Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Doe v. University of St. Thomas, 240 F. Supp. 3d 984 (D. Minn. Mar. 1, 2017)

School type: Private
State: Minnesota
Federal Circuit: Eighth
Decision primarily favorable to: University
Stage of litigation: Motion to dismiss
Keywords: Breach of contract, Erroneous outcome, Single investigator, Title IX

University’s motion to dismiss granted on Plaintiff’s Title IX and breach of contract claims, but denied on his negligence claim. Summary judgment later granted to university on negligence claim.

Plaintiff and the complainant, Jane Doe, had a brief sexual encounter in which Plaintiff digitally penetrated Jane Doe. She claims she did not consent; Plaintiff claims he believed she consented based on the fact that she did not object to the removal of her pants and that she stroked his penis.

The university adjudicated the sexual misconduct complaint against Plaintiff using an investigative model where one or more factfinders would interview parties and witnesses, collect evidence, and reach a decision without holding a hearing.

Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment under Title IX based on the fact that the university had failed to adopt certain grievance procedures required by administrative regulation, but the court dismissed this claim, holding that there was no private right of action “to enforce the regulatory requirements under Title IX.”

The court also dismissed Plaintiff’s Title IX erroneous outcome and deliberate indifference claims stemming from the disciplinary process, holding that he had failed to plead facts giving rise to an inference of gender bias. At best, some of the alleged facts might suggest a bias in favor of victims, but “[d]emonstrating that a university official is biased in favor of the alleged victims of sexual assault claims, and against the alleged perpetrators, is not the equivalent of demonstrating bias against male students.” The court also rejected the idea that the general federal pressure coming from OCR at the time was sufficient to establish an inference of gender bias absent facts suggesting specific pressure at the school.

The court dismissed Plaintiff’s breach of contract claim on the grounds that he had not alleged any specific policy provisions with which the university failed to comply.

The court did, however, allow Plaintiff’s negligence claim to survive the motion to dismiss even though it was “skeptical that the facts underlying this case will ultimately establish a duty of care.”

In a later proceeding, the court granted the university’s motion for summary judgment on the negligence claim, holding that “UST owed Doe a duty of reasonable care, but … UST did not breach its duty of care.”