Bazile v. The City of New York Department of Education, No. 1:2012cv06267 - Document 20 (E.D.N.Y. 2013)

Court Description: ORDER granting 12 Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. Ordered by Judge I. Leo Glasser on 7/11/2013. (Levy, Joshua)
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Bazile v. The City of New York Department of Education Doc. 20 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK ------------------------------------------------------x STACY BAZILE, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER Plaintiff, 12 Civ. 6267 (ILG) (MDG) - against THE CITY OF NEW YORK DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, Defendant. ------------------------------------------------------x GLASSER, Sen ior United States District J udge: Plaintiff Stacy Bazile brings this action against defendant New York City Departm ent of Education alleging that she was denied her constitutional rights due to defendant’s custom , practice, or policy of perm itting untrained and unsupervised m ale aids to oversee fem ale m inors. Currently before the Court is defen dant’s m otion for judgm ent on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, defendant’s m otion is hereby GRANTED. BACKGROU N D The following facts are taken from plaintiff’s Com plaint and attached exhibits; they are accepted as true for purposes of this m otion. I. Facts In 20 0 8, plaintiff was 13-years-old and attended Interm ediate School (“I.S.”) 147, a public school located in Queens, New York run by defendant. Com pl. ¶¶ 20 , 23 (Dkt. No. 1). Plaintiff was suspended from school from April 28, 20 0 8 through April 30 , 20 0 8 , and was directed to serve her suspension in I.S. 116, which is also located in Queens and run by defendant. Id. ¶ 21. Dwight Morgan was a school aid who m onitored I.S. 116’s suspension program , including plaintiff. Id. ¶ 23. For several days 1 Dockets.Justia.com after the suspension, Morgan sexually harassed plaintiff at school and over the phon e, including sen ding her several sexually suggestive text m essages. Id. ¶ 24. On May 2, 20 0 8 , Morgan followed plaintiff hom e from school, forced her into his car, brought her to his hom e, and raped her. Id. ¶ 25. Morgan continued to sexually harass plaintiff afterwards. Id. ¶ 26. On May 9, 20 0 8, plaintiff’s m other learned of the rape and contacted the police and officials at I.S. 116. Id. ¶ 27. Morgan was arrested that day and subsequently convicted and im prisoned “for his crim inal wrongdoing.” Id. ¶¶ 32-33. II. Pro ce d u ral H is to ry On August 18, 20 0 9, plaintiff’s m other filed suit against the City of New York and Morgan, both individually and on plaintiff’s behalf, in New York Suprem e Court, Queens County. Id. ¶ 10 , Ex. 1. Plaintiff and her m other attem pted to add defendant to that suit on J une 3, 20 10 , but the court denied the m otion to am end for failure to com ply with notice of claim requirem ents. Id. ¶¶ 12, 14, Ex. 1. The court also denied plaintiff’s and her m other’s m otion to renew and reargue, and both rulings were upheld on appeal. Id. ¶¶ 15, 17, Exs. 2-3. 1 Plaintiff com m enced this action on Decem ber 20 , 20 12, and defen dant answered the Com plaint on February 7, 20 13. Dkt. Nos. 1, 5. On April 15, 20 13, defendant m oved for judgm ent on the pleadings, arguing that plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged a policy or practice that caused plaintiff’s harm s. Def.’s Mem . (Dkt. No. 12). Plaintiff filed her 1 The state court opinions are not entitled to preclusive effect because they were decided on notice grounds, so plaintiff “did n ot receive a full and fair opportunity to litigate” her constitutional claim s against defendant. Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90 , 9596, 10 1 (1980 ). 