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Doe v. University of Massachusetts-Amherst

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

July 14, 2015

JOHN DOE, Plaintiff,


MARK G. MASTROIANNI, District Judge.

Plaintiff, a resident of Connecticut and a former student at Defendant, University of Massachusetts - Amherst ("the University"), has brought this action against the University alleging it violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 86 Stat. 373, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a) (2012) ("Title IX") by applying disciplinary guidelines and regulations to Plaintiff in a discriminatory manner on the basis of Plaintiff's sex. In addition to this federal claim, Plaintiff asserts several claims pursuant to Massachusetts law.[1] Before the court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (Dkt. No. 17). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is ALLOWED.

I. Background

Plaintiff, an individual proceeding under the pseudonym "John Doe, " was a student at the University during the fall of 2013. (Dkt. 1, Compl. ¶ 1.) The University is a recipient of federal funds. (Id. ¶ 108.) On the evening of September 13, 2013 Plaintiff attended a party at a University residence hall. (Id. ¶ 24.) While at that party he met a woman, referred to throughout as "Jane Doe." (Id. ¶ 26.) John Doe and the University have presented very different versions of the events that followed. As the court is considering a motion to dismiss, it accepts as true the version presented by John Doe. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, (2009).

A. Events of September 13-14, 2013

Jane Doe approached Plaintiff around midnight. (Dkt. 1, Compl. ¶ 26.) Plaintiff and Jane Doe engaged in conversation with one another, both spoken and via text message; they watched videos together; and Plaintiff noticed that as he moved from one location to another, Jane Doe pursued him. (Id. ¶ 27.) Plaintiff consumed alcohol at the party, but he did not notice whether Jane Doe was also consuming alcohol. (Id. ¶ 26.) At no point during the evening did Plaintiff observe Jane Doe showing signs of intoxication. (Id. ¶ 28.) Plaintiff observed her speech to be coherent and intelligible and her text messages to include correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. (Id. ¶ 28.)

At approximately 2:00 a.m., Jane Doe texted her roommate, who was not attending the party, to request the private use of their shared room. (Id. ¶ 29.) When her roommate texted back to ask whether Jane Doe intended to spend the night with someone she had just met, Jane Doe responded with texts stating "it's all good, ' that she was fine, ' and that she was not drunk that much anymore.'" (Id.) Jane Doe and Plaintiff then made their way to Jane Doe's dorm room. (Id. ¶ 30.) With the agreement of Jane Doe, Plaintiff first stopped by his dorm room to get a condom. (Id.) He then met Jane Doe in her dorm room and the two became intimate. (Id. ¶¶ 32-33.) Plaintiff asked and obtained permission prior to each new act, such as removing an article of clothing or touching a part of Jane Doe's body. (Id. ¶ 34.) Around 4:40 a.m. Plaintiff and Jane Doe finished engaging in sexual activity. (Id. ¶ 36.) Jane Doe excused herself to use the shower and Plaintiff returned to his dorm room. (Id. ¶¶ 37-39.) As he considered the extent of his sexual contact with Jane Doe, Plaintiff became concerned they had not been as careful as they should have been. (Id. ¶ 39.) He texted Jane Doe to suggest she consider taking medication to prevent pregnancy. (Id.) Plaintiff then went to sleep. (Id. ¶ 40.) When he woke up he saw Plaintiff had not responded to his text and so he sent her another text. (Id. ¶ 41.) Plaintiff had hoped that his night with Jane Doe might have been the beginning of a dating relationship and was disappointed when the responses he received from Jane Doe indicated she was not interested in pursuing a relationship with him. (Id.)

B. The Complaint Against Plaintiff and the Immediate Impact on Plaintiff

When Jane Doe awoke on September 14, she began texting with some friends, claiming she could not recall the events of the prior night. (Id. ¶ 42-43.) At the urging of her friends, Jane Doe went to the University Health Services on September 14, 2013 and on September 15, 2013 she made a report to the Dean of Students Office. (Id. ¶ 43.) In that report, Jane Doe did not use the words "harassment, " "assault, " or "rape" to describe her encounter with Plaintiff and indicated that she did not know how to classify what had happened. (Id. ¶ 44.)

On September 18, 2013, the University notified Plaintiff that he had been charged with four violations of the University's Code of Student Conduct (the "Code"): Threatening Behavior, Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, and Community Living Standards. (Id. ¶ 45.) The University's Code sets out community standards and procedures governing the enforcement of those community standards. (Id. ¶¶ 17-21.) Among its many provisions, the Code provides that a student's responsibility for the consequences of his or her actions shall not be limited because the actions were consequences of voluntary consumption of alcohol or drugs. (Id. ¶ 18.) The Code, which is updated annually, also defines "sexual misconduct" to include sexual contact with a person who is (1) so intoxicated as to be incapable of understanding or unaware of the sexual contact or (2) otherwise physically incapable of resisting or communicating consent. (Id. ¶ 21.)

In addition to learning about the charges against him, Plaintiff also learned the University had determined he was a threat. (Id. ¶ 47.) He was ordered to have no contact with Jane Doe and he was banned from campus for all purposes other than attending classes. (Id.) The University gave him less than eight hours to leave campus. (Id.) In order to continue attending class, Plaintiff had to drive two hours, each way, from his family's home in Connecticut. (Id. ¶ 54.) Plaintiff was also notified that he was entitled to access the on-campus Counseling & Psychological Services, but he was not initially advised that he could access the University Student Legal Services for assistance with his disciplinary matter. (Id. ¶ 49.) Additionally, he was never informed the University employed a Title IX Coordinator from whom he could seek assistance. (Id. ¶ 50.)

Upon learning of the charges against him, Plaintiff tried to obtain a physical exam and STD testing at University Health Services and was denied care. (Id. ¶ 52.) Plaintiff was told University Health Services "had never been in this situation before and were not equipped to handle this.'" (Id.) The complaint does not include what, if any, explanation was given as to the nature of the situation that prevented the University Health Services from providing care.

C. The University's Initial Handling of the Complaint Against Plaintiff

Plaintiff asserts the University did not undertake "any material investigation" into the charges made against him and did not even interview witnesses or investigate Jane Doe's level of intoxication on the night of September, 13-14, 2013. (Id. ¶ 53.) The University did not assign a specially trained Title IX investigator to conduct the investigation, which Plaintiff characterizes as disorganized and chaotic. (Id. ¶) Information was gathered by several different ...

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