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Bevan v. O'Donnell

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 3, 2019

LISA M. BEVAN and BRIAN J BEVAN, Plaintiffs,
v.
ROBERT J. O'DONNELL, Defendant.

          ORDER

          MATTHEW W. BRANN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In June 2017, Lisa Bevan was suspended from her teaching job at the State College Area School District for allegedly striking a student. Consequently, she and her husband brought this action against the school district's superintendent, Robert J. O'Donnell. Their complaint contains claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count I); for loss of consortium (Count II); and for a violation of procedural due process (Count III). Mr. O'Donnell now moves to dismiss that complaint.

         Analysis

         Mr. O'Donnell argues that the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim should be dismissed on the basis of high public official immunity. This Court agrees. Pennsylvania law shields certain state officials (including superintendents) from liability for certain torts (including intentional infliction of emotional distress), if the complained-of conduct falls “within the course of [the] defendant[‘s] duties or scope of authority.”[1] Here, Mr. O'Donnell's superintendent duties included handling teacher discipline issues.[2] And the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim is based entirely on actions Mr. O'Donnell took while disciplining Ms. Bevan for her alleged misconduct. Therefore, Mr. O'Donnell is immune from the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, and it will be dismissed. Because this Court cannot conceive how amendment of this claim would help its defects- i.e., how amendment would overcome Mr. O'Donnell's immunity-the dismissal will be with prejudice.

         Mr. O'Donnell then argues that the loss of consortium claim should be dismissed because it is derivative of the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. This Court agrees.[3] For the reasons stated above, dismissal of this claim will also be with prejudice.

         Finally, Mr. O'Donnell argues that the procedural due process claim should be dismissed because Ms. Bevan, through the teacher's union, successfully arbitrated a grievance over her suspension, winning back pay and other relief.[4] This Court agrees, [5] and will dismiss the procedural due process claim. Because there is no dispute about the nature and relief provided by the arbitration, that dismissal will be with prejudice.

         Disposition

         For the reasons stated above, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:

         1. The motion to dismiss, ECF No. 2, is GRANTED.

         2. Plaintiff's complaint, ECF No. 1-1, is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         3. The Clerk of Court is directed to close this case.

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Notes:

[1] Zugarek v. Southern Tioga School Dist., 214 F.Supp.2d 468, 479 (M.D. Pa. ...


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