2 opposition on May 29, 20 13, and defendant filed its reply on J une 12, 20 13. Pl.’s Opp’n (Dkt. No. 15); Def.’s Reply (Dkt. No. 17). D ISCU SSION I. Le gal Stan d ard s A. Ru le 12 ( c) Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “[a]fter the pleadings are closed—but early enough not to delay trial—a party m ay m ove for judgm ent on the pleadings.” “In deciding a m otion under Rule 12(c), the Court applies the sam e standard as that applicable to a m otion under Rule 12(b)(6), accepting the allegations contained in the com plaint as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonm oving party.” Gelicity UK Ltd. v. J ell-E-Bath, Inc., No. 10 Civ. 5677, 20 13 WL 3315398, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. J uly 1, 20 13) (quotation om itted). To survive a m otion to dism iss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the pleading m ust contain “sufficient factual m atter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (20 0 9) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twom bly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (20 0 7)). Although detailed factual allegations are not necessary, the pleading m ust include m ore than an “unadorned, the-defendantunlawfully-harm ed-m e accusation”; m ere legal conclusions, “a form ulaic recitation of the elem ents of a cause of action,” or “naked assertions” will not suffice. Id. (internal quotations and citations om itted). This plausibility standard “is not akin to a ‘probability requirem ent,’ but it asks for m ore than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Twom bly, 550 U.S. at 556). Determ ining whether a pleading states a plausible claim for relief is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and com m on sense.” Id. at 679. 3 B. Ju d icial N o tice Plaintiff attaches a num ber of exhibits to her opposition papers. Sells Aff. ¶ 3 (Dkt. No. 14). When considering a m otion for judgm ent on the pleadings, “a district court m ust lim it itself to facts stated in the com plaint or in docum ents attached to the com plaint as exhibits[,] . . . [but] it m ay also consider m atters of which judicial notice m ay be taken.” Goodm an v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J ., 8 50 F. Supp. 2d 363, 380 (S.D.N.Y. 20 12) (quoting Kram er v. Tim e Warner Inc., 937 F.2d 767, 773 (2d Cir. 1991)). “The court m ay judicially notice a fact that is not subject to reasonable dispute,” Fed. R. Evid. 20 1(b), but the “[s]pecified fact m ust be relevant.” 21B Charles A. Wright & Kenneth W. Graham ., Federal Practice an d Procedure: Eviden ce § 510 4 (2d ed. 20 0 5). “[I]t is proper to take judicial notice of the fact that press coverage, prior lawsuits, or regulatory filings contained certain inform ation, without regard to the truth of their contents.” Staehr v. Hartford Fin. Servs. Grp., Inc., 547 F.3d 40 6, 425 (2d Cir. 20 0 8) (citing Kram er, 937 F.2d at 773) (em phasis in original). Plaintiff subm its five reports com piled by the Office of the Special Com m issioner of Investigation for the New York City School District (“SCI”), several press releases and news articles, and portions of Morgan’s em ploym ent application. Sells Aff. ¶ 3. The Court takes judicial notice of the fact of the 20 0 7 SCI report, October 30 , 20 0 7 SCI press release, and February 25, 20 0 8 SCI press release, but not their contents. Id., Exs. 1, 4. The rem aining reports and press coverage occurred after plaintiff was sexually harassed and raped and, therefore, are not relevant to this action. The Court cannot take notice of Morgan’s em ploym ent application without converting plaintiff’s m otion to one for sum m ary judgm ent. See Staehr, 547 F.3d at 426. II. Mo n e ll Cla im 4 Plaintiff alleges that defendant violated her constitutional due process rights by failing to protect her from Morgan, and brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 2 “Section 1983 governs civil rights action s against a person acting under color of state law who ‘subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or im m unities secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States.’” Pleasure Island, Inc. v. City of New York, No. 12 Civ. 4699, 20 13 WL 2311837, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. May 24, 20 13) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). “The statue itself is not a source of substantive rights but m erely provides a m ethod for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred, here, the . . . Fourteenth Am endm ent[].” Id. (quotation om itted). “In order to establish m unicipal liability for unconstitutional acts by m unicipal em ployees, a plaintiff m ust show that the violation of [her] constitutional rights resulted from a m unicipal policy, custom , or practice.” Id. at *6 (citing Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs. of N.Y.C., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978)). “The failure to train or supervise city em ployees ‘m ay constitute an official policy or custom if the failure am ounts to ‘deliberate indifference’ to the rights of those with whom the city em ployees interact.’” 