Tackett v. University of Kansas
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER denying 52 Motion to Dismiss. The court finds that Judge Huff's dismissal of Tackett's KCPA lawsuit was not a final judgment on the merits. KU has not met its burden to show that res judicata is applicable to Tackett's Title IX case. Signed by District Judge J. Thomas Marten on 07/27/2017. (aa)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF KANSAS
Case No. 16-2266-JTM
UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Plaintiff Daisy Tackett (“Tackett”) filed this action in state court against
defendant University of Kansas (“KU”) pursuant to Title IX of the Education
Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681, alleging a hostile educational environment and
retaliation. KU removed Tackett’s lawsuit to this court, and argues the doctrine of res
judicata bars her claims. This matter is before the court on KU’s motion to dismiss (Dkt.
52). For the reasons provided below, the court denies KU’s motion.
On March 11, 2016, a group of plaintiffs—which included Tackett’s parents, but
excluded Tackett—filed a class action lawsuit against KU pursuant to the Kansas
Consumer Protection Act (“KCPA”), Kan. Stat. Ann. § 50-623, et seq., James Tackett, et al.
v. University of Kansas, Case No. 2016-CV-103 (the “KCPA lawsuit”). The plaintiffs
claimed that Tackett was sexually assaulted in Jayhawker Towers while she was a
student at KU. The plaintiffs alleged that KU repeatedly represented to them and other
students and their family members that KU’s residence halls were safe, but these
representations were false.
Ten days after the KCPA lawsuit was filed, on March 21, 2016, Tackett filed the
instant Title IX lawsuit against KU in Douglas County, Kansas. On April 25, 2016, KU
removed the Title IX lawsuit to federal court.
Two months later, on June 28, 2016, Tackett joined in the KCPA lawsuit. KU also
moved to dismiss the KCPA lawsuit in June 2016, for lack of standing and failure to
state a claim.
On March 17, 2017, the Douglas County District Court, Judge Kay Huff, granted
KU’s motion to dismiss the KCPA lawsuit. Judge Huff held that the parent-plaintiffs
did not have statutory standing because they had not signed the contracts with KU,
thereby failing to meet the statutory definition of consumers under the KCPA. On the
other hand, the state court found that the student-plaintiffs were parties to the
consumer transaction, but lacked standing to seek declaratory or injunctive relief
because—as former students—they did not allege that they were in danger of suffering
a present or future injury.
On March 23, 2017, KU amended its answer to the Second Amended Complaint
to add the affirmative defense of res judicata, which is the subject of KU’s present
motion to dismiss.1
The court previously ruled on KU’s prior motion to dismiss (Dkt. 25) and granted it in part, and denied
it in part. (Dkt. 38). In its present motion to dismiss, KU does not necessarily rechallenge the merits of
Tackett’s claims; instead, it argues that the court should dismiss Tackett’s claims under the doctrine of res
When a court makes a judgment, the preclusive effect of that judgment is defined
by both claim preclusion and issue preclusion, collectively known as “res judicata.”
Taylor v. Sturgell, 553 U.S. 880, 892 (2008). Claim preclusion precludes parties to a
lawsuit from relitigating issues that were or could have been raised in prior actions.
Haynes v. Kansas, 261 F. App’x 87, 89 (10th Cir. 2008).2 The purpose of res judicata is to
protect parties and the court from multiple lawsuits, minimizing inconsistent decisions,
and conserving judicial resources. Id. Claim preclusion is an affirmative defense, and
KU bears the burden to plead and prove this defense. Pelt v. Utah, 539 F.3d 1271, 1283
(10th Cir. 2008).
“In determining whether res judicata applies, a federal court gives the state court
judgment the same effect that it would be given by the state where the judgment was
handed down.” Cubie v. Bryan Career Coll., Inc., 244 F. Supp. 2d 1191, 1199–200 (D. Kan.
2003). Both the Tenth Circuit and Kansas require satisfaction of three elements for
dismissal to be proper: “(1) a final judgment on the merits in an earlier action; (2)
identity of parties or privies in the two suits; and (3) identity of the cause of action in
both suits.” Pelt, 539 F.3d at 1281 (quoting MACTEC Inc. v. Gorelick, 427 F.3d 821, 831
(10th Cir. 2005); Cubie, 244 F. Supp. 2d at 1199.
Within these elements, “Kansas
considers whether the parties were fully heard, whether the decision was supported by
a reasoned opinion and whether the decision was subject to or reviewed on appeal.”
Cubie, 244 F. Supp. 2d at 1199–200.
KU does not argue that issue preclusion bars Tackett’s Title IX claims.
It is undisputed that Tackett’s Title IX lawsuit contains the same parties as the
KCPA lawsuit. It is also undisputed that Judge Huff’s decision was a final judgment.3
However, the parties disagree whether Judge Huff’s dismissal of the KCPA lawsuit for
lack of standing was a decision on the merits.
“[P]arties in a judicial action must have standing as part of the Kansas case-orcontroversy requirement imposed by the judicial power clause of Article 3, § 1 of the
Kansas Constitution.” Sierra Club v. Moser, 298 Kan. 22, 29, 310 P.3d 360, 367 (2013)
(citing State ex rel. Morrison v. Sebelius, 285 Kan. 875, 895–96, 179 P.3d 366, 382–83 (2008)).
