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Sanchez v. Adkins

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

February 6, 2018

STEPHANIE SANCHEZ and DAVID SANCHEZ, as natural parents and guardians of J.S., a minor, Plaintiffs,
GREGORY K. ADKINS, Ed. D., as Superintendent of the School District of Lee County, DAVID LAROSA, in his official capacity as Principal of Fort Myers Senior High School, Lee County, Florida, and SCOTT GUTTERY, individually and in his capacity as an employee of the School District of Lee County, Defendants.



         This matter comes before the Court on defendants Gregory K. Atkins and David LaRosa's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. #13) filed on December 21, 2017. Plaintiffs filed a Response in Opposition (Doc. 17) on January 16, 2018. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is granted with leave to amend.


         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a Complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This obligation “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted). To survive dismissal, the factual allegations must be “plausible” and “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. See also Edwards v. Prime Inc., 602 F.3d 1276, 1291 (11th Cir. 2010). This requires “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citations omitted).

         In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to plaintiff, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007), but “[l]egal conclusions without adequate factual support are entitled to no assumption of truth.” Mamani v. Berzain, 654 F.3d 1148, 1153 (11th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “Factual allegations that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability fall short of being facially plausible.” Chaparro v. Carnival Corp., 693 F.3d 1333, 1337 (11th Cir. 2012) (internal citations omitted). Thus, the Court engages in a two-step approach: “When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.


         On November 27, 2017, Stephanie and David Sanchez, as parents of J.S., a minor, filed a nine-count Amended Complaint against Gregory K. Adkins, as Superintendent of Lee County School District; David LaRosa, as principal of Fort Myers High School; and Scott Guttery, a teacher and basketball coach at Fort Myers High School. (Doc. #3.) Plaintiffs allege state law negligence claims and claims for deprivation of J.S.'s due process rights.[1]

         The Amended Complaint alleges that on May 4, 2017, Guttery was supervising a basketball scrimmage in the gymnasium at the high school, and was on the opposite team of J.S. (Doc. #3, ¶ 15-16.) During the course of the scrimmage, J.S. started to drive towards the basket when Guttery fouled him, causing J.S. to fall to the floor and hit his head. (Id., ¶ 18.) J.S. suffered a concussion as a result. (Id., ¶¶ 19-20.) Adkins and LaRosa move to dismiss the due process and state law claims brought against them.

         A. Due Process Claims

         Plaintiffs assert that Guttery's attack on J.S. at the basketball scrimmage was a form of corporal punishment, prior to which J.S. was not afforded due process under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.[2] (Doc. #3, ¶¶ 54-56, 70-72.) “Section 1983 creates a private cause of action for deprivations of federal rights by persons acting under color of state law.” Laster v. City of Tampa Police Dept., 575 F. App'x 869, 872 (11th Cir. 2014) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 1983). “Persons” include individuals and municipalities and other local-government units. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). “[T]he Due Process Clause was intended to prevent government officials from abusing their power, or employing it as an instrument of oppression.” Cty. of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 846 (1998) (internal quotations and citations omitted).

         Although the application of physical force to punish a student for school-related misconduct may constitute corporal punishment that could trigger due process protections, Neal ex rel. Neal v. Fulton Cty. Bd. of Educ., 229 F.3d 1069, 1073 (11th Cir. 2000), here, plaintiffs do not plausibly allege that Guttery's foul in a pick-up basketball game constitutes corporal punishment. And even if they did plausibly allege as much, it is not plausible that any sort of due process may be afforded in such a circumstance given the nature of a basketball scrimmage such as the one here. Therefore, plaintiffs' due process claims (Counts I, II, III, and IV) fail.

         B. Remaining Claims

         The Court need not address the issues raised in defendants' motion to dismiss as to the remaining counts. The remaining possible claims in the Amended Complaint are all state law claims. Even assuming these are properly pled, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3), the Court would exercise its discretion and decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state claims. Raney v. Allstate Ins. Co., 370 F.3d 1086, 1088-89 (11th Cir. 2004) (encouraging district courts to dismiss state claims where all claims which provided original jurisdiction have been dismissed.)

         Because a party generally should be given at least one opportunity to amend before the court dismisses a complaint with prejudice, Bryan v. Dupree,252 F.3d 1161, 1163 (11th Cir. 2001), the Court will provide plaintiffs with a final opportunity to file an amended complaint setting forth claims.[3] The Court ...

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