Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Rossley v. Drake University, 342 F. Supp. 3d 904 (S.D. Iowa 2018)

School type: Private
State: Iowa
Federal Circuit: Eighth
Decision primarily favorable to: Student
Stage of litigation: Motion for summary judgment
Keywords: Breach of contract, Selective enforcement, Title IX

University’s motion for summary judgment denied on Plaintiff’s Title IX and breach of contract claims.

Thomas Rossley, a former Drake University student, was charged with sexual misconduct for allegedly having non-consensual sex with another student, Jane Doe. Both students had been drinking on the night of the incident, and both claimed they were incapacitated and unable to consent to sexual activity. Jane said she blacked out at one point in the night and woke up to Rossley having sexual intercourse with her; Rossley stated Jane Doe performed oral sex on him, which he did not consent to. Rossley was found guilty of sexual misconduct and expelled from the university. The university did not pursue a sexual misconduct investigation against Jane Doe.

Rossley brought eight different counts against Drake: violation of Title IX, the Fourteenth Amendment, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act; breach of contract; breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; negligent infliction of emotional distress; estoppel and reliance; and declaratory relief.

The court held there were “genuine issues of material fact” regarding the Title IX violations under the “selective enforcement” theory, because it is unclear why Drake chose to pursue the sexual misconduct allegation against Rossley but not Jane Doe. There was also a dispute of material fact regarding whether Rossley and Jane Doe were in “sufficiently similar” circumstances since they “reported their allegations in different manners.” The court found they were not substantially similar, but that there was a factual dispute as to whether Rossley was persuaded by Drake University to report the sexual misconduct in a different manner, or to not report it at all.

The court also denied summary judgment to Drake on Rossley’s breach of contract claim. Regarding the breach of contract claim, Rossley would have to prove: “1) the existence of a contract; 2) the terms and conditions of the contract; 3) that the plaintiff has performed all the terms and conditions required under the contract; 4) the defendant’s breach of the contract in some particular way; and 5) that the plaintiff has suffered damages as a result of the breach.” The court held there was an issue of material fact regarding whether Drake “breached the contract by failing to conduct an equitable investigation of [Rossley]’s allegations against Jane Doe.”