Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Doe v. University of Dayton, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45047 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 20, 2018)

School type: Private
State: Ohio
Federal Circuit: Sixth
Decision primarily favorable to: University
Stage of litigation: Motion to dismiss
Keywords: Arbitrary & capricious, Breach of contract, Selective enforcement, Title IX

The court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss.

Following a sexual encounter, Jane Roe reported to the university police that she had been assaulted by Plaintiff. Plaintiff was suspended following a hearing, but on appeal, the Judicial Review Committee found that both Plaintiff and Roe had been denied the opportunity to pose questions based on the parties’ live testimony at the hearing. The JRC remanded the matter to the hearing board, which allowed the parties to listen to a recording of the hearing and then submit questions. The hearing board “determined that none of the additional questions would alter the determinations it had already made and did not ask them.”

Plaintiff brought defamation claims against his accuser, which the court dismissed on grounds of qualified privilege. In Ohio, “[t]he elements of the qualified privilege are: ‘good faith, an interest to be upheld, a statement limited in its scope to this purpose, a proper occasion, and publication in a proper manner and to proper parties only.’” Applying that test to the instant case, the court found that “qualified privilege extends to a speaker discussing with close friends and a college’s judiciary body whether the speaker was the victim of sexual assault, entitling the speaker to dismissal of defamation claims against her on the grounds of qualified privilege, even in the absence of certainty with regard to good faith.”

Plaintiff also sued the university for breach of contract, promissory estoppel and violation of Title IX. The court reasoned that in deciding whether the University of Dayton, a private university, has breached its contract to Plaintiff, an “abuse of discretion” standard should be used. The court decided that Plaintiff had not pled any facts that would show that the university had acted “arbitrarily” through its disciplinary proceedings, nor had he identified any specific provisions of the handbook that the university failed to follow. It thus dismissed his breach of contract claims. Since Ohio law bars a promissory estoppel claim when an express contract exists between the parties, the court dismissed that claim as well.

On Plaintiff’s Title IX claims, the court first concluded that his hostile environment and discrimination claims against the university must be dismissed, since he had not pled facts suggesting that his educational experience was “permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult.” Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17 (1993). Second, the court also dismissed Plaintiff’s deliberate indifference claim because the alleged gender discrimination was not tethered to a sexual harassment claim. Third, the court cited national sexual assault statistics and pointed out that Plaintiff’s allegations did not give rise to a plausible inference of gender bias. Fourth, the court dismissed Plaintiff’s selective enforcement claim because he had not identified a similarly-situated female student who was treated differently.