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Victory v. Rutherford County Board of Education

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

March 29, 2017

LOVETTA VICTORY, individually and as parent of CALEB VICTORY, Plaintiffs,
v.
RUTHERFORD COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          KEVIN H. SHARP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Rutherford County Board of Education's Motion to 12(b)(6) Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. (Docket No. 7). Plaintiff Lovetta Victory, individually and as parent of Caleb Victory, filed a Response. (Docket No. 9). Defendant filed a Reply. (Docket No. 10). For the following reasons, the Court will grant Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Caleb Victory was a student at Siegel Middle School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Siegel Middle School is managed and controlled by Defendant. On September 1, 2015, Caleb was participating in a middle school junior varsity football game. Caleb received a significant blow to his head during a play. After the play was over, Caleb left the field and went to the sidelines where he collapsed and began to experience a seizure caused by the injury to his brain.

         Although Defendant staffs the varsity football games with an ambulance or paramedic, it does not staff junior varsity games with such medical professionals. When Caleb began to experience his seizure, the school officials called emergency medical services. While waiting for the emergency medical services to arrive, Caleb remained in a seizure state for over twenty minutes. When the ambulance arrived, the paramedics were able to stop the seizure. Due to the length of time Caleb was in a seizure state, however, he suffered significant and permanent brain damage.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court will “construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept its allegations as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” Directv, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007); Inge v. Rock Fin. Corp., 281 F.3d 613, 619 (6th Cir. 2002). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require only that a plaintiff provide “a short and plain statement of the claim that will give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957). The court must determine only whether “the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims, ” not whether the plaintiff can ultimately prove the facts alleged. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 511 (2002) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232 (1974)).

         The complaint's allegations, however, “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). To establish the “facial plausibility” required to “unlock the doors of discovery, ” the plaintiff cannot rely on “legal conclusions” or “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, ” but, instead, must plead “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, 678-79 (2009). “[O]nly a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Id. at 679; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

         ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff brings two claims: a due process claim and an equal protection claim. Both turn on the same issue-whether Defendant's failure to provide on-site paramedics to its junior varsity football program violated the Fourteenth Amendment.

         I. Due Process Claim

         Plaintiff argues that Defendant “deprived Caleb Victory of the right to be free from bodily harm as guaranteed under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment” by failing to have a “properly equipped paramedic at non-varsity football games[.]” (Docket No. 1 at 7). The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides that no “State [shall] deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1. The Clause exists “to protect the people from the State, not to ensure that the State protect[s] them from each other.” DeShaney v. Winnebago Cnty. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 196 (1989). The Due Process Clause therefore “does not create an affirmative right to governmental aid.” Stiles ex rel. D.S. v. Grainger Cnty., Tenn, 819 F.3d 834, 853 (6th Cir. 2015). States only have obligations to protect the life, liberty, or property of its citizens against invasion by private actors when one of two exceptions applies: when the State “enters into a ‘special relationship' with an individual by taking that person into its custody, ” and when the State “creates or increases the risk of harm to an individual.” Id.

         Plaintiff essentially alleges two due process violations in the alternative: (1) that Plaintiff “was harmed by the unconstitutional actions of the Defendant itself, ” and not by those of a third party or (2) that one of the two exceptions applies if the Court finds that the actions were committed by a third party. (Docket No. 9).

[I]in order to state a claim against a city or a county under § 1983, a plaintiff must show that his injury was caused by an unconstitutional “policy” or “custom” of the municipality. . . . Where, as here, the identified policy is itself facially lawful, the plaintiff “must demonstrate that the municipal action was taken with ‘deliberate indifference' as to its known or obvious consequences. A showing of simple or even heightened negligence will not suffice. “Deliberate indifference” is a stringent standard of fault, requiring proof that a municipal actor disregarded a known or obvious consequence of his ...

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