Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Doe v. Case Western Reserve University, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 123680 (N.D. Ohio Sept. 16, 2015)

School type: Private
State: Ohio
Federal Circuit: Sixth
Decision primarily favorable to: University
Stage of litigation: Motion to dismiss
Keywords: Erroneous outcome, Selective enforcement, Title IX

The court granted the university’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Title IX claim, and declined to exercise jurisdiction over his remaining state-law claims.

Plaintiff, a medical student at CWRU, was accused of sexual assault by a classmate with whom he had sex after an evening during which both students had been drinking. Both Plaintiff and his accuser were in relationships with other people and, as a result, were concerned the next morning by what had happened between them. However, Plaintiff believed the sex to have been fully consensual until three months later, when the complainant requested to be moved out of a class she and Plaintiff were in together and stated, as her reason for requesting the move, that Plaintiff had sexually assaulted her.

Plaintiff was found responsible on the basis of the complainant’s intoxication level. He was ultimately expelled from CWRU’s medical school after a proceeding that he alleges was flawed and biased. He alleges, among other things, that he was not allowed to see all of the evidence used against him; that the hearing panel refused to ask a number of the questions he had submitted to be asked of his accuser; and that he was not notified of the later proceeding held by the medical school at which he was ultimately expelled.

Plaintiff brought suit alleging Title IX sex discrimination, breach of contract, and other state-law claims.

The court first considered Plaintiff’s Title IX claim under the “erroneous outcome” framework, which requires a plaintiff to plead facts both casting articulable doubt on the outcome of the proceeding and linking the allegedly erroneous outcome to gender bias. The court found that Plaintiff had met the first prong, because his complaint “contains sufficient factual allegations under the ‘erroneous outcome’ standard to establish a plausible claim that Plaintiff was innocent of the charges levied against him and that CWRU wrongly found that Plaintiff committed the offense.” However, the court found that Plaintiff had made no more than conclusory statements linking the flawed proceeding to gender bias, and that his complaint did not contain the type of “factual allegations,” such as statements by administrators or troubling patterns of decision-making, that could sustain a claim of gender bias. His “deliberate indifference” claim failed for the same reason, because it required a showing of gender bias that Plaintiff did not make.

The court also dismissed Plaintiff’s “selective enforcement” claim, finding that he had not identified a similarly situated female student who was treated differently — his general allegation that “CWRU’s guidelines and regulations disproportionately affect the male student population of the CWRU community as a result of the higher incidence of female complainants of sexual misconduct against male complainants of sexual misconduct” was not sufficient.