United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
A.B., By and Through his Parents and Natural Guardians, F.B. and N.V., Plaintiffs,
PLEASANT VALLEY SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.
Richard Caputo United States District Judge
before me is the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 7) filed by
Defendant Pleasant Valley School District
(“Defendant”). Finding Defendant's motion
lacking in merit, it will be denied.
facts alleged in the Complaint are as follows:
A.B., by and through his parents and natural guardians, F.B.
and N.V., commenced this action to recover reasonable
attorneys' fees and costs under the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et
seq. (“IDEA”), and Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504”).
(See Doc. 1, generally). Plaintiffs allege
that after pursuing a special education due process hearing,
the presiding Hearing Offer found in their favor on September
16, 2017. (See id. at ¶¶ 6, 8).
Specifically, the Hearing Officer found that Defendant failed
to provide A.B. with a Free Appropriate Public Education
(“FAPE”) during the second half of his 2014-2015
school year through the end of his 2015-2016 school year.
(See id. at ¶ 8). The Hearing Officer awarded
A.B. 5.5 hours of compensatory education for each day that
A.B. had an unexcused absence during the second semester of
the 2014-2015 school year, and a total of 396 hours of
compensatory education for his 2015-2016 school year.
commenced this action on December 15, 2017 to recover
attorneys' fees and costs as the prevailing party below.
(See id., generally). On February 9, 2018,
Defendant filed its motion to dismiss. (See Doc. 7,
generally). In its supporting brief, Defendant
argues that: (1) it is unable to respond to Plaintiffs'
Complaint because it does not include any information as to
the fees claimed; (2) the Complaint is defective because an
itemized invoice is not attached thereto; (3)
“Plaintiffs' attorney's fee petition seeking
compensation fails to document hours for which payment is
sought”; and (4) “Plaintiffs' attorney fee
petition lacks information permitting the District or this
Court to determine if the hours claimed are unreasonable for
the work performed.” (Doc. 8, 3). Plaintiffs filed
their brief in opposition to the motion to dismiss on
February 23, 2018. (See Doc. 9, generally).
The motion to dismiss is now fully briefed and ripe for
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. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 12(b)(6). “Under the ‘notice
pleading' standard embodied in Rule 8 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff must come forward with
‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Thompson
v. Real Estate Mortg. Network, 748 F.3d 142, 147 (3d
Cir. 2014) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).
resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “a court must
consider no more than whether the complaint establishes
‘enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that
discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary elements'
of the cause of action.” Trzaska v. L'Oreal
USA, Inc., 865 F.3d 155, 162 (3d Cir. 2017) (quoting
Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 789
(3d Cir. 2016)). In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint,
a court must take three steps: (1) identify the elements of
the claim; (2) identify conclusions that are not entitled to
the assumption of truth; and (3) assume the veracity of the
well-pleaded factual allegations and determine whether they
plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. See
Connelly, 809 F.3d at 787 (citations omitted). “To
survive a motion to dismiss, a 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, 129 S.Ct.
1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d
who prevails on an IDEA due process complaint may file an
action in the district court to recover reasonable
attorney's fees and costs expended during the
administrative proceedings. See 20 U.S.C. §
1415(i)(3)(B). A parent who obtains judicially sanctioned
relief on the merits may recover attorney's fees. See
John T. ex rel. Paul T. v. Delaware Cty. Intermediate
Unit, 318 F.3d 545, 557-58 (3d Cir. 2003).
arguments in support of its motion to dismiss Plaintiffs'
claim for attorneys' fees are baseless. First, in its
supporting brief, Defendant contends that Plaintiffs'
“fee petition” lacks the necessary information to
determine if Plaintiffs' requested fee is reasonable.
(See Doc. 8, 3). But, at present, Plaintiffs have
not submitted a fee petition, so the only matter at issue is
the sufficiency of Plaintiffs' Complaint.
Defendant fails to cite any authority in support of its
position that the Complaint is deficient because Plaintiffs
have not provided information as to the reasonableness of the
attorneys' fees they seek to recover in this action. An
argument similar to that raised here, however, was rejected
by the Honorable Harvey Bartle III in Dudley v. Lower
Merion School District, 768 F.Supp.2d 779, 782 (E.D. Pa.
2011). As then Chief-Judge Bartle explained:
the School District argues that the claim of plaintiffs for
attorneys' fees must be dismissed because information
regarding the skills, experience, time, and expenditures of
their attorneys and comparable market rates have not been
pleaded. This argument is without merit. The School District
cites no authority supporting the proposition that this level
of detail is required in order to survive a motion to
dismiss. Instead, this information is usually addressed
through affidavits submitted by the attorneys accompanying a
separate fee petition. See, e.g., Rode
v. Dellarciprete, 892 F.2d 1177, 1181 (3d Cir. 1990);
Becker v. ARCO Chem. Co., 15 F.Supp.2d 621, 626-29
(E.D. Pa. 1998). The School District may dispute the
reasonableness of the attorneys' fees requested at that
Id. I, like Judge Bartle, am not aware of any
authority requiring a plaintiff to plead the level of detail
in the complaint suggested by Defendant to withstand a motion
to dismiss in an action to recover attorneys' fees under
the IDEA. Such challenges are properly ...