Consequently, “standing is a component of subject matter jurisdiction . . . .” Id. (citing
Cochran v. Kan. Dept. of Agric., 291 Kan. 898, 903, 249 P.3d 434, 440 (2011)). A plaintiff
must also have statutory standing under the applicable statute governing the cause of
action. See, e.g., Sierra Club, 298 Kan. at 29, 310 P.3d at 367 (“The parties agree that a
multilevel analysis—(1) statutory standing and (2) common-law or traditional
standing—applies . . . [t]o establish statutory standing under the first prong, Sierra Club
must satisfy the standing requirements of both the KAQA and the Kansas Judicial
Review Act (KJRA)[.]”).
As recognized by Judge Huff, to have statutory standing to sue under the KCPA,
Tackett must be a consumer. See also Hayes v. Find Track Locate, Inc., 60 F. Supp. 3d 1144,
1151 (D. Kan. 2014) (a consumer is a party to the contract). Tackett cleared this hurdle,
The court can take judicial notice of Judge Huff’s Memorandum and Order (Dkt. 52-2) in the KCPA
lawsuit without converting KU’s motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment. See Barnes v.
United States, 776 F.3d 1134, 1137 n.1 (10th Cir. 2015), cert. denied, 136 S. Ct. 1155 (2016).
but Judge Huff’s analysis did not end there. Judge Huff went on to find that Tackett
could not show a continuing injury or imminent threat of future harm and therefore,
she lacked standing for prospective relief. She further held that Tackett lacked standing
because she was not an “aggrieved” consumer, and cited Stein v. Sprint Corp., 22 F.
Supp. 2d 1210, 1216 (D. Kan. 1998), in support.
KU argues that because Judge Huff found Tackett lacked statutory standing—
specifically, that she was not an aggrieved consumer—this was a decision on the merits.
The court agrees that Judge Huff concluded Tackett lacked standing, however, Judge
Huff’s reasoning was based on constitutional or Article III standing—not statutory
standing. The cases cited by Judge Huff in her analysis address Article III standing. See
Hammer v. Sam’s E., Inc., No. 12-CV-2618-CM, 2013 WL 3756573, at *2 (D. Kan. July 16,
2013) (“Third, defendants contend that an increased risk of identity theft or fraud is too
remote and speculative to confer Article III standing. Because the court agrees with
defendants’ third argument, it does not address the first two arguments.”); Stein, 22 F.
Supp. 2d at 1216 (“In light of the evidence in the [KCPA’s] comment that the legislature
intended that a class plaintiff be ‘aggrieved’, the court concludes that section 50–634
should be interpreted to preserve the statute’s constitutionality and require that a
private plaintiff have suffered an injury.”); Baker v. City of Overland Park, 216 P.3d 191,
2009 WL 3083843, at *4 (Kan. Ct. App. Sept. 25, 2009) (“Generally, standing under the
Kansas Constitution requires that the plaintiff allege ‘such a personal stake in the
outcome of a controversy as to warrant invocation of jurisdiction and to justify exercise
of the court's remedial powers on his or her behalf.’”).
A dismissal for lack of Article III standing is not a decision on the merits; instead,
the court lacks jurisdiction to consider the case. See Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env’t,
523 U.S. 83, 109–10 (1998) (“Having found that none of the relief sought by respondent
would likely remedy its alleged injury in fact, we must conclude that respondent lacks
standing to maintain this suit, and that we and the lower courts lack jurisdiction to
entertain it.”); Rector v. City & Cty. of Denver, 348 F.3d 935, 942 (10th Cir. 2003)
(“Standing, however, raises jurisdictional questions and we are required to consider
‘the issue sua sponte to ensure that there is an Article III case or controversy’ before
us.”). Conversely, statutory standing relates to the merits of a plaintiff’s claim. See
Lexmark Intern., Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc., 134 S. Ct. 1377, 1387 n.4 (2014);
Carolina Cas. Ins. Co. v. Pinnacol Assur., 425 F.3d 921, 926 (10th Cir. 2005).
KU is correct that Judge Huff found that Tackett was not an aggrieved consumer
as contemplated by the KCPA statute. However, as recognized by Judge Lungstrum in
Stein, “aggrieved” is a constitutional component to statutory standing under the KCPA.
See Stein, 22 F. Supp. 2d at 1216 (accepting the defendant’s argument that interpretation
of the KCPA to permit a class action without an actual injury would not comport with
the constitutional requirement of standing). In other words, the constitutional and
statutory standing requirements overlap. If the consumer was not aggrieved, then there
would not be a sufficient injury in fact to allow for constitutional standing. See id.
(“Although the court is not necessarily persuaded that section 50–634 is ambiguous on
its face concerning whether a private plaintiff must be ‘aggrieved’ to bring a class action
for injunctive relief under the KCPA, it does agree that a contrary interpretation would
violate the standing requirement.”). Even if Judge Huff considered Tackett to lack
statutory standing because she was not an aggrieved consumer, Judge Huff previously
found that Tackett lacked constitutional standing because she could not show an
imminent threat of injury to warrant prospective relief; thus, Judge Huff lacked
jurisdiction to consider the merits of Tackett’s KCPA claim.
The court finds that Judge Huff’s dismissal of Tackett’s KCPA lawsuit was not a
final judgment on the merits. KU has not met its burden to show that res judicata is
applicable to Tackett’s Title IX case.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED this 27th day of July, 2017, that KU’s motion to
dismiss (Dkt. 52) is DENIED.
s/ J. Thomas Marten
J. Thomas Marten, Judge
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?