United States District Court, D. Minnesota
D. McGraw, McGraw Law Firm, PA, for plaintiff.
A Schooler, Ellen A. Brinkman, and Maren F. Grier, Briggs
& Morgan, PA, for defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ORDER GRANTING
DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
R. TUNHEIM CHIEF JUDGE
John Doe (“Doe”) brought this action against the
University of St. Thomas (“UST”), a private
university, stemming from UST's investigation of a sexual
misconduct complaint made against him. Doe originally brought
six causes of action; however, the Court dismissed five of
them, and the only remaining cause of action is one based on
negligence. UST now moves for summary judgment on the
negligence claim. The Court finds that UST owed Doe a duty of
reasonable care, but because UST did not breach its duty of
care, the Court will grant the Motion.
UST'S SEXUAL MISCONDUCT POLICY
events giving rise to this action occurred in December 2015.
At that time, UST had a Sexual Misconduct Policy (the
“Policy”) that set forth guidelines UST would
follow when investigating allegations of sexual misconduct.
(Decl. of Linda Baughman (“Baughman Decl.”),
¶ 3, May 30, 2018, Docket No. 150.) The Policy's
“provisions [were] intended to be flexible so as to
allow UST to meet its legal obligations while fulfilling its
educational mission.” (Baughman Decl., Ex. 1
(“UST Policy”) at 15, Docket No. 150-1.)
Policy contained both formal and informal resolution
processes. At the initiation of the formal resolution
process, a “Response Manager” would be appointed
to take interim actions and manage the investigation as it
began. (Id. at 16-17.) The Response Manager would
also appoint “Factfinders.” Factfinders were
responsible for “conduct[ing] an investigation into the
facts of the incident” and notifying both the
complainant and the respondent of the results. (Id.
at 21.) The Factfinders would conduct interviews, offer
written summaries of the charges and results to the
complainant and respondent, and give both the complainant and
the respondent an opportunity to participate at various
points along the way. (Id. at 23.) Both the
complainant and the respondent could identify witnesses,
provide documents and other evidence, submit questions for
the Factfinders to ask witnesses, and supply responsive
completing the investigation, the Factfinders would
“weigh the evidence and determine whether it [was] more
likely than not (using a ‘preponderance of the
evidence' standard) that the [r]espondent [was]
responsible for the misconduct alleged.” (Id.
at 24.) If the Factfinders made such a finding, a
determination would be made that the Policy had been
“violated, ” a report would be prepared, and the
Response Manager would determine the appropriate sanctions.
(Id. at 24.) UST would then provide a written
notification of the Factfinders' decision to both the
complainant and respondent and give both the opportunity to
appeal. (Id. at 25-26.) If the respondent was a
student, the Vice President for Student Affairs would be
designated as the Appeal Officer. (Id. at 26.) The
Appeal Officer would have the option to consider the appeal
directly or to appoint an appeal board. (Id. at
26-27.) If appointed, an appeal board would consider the
appeal and present a non-binding recommendation to the Appeal
Officer, who would then make the final determination.
(Id. at 27.)
assist students in the process, the Response Manager would
also appoint Process Advisors, who would “explain the
response and resolution process and provide information about
available resources” to both the complainant and the
respondent. (Id. at 18.) Additionally, students were
allowed a support person. (Id. at 21.) A support
person could “accompany [the student] throughout the
response and resolution process . . . to consult with and
advise” the student. (Id.)
a freshman at UST in 2015. (Am. Compl. ¶ 1, May 20,
2016, Docket No. 34.) On the night of December 11, 2015, both
he and Jane Doe, the complainant, attended an off-campus
party. (Id. ¶ 30, 36.) Later that evening, Doe
walked Jane Doe back to her dorm room and the two began
consensually kissing in the dorm's common room.
(Id. ¶ 46.) The two eventually ended up in the
bathroom connected to Jane Doe's dorm room, where they
continued kissing and removed some of their clothing.
(Id. ¶¶ 56-60.) Then, Doe digitally
penetrated Jane Doe. (Id. ¶ 62.) Jane Doe did
not verbally consent nor did she verbally object. (Decl. of
Vern Klobassa (“Klobassa Decl.”) ¶ 4, May
30, 2018, Docket No. 170, Ex. 1 (“Factfinders'
Report”) at 9, Docket No. 171.) Doe left the dorm room
shortly thereafter. (Am. Compl. ¶ 70.) The next morning,
Jane Doe reported the incident to UST, and UST began a formal
investigation of the incident on December 14, 2015. (Klobassa
Decl. ¶ 8, Ex. 5, Docket No. 175.)
