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Bardelli v. Allied Services Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 6, 2015

TRACI BARDELLI, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ALLIED SERVICES INSTITUTE OF REHABILITATION MEDICINE, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

MALACHY E. MANNION, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Traci and Joseph Bardelli, individually and on behalf of their minor daughter M.B., filed this action regarding their attempt to have M.B. attend dePaul School with her service dog Buddy, trained to identify seizures in M.B. and to alert others when she has a seizure. M.B., a 10-year student with epilepsy who was previously enrolled at dePaul School, was prevented from attending the school with Buddy. After M.B. was barred from attending the school with Buddy, her parents enrolled her in the Dunmore School District where they lived.

Defendant had filed a motion to dismiss, (Doc. 8), arguing that plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Educations Act. For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss will be DENIED.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiffs' complaint, (Doc. 1), alleges that M.B. has severe and uncontrolled epilepsy as well as a learning disability and developmental delays. M.B. enrolled in dePaul School in November of 2011 at age eight. Previously, M.B. attended a different school with her service dog, Sasha. M.B.'s parents decided to enroll M.B. at dePaul School since it was suited to address her stated medical conditions. The dePaul School is a division of the defendant Allied Services Institute, a Pennsylvania not for profit health care and human services provider of rehabilitation and health services. Initially, when M.B. was enrolled at dePaul School, she did not have Sasha since the dog was ill. M.B. then received Buddy in January of 2012, a service dog specially trained to identify seizure activity in M.B., to alert others of seizures, and to protect M.B. from self-harm during and after a seizure. After M.B. and Buddy trained together, they were a certified team. M.B.'s parents then advised the principal at dePaul School that Buddy would be accompanying M.B. to school. The principal refused to allow Buddy to be at the school with M.B. stating that Buddy would distract other students. The defendant represented to M.B.'s parents that the school could accommodate M.B. without her service dog, but the defendant did not propose written accommodations.

In reliance on the defendant's representations, M.B.'s parents continued to have M.B. attend dePaul School without her service dog for the remainder of the spring 2012 school year.

When the fall 2012 school year began, M.B.'s parents advised dePaul School that Buddy had to accompany M.B., but the defendant refused to allow Buddy at the school again claiming that he would be a distraction. The defendant again assured M.B.'s parents that the school could accommodate M.B. without her service dog, but the defendant did not propose written accommodations and did not accommodate M.B.

In the fall of 2013, M.B.'s parents met again with the principal of dePaul School and explained why it was medically necessary for Buddy to accompany M.B. at school. When M.B. arrived at school on October 28, 2013, with Buddy, the defendant refused to allow M.B. to attend with the dog. The next day, the defendant again refused to allow M.B. to attend school with Buddy. Further, despite a letter from M.B.'s pediatrician stating why it was medically necessary for Buddy to be with M.B. 24 hours per day, the defendant continued to prohibit Buddy at the school. The defendant claimed that another student at the school had dog allergies that Buddy would distract other students. On November 25, 2013, counsel for plaintiffs wrote to the principal about the situation with M.B. Defendant's counsel responded on November 27, 2013, stating, in part, "Please advise your clients not to return M.B. to school with Buddy."

Upon the defendant's request to provide proposed accommodations for Buddy to go to the school with M.B., M.B.'s parents submitted proposals. The defendant still refused to allow M.B. to attend the school with Buddy in December of 2013, and forced M.B. to remain absent from the school for two months. The defendant deferred M.B.'s return to January of 2014, with accommodations, including a requirement that Buddy wear a t-shirt under his service vest. Buddy was allowed to accompany M.B. wearing the t-shirt. However, the t-shirt allegedly hindered Buddy's ability to function as a service dog and the defendant did not propose any accommodations. In fact, M.B. suffered a seizure at the school and her parents were not notified. Thus, M.B.'s parents decided to withdraw M.B. from dePaul School since they were concerned about her safety.

The plaintiffs then brought this suit on April 9, 2014, asserting federal claims under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §794, and under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§12131, et seq. The plaintiffs also raise state law claims for breach of contract, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"). (Doc. 1). On June 13, 2014, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint with respect to their federal claims under Fed.R.Civ. 12(b)(1) and with respect to their adult state law tort claims under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (Doc. 8). The defendant's motion has been briefed and is ripe for disposition. (Doc. 10; Doc. 12).

This court's jurisdiction over the plaintiffs' federal claims is based on 28 U.S.C. §1331 and, the court's pendent jurisdiction over their state claims is based on 28 U.S.C. §1337.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The defendant's motion to dismiss is brought, in part, pursuant to the provisions of Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). This rule provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, if the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The moving party bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated, Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005), and dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting all of the facts alleged in the complaint as true, the plaintiff has failed to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, " Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007) (abrogating "no set of facts" language found in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). The facts alleged must be sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. at 1965. This requirement "calls for enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" necessary elements of the plaintiff's cause of action. Id. Furthermore, in order to satisfy federal pleading requirements, the plaintiff must "provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief, " which "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (brackets and quotations marks omitted) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65).

In considering a motion to dismiss, the court generally relies on the complaint, attached exhibits, and matters of public record. See Sands v. McCormick, 502 F.3d 263 (3d Cir. 2007). The court may also consider "undisputedly authentic document[s] that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff's claims are based on the [attached] documents." Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). Moreover, "documents whose contents are alleged in the complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the pleading, may be considered." Pryor v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 288 F.3d 548, 560 (3d Cir. ...


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