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Ticer v. Young

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 4, 2018

MARK TICER, Plaintiff,
GREGORY YOUNG, et al., Defendants.


          KANDIS A. WESTMORE, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Mark Ticer brings the instant suit against Defendants Gregory Young and the Board of Trustees of the California State University ("CSU"), alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Unruh Civil Rights Act, and California Government Code § 11135, as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"). (Fourth Amended Compl. ("FAC") ¶ 1, Dkt. No. 82.) Pending before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss the fourth amended complaint, and to strike certain portions of the complaint. (Defs.' Mot., Dkt. No. 86.) Upon consideration of the parties' filings, as well as the arguments presented at the May 3, 2018 hearing, and for the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendants' motion to dismiss and strike.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         In 2000, Plaintiff was admitted as a student at San Jos State University ("SJSU") College of Engineer's Biomedical, Chemical, and Material Engineering ("BCME") department. (FAC ¶ 3.) Plaintiff has a disability that causes Plaintiff to experience debilitating fear and anxiety related to other people. (FAC ¶ 16.) In March 2001, Plaintiff applied for services with SJSU's Disability Resource Center ("DRC"). (FAC ¶ 15.) The DRC determined Plaintiff was eligible for services and registered him as a disabled student, providing him with a DRC identification card.

         Plaintiff's disability periodically prevented Plaintiff from taking an exam or turning in completed homework assignments. (FAC ¶ 16.) Plaintiff would typically explain to the professor his disabled status and request a reasonable accommodation. All of Plaintiff's professors accommodated Plaintiff's disability, except for Defendant Young. (FAC ¶ 17.)

         During the Fall 2003 semester, Plaintiff enrolled in ChE190 course, a class taught exclusively by Defendant Young. (FAC ¶ 18.) Because of his disability, Plaintiff was occasionally unable to turn in his homework during the first five minutes of class, as required by Defendant Young. (FAC ¶ 19.) Although Plaintiff met with Defendant Young and explained his disability, Defendant Young refused to accept the late homework assignments, or to accept homework by e-mail. Instead, Defendant scolded him and complained that he did not "have time for [Plaintiff's] problems." (FAC ¶ 19.) Defendant Young also refused to allow Plaintiff to make up an exam, telling Plaintiff that he could not pass the course with his problems and that he should change his major. (FAC ¶ 20.) Plaintiff came to believe that Defendant Young and Dr. Emily Allen, the Chair of the BCME Department, "had ultimate authority regarding his chemical engineering courses and major, and had no obligation to accommodate him." (FAC ¶¶ 22-23.)

         On December 16, 2003, Plaintiff met with Dr. Allen to ask if she would support an incomplete grade in Defendant Young's class to accommodate his disability. (FAC ¶ 25.) Dr. Allen responded by telling Plaintiff that "this wasn't going to work, " that the program was too difficult for him, and that he should change his major. (FAC ¶ 26.)

         As a result of his interactions with Defendant Young and Dr. Allen, Plaintiff experienced disability-related paranoia and intense fear related to Defendant Young and Dr. Allen. (FAC ¶ 30.) Plaintiff also developed fixed belief that Defendant Young and Dr. Allen would expel him from the engineering program if he did not pass ChE190 on Defendant Young's terms. Thus, Plaintiff believed that he had to continue trying to pass the course, and that there was no obligation to accommodate him. (FAC ¶ 30.)

         Plaintiff again enrolled in ChE190 in Fall 2004 and 2006. (FAC ¶ 31.) Whenever he asked for homework- or exam-related accommodations, Defendant Young would become increasingly angry and agitated, shame and criticize Plaintiff, and refuse to provide any accommodations while discouraging Plaintiff from pursuing his major. (FAC ¶ 32.) Plaintiff did not pass the class, and each interaction with Defendant Young exacerbated Plaintiff's disability, causing him to feel extremely upset, intimidated, ashamed, and humiliated. (FAC ¶¶ 33-34.)

