Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Doe v. Lynn Univ., 235 F. Supp. 3d 1336 (S.D. Fl. 2017)

School type: Private
State: Florida
Federal Circuit: Eleventh
Decision primarily favorable to: Student
Stage of litigation: Motion to dismiss
Keywords: Breach of contract, Erroneous outcome, Title IX

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

Plaintiff had a sexual encounter with a female student that she alleged was nonconsensual and that he maintains was consensual. Police declined to press charges, but the university found him responsible for having “engaged in non-consensual sexual intercourse with someone that was incapable of consenting due to alcohol.” To establish an erroneous outcome claim, a plaintiff must plead facts (1) casting articulable doubt on the outcome of the disciplinary proceeding and (2) drawing a causal connection between the allegedly erroneous outcome and gender bias.

The court found that Plaintiff had alleged more than enough facts to cast doubt on the outcome of the proceeding, and turned its attention to the gender bias prong, which is typically a higher bar to clear than articulable doubt, and is where many such Title IX claims fail. On the question of gender bias, the court was “guided by” the Second Circuit’s decision in Doe v. Columbia, where the Second Circuit found that a plaintiff had sufficiently alleged gender bias at the motion to dismiss stage based on “(i) allegations of criticism directed at Defendant for its handling of sexual assault complaints made by female students against males and (ii) allegations that Defendant was cognizant of that criticism.”

Applying that framework, the court found that Plaintiff had alleged enough facts “to ‘nudge[] [Plaintiff’s] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible,’ which is all the law requires.”

The court also allowed Plaintiff’s breach of contract claim to proceed based on his allegation that the university had deviated from its own procedures by allowing the complainant’s attorney to participate despite a university policy requiring that the parties’ representatives may only be “silent observer[s].”

The case subsequently settled.