Gillis v. The Principia Corporation
OPINION MEMORANDUM AND ORDER HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [Doc. No. 11 ] is GRANTED without prejudice. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the hearing on Defendants Motion scheduled for June 16, 2015 is VACATED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff is given 14 days from the date of this Opinion, Memorandum and Order to file an amended complaint.( Response to Court due by 6/16/2015.). Signed by District Judge Henry Edward Autrey on 06/02/2015. (CLK)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
THE PRINCIPIA CORPORATION
d/b/a PRINCIPIA COLLEGE,
No. 4:14CV1924 HEA
OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. [Doc. No. 11].
Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition to the Motion. [Doc. No. 16]. Defendant filed a Reply.
[Doc. No. 17]. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Dismiss will be granted without
Facts and Background1
Plaintiff attended Principia College between August 2009 and May 2013, when she
graduated. Principia College is owned and operated by the Principia Corporation, and is an
accredited private, co-educational four-year liberal arts and science college for Christian
Scientists, located in Elash, Illinois.2 Plaintiff’s various accomplishments, leadership experience,
community involvement, and commitment to Christian Science resulted in Principia College
awarding her a scholarship at the “Trustee level”—an accomplishment shared by only a select
few in her graduating class.
The recitation of facts is taken from Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint and are taken as true for the purposes
of this motion. Such recitation in no way relieves any party from the necessary proof thereof in later proceedings.
The Principia Corporation is a Missouri Corporation, headquartered in Missouri.
Plaintiff, as a Christian Scientist, chose to attend Principia College because it represented
itself as a small, safe, supportive Christian Science environment, and because its policies—both
express and implied—set forth the rules, responsibilities, and expectations for all those on
campus, including students, faculty, staff and administration. Plaintiff was led to believe that
Principia College was the “perfect place for her to attend college” by Principia’s representation
of itself as a “healing environment,” which “mandated certain behaviour, prescribed certain
beliefs, and promised to help her with various aspects of her life.” According to Plaintiff,
Principia College “promised to help Plaintiff become a well rounded person, intellectually,
spiritually, morally, socially, emotionally, and physically,” and offered “an enriching music
Principia’s promise to students that they will be educated in an environment based on
Christian Science teachings is “understood to be upheld by Principia College through regulation
of the ‘Principia College Community’—students, faculty, staff, and administration—including
requiring certain conduct, prohibiting certain conduct, and establishing a system for dispute
resolution.” To this end, all students are required sign the Principia Pledge, which states:
I commit to serve God and humanity through the study and healing practice of
Christian Science, expressed in principled though and action, unselfish love, and
Further, all students, faculty, and administrators are required to sign the “Principia
Community Commitment, which states:
Strive – to understand and express God in all you do
Conquer – “all that is unlike God”
Love – “God . . . and your neighbour as yourself” (Luke 10:27)
Give – unselfishly
Plaintiff provides additional quotations from various Principia College catalogues further
reinforcing its professed commitment to the beliefs of Christian Science, and its expectation that
students, faculty, and administrators will be equally committed. These include pledges to rely on
Christian Science for healing; study the bible; pray; attend church services; forego the use of
alcohol, tobacco, illegal substances, and medication; forego premarital and extramarital sexual
activity; forego engagement in homosexual activity; and resolve disputes via the “Matthews
Ethos.”3 Further, Principia College, via the policies of its Restoration Justice Board and
Community Board, promises an individual accused of wrongs the right to know the details
behind alleged violations and the right to discuss with, and question, others about the case, and
defend themselves. Further, Principia promises that “before excluding [a] student from class, the
instructor will inform the student in writing of the reason for the exclusion and allow the student
to respond. A copy of the letter will be sent to the Scholastic committee.”
Additionally, Principia College requires its community to “Get Help When There is
Immediate Danger,” which means that when “a community member is aware of circumstances
that threaten someone’s immediate well-being, he or she should act to prevent harm and, if
necessary, get help. Confidentiality is outweighed by the need to get help.”
