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A.C. v. Scranton School District

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 29, 2017

A.C., a minor, by JERRY C. and JENNIFER C., his parents, Plaintiffs
v.
SCRANTON SCHOOL DISTRICT and SALISBURY BEHAVIORAL, HEALTH, INC., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          MALACHY E. MANNION United States District Judge.

         Plaintiffs Jerry C. and Jennifer C., individually and on behalf of their minor son A.C., filed this action alleging that A.C. was discriminated against and denied his right to a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) by defendant Scranton School District (“SSD”) due to his disabilities in violation of federal law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and §504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Plaintiffs also raised federal claims as well as state law claims against New Story, a private school which provides special education to students, owned and operated by defendant Salisbury Behavioral Health, Inc., (collectively “New Story”). Plaintiffs alleged that New Story denied A.C.'s right to FAPE and subjected him to an inappropriate standard of care as well as needless use of physical restraints.

         Remaining in this case are plaintiffs' RA and ADA claims, Counts I & II, against SSD which are based on allegations occurring after April 8, 2013. Also, plaintiffs' ADA and RA claims against New Story contained in Counts III and IV, as well as plaintiffs' state law claims contained in Counts V and VI of the complaint remain. (Doc. 40, Doc. 41).

         Presently pending before the court is SSD's motion to dismiss, (Doc. 49), the crossclaims New Story asserted against it alleging that SSD is solely liable to plaintiffs for any damages they may recover and, is liable over or jointly and severally liable with New Story under indemnification and contribution. (Doc. 47 at 25-26). For the following reasons, SSD's motion to dismiss will be GRANTED.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Since the complete factual background of this case was detailed in the court's June 13, 2016 memorandum, (Doc. 40), it will not be fully repeated herein. Suffice it to say that plaintiffs' complaint, (Doc. 1), alleges that A.C. is a ten year old disabled child with special needs who has been diagnosed with Mixed Development Disorder, Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Mild Mental Retardation, ADHD and Mixed Receptive and Expressive Language Disorder. Based on his disabilities, A.C. is a student eligible for special education services as provided by the Individuals with Disabilities Educations Act (“IDEA”). A.C. resides within SSD and is a student of SSD. During the time that A.C. has been a student of SSD, Jennifer C. made repeated efforts to work with the administration for the proper placement and appropriate education of her son. She complained to SSD about the repeated use of physical restraints on A.C. by SSD staff. Subsequently, SSD transferred A.C. to New Story, since it was licensed and approved to provide special education for elementary and secondary students with mental and physical disabilities. SSD contracts with New Story School to provide education to district students at New Story's facility in Throop, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. According to the complaint, New Story is a private academic school which is licensed and approved to provide special education for elementary and secondary students with various physical and mental impairments. Jennifer C. agreed to A.C.'s transfer by SSD to New Story. Plaintiffs allege that after A.C. was placed at New Story, he was improperly treated, including excessive use of physical restraints on numerous occasions, and that he did not receive the appropriate and required care. This treatment allegedly affected A.C.'s physical and emotional well being and hindered his educational progress. Plaintiffs' claim that the treatment at New Story deprived A.C. of his right to a FAPE and subjected him to an inappropriate standard of care for a child with his needs and disabilities.

         On February 6, 2014, plaintiffs advised SSD that they wanted A.C. placed in an appropriate setting back within the district, and A.C. was removed from New Story.

         II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The plaintiffs commenced this action on November 17, 2015, (Doc. 1), asserting federal claims against both SSD and New Story under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§12131, et seq., (Counts I & III, respectively), and under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“RA”), 29 U.S.C. §794, (Counts II & IV, respectively). The plaintiffs also raise state law claims for negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”) against New Story, (Counts V & VI). As relief against SSD and New Story regarding their federal claims, plaintiffs request compensatory damages and attorneys' fees. Plaintiffs request compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorneys' fees against New Story with respect to their state law claims.

         On January 22, 2016, SSD filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint with respect to both of their federal claims under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), and in the alternative a motion to strike allegations in the complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f) that are time barred. (Doc. 17, Doc. 28, Doc. 33).

         On February 2, 2016, New Story filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint with respect to all of their claims under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (Doc. 29, Doc. 34).

         On June 13, 2016, the court issued a memorandum, (Doc. 40), and order, (Doc. 41), denying SSD's motion to dismiss, (Doc. 13), with respect to plaintiffs' RA and ADA claims, (Counts I & II), which are based on allegations occurring after April 8, 2013. SSD's motion to dismiss was granted to the extent that plaintiffs' allegations pre-dating April 8, 2013 cannot be the basis for their federal claims since they are time barred. SSD's motion to strike plaintiffs' allegations pre-dating April 8, 2013 was denied. New Story's motion to dismiss, (Doc. 14), all of plaintiffs' claims against it was denied.

         On June 27, 2016, SSD filed its answer to plaintiffs' complaint with affirmative defenses. (Doc. 46). On July 15, 2016, New Story filed its answer to plaintiffs' complaint with affirmative defenses as well as crossclaims against SSD.[1] (Doc. 47). In its crossclaims, New Story alleges that if the averments in plaintiffs' complaint are established and plaintiffs prevail on their claims, “[SSD] is solely liable, liable over or jointly and severally liable, with New Story under the Doctrine[s] of Indemnification and Contribution.” New Story also alleges that if plaintiffs recover damages, “then said damages are the result of the acts or omissions of [SSD], and not the acts or omission of New Story.” (Id. at 25-26).

         This court's jurisdiction over the plaintiffs' federal claims is based on 20 U.S.C. §1415(i)(2) and 28 U.S.C. §1331. The court's pendent jurisdiction over the ...


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