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Stevens v. Brigham Young University-Idaho

United States District Court, D. Idaho

February 23, 2018

LORI STEVENS, Plaintiff,
BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY-IDAHO d/b/a BYU-Idaho, and SUSAN STOKES, personal representative of the Estate of Stephen Stokes, Defendants.


          David C. Nye U.S. District Court Judge.


         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Lori Stevens' Motion for Leave to Amend Amended Complaint. Dkt. 30. The Motion is fully briefed and ripe for decision. Having reviewed the record, the Court finds that the parties have adequately presented the facts and legal arguments in the briefs. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the Court finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the Court decides the pending Motion on the record without oral argument. Dist. Idaho Loc. Civ. R. 7.1(d)(2)(ii). For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds good cause to DENY the Motion.


         Stevens filed this case against Brigham-Young University-Idaho (“BYU-I”) and Susan Stokes, as personal representative of the Estate of Stephen Stokes, [1] on December 9, 2016. Dkt. 1. Prior to any answer or appearance by Defendants in this matter, Stevens filed her Amended Complaint on March 3, 2017. Dkt. 4. In her Amended Complaint, Stevens, a former BYU-I student, alleges generally that Stephen Stokes, a former BYU-I professor, initiated an unwanted relationship with her while she was a student and Stokes was a professor at BYU-I. Stevens alleges that this relationship ultimately became sexually and emotionally abusive. Stevens further asserts that she, along with another student, reported Stokes' inappropriate and abusive behavior to several BYU-I professors and officials, who failed to take any action. The relationship ended when Stokes died on July 1, 2016, from complications during heart surgery.

         In her Amended Complaint, Stevens asserted four causes of action against both Defendants: (1) teacher-on-student hostile environment/sexual harassment actionable under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act; (2) teacher-on-student quid pro quo sexual harassment; (3) hostile learning environment in violation of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act; and (4) violation of the Idaho Human Rights Act. Stevens asserted three additional causes of action against Susan Stokes alone: (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (6) negligent infliction of emotional distress; and (7) assault and battery.

         After Defendants filed their Answers to the Amended Complaint, the Court entered a case management order requiring the parties to amend the pleadings and join parties by July 28, 2017, complete discovery by April 27, 2018, and file any dispositive motions by May 25, 2018. Dkt. 15. On December 21, 2018, Stevens filed the Pending Motion to Amend her Amended Complaint. Dkt. 30. Stevens seeks to add two additional claims: (8) negligence per se (against BYU-I and Stokes); and (9) negligent supervision (against BYU-I alone). BYU-I filed an opposition to the Motion to Amend. Dkt. 34. Susan Stokes did not file her own opposition, but notified the Court that she joins in BYU-I's opposition. Dkt. 36. This Motion became ripe when Stevens filed her reply brief on January 25, 2018. Dkt. 38. Finally, on February 9, 2018, as the Court was drafting its decision, Susan Stokes notified the Court that she had settled this matter with Stevens. Dkt. 44. This fact did not affect the Court's decision.


         “Once [a] district court ha[s] filed a pretrial scheduling order pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16 . . . establish[ing] a timetable for amending pleadings, ” Rule 16's standards control any motion to amend the pleadings. Johnson v. Mammoth Recreations, Inc., 975 F.2d 604, 607-08 (9th Cir. 1992). Rule 16 provides that “[a] schedule may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4). If the party seeking amendment establishes “good cause” under Rule 16, the party then must demonstrate that amendment is proper under Rule 15. Johnson, 975 F.2d at 609.

         Rule 16's good cause inquiry focuses primarily on “the diligence of the party seeking the amendment.” Id. “Rule 16 was designed to facilitate more efficient disposition of cases by settlement or by trial. If disregarded it would ‘undermine the court's ability to control its docket, disrupt the agreed-upon course of the litigation, and reward the indolent and the cavalier.'” Walker v. City of Pocatello, 2017 WL 1650014 at *1 (D. Idaho May 1, 2017) (quoting Johnson, 975 F.2d at 610); see also Simplot Livestock Co. v. Sutfin Land & Livestock, No. 116-CV-00139-EJL-REB, 2018 WL 563142, at *1 (D. Idaho Jan. 25, 2018). The Ninth Circuit has instructed that a “district court may modify the pretrial schedule ‘if it cannot reasonably be met despite the diligence of the party seeking the extension.'” Johnson, 975 F.2d at 609 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 16 advisory committee's notes (1983 amendment)). Put simply, “good cause” means scheduling deadlines cannot be met despite a party's diligence. 6A Wright, Miller & Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1522.1 at 231 (2d ed.1990).

         In contrast, under Rule 15, leave to amend a pleading “shall be freely given when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). Leave to amend lies within the sound discretion of the trial court, which “must be guided by the underlying purpose of Rule 15 to facilitate decisions on the merits, rather than on the pleadings or technicalities.” United States v. Webb, 655 F.2d 977, 979 (9th Cir. 1981). The Rule 15 “policy is ‘to be applied with extreme liberality.'” Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1051 (9th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has instructed district courts to consider the following factors when deciding whether to grant leave to amend: “undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, [and] futility of amendment.” Id. (quoting Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         Stevens asserts that she recently “uncovered additional information that gives rise to additional claims that can be brought against Defendants.” Dkt. 31, at 5. Specifically, Stevens asserts that around November of 2017 she discovered “details about Stokes' relationship with [another] female student named Rachel.” Dkt. 30-2, at 18. “Stevens learned that Stokes had engaged in similar grooming behaviors to those he had used on Stevens, including acting as a professional counselor, gifting his used personal articles of clothing . . . to be worn by the female student, and showing up without invitation to the student's home.” Id. Stevens believes that both Rachel and Susan Stokes reported the relationship to BYU-I, and that, after these reports, “Stokes was directed to no longer counsel female students regarding personal matters.” Id. at 18-19. Finally, Stevens asserts that she recently learned that “Stokes held himself out as [her] counselor and represented to medical personnel that he was [her] case worker in order to gain access to her while she was hospitalized or at doctor's appointments.” Dkt. 31, at 6.

         Stevens maintains that these revelations give rise to two new causes of action. First, Stevens seeks to assert a claim of negligence per se based on a violation of Idaho Code § 18-919. “[I]n Idaho, it is well established that statutes and administrative regulations may define the applicable standard of care owed, and that violations of such statutes and regulations may constitute negligence per se.” Sanchez v. Galey, 112 Idaho 609, 733 P.2d 1234, 1242 (1986) (quoted in Albertson v. Fremont Cty., 834 F.Supp.2d 1117, 1134-35 (D. Idaho 2011)). Section 18-919 of the Idaho Code states that “[a]ny person acting or holding himself out as a . . . psychotherapist . . . who engages in an act of sexual contact with a patient or client, is guilty of sexual exploitation by a medical care provider.” Dkt. 30-2, at 28. Stevens asserts that Stokes violated section 18-919 and that “BYU-Idaho is liable for Stokes' actions through the doctrine of respondeat superior because Stokes' actions were ...

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