According to Plaintiff, she enjoyed her time and education at Principia College for
approximately two years. However, Plaintiff’s experience was ultimately marred by the
circumstances surrounding two events. First, the Dean of Students and other staff failed to take
action regarding Plaintiff’s disclosure that she was “suffering from a possible terminal illness.”
Second, one of Plaintiff’s instructors was openly hostile and unfairly excluded her from his
music class for no legitimate reason, thus preventing her from completing a major in music.
With regard to her “possible terminal illness,” Plaintiff states that she repeatedly
informed Principia College about her physical state and concerns, but that Principia did little, if
anything, in response to her statements and pleas for help. Plaintiff suggests a myriad of possible
actions Principia College could have, but ultimately did not, undertake. These include: calling
According to the “Matthews Ethos,” a person “should love his neighbor enough to talk directly with him/her if
there is a problem.”
911; contacting on campus Christian Science nurses and asking them to daily check in on
Plaintiff’s wellbeing; contacting Plaintiff’s parents; allowing Plaintiff to receive care from on
campus Christian Science nurses while participating in class; communicating with Plaintiff’s
instructors to ensure Plaintiff had a “more harmonious and supportive experience in the
classroom and with assignments”; allowing Plaintiff to take a part-time credit load, a less
challenging credit-load, and/or extending the length of her courses over their normal term
lengths; communicating with Plaintiff’s on-campus employers to either have them accommodate
her needs or discontinue her employment; working with the financial aid office to ensure
Plaintiff’s ability to afford being enrolled at Principia while potentially being unable to be
gainfully employed; assisting Plaintiff in finding charitable assistance that would address the
costs and needs associated with being physically unfit; or working with Plaintiff to honorably
withdraw from enrollment for a period of time while she recovered.
With regard to her exclusion from a music class, Plaintiff alleges that the instructor yelled
at her repeatedly in an angry tone and with harsh language; threatened her grade in his class
when she asked questions about the nature of exam questions or exam formats; refused to assist
her with methods to better learn the course material; openly mocked her as a “slow learner”
when she confessed how hard and long she studied for an exam for which she received a poor
grade; consistently talked over her; and resisted giving her any chance to speak when meeting
over academic issues with her and other students. Further, the instructor harassed and
embarrassed Plaintiff by: excluding her name when listing or calling on students; slamming
doors when leaving Plaintiff after yelling and becoming upset with her; telling Plaintiff she
should withdraw from his class after Plaintiff asked for applied examples of theory referenced in
his lectures; becoming agitated when Plaintiff asked for clarification about what was said that
offended the instructor; and showing highly favorable behavior when speaking with other
students immediately before or after speaking to Plaintiff to emphasize the instructor’s ill will
toward Plaintiff. Following Plaintiff’s exclusion from the class, Plaintiff, in keeping with the
rules imposed by Principia College, attempted to discuss the matter and its possible resolution
with the instructor, but he refused to engage in discourse with her, despite being required to do
so by Principia’s rules. The instructor reported the incident to the Dean of Students and the
Director of Human Resources. Plaintiff was threatened with suspension by Principia College if
she discussed the situation with anyone not already involved.
Plaintiff requested permission to undertake an independent study of the required music
course, with a different instructor, but her request was denied. Principia was on notice of
Plaintiff’s love of music and her desire to major in that field, but failed to remedy the academic
situation. This only exacerbated her “possible terminal illness” and emotional state, which in turn
“prompted further cries for help” which also went unanswered.
Plaintiff requested remedial compensation and tried to resolve matters through employing
the “Matthews Ethos.” When these attempts were unsuccessful, she threatened to “involve the
school community in the discussion about how she had been treated.” As a result, Principia
College “resorted to threatening Plaintiff, a student, with expulsion, as the risk of exposing the
un-Christian nature of Principia College’s actions would likely harm its advertisement of a
caring, Christian Science Community.” Plaintiff graduated in May 2013 and subsequently
provided Principia with a list of proposed solutions to resolve the matter. In response, Principia
terminated Plaintiff from her on-campus job and gave her approximately one hour to pack all of
her belongings and leave campus under the threat of arrest.
