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C.C. v. Paradise High School

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 18, 2019

C.C., Plaintiffs,


         The parties' cross-motions for summary judgment are before the court. ECF Nos. 37, 42. Each party has filed an opposition, ECF Nos. 55, 56, and a reply, ECF Nos. 59, 61. On October 19, 2018, the court heard oral argument on the motions. ECF No. 64. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's motion is DENIED, and defendant's motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Disputes and Evidentiary Objections

         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise stated. Where a genuine dispute exists, the court draws reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1868 (2014). This is true even where cross-motions are filed, as each motion must be considered on its own merits. Nat'l Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry v. California State Grange, 115 F.Supp.3d 1171, 1177 (E.D. Cal. 2015), aff'd, 715 Fed.Appx. 747 (9th Cir. 2018). Parties may object to the evidence cited by another party to prove the undisputed facts. In re Oracle Corp. Sec. Litig., 627 F.3d 376, 385-86 (9th Cir. 2010). But the evidentiary admission standard at summary judgment is lenient: A court may evaluate evidence in an inadmissible form if the evidentiary objections could be cured at trial. See Burch v. Regents of the Univ. of Cal., 433 F.Supp.2d 1110, 1119-20 (E.D. Cal. 2006). “Admissibility at trial” depends not on the evidence's form, but on its content. Block v. City of L.A., 253 F.3d 410, 418-19 (9th Cir. 2001) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)). Here, the court notes and reviews objections, if relevant, as they arise.

         B. Factual and Procedural Background

         At all times relevant to this dispute, plaintiff (“C.C.”) was a minor, diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (“ADD”). Compl. ¶ 5, ECF No. 1; Defs.' Undisp. Fact (“DF”) 1, 3, ECF No. 37-2. In 2014, while attending Santa Rosa High School, C.C. was placed on a specialized education program (“504 plan”) to accommodate his individual education needs in light of his ADD. DF 5. C.C.'s 504 plan was entirely academic in nature, and contained no component ensuring social integration. DF 6. While he was a freshman at Santa Rosa High School, C.C.'s family abruptly moved to Paradise, California, and he began attending Paradise High School toward the end of that same school year. DF 8, 9. Although C.C. is unable to accurately recall, there are no records showing incidents of bullying or abuse involving C.C. during the remainder of his freshman year at Paradise High. DF 10; Pl.'s Resp. to Undisp. Fact (“PDF”) ¶ 10, ECF No. 56-1. On August 17, 2015, C.C., his mother and school officials attended a meeting to develop a 504 plan to aid C.C. throughout his time at Paradise High. DF 11. The 504 plan contained two accommodations: (1) that his notes be reviewed to ensure he remained organized, and (2) that he be permitted extra time to complete classwork when necessary and when requested. DF 12. Neither C.C. nor his mother asked the school to make additional accommodations with respect to social or extracurricular activities. DF 15. Both reviewed and signed the 504 plan. DF 14.

         While at Paradise High, C.C. became friendly with two fellow classmates: Faith George and Justin Hoskins. DF 16. C.C. contends Justin was aware he suffered from a blood clotting disorder and assaulted him on at least one occasion prior to the underlying incident. Pl.'s Undisp. Fact (“PF”) 3, ECF No. 42-2; Defs.' Resp. to Undisp. Fact 3 (“DPF”), ECF No. 55-3. On August 28, 2015, the three classmates attended a football game at Paradise High. DF 17. The school supplied four individuals to supervise the game. PF 22. During the game, Justin punched C.C. in the head more than once, breaking his nose and allegedly rendering him unconscious. PF 6; DPF 6. The attack was caused, at least in part, by Justin's jealousy stemming from C.C.'s relationship with Faith. DF 23.

         On September 16, 2016, C.C. sued defendants Paradise High School and Paradise Unified School District (collectively “defendants”), seeking damages under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) of 1990, and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. ECF No. 1. Defendants move for summary judgment on both claims. ECF No. 37. C.C. moves for partial summary judgment as to liability only. ECF No. 42. The parties filed oppositions and replies. ECF Nos. 55, 56, 59, 61.


         A court will grant summary judgment “if . . . there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The “threshold inquiry” is whether “there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986).

         In determining summary judgment, a court uses a burden-shifting scheme. The moving party must first satisfy its initial burden, which requires “com[ing] forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.” C.A.R. Transp. Brokerage Co. v. Darden Rests., Inc., 213 F.3d 474, 480 (9th Cir. 2000) (citation and quotation marks omitted). If the moving party fails to meet its initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the nonmoving party's evidence. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144 (1970). If the moving party meets its initial burden, however, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party, which “must establish that there is a genuine issue of material fact.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585 (1986). To carry their burdens, both parties must “cit[e] to particular parts of materials in the record . . .; or show [ ] that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1); see also Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 (“[The nonmoving party] must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.”). Moreover, “the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact . . . . Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48.

         In deciding summary judgment, the court draws all inferences and views all evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587-88; Whitman v. Mineta, 541 F.3d 929, 931 (9th Cir. 2008). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.'” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (quoting First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968)). The Supreme Court has taken care to note that district courts should act “with caution in granting summary judgment, ” and have authority to “deny summary judgment in a case where there is reason to believe the better course would be to proceed to a full trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. C.C.'s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment

         C.C. moves for summary judgment on the issue of liability for Claim One under Title II of the ADA, and Claim Two under § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Because both claims are evaluated under a single framework, discussed below, they are addressed in unison.

         1. ADA and Rehabilitation Claims

         Title II of the ADA provides, in pertinent part: “[N]o qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.” 42 U.S.C. § 12132. Similarly, § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act provides: “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 29 U.S.C. § 794. For purposes of the analysis required here, the court treats the two statutory texts as one, and evaluates the claims under a single analytical framework. Zukle v. Regents of University of California, 166 F.3d 1041, 1045 n.11 (9th Cir. 1999). To prevail under Title II of the ADA or § 504, a plaintiff must show: “(1) [he] is a qualified individual with a disability; (2) [he] was denied a reasonable accommodation that [he] needs in order to enjoy meaningful access to the benefits of public services; and (3) the program providing the benefit receives federal financial assistance.” A.G. v. Paradise Valley Unified Sch. Dist. No. 69, 815 F.3d 1195, 1204 (9th Cir. 2016) (quotations omitted).

         Whether or not plaintiff satisfies the second prong, reasonable accommodation, is the greatest source of contention here, as discussed in more detail below. Prong two can be satisfied in one of two ways: (1) “by showing that the federally funded program denied [C.C.] services that [he] needed to enjoy meaningful access to the benefits of a public education and that were available as reasonable accommodations, ” or (2) “by showing that the program denied [him] meaningful access to public education through another means, such as by violating a regulation that implements section 504's ...

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