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Chadam v. Palo Alto Unified School District

United States District Court, N.D. California

November 4, 2014

JAMES CHADAM and JENNIFER CHADAM, individually and on behalf of their minor children A.C. and C.C., Plaintiffs,
v.
PALO ALTO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, a governmental entity created and existing under the laws of the State of California, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT (Docket No. 43)

CLAUDIA WILKEN, District Judge.

Defendant Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) moves to dismiss Plaintiffs' second amended complaint (2AC). Plaintiffs James Chadam and Jennifer Chadam, individually and on behalf of their minor children A.C. and C.C., oppose the motion. Jennifer Chadam was appointed guardian ad litem. Plaintiffs have filed an opposition, and PAUSD has filed a reply. Having considered the papers, the Court GRANTS PAUSD's motion to dismiss.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The following facts are alleged in the complaint and taken as true for the purposes of this motion.

James and Jennifer Chadam (the Chadams or Plaintiffs) reside in Palo Alto, California with A.C. and C.C., their minor children. 2AC ¶ 1. As a newborn, C.C. underwent genetic screening following cardiac surgery. 2AC ¶ 5. The screening indicated that C.C. had genetic markers for cystic fibrosis (CF), but further testing revealed he did not have CF. 2AC ¶ 5.

On July 22, 2012, Jennifer Chadam enrolled her sons A.C. and C.C. in a middle school owned and operated by PAUSD. Id . ¶ 11. On August 1, 2012, Jennifer Chadam completed and returned several forms for enrollment, including a "Report of Health Examination for School Entry" regarding C.C. Id . ¶ 12. This form included "private, personal and privileged medical information." Id . PAUSD assigned both children to attend Jordan Middle School. Id . ¶ 13. Between August 2, 2012, and August 16, 2012, the Chadams provided additional medical information regarding C.C. Id . ¶ 14. On August 16, 2012, A.C. and C.C. began attending their assigned middle school. Id . ¶ 15.

On August 22, one of C.C.'s teachers contacted the Chadams regarding C.C.'s medical condition. Id . ¶ 16. On or about September 11, 2012, during a parent-teacher conference, one of C.C.'s teachers disclosed C.C.'s private medical information to parents of another student attending the middle school (Mr. and Mrs. X). Id . ¶ 17. Specifically, the teacher told Mr. and Mrs. X that C.C. had CF. Id . ¶ 17. The teacher did so with no prior permission or notice from the Chadams. Id.

On September 11, 2012, PAUSD arranged for the Chadams to attend a meeting with Gregory Barnes, the middle school's principal, along with Linda Lenoir, PAUSD Nurse, and Grant Althouse, the Vice Principal and Administrator of sixth grade. Id . ¶ 18. At the meeting, the Chadams were told that the children of Mr. and Mrs. X had active CF and that Mr. and Mrs. X had "discovered C.C.'s condition." Id . ¶ 19. At that time, the Chadams informed those in attendance at the meeting that C.C. did not, in fact, have cystic fibrosis. Id . ¶ 20.

On or about September 13, 2012, Dr. Carlos Milla sent a letter to PAUSD regarding the medical issues raised by C.C.'s presence at Jordan Middle School. Id . ¶ 23. Dr. Milla's letter recommended that C.C. be removed from Jordan Middle School for the safety of Mr. and Mrs. X's children. Id . Details about Dr. Milla's identity and connection to the case are not disclosed.

On September 14, Jennifer Chadam informed Mr. Barnes that she did not want C.C. to be transferred out of Jordan Middle School. Id . ¶ 25. Mr. Barnes informed Jennifer Chadam that Mr. and Mrs. X had decided to remove their children from the school, so there was no need "to make any changes" at that time. Id.

On September 16, 2012, Mrs. X sent a letter to Ms. Lenoir requesting that C.C. be removed from Jordan Middle School so that her children could return to school. Id . ¶ 28. On September 17, 2012, Dr. Milla sent another letter, this time recommending that children with CF must not be in the same school together. Id . ¶ 29.

On September 17, 2012, the Chadams received a call from Mr. Barnes informing them that, based on Mr. and Mrs. X's demands, and based on C.C.'s private medical information, PAUSD intended to prohibit C.C. from attending Jordan Middle School and to transfer him to another PAUSD middle school. Id . ¶ 30. That same day, the Chadams emailed Assistant Superintendent Charles Young, demanding that he provide the documentation upon which the district relied to transfer C.C. out of Jordan Middle School. Id . ¶ 31. The next day, the Chadams made the same demand to Mr. Young, this time in person. Id.

On September 20, the Chadams provided a letter from Dr. John Morton, explaining that C.C. did not have any signs of CF. Id . ¶ 32. In this letter, Dr. Morton stated that he did not think that "this boy is any risk whatsoever to other children with [cystic fibrosis] even if they were using the same classroom." Id . Also on September 20, the Chadams met with Mr. Young and Ms. Lenoir. Id . ¶ 33. At this meeting, the Chadams reiterated that C.C. did not have, nor had he ever had, CF. Id . The Chadams allege that Mr. Young informed them that the decision to remove C.C. from Jordan Middle School was based on a letter from a Stanford doctor. Id.

On September 24, 2012, Jennifer Chadam offered to provide Mr. Young more medical evidence that C.C. was not a risk to any other child. Id . ¶ 34. On September 28, Mr. Young informed the Chadams, by telephone and in writing, that C.C. was going to be transferred out of Jordan Middle School. Id . ¶¶ 35-36.