As a result of, and during, these events, Plaintiff suffered from: severe stress-induced
insomnia which prevented Plaintiff from sleeping for days on end; the inability to focus on or
complete school work due to her emotional distraction; living and attempting to function with
very little, if any sleep; and the severe physical symptoms related to extreme stress. Plaintiff
spent over $1,000 on Christian Science practitioner treatments for the physical and emotional
problems arising out of Principia College’s outrageous conduct.
Plaintiff filed her Second Amended Complaint on March 23, 2015, bringing cause of
action for breach of contract (Count I); intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”)
(Count II); negligent infliction of emotional distress (“NIED”) (Count III); and negligence
A complaint must set out a “short and plain statement of [a plaintiff’s] claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). To test the legal sufficiency of a
complaint, a defendant may file a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). In other words, a plaintiff must plead facts from which the court can draw
a “reasonable inference” of liability. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The complaint need not contain
“detailed factual allegations” but must contain more than mere “labels and conclusions, and a
formulaic recitation of the elements” or “naked assertion[s]” devoid of “further factual
enhancement.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557. An “unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfullyharmed-me accusation” will not suffice. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “While legal conclusions can
provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations,” id. at 679,
which “raise a right to relief above the speculative level,” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
Plaintiff initially filed her Complaint on November 14, 2014. [Doc. No. 1]. She filed her First Amended Complaint
on November 28, 2014. [Doc. No. 2]. Defendant filed a Motion for a Definite Statement on January 21, 2015 [Doc.
No. 5], and in response thereto, the Court granted Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended
Under Twombly and Iqbal, “[a] plaintiff . . . must plead facts sufficient to show that her
claim has substantive plausibility.” Johnson v. City of Shelby, 135 S. Ct. 346, 347 (2014). If the
plaintiff “inform[s] the [defendant] of the factual basis for [her] complaint, [she] [is] required to
do no more to stave off threshold dismissal for want of an adequate statement of [her] claim.” Id.
In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the court can “choose to begin by identifying pleadings
that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Turning to any “well-pleaded factual allegations,” the court should
“assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to
relief.” Id. The court may only consider the initial pleadings. Brooks v. Midwest Heart Grp., 655
F.3d 796, 799 (8th Cir. 2011).
Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s Second Amended Complaint fails to state any of the
claims alleged because her allegations are non-cognizable claims for educational malpractice
and because she has failed to adequately allege the outrageous conduct, as well as sole intent,
elements necessary for her IIED and NIED claims. For the reasons that follow, the Court agrees
and will grant Defendant’s Motion, without prejudice.
Breach of Contract
Plaintiff’s legal theory is that Principia College’s theological, educational, and
community-guidance principles—which are expressed in its various catalogues and academic
literature—are enforceable contractual promises, and that Defendant breached these contractual
obligations through failing to take any of the actions suggested by Plaintiff above. Defendant
counters that this is merely a thinly veiled claim for educational malpractice, which is not a
recognized cause of action in Missouri. The Court agrees with Defendant.
“To make a submissible case for breach of contract claim, a plaintiff must allege and
prove: (1) a mutual agreement between parties capable of contracting; (2) mutual obligations
arising out of the agreement; (3) valid consideration; (4) part performance by one party; and (5)
damages resulting from the breach of contract.” Intertel, Inc. v. Sedgwick Claims Mgmt. Servs.,
204 S.W.3d 183, 203 (Mo. Ct. App. 2006) (citing Norber v. Marcotte, 134 S.W.3d 651, 658
(Mo. Ct. App. 2004)). Claims for educational malpractice, under either tort or contract, are not
recognized under Missouri law, because the courts “have refused to become the overseers of
both the day-to-day operation of [the] educational process as well as the formulation of its
governing policies.” See Dallas Airmotive, Inc. v. FlightSafety Int’l, 277 S.W.3d 696, 700 (Mo.
