K.I. et al v. Montgomery Public Schools

Filing 75

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING the 64 MOTION to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion to Strike Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint. Signed by Hon. Chief Judge Mark E. Fuller on 2/5/10. (Attachments: # 1 civil appeals checklist)(djy, )

Download PDF
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA OF N O R T H E R N DIVISION K .I., by and through her mother and next f rie n d , Jennie I., et al., P l a i n t if f s , v. M O N T G O M E R Y PUBLIC SCHOOLS, D e f e n d a n t. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) C A S E NO. 2:06-CV-905-MEF (WO) M E M O R A N D U M OPINION AND ORDER T h is case is presently before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, M o tio n to Strike Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint (Doc. # 64), which Defendant filed on O c to b e r 29, 2008. The Court has carefully considered the submissions of the parties together w ith the applicable authorities. Upon consideration of those materials and for the reasons s e t forth below, the Court finds that the Motion to Dismiss is due to be denied and the a lte rn a tiv e Motion to Strike Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint is also due to be denied. J U R IS D IC T I O N AND VENUE T h is Court has subject matter jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1 3 3 1 . Defendant has not argued that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over it, and there is no dispute that venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1391(b). BACKGROUND Plaintiff K.I. is a student with disabilities for purposes of the Individuals with -1- D is a b ilitie s Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1400 ("IDEA"). She and her mother as next friend s e e k by this action a "nondiscriminatory appropriate education," as well as certain other p ro c e d u ra l rights, which they claim K.I. is due pursuant to the IDEA and 504 of the R e h a b ilita tio n Act, 29 U.S.C. 794. They seek this redress in the form of an injunction a g a in s t defendant Montgomery Public Schools. They also seek compensatory education, c o m p e n s a to ry damages, and reasonable attorneys' fees. Plaintiffs filed their initial Complaint on October 6, 2006. (Doc. # 1.) Defendant tim ely answered. (Doc. # 3.) Plaintiffs, within the time allowed by the Scheduling Order, m o v e d to amend the complaint. (Doc. # 18.) Defendant opposed the motion to amend. (Doc. # 22.) After the parties litigated issues related to supplementation of the administrative re c o rd , the Court granted the Motion to Amend the Complaint on October 14, 2008. (Doc. # 61.) Plaintiffs filed the Amended Complaint the same day. (Doc. # 63.) Rather than s u b m ittin g an answer to the Amended Complaint, Defendant added one paragraph to the d o c u m e n t through which it opposed the Motion to Amend and filed it as a Motion to Dismiss o r in the Alternative to Strike.1 That Motion is now under submission. 1 The new paragraph, number seven, reads: M o s t importantly, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is due to be dismissed and/or s tric k e n as the claims in said Amended Complaint relate to Plaintiff K.I.'s c u rre n t placement and progress in the school district. For example, in p a ra g ra p h 26 of the Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege, "MPS has failed, a n d is continuing to fail, to provide KI with a FAPE in the least restrictive e n v iro n m e n t." This Court's September 30, 2008 Order states, "Plaintiffs have f a ile d to articulate a solid justification as to why K.I.'s progress since the h e a rin g will not simply be cumulative and duplicative of the testimony that w a s presented at the hearing. Further, the Court found "Plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden to show a 'solid justification' for allowing additional -2- In the Motion, Defendant argues that this Court should either dismiss or strike the A m en d ed Complaint because it adds new allegations and a request for compensatory d am ag es, and Plaintiffs have met the exhaustion requirement with respect to neither. D e f en d a n t argues that "the additional allegations in Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint raise new c la im s that were not addressed at the due process hearing." (Doc. # 64.) Defendant provides little in the way of specifics to support this assertion. The Motion does say that the Amended C o m p lain t's most important infirmity is that is contains factual allegations relating to events s u b s e q u e n t to the administrative hearing date. P la in tif f s begin their response by correctly pointing out that they amended the c o m p lain t within the time set by the scheduling order in force at the time. Plaintiffs also note th a t, with the exception of the paragraph quoted above regarding the allegations concerning e v e n ts after the hearing, the Motion to Dismiss is verbatim the Defendant's response to the P la in tif f s ' Motion to Amend Complaint. As Plaintiffs note, the Court found Defendant's r e sp o n s e to be without merit in the context of the Motion to Amend Complaint. They also arg u e that the added factual allegations, which reflect that K.I. remains in the Montgomery P u b lic School System, while true, are largely irrelevant to their IDEA claims, as those claims a re to be reviewed based on the administrative record. However, Plaintiffs argue, their S e c tio n 504 claims, with respect to which the exhaustion requirement operates differently, re q u ire them to aver---if they