Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Doe v. Coastal Carolina University, 359 F. Supp. 3d 367 (D.S.C. 2019)

School type: Public
State: South Carolina
Federal Circuit: Fourth
Decision primarily favorable to: Student
Stage of litigation: Motion to dismiss
Keywords: Erroneous outcome, Title IX

The court denied the university’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Title IX sex discrimination claim.

After a hearing, Plaintiff was found not responsible for sexual misconduct. His accuser appealed, and — although her appeal did not conform to the university’s appeal requirements — a new hearing was held at which, without any witness testimony, Plaintiff was found responsible and expelled.

Plaintiff brought a Title IX “erroneous outcome” claim, which requires him to show (1) sufficient facts to cast articulable doubt on the outcome of the proceeding and (2) a causal connection between the flawed outcome and gender bias. At the motion to dismiss stage, the court found that demonstrating (1) is not a heavy burden, and Plaintiff satisfied it. With regard to (2), Plaintiff met the burden at this stage by alleging widespread anti-male bias in campus sexual misconduct proceedings. The court held that Plaintiff’s claims could proceed, because he could not possibly provide more particularized evidence prior to discovery:

[T]he question here is whether Plaintiff’s allegations about widespread anti-male bias are “plausible” such that they satisfy the pleading requirements of Twombly and Iqbal. In response, Plaintiff points out that the records to support these allegations are within Defendant’s control, so discovery is needed.

The Court believes that Plaintiff’s allegations are sufficient at this stage. Furthermore, the Court does not believe that Plaintiff should be barred from discovery because he is unable to give more precise details about this alleged widespread gender bias at CCU; as he points out, such evidentiary materials are within Defendant’s control. Given the confidential nature of disciplinary proceedings against students accused of sexual misconduct, it is difficult to imagine how Plaintiff could plead the existence of such proceedings in greater factual detail.