Ct. App. 2008) (alteration in original) (quoting Alsides v. Brown Inst., Ltd., 592 N.W.2d 468, 472
(Minn. Ct. App. 1999)); see also Lucero v. Curators of the Univ. of Mo., 400 S.W.3d 1, 8 (Mo.
Ct. App. 2013) (“Generally, courts have refrained from recognizing educational malpractice
claims, either in tort or contract, on the premise that ‘[u]niversities must be allowed the
flexibility to manage themselves and correct their own mistakes.’”) (quoting Miller v. Loyola
Univ. of New Orleans, 829 So. 2d 1057, 1061 (La. Ct. App. 2002)); Ross v. Creighton Univ., 957
F.2d 410, 414 (7th Cir. 1992) (noting, among other reasons for prohibiting educational
malpractice claims, that recognizing such claims could create “a flood of litigation against
schools,” given that “education is a service rendered on an immensely greater scale than other
In Lucero, the Missouri Court of Appeals noted that the student’s allegations that the
University allegedly breached its contractual obligations “[could] be categorized as addressing
either (1) [the University’s] failure to ensure a proper learning atmosphere or (2) [the
University’s] failure to adhere to university procedures and schedules.” 400 S.W.3d at 5. The
student contended that the provisions he identified “represent[ed] specific promises breached by
[the University] with respect to how the University handled [a] situation between [the student]
and [a professor].” Id. at 6. The Lucero court, however, found that the cited portions of the
collected rules, regulations and faculty bylaws did not constitute specific promises, but, rather,
were “aspirational in nature.” Id. The provisions upon which the student in Lucero relied were
similar in many respects to the provisions Plaintiff identifies in the instant action.5 The Lucero
court explained that “[t]he sections identified by [the student] amount to general statements that
Respondent, as a university, seeks to achieve in maintaining a positive work and learning
environment” and that “[s]uch statements, therefore, cannot constitute the basis for a breach of
contract claim.” Id. This case presents a nearly identical scenario.
Were the Court to wade into the issue of how closely Principia College operated within
the constructs of the plethora of vague, general, and aspirational “mission statement-esque”
provisions cited by Plaintiff, the Court would be forced to engage—with complete disregard for
Missouri law—in an educational malpractice analysis rife with the practical and policy concerns
The Lucero court found that the following provisions, which the student argued were enforceable promises, were
merely “aspirational in nature”:
The University of Missouri is committed to providing a positive work and learning environment
where all individuals are treated fairly and with respect, regardless of their status. Intimidation and
harassment have no place in a university community. To honor the dignity and inherent worth of
every individual—student, employee, or applicant for employment or admission—is a goal to
which every member of the university community should aspire and to which officials of the
university should direct attention and resources.
With respect to students, it is the university's special responsibility to provide a positive climate
in which students can learn. Chancellors are expected to provide educational programs and
otherwise direct resources to creative and serious measures designed to improve interpersonal
relationships, to help develop healthy attitudes toward different kinds of people, and to foster a
climate in which students are treated as individuals rather than as members of a particular
category of people.
As a teacher, the Professor encourages the free pursuit of learning in his/her students. He/she holds
before them the best scholarly standards of his/her discipline. He/she demonstrates respect for the
student as an individual, and adheres to his/her proper role as intellectual guide and counselor.