Baughman, the Dean of Students at UST, was the designated
Response Manager. (Baughman Decl. ¶ 1.) On December 14,
2015, Baughman sent Doe an email to inform him about Jane
Doe's complaint. (Baughman Decl. ¶ 6, Ex. 4, Docket
No. 153.) Shortly thereafter, Doe received a second letter
from Dean Baughman, which advised Doe about his rights under
the Policy and identified the Factfinders. (Baughman Decl.
¶ 9, Ex. 7, Docket No. 156.) As the investigation
commenced, Doe, Doe's father, and Doe's attorney
attended a meeting with Dean Baughman and UST's Associate
General Counsel Abigail Crouse, the purpose of which was to
“answer questions [Doe] and his father ha[d] about the
process, ” and to allow Doe's attorney to
“learn . . . how the process
works.” (Am. Compl., Ex. 4 at 1, Docket No. 34-4.)
ensuing weeks, the Factfinders conducted interviews, reviewed
security footage, and reviewed evidence provided by both Doe
and Jane Doe. The Factfinders first interviewed Jane Doe and
Doe on December 21 and 22, respectively. (Factfinders'
Report at 3.) Doe's lawyer was present at his interview.
(Klobassa Decl. ¶ 12, Ex. 9 at 1, Docket No. 178.) After
the interviews, Doe and Jane Doe provided the Factfinders
with evidence and the names of witnesses they believed had
relevant information. (Factfinders' Report at 7, 11.)
Additionally, Doe and his attorney were asked to provide
suggested questions for the witnesses they identified.
(Klobassa Decl. ¶ 13, Ex. 10, Docket No. 179.)
Factfinders interviewed eleven other individuals during the
investigation, including Jane Doe's roommate, her
Resident Advisor, two health care professionals, and several
individuals who interacted with both parties on the night of
December 11 and the morning of December 12. (Factfinders'
Report at 1-2, 4.) The Factfinders also viewed text messages
between Doe and Jane Doe, security footage from Jane
Doe's dorm, a report from the St. Paul police department,
and Jane Doe's relevant medical records.
(Factfinders' Report at 3, 7, 11.) After reviewing this
evidence, the Factfinders separately interviewed both Doe and
Jane Doe a second time, presented both with the evidence, and
asked pertinent follow-up and clarifying questions. (Klobassa
Decl. ¶¶ 10, 12; Ex. 7, Docket No. 177; Ex. 9,
Docket No. 178.)
February 10, 2016, Doe and his attorney attended a meeting
with Crouse and Dean Baughman. (Am. Compl. ¶ 144.) Doe
was informed that “he had been found responsible for
non-consensual sexual intercourse.” (Id.) As a
result, Doe was suspended from UST for three semesters, which
was-at that point-until the beginning of the 2017 fall
semester. (Baughman Decl. ¶ 10, Ex. 9, Docket No. 157.)
On March 10, 2016, Doe appealed the decision. (Decl. of Karen
Lange (“Lange Decl.”) ¶ 3, May 30, 2018,
Docket No. 165, Ex. 1 (the “Appeal”), Docket No.
166.) Karen Lange, the Vice President of Student Affairs, was
named the Appeal Officer. (Lange Decl. ¶ 3, Ex. 3 at 1,
Docket No. 168.) She appointed an Appeal Board, who
considered Doe's appeal and determined that none of the
grounds to overturn a decision were applicable.
(Id.) Lange agreed with the Board's
recommendation and upheld the Factfinders' original
determination. (Id. at 2-3.)
20, 2016, Doe filed an Amended Complaint alleging that UST
violated Doe's rights through its application of the
Policy. The Amended Complaint alleged six causes of action:
(1) Declaratory Judgment under Title IX (Count I); (2)
Violation of Title IX - Erroneous Outcome (Count II); (3)
Violation of Title IX - Deliberate Indifference (Count III);
(4) Breach of Contract (Count IV); (5) Breach of the Covenant
of Good Faith and Fair Dealing (Count V); and (6) Negligence
(Count VI). (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 158-211.) On March 1,
2017, the Court dismissed the first five counts. (Mem.