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Reuther v. Shiloh School Dist. No. 85

January 18, 2008

JAKOB REUTHER, RAINER REUTHER, AND LAURA REUTHER, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SHILOH SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 85, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on the Motion to Remand filed by Plaintiffs Jakob Reuther (Jakob), Rainer Reuther, and Laura Reuther (Doc. 6). Defendant Shiloh School District No. 85 (school district) has responded. The time for further responses has passed. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the Motion to Remand.

BACKGROUND

I. PROCEDURAL POSTURE

Plaintiffs (the Reuthers) filed this complaint alleging that negligent and/or willful and wanton conduct by the school district resulted in Jakob's sustaining various physical injuries including burns, hives, a concussion, and severe pain to his feet and hips. The complaint alleges that the school district breached duties created under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which directly and proximately resulted in Jakob's injuries. The school district removed the case to this Court, claiming federal question jurisdiction "in that Plaintiff filed suit against defendants for, among other things, violations of the [IDEA] and the [ADA]. . . ." The school district also filed a motion to dismiss the complaint because the Reuthers failed to exhaust their administrative remedies under the IDEA. The Reuthers counter that this is merely "a personal injury claim, which just so happen[s] to be brought by a student with disabilities and his parents." They contend that the alleged violations of federal law merely create a rebuttable presumption that the school district breached its duty to Jakob. Therefore, the Reuthers contend, there is no federal question to be answered, this Court is without jurisdiction, and this case should be remanded to state court.

II. FACTS

The facts are taken from the Plaintiffs's complaint. Jakob Reuther is a physically impaired child who at all relevant times attended Shiloh Village School in Shiloh School District No. 85. Jakob has cerebral palsy, is confined to a wheelchair, and is blind. The Reuthers met with school officials prior to Jakob's starting there, and made the school district aware of Jakob's special needs. The school district was required to provide a certified licensed aid for Jakob at all times.*fn1 On May 6, 2004, a substitute aid placed a tray of hot food in front of Jakob. Jakob placed his elbows in the peas and, as a result, sustained severe burns.

Jakob was required (presumably under his IEP) to practice hand washing skills, but the sink Jakob had to use was not ADA compliant. Jakob's therapist was aware that he had to be strapped into his wheelchair at all times. On November 27, 2005, while Jakob was washing his hands, he fell forward and hit his head on the sink, sustaining a concussion.

The school district was aware that Jakob is highly allergic to latex, but on December 9, 2005, his visual aid gave Jakob a latex ball to play with. Jakob broke out in hives as a result of being given the latex ball.

Finally, on December 12, 2005, Jakob's teachers and aid forced him to remain in a painful position in a "stander" even though he was crying and stating that he was in pain. He suffered hip and foot pain as a result.

The Reuthers allege that the school district breached duties created by the ADA by not installing ADA compliant sinks, and breached duties created by the IDEA by failing to develop an appropriate IEP for Jakob and failing to provide a qualified aid to assist Jakob. The Reuthers also allege that the school district failed to prevent Jakob from sustaining physical injury by failing to convey Jakob's special needs to his teachers and aids. As a result of these breaches of duty Jakob has incurred pain, suffering, medical expenses and emotional distress.

ANALYSIS

I. REMOVAL GENERALLY

A defendant may remove to federal court a case filed in state court if there is original federal jurisdiction over the case. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a); Chase v. Shop 'N Save Warehouse Foods, 110 F.3d 424, 427 (7th Cir. 1997). In its § 1441 notice of removal the school district asserts that the Court has original federal question jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as the claim is one arising under federal statutes, namely the ADA and the IDEA. The school district, as the party asserting federal jurisdiction, bears the burden of showing that jurisdiction is proper. McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp. of Ind., Inc., 298 U.S.178, 189 (1936); Del Vecchio v. Conseco, Inc., 230 F.3d 974, 979 (7th Cir. 2000); American Bankers Life Assur. Co. of Florida v. Evans, 319 F.3d 907, 909 (7th Cir. 2003). In addition, the Court has an independent duty to ensure that it has subject matter ...


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