He/she makes every reasonable effort to foster honest academic conduct and to assure that his/her
evaluation of students reflects their true merit. He/she respects the confidential nature of the
relationship between professor and student. He/she avoids any exploitation of students for his/her
private advantage and acknowledges significant assistance from them. He/she protects their
400 S.W.3d at 5–6.
identified in Lucero and Ross. Plaintiff’s reliance on Robbe v. Webster University, 2015 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 38107 (E.D. Mo. Mar. 25, 2015), where this Court found that a breach of contract
claim could lie against a University, is completely unavailing. In Robbe, the Court expressly
found that the operative claim was not an impermissible claim for educational malpractice
because the student’s argument— “that the setting of a thesis defense date signifie[d] a
determination that the thesis ha[d] been deemed to be passable, and that [the faculty], after
establishing a thesis defense date, failed to permit Plaintiff to defend her thesis”—“challenge[d]
[Defendant’s] failure to provide the promised service, not its quality.” Id. at 15. Here, by
contrast, Plaintiff’s entire argument goes toward the alleged poor quality of her educational
experience in terms of Principia College’s alleged failure to conform to its expressed Christian
Science foundation. Plaintiff successfully graduated from Principia College and thus received the
ultimate educational service—a degree. Accordingly, Robbe is easily distinguishable. Although
Plaintiff did not receive a degree in her desired major, music, Defendant accurately notes that
“the Second Amended Complaint fails to allege that Principia made any particularized promise
that Principia students are unconditionally entitled not to be excluded from any class; are
unconditionally entitled to complete or pass any class; or are unconditionally entitled to complete
any major they choose, on whatever terms they choose.” [Doc. No. 17 at 5]. Indeed, Plaintiff has
failed to allege or identify any such promises.
Plaintiff’s request for the Court to undertake an examination of Prinicpia College’s
application of its general aspirational statements is made more precarious by the fact that the
above cited statements are teeming with overt references to religious teachings and beliefs.
Plaintiff explains in her Second Amended Complaint that:
Christian Science can be characterized as four things: a church, a religion, a
philosophy, and a system of healing:
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The church, known as The Church of Christ, Scientist, was founded by Mary
Baker Eddy in the 19th century. It is centrally located in Boston, Massachusetts
and has numerous independently-run “branch churches” located around the world.
The religion is a Christian denomination, with emphasis on the Bible and Christ
The philosophy is based upon metaphysical concepts about the nature of reality.
The system of healing is recognized by the federal government as being a
legitimate approach to treating physical ailments, as evidenced in a medical tax
deduction for care under this system, as well as in other ways.
Principia College’s goal is to provide foster and promote “individual healing.”
As stated in the Principia College Catalog “With individual healing as our goal,
rather than merely the establishment of an orderly school, we shall eventually find
the result to be demonstrated order, honesty, and purity in the entire body of
pupils . . . .”
[Doc. No. 10 at 1–2] [alteration in original].
Notwithstanding the noncognizability of educational malpractice claims in Missouri, this
Court would be reticent to adjudicate the question of what Christian Science scriptures require in
the areas of dispute resolution and properly fostering a “healing environment” in an academic
setting. See Thomas v. Review Bd. Of Indiana Employment Sec. Div., 450 U.S. 707, 715–16
(1981) (noting that “the judicial process is singularly ill equipped to resolve [intrafaith]
differences in relation to . . . Religion Clauses,” and that “Courts are not arbiters of scriptural
interpretation.”); Jones v. Wolf, 443 U.S. 595, 603–04 (1979) (rejecting an approach that “would
require the civil court to resolve a religious controversy,” and explaining that a doctrine for
resolving property disputes known as the “neutral principles approach” is designed “to free civil
courts completely from entanglement in questions of religious doctrine, polity, and practice”);
Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese v. Milivojevich, 426 U.S. 696, 713 (1976) (noting the general
rule that “religious controversies are not the proper subject of civil court inquiry.”); Presbyterian
Church v. Hull Memorial Presbyterian Church, 393 U.S. 440, 445–46 (1969) (noting that it is
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“wholly inconsistent with the American concept of the relationship between church and state to
permit civil courts to determine ecclesiastical questions.”) (citing Watson v. Jones, 13 Wall. 679
(1872)); Houston v. Mile High Adventist Academy, 846 F. Supp. 1449 (D. Col. 1994) (holding
that the adjudication of whether a child was provided an adequate biblical Christian education
was barred by the First Amendment).
