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Jameson v. University of Idaho

United States District Court, D. Idaho

October 30, 2019

MAIRIN JAMESON, an individual, Plaintiff,
v.
UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO, a public university, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          DAVID C. NYE CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Pending before the Court is Defendant University of Idaho's Motion to Dismiss. Dkt. 6. On October 11, 2019, the Court held oral argument and took the motion under advisement. Upon review, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS in PART and DENIES in PART the Motion.

         II. BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff Mairin Jameson is a former student at the University of Idaho (“UI”). UI is a state institution of higher education located in Moscow, Idaho. UI receives federal funding and financial assistance within the meaning of 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. and is otherwise subject to Title IX.

         On April 21, 2013, Jameson was sexually assaulted by Jahrie Z. Level, a UI football player, off campus. At the time, Jameson was a third-year student enrolled at UI and a diver on UI's swim team. Prior to this event, Jameson had been harassed by Level and witnessed Level harassing another female student on campus.

         On April 25, 2013, Jameson reported that she had been sexually assaulted by Level to Moscow Police Lieutenant Dave Lehmitz and to three UI officials: Athletic Director Rob Spear, Athletics Academic Coordinator Susan Steele, and UI head football coach Paul Petrino. Spear, Steele, and Petrino initially informed her that the UI could not investigate because the sexual assault had occurred off campus. The officials did not offer to report- and did not report-Level's sexual assault and harassment to the Dean of Students. They also did not offer Jameson any support or counseling. They did inform Jameson that Level would be required to seek counseling and to check in twice a day with UI's head football coach.

         On May 3, 2013, Jameson visited the Women's Center at UI and told the Director of the Women's Center that she had been assaulted by Level. The Director informed the UI's Dean of Students of the incident, who then launched an investigation. At no time during this process was Jameson informed of her Title IX rights by any UI personnel.

         On October 7, 2013, UI completed its investigation of Level, when its University Judicial Counsel found that it was more likely than not that Level had committed seven violations of UI's Student Code of Conduct. Five of the violations concerned Level's sexual assault and harassment of Jameson while the remaining two violations involved Level's harassment and intimidation of another female student. UI subsequently expelled Level.

         Sometime later, UI authorized an independent investigation regarding its handling of Title IX cases. On July 16, 2018, the investigators issued the “Independent Investigation Report” (“Independent Report”) to UI. The report concluded, in part, that UI staff had failed to comply with Title IX at numerous points during UI's investigation of Jameson's claim. At an unspecified time, UI President Chuck Staben also made public statements that Jameson's sexual assault might have been avoided if UI had appropriately handled two prior complaints against Level.

         On October 16, 2018, Jameson filed her Complaint for general, special, and compensatory damages. She asserts three state law claims: (1) negligence; (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress; and (3) negligent infliction of emotional distress. She also asserts two Title IX claims: (1) that UI's deliberate indifference to her post-assault report created a hostile educational environment and (2) that UI's deliberate indifference to students' prior reports about her assailant created a heightened risk on campus for sexual assault or harassment.

         On November 14, 2018, UI filed the instant motion to dismiss because all of Jameson's causes of actions are allegedly time-barred and because it is entitled to sovereign immunity on Jameson's state law claims.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         1. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1)

         A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) challenges the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. A lack of jurisdiction is presumed unless the party asserting jurisdiction establishes that it exists. See Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). Thus, the plaintiff bears the burden of proof on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Sopcak v. Northern Mountain Helicopter Serv., 52 F.3d 817, 818 (9th Cir. 1995). If the court determines that it does not have subject matter jurisdiction, it must dismiss the claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).

         2. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)

         Rule 12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss a claim if the plaintiff has “fail[ed] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal may be based on either a ‘lack of a cognizable legal theory' or ‘the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.'” Johnson v. Riverside Healthcare Sys., LP, 534 F.3d 1116, 1121 (9th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). In deciding whether to grant a motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations made in the pleading under attack. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009). A court is not, however, “required to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences.” Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001). Dismissal without leave to amend is inappropriate unless it is beyond doubt that the complaint could not be saved by an amendment. See Harris v. Amgen, Inc., 573 F.3d 728, 737 (9th Cir. 2009).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         1. State Law ...


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