On October 10, C.C. was removed from his classroom at Jordan Middle School and told it was his last day at the school. Id . ¶ 37. C.C. did not attend school for approximately two weeks. On October 12, 2012, the Chadams brought suit in a California state court seeking to enjoin PAUSD from transferring C.C. to another middle school. Id . ¶ 38. Prior to a hearing on the merits of the case, the parties "settled the matter" and C.C. was permitted to stay at Jordan Middle School. Id.

On September 6, 2013, the Chadams brought this suit in federal court, alleging (1) violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., through 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1972 (RA or § 504), 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq., through 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (3) violation of the federal right to privacy conferred by the First Amendment. PAUSD filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, which this Court granted with leave to amend. Chadam v. Palo Alto Unified Sch. Dist., Docket No. 32, Order Granting Mot. Dismiss First Am. Compl., Jan. 29, 2014.

The Chadams' second amended complaint alleges four causes of action: (1) violation of the ADA; (2) violation of § 504; (3) violation of the First Amendment; and (4) negligence.

LEGAL STANDARDS

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). The plaintiff must proffer "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (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." Id.

In considering whether the complaint is sufficient to state a claim, the court will take all material allegations as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Metzler Inv. GMBH v. Corinthian Colls., Inc. , 540 F.3d 1049, 1061 (9th Cir. 2008). The court's review is limited to the face of the complaint, materials incorporated into the complaint by reference, and facts of which the court may take judicial notice. Id . at 1061. However, the court need not accept legal conclusions, including "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555).

When granting a motion to dismiss, the court is generally required to grant the plaintiff leave to amend, even if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless amendment would be futile. Cook, Perkiss & Liehe, Inc. v. N. Cal. Collection Serv. Inc. , 911 F.2d 242, 246-47 (9th Cir. 1990). In determining whether amendment would be futile, the court examines whether the complaint could be amended to cure the defect requiring dismissal "without contradicting any of the allegations of [the] original complaint." Reddy v. Litton Indus., Inc. , 912 F.2d 291, 296 (9th Cir. 1990). However, where a court has previously granted a plaintiff an opportunity to amend its complaint after a motion to dismiss, and the amended complaint still fails to state claims with the required particularity, the court may grant a motion to dismiss without granting the plaintiff leave to amend. Arroyo v. Chattem, Inc. , 926 F.Supp.2d 1070, 1081 (N.D. Cal. 2012).

DISCUSSION

I. Status of State Court Litigation

In its previous order, this Court required that, in any amended complaint, the Chadams were to "provide the status of the state court action involving the same events and explain why this action is not barred by the state court action due to either res judicata or release of claims." Order Grant. Mot. Dismiss 17:20-23. PAUSD argues that because the dispute regarding C.C.'s continued attendance at Jordan Middle School was settled, the Chadams' current claims are barred by res judicata.

The doctrine of res judicata, or claim preclusion, prohibits the re-litigation of any claims that were raised or could have been raised in a prior action. Tahoe-Sierra Pres. Council v. Tahoe Reg'l Planning Agency , 322 F.3d 1064, 1077 (9th Cir. 2003). The purpose of the doctrine is to "relieve parties of the cost and vexation of multiple lawsuits, conserve judicial resources, and, by preventing inconsistent decisions, encourage reliance on adjudication." Marin v. HEW, Health Care Fin. Agency , 769 F.2d 590, 594 (9th Cir. 1985) (quoting Allen v. McCurry , 449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980)). Res judicata may be raised on a motion to dismiss when doing so does not raise any disputed issues of fact. Scott v. Kuhlmann , 746 F.2d 1377, 1378 (9th Cir. 1984). Three elements must be present in order for res judicata to apply: (1) an identity of claims; (2) a final judgment on the merits; and (3) the same parties or their privies. Allen , 449 U.S. at 94.

The Chadams allege that, prior to a state court hearing on the merits, the "parties settled the matter and C.C. has continued to attend Jordan Middle School." 2AC ¶ 38. The Chadams' counsel has filed a Request For Judicial Notice (RFJN) which states that on March 27, 2014, he filed a request to have the state court action dismissed without prejudice. RFJN, Ex. A. There is no indication that the Superior Court has granted the request.

In any case, the Chadams allege that the state court suit has not been tried on its merits, and PAUSD does not dispute that allegation. PAUSD has failed to show that there has been a final judgment in the state court suit, or a dismissal with prejudice. As a result, PAUSD has not shown that res judicata applies. PAUSD does not move to dismiss because it obtained a release in the settlement of the state court case. Accordingly, the Court declines to dismiss the complaint on the basis of res judicata or a release of claims. However, the case must be dismissed for other reasons.

II. First Cause of Action: Violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Chadams allege that PAUSD violated Title II of the ADA by depriving C.C. of certain alleged rights on the basis of a perceived disability. PAUSD argues that this cause of action fails for several reasons. As a threshold matter, it argues that the Chadams' claim is barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity. Second, it argues that C.C. is not disabled or perceived as disabled under the ADA, nor was he denied the benefit of a public program or deprived of any other rights. Third, it argues that its alleged conduct is expressly permitted by law, and hence "non-actionable." Fourth, it argues that because the Chadams do not allege intent to discriminate on the basis of a disability or perceived disability, they are not entitled ...


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