For these reasons, the Court will grant Defendant’s Motion as to Plaintiff’s breach of
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s IIED claim should be dismissed because she failed to
allege the requisite outrageous or extreme conduct, and because it cannot reasonably be inferred
that the alleged conduct was intended solely to cause extreme emotional distress. The Court
agrees, in part, and will grant Defendant’s Motion as to Plaintiff’s IIED claim.
“To recover for intentional infliction of emotional distress, [a plaintiff] must show
(1) the defendant’s conduct was extreme and outrageous; (2) the defendant acted
intentionally or recklessly; and (3) the defendant’s conduct caused extreme emotional
distress resulting in bodily harm.” Cent. Mo. Elec. Co-op. v. Balke, 119 S.W.3d 627, 636
(Mo. Ct. App. 2003) (citing Thomas v. Special Olympics Missouri, Inc., 31 S.W.3d 442,
446 (Mo. Ct. App. 2000)); see also St. Anthony’s Medical Center v. H.S.H., 974 S.W.2d
606, 611 (Mo. Ct. App. 1998).
Defendant cites the Missouri Court of Appeals in Crow v. Crawford & Company
for an IIED standard that includes an element requiring the conduct to be intended solely
to cause extreme emotional distress to the victim. 259 S.W.3d 104, 119 (Mo. Ct. App.
2008). However, the Missouri courts have explained that this element applies “where
one’s conduct amounts to the commission of a traditional tort[.]” Diehl v. Fred Weber,
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Inc., 309 S.W.3d 309, 322 (Mo. Ct. App. 2010) (emphasis added) (citing K.G. v. R.T.R.,
918 S.W.2d 795, 799 (Mo. 1996) (en banc)). In such a scenario, if the alleged conduct
“was not intended only to cause extreme emotional distress to the victim, the tort of
intentional infliction of emotional distress will not lie and recovery must be had under the
appropriate traditional tort action.” Id. (emphasis added) (citing K.G., 918 S.W.2d at
799). The Missouri Supreme Court explains that “[t]he rationale behind this rule is that
the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress . . . . was intended to supplement
existing forms of recovery, not swallow them.” K.G., 918 S.W.2d at 799 (citation
omitted). For example, “[w]hile recovery for emotional distress caused by battery may be
allowable as an element of damages in a battery action, there is no independent action for
intentional infliction of emotional distress where the existence of the claim is dependent
upon a battery.” Id. Thus, because Plaintiff has not alleged intentional infliction of
emotional distress predicated on a traditional tort, such as battery, Plaintiff need not
allege and prove that Defendant engaged in the alleged conduct solely to cause Plaintiff’s
alleged extreme emotional distress.
However, the Court does find that Plaintiff has not alleged the requisite extreme
and outrageous conduct. The alleged conduct in an IIED claim “must have been so
outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of
decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized
community.” Gibson v. Brewer, 952 S.W.2d 239, 249 (Mo. banc 1997) (internal
quotations omitted). The conduct alleged here—essentially a music instructor verbally
treating Plaintiff harshly and unfairly—is vaguely alleged and appears to fall well short
of a level of extremity that could be said to exceed all possible bounds of decency and be
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regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable.6 To hold otherwise would be to drastically
expand the conduct covered by IIED claims.
For these reasons, the Court will grant Defendant’s Motion as to Plaintiff’s IIED claim.
Negligence and Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress
Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s negligence and NIED claims should be dismissed
because Plaintiff’s allegations failed to establish that Defendant owed Plaintiff any duty of care
to protect her from a reasonably foreseeable likelihood of harm, or that Defendant’s alleged
conduct involved an unreasonable risk of causing emotional distress.
“Any action for negligence requires the plaintiff to establish that the defendant had a duty
to protect the plaintiff from injury, the defendant failed to perform that duty, and the plaintiff's
injury was proximately caused by the defendant's failure.” Jarrett v. Jones, 258 S.W.3d 442, 448
(Mo. banc 2008) (citing Krause v. U.S. Truck Co., Inc., 787 S.W.2d 708, 710 (Mo. banc 1990)).