2 The Com plaint itself “asserts violations of . . . the 1st, 5th, 8 th, and 14th Am endm ents.” Com pl. ¶ 2. It later alleges that “Dwight Morgan violated the Plaintiff’s due process rights under the 4th, 5th, and 14th Am endm ents,” and that plaintiff “was also subjected to cruel and unusual punishm ent under the 6th Am endm ent.” Id. ¶¶ 36, 38 . These are presum ably typographical errors since the Com plaint m akes no further m ention of First Am endm ent violations, the Fourth Am endm ent does not contain a due process clause, the Fifth Am endm ent due process clause only applies to the federal governm ent, and the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishm ent lies in the Eighth Am endm ent. Moreover, the Eighth Am endm ent does not apply to “public school disciplinary practices.” Rhoades v. Chapm an, 452 U.S. 337, 345 n.11 (1981) (citing Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651 (1977)). Therefore, plaintiff’s First Am endm ent, Fourth Am endm ent, Fifth Am endm ent, and Sixth or Eighth Am endm ent claim s are dism issed. 5 Celestin v. City of New York, 581 F. Supp. 2d 420 , 435 (E.D.N.Y. 20 0 8) (quoting Wray v. City of New York, 490 F.3d 189, 195 (2d Cir. 20 0 7)). “‘Deliberate indifference’ is a stringent standard of fault, requiring proof that a m unicipal actor disregarded a known or obvious consequence of his action.” Connick v. Thom pson, 131 S. Ct. 1350 , 1360 (20 11) (quotation om itted). In addition, plaintiff “m ust dem onstrate a direct causal link between the m unicipal action and the deprivation of federal rights.” Bd. of Cnty. Com m ’rs of Bryan Cnty. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 40 4 (1997); see also Cash v. Cnty. of Erie, 654 F.3d 324, 342 (2d Cir. 20 11) (finding that “‘proxim ate cause,’ although derived from tort law, fairly describes a plaintiff’s causation burden with respect to a m unicipal liability claim under § 1983”). This case begs the question of the scope of defendant’s duty to train or supervise its em ployees. Does or did defen dant have a duty to train or supervise its em ployees not to com m it rape when no longer engaged in the scope of their em ploym ent? Or, to put it differently, did defendant breach a duty owed to this plaintiff? The answer to that question is that it did n ot. J udge Cardozo explained that “[t]he risk reasonably to be perceived defines the duty to be obeyed.” Palsgraf v. Long Island R.R. Co., 162 N.E. 99, 10 0 (N.Y. 1928). Clearly, to im pose upon this defendant the duty to have perceived that Morgan, or any of its teachers, would have raped a student while not acting in his role as a teacher an d not even on school grounds is to m ake defendant an insurer of its students against an y injury caused by its em ployees whenever, wherever, and however it occurs. See Rom ero v. City of New York, 8 39 F. Supp. 2d 588, 619-25 (E.D.N.Y. 20 12) (“[A] ‘state’s failure to protect an individual against private violence sim ply does not constitute a violation of the Due Process Clause.’” (quoting DeShaney v. Winnebago Cnty. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 197 (1989))). This far exceeds the scope of 6 defendant’s duty to train or supervise its em ployees. See D.T. v. Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 16, 8 94 F.2d 1176, 1189, 1192 (10 th Cir. 1990 ) (finding that sexual m olestation by teacher during sum m er vacation was “too rem ote a consequence” from school district’s policies to support liability under § 1983). Accordingly, plaintiff’s claim is dism issed. CON CLU SION For all of the foregoing reasons, defendant’s m otion is hereby GRANTED. SO ORDERED. Dated: Brooklyn, New York J uly 11, 20 13 / s/ ILG _ I. Leo Glasser Senior United States District J udge 7