Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Doe v. Rollins College, No. 6:18-cv-01069 (M.D. Fl. Mar. 9, 2020)

School type: Private
State: Florida
Federal Circuit: Eleventh
Decision primarily favorable to: Student
Stage of litigation: Motion for summary judgment
Keywords: Basic fairness, Breach of contract, Erroneous outcome, Selective enforcement, Title IX

The college’s motion for summary judgment was granted in part (on Plaintiff’s Title IX claim) and denied in part (on his breach of contract claim).

The lawsuit stems from a he said/she said sexual encounter that took place after a fraternity party at which both Plaintiff and his accuser had been drinking. After Plaintiff was expelled from Rollins, he brought suit alleging Title IX violations and breach of contract.

The court granted summary judgment to the college on Plaintiff’s Title IX claims. On his erroneous outcome claim, the court held that while he had cast articulable doubt on the outcome of the proceeding (by presenting evidence that the investigation was procedurally flawed and by raising questions about the veracity of the charge), “[t]here is no evidence by which a reasonable juror could conclude Rollins’ conduct toward [Plaintiff] was motivated by his gender.” The court agreed that the college had taken a “victim-centered” approach to the case, but, like so many other courts, held that pro-victim bias was not equivalent to gender bias.

Plaintiff also brought a selective enforcement claim, arguing that because he was also intoxicated during the encounter but the university did not investigate the complainant, this was evidence of gender bias. However, the court held that the parties were not similarly situated, because — unlike in some other cases where students’ selective enforcement claims have proceeded — Plaintiff did not try to initiate a claim against the complainant or ask the college to investigate her.

However, the court denied the college’s motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff’s breach of contract claim. Plaintiff pointed to three specific breaches that he allege occurred during his campus proceeding: 1) in violation of its own policy, the college took substantially more than 60 days to complete the disciplinary process; 2) in violation of its own policy, the college took into consideration irrelevant information about Plaintiff’s sexual history; and 3) the college violated its own policy promising to provide a fair resolution.

In Florida, the elements of a breach of contract claim are 1) the existence of a contract, 2) a material breach of the contract, and 3) damages resulting from the breach. The court held that there was a genuine question of material fact about the effect of the college’s breach of the 60-day provision, as well as about whether the college’s inquiry into Plaintiff’s sexual history was relevant.

Finally, the court held that there was a genuine question of material fact as to whether the college responded fairly and equitably to the accusation against Plaintiff. Specifically, the court held that

Doe did not provide sufficient evidence of gender bias for a Title IX claim, but he did provide sufficient evidence that Rollins favored the reporting student. Doe presented evidence Rollins didn’t treat him fairly or equitably—deciding he was responsible before hearing his side of the story and failing to follow procedures mandated by the Policy and Responding Party Bill of Rights. There is a genuine dispute whether Rollins responded fairly and equitably to Jane Roe’s allegation, precluding summary judgment.