         Plaintiff enrolled in ChE160A in Spring 2007, another class taught exclusively by Defendant Young. (FAC ¶ 38.) Plaintiff continued to experience disability-related paranoia and fear related to Defendant Young, and he believed that the only way to stay enrolled in the program was to pass ChE160A on Defendant Young's terms. When Plaintiff attempted to request accommodations for his disability, Defendant Young would refuse, belittling and scolding Plaintiff. (FAC ¶ 39.) Plaintiff did not complete ChE160A. (FAC ¶ 41.)

         In Spring 2007, Defendant Young told Plaintiff that he would have to repeat ChE190. (FAC ¶ 40.) Plaintiff attempted to do so in Fall 2009, but was unable to pass the course after Defendant Young refused to provide any accommodations. (FAC ¶¶ 40, 43, 45.) In Fall 2009, Plaintiff again attempted to complete ChE190. (FAC ¶ 47.) Plaintiff, however, was unable to attend the course without experiencing extreme fear and severe emotional distress, and was unable to enroll in the Fall 2009 semester.

         As a result of Plaintiff's distress from interacting with Defendant Young, Plaintiff took a leave of absence from Fall 2010 to Fall 2011. (FAC ¶ 48.) In September 2011, Plaintiff tried to extend his medical leave, which required Defendant Young's signature. (FAC ¶ 49.) Defendant Young refused to sign, and went on a tirade regarding Plaintiff's shortcomings as a disabled student. That same day, Plaintiff reported the incident to Dr. Allen. (FAC ¶ 50.) Dr. Allen did not comment on Defendant Young's behavior, but granted the extension.

         Due to the emotional distress caused by Plaintiff's interactions with Defendant Young, Plaintiff was unable to return to SJSU after his medical leave expired, and he was disenrolled. (FAC ¶ 52.) Plaintiff alleges that he never received notice of his disenrollment from SJSU. (FAC ¶ 54.)

         While at SJSU, Plaintiff had been receiving financial assistance from the Department of Rehabilitation ("DOR"). (FAC ¶ 53.) While Plaintiff was on medical leave, the DOR closed his file. In December 2013, Plaintiff's symptoms lessened sufficiently, and he sought Defendant Young's support in obtaining funding from the DOR so that he could return to school. (FAC ¶ 55.) On December 2, 2013, Plaintiff met with Defendant Young to request a letter of support and copies of his homework records. (FAC ¶ 56.) Defendant Young did not provide a letter of support, referred Plaintiff back to the DOR, and provided Plaintiff with one homework record. (FAC ¶ 56.)

         On April 21, 2014, Plaintiff sought the rest of his homework records from Defendant Young. (FAC ¶ 57.) Defendant Young was angry and demanded to know why Plaintiff was there. When Plaintiff explained that he needed his remaining homework records for the DOR, Defendant Young gave Plaintiff his homework records from ChE160A only. (FAC ¶ 57.)

         On April 23, 2014, Plaintiff again requested his remaining homework records from Defendant Young. (FAC ¶ 58.) Defendant Young told Plaintiff the records would not help with the DOR, and that Plaintiff was not eligible for the engineering program. Defendant Young then went on a tirade, telling Plaintiff that this was a waste of time and that he should not return. (FAC ¶ 59.) Defendant Young then ordered Plaintiff to follow him into a public area, where he ridiculed and criticized Plaintiff in front of other students and staff. Defendant Young's behavior caused Plaintiff to experience shock, terror, shame, and breathing difficulties. (FAC ¶ 60.)

         Following the April 23, 2014 meeting with Defendant Young, Plaintiff's "health deteriorated significantly." (FAC ¶ 61.) Plaintiff experienced and continues to experience depression, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, insomnia, startle responses, flashbacks, severe anxiety, shame, embarrassment, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts. Around June 2014, Plaintiff's doctor diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD") related to his interactions with Defendant Young. (FAC ¶ 63.) Plaintiff's doctor also stated that Defendant Young's behavior was reprehensible and that Plaintiff had rights as a disabled person. (FAC ¶ 63.)

