United States District Court, E.D. California
A.L. by and through her guardian, I. LEE and I. LEE on her on own behalf, Plaintiffs,
CLOVIS UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, YVETTE ADAMS, in her personal and official capacity as Program Specialist, APRILE WOODS, and JOHN DOES 1-3 who hired, trained and supervised teacher and Aides, Defendants.
ORDER RE: MOTION TO DISMISS
A.L. is a minor with a disability who is a student at Granite
Ridge/Clovis North Education Center enrolled in the
Functional Life Skills Special Day class for 85% of her day
and general education classes for 15% of her day. Defendant
Yvette Adams is a program specialist hired by Defendant
Clovis Unified School District (“CUSD”)
responsible for facilitating the education of special needs
students. Defendant April Woods was A.L.'s teacher during
the 2015-16 school year. In that year, Plaintiff I. Lee,
A.L.'s mother, noticed a change in A.L.'s behavior
and attributed it to an inappropriate educational
environment. I. Lee specifically objected to stressful
disciplinary tactics. Some of the consequences included A.L
not being permitted to go on school trips, eat in the
lunchroom, or attend her general education classes. On March
1, 2016, Woods forcefully shoved a chair A.L. was sitting in
towards a desk, making A.L.'s front smack into that desk.
Woods was put on administrative leave and there was a police
investigation of the incident. I. Lee filed a complaint with
the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil
Rights. On July 25, 2016, I. Lee filed a claim for damages
with CUSD. CUSD denied the claim on September 8, 2016. On
January 26, 2017, an unspecified instructional aide took A.L
to the bathroom while A.L. was barefoot. While approaching
the door, another student exited the bathroom which caused
the door to smash into A.L.'s foot, severely damaging her
March 2017, Plaintiffs A.L. (through her mother) and I. Lee
filed suit against Defendants CUSD, Woods, and Adams. On June
12, 2017, Plaintiffs filed the operative complaint, the First
Amended Complaint. Plaintiffs allege (1) violation of Title
II of the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”)
by failing to accommodate A.L, against CUSD, (2) violation of
Section 504 by failing to accommodate A.L., against CUSD, (3)
violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act by discriminating
against A.L. due to disability, against all Defendants, (4)
negligence in failing to keep A.L. from harm, against all
Defendants, (5) negligent infliction of emotional distress in
failing to keep A.L. from harm, against all Defendants, and
(6) negligent hiring, supervision, and retention, against
CUSD. Doc. 14.
have filed a motion to dismiss, making a variety or arguments
among which are that the complaint fails because there is no
guardian ad litem appointed to represent A.L. and that
Plaintiffs have not complied with administrative exhaustion
requirements. Doc. 17. Plaintiffs oppose the motion. Doc. 21.
Plaintiffs filed a proposed Second Amended Complaint. Doc.
27. Additionally, I. Lee filed a Due Process Complaint
against CUSD with the California Office of Administrative
Hearings. The parties then entered into settlement
negotiations. The parties may have settled part of their
dispute with one another, but the scope of the settlement has
not been revealed. The motion to dismiss was taken under
submission without oral argument.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a claim may be
dismissed because of the plaintiff's “failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.
Rule Civ. Proc. 12(b)(6). A dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) may
be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or on the
absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal
theory. Conservation Force v. Salazar, 646 F.3d
1240, 1242 (9th Cir. 2011); Johnson v. Riverside
Healthcare Sys., 534 F.3d 1116, 1121 (9th Cir. 2008). In
reviewing a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), all allegations of
material fact are taken as true and construed in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party. Faulkner v. ADT
Sec. Servs., 706 F.3d 1017, 1019 (9th Cir. 2013).
However, complaints that offer no more than “labels and
conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the
elements of action will not do.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The Court is not
required “to accept as true allegations that are merely
conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable
inferences.” Wilson v. Hewlett-Packard Co.,
668 F.3d 1136, 1145 n. 4 (9th Cir. 2012); Sprewell v.
Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir.
2001). To avoid a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, “a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. A
claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged. The plausibility standard is not akin to a
‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more
than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555, 570 (2007). The Ninth Circuit has distilled the
following principles from Iqbal and
Twombly: (1) to be entitled to the presumption of
truth, allegations in a complaint or counterclaim may not
simply recite the elements of a cause of action, but must
contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give
fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself
effectively; (2) the factual allegations that are taken as
true must plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief, such
that it is not unfair to require the opposing party to be
subjected to the expense of discovery and continued
litigation. Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th
Cir. 2011). In assessing a motion to dismiss, courts may
consider documents attached to the complaint, documents
incorporated by reference in the complaint, or matters of
judicial notice. Dichter-Mad Family Partners. LLP v.
United States, 709 F.3d 749, 761 (9th Cir. 2013). If a
motion to dismiss is granted, “[the] district court
should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the
pleading was made.” Henry A. v. Willden, 678
F.3d 991, 1005 (9th Cir. 2012). However, leave to amend need
not be granted if amendment would be futile or if the
plaintiff has failed to cure deficiencies despite repeated
opportunities. Mueller v. Aulker, 700 F.3d 1180,
1191 (9th Cir. 2012); Telesaurus VPC. LLC v. Power,
623 F.3d 998, 1003 (9th Cir. 2010).
Guardian Ad Litem
bringing suit through her mother, I. Lee. Defendants argue
that the Amended Complaint must be dismissed because A.L. is
not currently represented by a guardian ad litem: “In
California, whether an action is brought in federal or state
court, a minor must be represented by a guardian ad litem in
court proceedings.” Doc. 17, Defendants' Brief,
12:17-18. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs in all
general civil case brought in the federal district courts.
Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 1. Regarding the capacity to sue,
Defendants are correct that California state law governs
pursuant to Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 17(b); regarding the
appointment of guardian ad litem, however, federal law
governs. See J.K.G. v. Cty. of San Diego, 2011 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 126907, at *6-7 (S.D. Cal. Nov. 2, 2011). Fed.
Rule Civ. Proc. 17(c) states:
(1) With a Representative. The following representatives may
sue or defend on behalf of a minor or an incompetent person:
(A) a general guardian....
(2) Without a Representative. A minor or an incompetent
person who does not have a duly appointed representative may
sue by a next friend or by a guardian ad litem. The 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.
federal court, a minor may appear through a parent instead of
a guardian ad litem. “Federal Civil Procedure Rule 17
governs the proper parties to a case, and it provides that a
guardian of a minor child can sue either in the
guardian's name without naming the minor child, or in the
guardian's name on behalf of the minor child. It is only
when a minor child does not have a guardian, or a ‘duly
appointed representative, ' where a court must consider
whether to appoint a guardian ad litem to protect the
minor's interests.” Ciarrocchi v. Clearview
Reg'l High Sch. Dist., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 64017,
at *3-4 (D.N.J. June 25, 2010). There is no indication that a
guardian ad litem needs to be appointed at this time.