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P.H. v. Tehachapi Unified School District

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 8, 2017

P.H., by her guardian ad litem JUANITA LUNA, Plaintiff,


         On February 22, 2017, plaintiff P.H., a minor, commenced this action by filing a complaint against Kathleen Quijada and the Tehachapi Unified School District ("Tehachapi") bringing claims for 1) a violation of the American Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 28 C.F.R. Part 35; 2) a violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 51, et seq.; 3) a violation of the Rehabilitation Act, 28 U.S.C. § 794 (§ 504); 4) breach of due of care arising under a special relationship; 5) negligence; 6) assault; 7) battery; and 8) intentional infliction of emotional district. (Doc. No. 1.) On the same day, plaintiff P.H.'s mother filed a motion for order appointing her guardian ad litem for P.H. (Doc. No. 2.) On March 16, 2017, defendant Tehachapi filed a motion to dismiss plaintiffs first and third claim for relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(6). (Doc. No. 6.) On April 3, 2017 plaintiff P.H. filed an opposition to the motion to dismiss and on April 10, 2017, defendant Tehachapi filed a reply. (Doc. Nos. 9 and 10.) The motion for order appointing guardian ad litem is unopposed. The matters came before the court for hearing on April 18, 2017. Attorney Anthony DeMaria appeared telephonically on behalf of defendant Tehachapi and attorney David Grey appeared telephonically on behalf of plaintiff. (Doc. No. 12.) The matters were taken under submission. For the reasons that follow the court will appoint Juanita Luna as P.H.'s guardian ad litem and will deny defendant Tehachapi's motion to dismiss.


         Plaintiff P.H. is a seven-year old girl who suffers from multiple severe disabilities, is non-verbal, and has limited intellectual capacity. (Doc. No. 2 at 3.) P.H. was a student at Tehachapi where she alleges she was tied to a chair with a blanket and left for entire school days. (Doc. No. 1 at 2.) Plaintiff further alleges she was bruised, battered, screamed at, and left all day in soiled papers. (Id.) In sum, plaintiff claims that she was physically and psychologically abused because of her disability from March 2016 through May 2016. (Id.) Her biological mother and legal custodian is Juanita Luna. (Doc. No. 2 at 3.) As noted, Ms. Luna has moved for an order appointing herself as guardian ad litem for P.H. (Doc. No. 2.)

         As also noted, defendant Tehachapi moves to dismiss plaintiff's first and third claims brought under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act, respectively, arguing that plaintiff has failed to allege that she exhausted her administrative remedies with respect to those claims. (Doc. No. 6 at 1-2.) Tehachapi contends that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) requires exhaustion of plaintiff's first and third claims for relief before plaintiff can seek federal court intervention. (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff opposes dismissal of those claims, arguing that exhaustion is not required because her first and third claims are personal injury damages claims and are independent of the relief available under the IDEA for denial of free appropriate public education (“FAPE”). (Doc. No. 98 at 1) (citing Fry v. Napolean Community Schools, 580 U.S. ___, 137 S.Ct. 743, 749 (2017) (“We hold that exhaustion is not necessary when the gravamen of the plaintiff's suit is something other than the denial of the IDEA's core guarantee - what the Act calls a ‘free appropriate public education.'”)).

         Below, the court will first address the motion for appointment of a guardian ad litem before turning to defendant's motion to dismiss.

         Guardian Ad Litem

         “District courts have a special duty, derived from Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(c), to safeguard the interests of litigants who are minors.” Robidoux v. Rosengren, 638 F.3d 1177, 1181 (9th Cir. 2011). Rule 17 provides that “[t]he court must appoint a guardian ad litem-or issue another appropriate order-to protect a minor or incompetent person who is unrepresented in an action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(c)(2). Local Rule 202(a) of this court states, in pertinent part:

Upon commencement of an action or upon initial appearance in defense of an action by or on behalf of a minor . . . the attorney representing the minor or incompetent person shall present . . . a motion for the appointment of a guardian ad litem by the Court, or . . . a showing satisfactory to the Court that no such appointment is necessary to ensure adequate representation of the minor or incompetent person. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 17(c).

         The decision to appoint a guardian ad litem “must normally be left to the sound discretion of the trial court.” United States v. 30.64 Acres of Land, 795 F.2d 796, 804 (9th Cir. 1986).

         Juanita Luna moves the court to appoint her as guardian ad litem to her daughter P.H. (Doc. No. 2.) In a declaration signed under penalty of perjury, Ms. Luna states that P.H. is her natural born child and that she has legal custody over her. (Id. at 3.) Ms. Luna further declares that she has no interest adverse to the rights of P.H. and that she is fully competent and responsible to prosecute the action on her daughter's behalf. (Id.) Finding good cause, the court grants the motion (Doc. No. 2) and appoints Juanita Luna as the guardian ad litem of P.H., a minor and the named plaintiff in this action.

         Motion to Dismiss

         A. Rule 12(b)(6) Legal Standard

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. N. Star Int'l v. Ariz. Corp. Comm'n, 720 F.2d 578, 581 (9th Cir. 1983). “Dismissal can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.” Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). A plaintiff is required to allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility 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).

         In determining whether a complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, the court accepts as true the allegations in the complaint and construes the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). In ruling on a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court is permitted to consider material which is properly submitted as part of the complaint, documents that are not physically attached to the complaint if their authenticity is not contested and ...

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