         In August 2014, Plaintiff went to the SJSU Ombudsperson's office to report Defendant Young's behavior. (FAC ¶ 64.) Plaintiff was interviewed by Human Resources, but does not believe any further action was taken regarding his report of Defendant Young's behavior. (FAC ¶¶ 65-66.) On September 30, 2015, Plaintiff spoke with Jinny Rhee, the Associate Dean of the College of Engineering. (FAC ¶ 67.) Plaintiff learned that he had been disqualified from the engineering program. When he asked about being reinstated into the program, Associate Dean Rhee stated that she agreed with the decision and that he would not be reinstated. Plaintiff asserts that he never received notice of his disqualification from the engineering program. (FAC ¶ 69.)

         B. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed the instant action on April 22, 2016. On June 3, 2016, Defendant CSU filed a motion to dismiss. (Dkt. No. 11.) On September 9, 2016, the Court granted in part and denied in part Defendant CSU's motion to dismiss. (September 9, 2016 Ord., Dkt. No. 30.) The Court explained that "[e]ven assuming a three-year statute of limitations for both the Title II and § 504 claim, the vast majority of Plaintiff's allegations take place more than three years prior to the filing of his complaint on April 22, 2016, " with the only wrongful event occurring within the three-year statutory period being the April 23, 2014 meeting. (Id. at 10.) The Court found, however, that "Plaintiff may be able to allege facts to support a tolling argument." (Id. at 13.) The Court therefore gave Plaintiff leave to plead additional facts to support a tolling argument. (Id. at 14.) The Court denied Defendant CSU's motion to dismiss the Title II and Rehabilitation Act claims based on the April 23, 2014 meeting between Plaintiff and Professor Young. (Id. at 17.)

         On February 10, 2017, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint. (First Amended Compl. ¶¶ 49-94, Dkt. No. 39.) On March 23, 2017, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing in part that the statute of limitations had run on actions arising in September 2011 and before. (Dkt. No. 45.) On June 14, 2017, the Court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss, finding that Plaintiff had not sufficiently asserted equitable tolling. (June 14, 2017 Ord. at 8-12, Dkt. No. 53.) In so concluding, the Court found that "Plaintiff ha[d] not adequately pled that his mental incapacity was of such a nature that it prevented him from filing a lawsuit." (Id. at 11.) While the Court acknowledged that Plaintiff asserted that he suffered emotional distress, the Court explained that "Plaintiff d[id] not allege that these symptoms prevented him from timely filing his lawsuit." (Id. at 12.) Moreover, although Plaintiff stated that he did not recognize that his emotional distress was caused by his interactions with Defendant Young, he did not attribute that lack of understanding to his emotional distress, but to Dr. Allen's failure to indicate to Plaintiff that Defendant Young's conduct was wrong. (Id.)

         On July 31, 2017, Plaintiff filed his second amended complaint. (Dkt. No. 58.) On October 10, 2017, the parties filed a stipulation to consolidate Plaintiff's state action into the instant federal case. (Dkt. No. 68.) Pursuant to the stipulation, Plaintiff filed a third amended complaint on November 13, 2017. (Dkt. No. 72.)

         In December 2017, Plaintiff obtained counsel. (Dkt. Nos. 73-74.) On February 13, 2018, the parties stipulated to the filing of an amended complaint. (Dkt. No. 79.) On February 27, 2018, Plaintiff filed the instant complaint, asserting claims of: (1) violation of Title II of the ADA, (2) retaliation and interference in violation of Title V of the ADA, (3) violation of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, (4) retaliation and interference in violation of § 504, (5) violation of California Government Code § 11135, (6) violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, and (7) intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"). (FAC at 11-18.) The first six causes of action are brought against Defendant CSU only; the seventh cause of action is brought against both Defendants CSU and Young. Plaintiff seeks damages, declaratory relief, and injunctive relief. (FAC at 18-19.)

         On March 26, 2018, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss and to strike certain allegations and relief sought. On April 9, 2018, Plaintiff filed his opposition. (Plf.'s Opp'n, Dkt. No. 89.) On April 16, 2018, ...

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