A plaintiff may recover under a theory of negligent infliction of emotional distress if she can
additionally prove: (1) the defendant should have realized that its conduct involved an
unreasonable risk of causing the distress, and (2) the emotional distress or mental injury is
medically diagnosable and is sufficiently severe as to be medically significant. Id. (citing Bass v.
Nooney Co., 646 S.W.2d 765, 772–73 (Mo. banc 1983)).
With regard to Plaintiff’s negligence claim, she cites case law for the proposition that
“[c]ourts have recognized that the relationship between a student and a school she attends gives
rise to a duty on the part of teachers or administrators to obtain medical assistance for an injured
or ill student.” Woods v. Wills, 400 F. Supp. 2d 1145, 1165 (E.D. Mo. 2005). However, Woods is
distinguishable. In that case, most of the plaintiff students were minors who “assert[ed] that
Compare Young v. Stensrude, 664 S.W.2d 263, 265 (Mo. Ct. App. 1984) (“The dispositive question, therefore, is
whether the pleaded acts of showing a pornographic movie to an unsuspecting female in a room with five men while
making obscene remarks to her could ever rise to extreme or outrageous conduct or create an unreasonable risk of
inflicting the requisite harm. To answer the question in the negative is to subject this plaintiff, as a matter of law, to
unwilling exposure to acts which may be totally intolerable in today’s civilized society.”).
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because the defendants had complete control over them at [the boarding school] for the
necessities of life, including food, water and medical care, the defendants had a duty to provide
medical care when needed, failed to do so, and the plaintiffs suffered injury as a result.” Id. at
1177–78; see also id. at 1178 (“[P]laintiffs allege they were under defendants’ complete control
and supervision while enrolled at [the boarding school] and therefore defendants had a duty to
obtain necessary medical care for them, that plaintiffs became ill while at [the boarding school]
and needed medical care, but defendants failed to obtain necessary medical care for them, and
plaintiffs suffered injury as a result.”). This is markedly different than Plaintiff’s circumstances,
as an adult in college. Further, Plaintiff alleges only that she suffers from a “possible terminal
illness.” This allegation is not pled with the specificity required by Twombly and Iqbal.
Plaintiff also relies upon Stineman v. Fontbonne College, 664 F.2d 1082 (8th Cir. 1981),
categorizing it as a case “where the Eighth Circuit applied Missouri law to rejected the
defendant-college’s argument that it owed no duty to obtain medical assistance.” [Doc. No. 16 at
17]. However, in Stineman, the student was on the school softball team, was injured in practice
when she was struck in the eye by a ball, was advised by her coaches not to seek medical care
but instead to lie down, and eventually lost her eye as a result of the delay in treatment. The facts
of this case—where Plaintiff alleges a vague “possible terminal illness,” and no injury beyond
insomnia and stress surrounding her insomnia, is distinguishable. Plaintiff’s negligence claim
fails and the Court will grant Defendant’s Motion as to this claim.
With regard to Plaintiff’s NIED claim, her Second Amended Complaint contains no
allegations plausibly demonstrating an unreasonable risk of emotional distress. As with her IIED
claim, to find otherwise in the NIED context would be to greatly expand the tort. For these
reasons, the Court will grant Defendant’s Motion as to Plaintiff’s NIED claim.
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Based on the foregoing, the Court will grant Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss, without
prejudice.7 The Court will grant Plaintiff leave to amend her Second Amended Complaint, if she
can, to address these deficiencies.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss [Doc. No. 11] is
GRANTED without prejudice.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the hearing on Defendant’s Motion scheduled for
June 16, 2015 is VACATED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff is given 14 days from the date of this
Opinion, Memorandum and Order to file an amended complaint.
Dated this 2nd day of June, 2015.
HENRY EDWARD AUTREY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
The Court notes that a hearing was set for this Motion upon Defendant’s request. In granting the Motion, the Court
will vacate the hearing.
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