are to state a claim---that K.I. continues to be in the M o n tg o m e ry Public School System and continues to be placed in a program with which her evidence. . . . Accordingly, additional claims regarding K.I.'s current status s h o u ld not be allowed. -3- p a re n ts disagree. LEGAL STANDARD A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint.2 Therefore, for th e purposes of adjudging a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court will accept as true all w e ll-p le a d ed factual allegations and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. S e e Am. United Life Ins. Co. v. Martinez, 480 F.3d 1043, 1057 (11th Cir. 2007); Pielage v. M c C o n n e ll, 516 F.3d 1282, 1284 (11th Cir. 2008). While Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 (a )(2 ) requires only that a complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim sh o w in g that the pleader is entitled to relief," as a general matter, to survive a motion to d ism iss for failure to state a claim, the plaintiff must allege "enough facts to state a claim to re lie f that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1974 (2 0 0 7 ). Plaintiff's "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above a s p e c u la tiv e level on the assumption that the allegations in the complaint are true." Id. at 1 9 6 5 . It is not sufficient that the pleadings merely "[l]eave open the possibility that the p la in tif f might later establish some set of undisclosed facts to support recovery." Id. at 1968 (in terna l quotation and alteration omitted). D IS C U S S IO N A f te r careful consideration of the position of the parties and the applicable authorities, th e Court agrees with the plaintiffs that the Amended Complaint is not subject to dismissal Defendant does not specify which subsection of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 1 2 (b ) it thinks should operate to result in dismissal of Plaintiffs' claim. The Court thinks the M o tio n is properly construed as a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim and has c o n s tru e d the Motion as such. -4- 2 a n d should not be stricken for the reasons pressed by the defendant. Other than the request f o r compensatory damages under 504, the Amended Complaint simply adds facts to the a lle g a t io n s in the original Complaint. From the Court's reading, it adds no new claims. W h i l e it is true that some of these new averments describe events subsequent to the a d m in is tra tiv e hearing, the stated claims under the IDEA and the Rehabilitation Act do not a rise from those facts, and they are not relevant to the administrative exhaustion requirement. T h e added factual allegations simply claim that the harm is ongoing.3 Stating that the harm is ongoing does not create new claims that were not subjected to administrative review and th e Court therefore finds no basis to dismiss all or part of the Amended Complaint. Neither th e IDEA portion nor the Rehabilitation Act portion of the Amended Complaint fails to state a claim for relief. The Motion to Dismiss is therefore due to be denied. This ruling does not d is tu rb and is not in tension with the Court's earlier Order refusing to allow supplementation o f the record. Alternative Motion to Strike D e f e n d a n t's Motion contains, as detailed above, a Motion to Strike in alternative to th e Motion to Dismiss. Though Defendant does not specify the authority for this Motion, the C o u rt construes it as pursuant to Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The ch allen g ed allegations must be "immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous." Fed R. Civ. P. 12(f). T h i s standard has been interpreted to mean that a motion to strike should be denied unless For example, the Amended Complaint claims that "K.I.'s [individualized education p la n s] have been, and are still, inadequate . . . " (Doc. # 63 16), and "MPS has failed, and is continuing to fail, to provide K.I. with a [free appropriate public education] in the least r e str ic tiv e environment." (Id. at 26.) -5- 3 th e challenged allegations in the complaint have no possible relationship to the controversy, m a y confuse the issues, or otherwise prejudice a party. Reyher v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 8 8 1 F.Supp. 574, 576 (M.D. Fa.1995)). D e f en d a n t's alternative Motion to Strike appears to rest on the ground that the A m e n d e d Complaint is not what Plaintiffs represented it would be in their Motion to Amend. H o w e v e r, as Plaintiffs rightly point out, the Amended Complaint they filed was in all m a te ri a l respects submitted as an exhibit to the Motion to Amend. The Court therefore g ra n te d the Motion to Amend with full benefit of both the proposed amended pleading and D ef en d an t's opposition thereto. Defendant has presented no compelling reason that the Court s h o u l d reexamine and reverse its earlier ruling. The Court therefore declines to do so. M o reo v er, the Court, after reviewing the Amended Complaint, finds no matters in it that are " im m a te ria l, impertinent, or scandalous" Fed R. Civ. P. 12(f), as the added factual allegations a re material to Plaintiffs' 504 claims and pleas for injunctive relief. Accordingly, the a lte rn a tiv e Motion to Strike is due to be denied. CONCLUSION F o r the reasons set forth above, it is hereby ORDERED that the Motion to Dismiss o r in the Alterative to Strike Plaintiffs' Complaint is DENIED. DONE this the 5th day of February, 2010. /s/ Mark E. Fuller CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE -6-

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?