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Anderson v. Delaware State University

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 18, 2017


          Daniel C. Herr, LAW OFFICE OF DANIEL C. HERR LLC, Wilmington, DE Attorney for Plaintiff.

          James D. Taylor, Jr., Gerard M. Clodomir, SAUL EWING LLP, Wilmington, DE Attorneys for Defendants Delaware State University and Sonja Jackson-McCoy.


          STARK, U.S. District Judge

         Pending before the Court are Defendants' partial motions to dismiss filed in response to Plaintiffs Complaint and First Amended Complaint. (D.I. 7, 10) Defendants' first motion (D.I. 7) will be denied as moot. Their second motion seeks dismissal of Counts I and II of Plaintiffs Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (D.I. 10) For the following reasons, the Court will grant Defendants' partial motion to dismiss Plaintiffs amended complaint (D.I. 10).

         I. BACKGROUND

         In August of 2015, Plaintiff Trey Anderson ("Plaintiff) met with Sonj a Jackson-McCoy ("McCoy"), the Senior Associate Athletic Director for Academic Services at Delaware State University ("DSU"), to discuss DSU's Masters in Sports Administration and Graduate Assistant Program (the "Program"). (D.I. 9 at ¶ 7) McCoy extended an offer of enrollment to Plaintiff in the one-year, four-semester Program, which includes a fall, spring, and two summer semesters. (D.I. 9 at ¶¶ 10-11) McCoy also offered Plaintiff financial aid from DSU to cover Plaintiffs tuition, housing, and incidental expenses like textbooks for the duration of the Program. (D.I. 9 at ¶ 8) Additionally, McCoy offered Plaintiff employment as a Graduate Assistant within DSU Academic Services for the duration of the Program. (D.I. 9 at ¶ 9) Plaintiff accepted McCoy's offer, moved to Delaware, and began studying and working as a Graduate Assistant in the fall semester of 2015. (D.I.9 at ¶13)

         During the spring semester of 2016, DSU informed Plaintiff that it would not be paying for Plaintiff s summer 2016 tuition and textbook expenses (the "Financial Aid"). (D.I. 9 at ¶ 15) Plaintiff remained enrolled in the Program, but DSU did not pay the Financial Aid. (D.I. 9 ¶ 18) At no point did DSU provide Plaintiff a hearing or other "legitimate opportunity'' to oppose its '. revocation of Financial Aid. (D.I. 9 at ¶ 19) OnMarch22, 2015, McCoy terminated Plaintiff from his position as a Graduate Assistant at DSU. (D.I. 9 at ¶ 30) Plaintiff received no notice of, explanation for, or opportunity to oppose his termination. (D.I. 9 at ¶ 31)

         On June 23, 2016, Plaintiff filed this suit against DSU and McCoy (collectively, "Defendants"). (D.I. 1) Defendants filed their first partial motion to dismiss on September 9, 2016. (D.I. 7) In response, Plaintiff timely filed a First Amended Complaint (the "Amended Complaint") on September 13, 2016. (D.I. 9; see Fed.R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1)(B) (permitting party to "amend its pleading once as a matter of course within ... 21 days after service of a motion under Rule 12(b)")) Count I of Plaintiff s Amended Complaint alleges that McCoy, in her individual and official capacities, violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by causing DSU to discontinue Plaintiffs Financial Aid without due process. (D.I. 9 at ¶¶ 33-42) Count II alleges that McCoy, in her individual capacity only, violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by terminating Plaintiffs employment with DSU as a Graduate Assistant without due process. (D.I. 9 at ¶¶ 44-47) Defendants moved to dismiss both counts. (D.I. 10)


         Evaluating a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) requires the Court to accept as true all material allegations of the complaint. See Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 223 (3d Cir. 2004). "The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1420 (3d Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, the Court may grant such a motion to dismiss only if, after "accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, and viewing them in the light most favorable to plaintiff, plaintiff is not entitled to relief." Maio v. Aetna, Inc., 221 F.3d 472, 481-82 (3d Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         However, "[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a civil plaintiff must allege facts that 'raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)."' Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 234 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). At bottom, "[t]he complaint must state enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [each] necessary element" of a plaintiff s claim. Wilkerson v. New Media Tech. Charter Sch. Inc., 522 F.3d 315, 321 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         The Court is not obligated to accept as true "bald assertions, " Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks omitted), "unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences, " Schuylkill Energy Res., Inc. v. Pa. Power & Light Co., 113 F.3d 405, 417 (3d Cir. 1997), or allegations that are "self-evidently false, " Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 69 (3d Cir. 1996).


         Plaintiff alleges that McCoy, and, at her direction, DSU, deprived Plaintiff of two protected property interests - Plaintiffs continued receipt of Financial Aid and continued ...

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