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George v. Kankakee Community College

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Urbana Division

October 27, 2014



DAVID G. BERNTHAL, Magistrate Judge.

In May 2014, Plaintiff, a paramedic student at Kankakee Community College, filed the instant action in Kankakee County, Illinois, alleging that Defendants violated his rights under the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of Illinois, the Illinois School Code, and the Illinois Administrative Code. Defendant Presence Hospitals PRV timely removed the action to this Court in July 2014. Jurisdiction is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because Plaintiff has raised federal claims under the United States Constitution. The Court exercises supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

Both Defendants have moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (## 7, 11). Plaintiff responded (## 13, 14), and, with leave of Court, Defendant Presence Hospital replied (# 16). After reviewing the parties' pleadings and memoranda, the Court recommends, pursuant to its authority under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), that the two Motions to Dismiss (## 7, 11) be GRANTED in their entirety.

I. Background

The following background is taken from the complaint (#1-1). Defendant Kankakee Community College (the "College") is a public community college located in Kankakee, Illinois. ¶ 4. Defendant Presence Hospitals PRV (the "Hospital") is an Illinois Not for Profit Corporation operating St. Mary's Hospital Kankakee. ¶ 5. Plaintiff was enrolled as a student at the College, working towards a degree as a Paramedic. ¶ 6. As part of his degree program, Plaintiff was required to participate in an EMT-Paramedic class which involves training and education given at St. Mary's Hospital Kankakee by Hospital employees. ¶ 7. The Hospital maintained a policy that requires all students with the paramedic program to obtain certain vaccinations. ¶ 9. Plaintiff requested admission to the course without being required to undergo the vaccinations due to religious objections. ¶¶ 11-12. This request was rejected by the Hospital and Plaintiff was unable to complete the required course. ¶¶ 13-14. The College similarly rejected Plaintiff's requests that he be granted an exemption from the Hospital's policy. ¶¶ 19-20. As a result, Plaintiff was unable to complete his course of study. ¶ 29.

Plaintiff makes several claims under the United States Constitution. He alleges that these actions violated his right to religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment, his right to privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment, and to substantive due process guaranteed by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. ¶¶ 24, 25, 28. Plaintiff makes analogous claims under the Illinois Constitution (¶¶ 24, 25, 28), as well as claims that Defendants' actions violated Illinois law in several respects (¶¶ 23, 31). In his response briefs, Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants have violated the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb.

II. Legal Standard

Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (## 7, 11).[1] A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim serves to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not to decide the merits of the case. See AnchorBank, FSB v. Hofer, 649 F.3d 610, 614 (7th Cir. 2011); Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint need only contain sufficient factual allegations to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). To meet this standard, the allegations in the complaint must, one, be detailed enough to "give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, '" and, two, "plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a speculative level.'" E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 554, 555) (alteration omitted).

In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court is limited to the allegations in the pleadings. See Citadel Grp. Ltd. v. Wash. Reg'l Med. Ctr., 692 F.3d 580, 591 (7th Cir. 2012). The Court must evaluate the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepting as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. AnchorBank, 649 F.3d at 614. Importantly, however, the Court does not accept as true mere legal conclusions, unsupported by factual allegations, or "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

III. Analysis

The Hospital makes several arguments for dismissal of Plaintiff's constitutional claims (# 7). First, it argues that, because the Hospital is a private entity, not a state actor, its actions are not subject to constitutional analysis. Second, the Hospital contends, even if it were a state actor, Plaintiff has failed to allege cognizable constitutional claims. The Hospital then makes arguments for dismissal of Plaintiff's state law claims. Similarly, the College argues that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for any constitutional violations of his rights and that his state law claims similarly fail (# 11).

A. Constitutional Protections

First, the Hospital argues that as a private entity, it is not a state actor and, therefore, the protections of the constitution against government action do not apply. While the Hospital concedes that, when a state delegates a public function to a private entity, the private party may be deemed a state actor, it argues that this only applies when the private entity is performing a function that is traditionally the exclusive prerogative of the state, see Wade v. Byles, 83 F.3d 902, 905 (7th Cir. 1996), and that Plaintiff's complaint does not plausibly allege that the Hospital was performing any such function. Plaintiff contends that, because the Hospital voluntarily partnered with a state college to teach a class integral to the course of study offered by the state college, it is carrying out the state's responsibility by teaching a portion of the College's curriculum. Therefore, it should be considered a state actor.

On the other hand, the College argues that, while it is owned by the state, it cannot be held accountable for the consequences of the Hospital's policies, as it has no control over the policy-making or implementation of any policies by the Hospital. The College argues that, because the alleged constitutional violations stem from the implementation of the Hospital's policy, Plaintiff has failed to show that the College violated his rights and, as such, the constitutional claims against the College should be dismissed. Plaintiff contends, however, that by enforcing the decision of the Hospital to prevent Plaintiff from participating in the course of study offered by the College, the College has made itself a ...

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