which prohibits discrimination in "any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance[.]"

Defendants Pleasant Valley School District; Douglas C. Arnold, the Superintendent of Schools; Anthony A. Fadule, Assistant Superintendent of Schools; and John J. Gress, Principal (hereinafter collectively "defendants")[3] have moved to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The parties have briefed their respective positions, bringing the case to its present posture.


Because several of the plaintiffs' causes of action are brought under federal statutes, we have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."). We have supplemental jurisdiction over the Plaintiff John Doe's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

Standard of review

The court tests the sufficiency of the complaint's allegations when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. All well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be viewed as true and in the light most favorable to the non-movant to determine whether, "under any reasonable reading of the pleadings, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.'" Colburn v. Upper Darby Twp. , 838 F.2d 663, 665-66 (3d Cir. 1988) (quoting Estate of Bailey by Oare v. Cnty. of York , 768 F.2d 503, 506 (3d Cir. 1985)). The plaintiff must describe "enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' [each] necessary element" of the claims alleged in the complaint. Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). Moreover, the plaintiff must allege facts that "justify moving the case beyond the pleadings to the next stage of litigation." Id. at 234-35. In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint the court may also consider "matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case." Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman , 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). The court does not have to accept legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences. See Curay-Cramer v. Ursuline Acad. of Wilmington, Del., Inc. , 450 F.3d 130, 133 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist. , 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997)).

The federal rules require only that plaintiff provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " a standard which "does not require detailed factual allegations, " but a plaintiff must make "a showing, rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief that rises above the speculative level." McTernan v. N.Y.C., 564 F.3d 636, 646 (3d Cir. 2009) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). The "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 570). Such "facial plausibility" exists "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id . (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556). "[T]he factual detail in a complaint [cannot be] so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8." Phillips , 515 F.3d at 232 (citation omitted). "Though a complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, ... a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" DelRio-Mocci v. Connolly Props., Inc. , 672 F.3d 241, 245 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555).

The Supreme Court has counseled that a court examining a motion to dismiss should, "begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 679. Next, the court should make a context-specific inquiry into the "factual allegations in [the] complaint to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief." Id. at 681.


Defendants' motion raises twelve separate issues. We will address them in turn.

1. Plaintiff Lori Moeck

The Amended Complaint's caption names Lori Moeck, the mother of Plaintiffs John and Jane Doe. Defendants first argue that Plaintiff Lori Moeck should be dismissed because she has not alleged any injuries that she has suffered as a named parent. Plaintiff indicates that Plaintiff Lori Moeck is named merely as the guardian ad litem to her minor children. She does not assert any causes of action in her own right. (Doc. 33, Pls.' Opp'n Br. at 7). Accordingly, we will deny the motion to dismiss Lori Moeck as moot, because she is not named as a party in her own right.

2. State Law Claims in Count I and II against the school district, Fadule and Gress[4]

Next, defendants argue that the state law claims found in Counts I and II should be dismissed on the basis that the Pennsylvania Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act, 42 PA. CON. STAT. ANN. §§ 8541, 8542, provides immunity to the defendants on these claims. Plaintiff's brief clarifies that Count I and Count II raise solely federal civil rights claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, (hereinafter "section 1983"), not state law claims. (Doc. 33, Pls.' Opp. Br. at 7). Accordingly, defendants' motion is denied as moot. The claims it seeks dismissal of are not actually pled in the complaint.

3. State Law Claims in Count II against Defendant Arnold

Defendants also contend that absolute immunity precludes plaintiff's state law claims against Defendant Arnold. Again, plaintiff points out that Count II does not raise any state law claims. (Id.) Hence, ...

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