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Goldberg v. Chicago School for Piano Technology, Nfp

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

February 3, 2015

JERROLD GOLDBERG, Plaintiff,
v.
CHICAGO SCHOOL FOR PIANO TECHNOLOGY, NFP; PAUL REVENKO-JONES, ROBERT GUENTHER; and OKSANA REVENKO-JONES, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

JOAN H. LEFKOW, District Judge.

Plaintiff Jerrold Goldberg filed suit against defendants alleging violations of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("the ADA") and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("the Rehabilitation Act"). Goldberg also alleges two state law claims: a violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act ("the IHRA") and a breach of contract claim. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Dkt. 22.) For the reasons stated below, defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND[1]

The Chicago School for Piano Technology ("the School") teaches students how to tune and repair pianos. (Dkt. 3 ("Compl.") ¶ 17.) Paul Revenko-Jones is the School's director and Robert Guenther is the School's president and one of its instructors. ( Id. ¶¶ 7-8.) Oksana Revenko-Jones is an administrator and secretary. ( Id. ¶ 9.) Goldberg enrolled in classes at the School in the fall of 2011. ( Id. ¶ 19.) He spent over $28, 000 on tuition and related expenses. ( Id. )

Goldberg suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder and test anxiety. ( Id. ¶ 13.) Upon enrollment, Goldberg disclosed his disabilities to Paul and Oksana Revenko-Jones. ( Id. ¶ 20.) He told Guenther about his disabilities after his first class. ( Id. )

While enrolled at the School, Goldberg made several requests to defendants for reasonable accommodations for his disabilities, including extended time to complete exams and the use of an electronic tuning device to assist him in tuning pianos. ( Id. ¶ 21.) On each occasion, defendants denied his requests. ( Id. ¶ 22.) Goldberg claims that, as a result, he did not pass a practical tuning exam. ( Id. ¶ 23.) On April 18, 2012, after being denied another request for accommodation, Goldberg told Paul Revenko-Jones that, although he did not plan to report the School to the Department of Education yet, he would "put things in motion" that coming Friday. ( Id. ¶ 24 (internal quotation marks omitted).) Also on April 18, the School notified Goldberg that he had been placed on academic probation six weeks earlier. ( Id. ¶ 61.)

On May 11, 2012, after defendants denied his request to retake the tuning exam, Goldberg told Paul Revenko-Jones that he was going to "contact the right people" about the School's treatment of him. ( Id. ¶ 25.) In response, Paul Revenko-Jones revoked Goldberg's academic probation and "dismissed him"-effectively expelling Goldberg from the School. ( Id. ) According to the student handbook, if the School places a student on academic probation, it must provide the student with "a variety of remedial options." ( Id. ¶ 64.) The handbook also states that a student on academic probation will have "until the end of the following quarter" to improve his academic standing. ( Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).)

Almost a year later, on February 19, 2013, Goldberg filed a charge of discrimination against defendants with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. ( Id. ¶ 26.) The Department dismissed his claim for lack of jurisdiction on December 5, 2013 ( id. ¶ 27), and Goldberg filed the present suit on February 28, 2014 ( see dkt. 1.) Goldberg brings claims under the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, the IHRA, and also alleges breach of contract. Goldberg seeks $1, 000, 000 in compensatory damages and $2, 000, 000 in punitive damages plus costs and attorney's fees. He does not request injunctive relief.

ANALYSIS

Defendants bring their motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), alleging that Goldberg fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Not all of defendants' arguments, however, are correctly presented. Defendants' objections to Goldberg's IHRA claim are jurisdictional and should have been brought under Rule 12(b)(1).[2] Defendants' arguments concerning Goldberg's ADA claim are not jurisdictional, despite defendants' use of the term "subject-matter jurisdiction, " and are properly considered under Rule 12(b)(6). Thus, the court will consider Goldberg's IHRA claim under Rule 12(b)(1) and his ADA claim under Rule 12(b)(6). The court will consider Goldberg's remaining claims under Rule 12(b)(6).

I. Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

A. Legal Standard

Ensuring the existence of subject-matter jurisdiction is the court's first duty in every lawsuit. McCready v. White, 417 F.3d 700, 702 (7th Cir. 2005) (citing Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 118 S.Ct. 1003, 140 L.Ed.2d 210 (1998)). Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows defendants to assert a "lack of subject-matter jurisdiction" defense to a plaintiff's claims. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). These challenges can be facial (that the plaintiff's allegations, even if true, fail to support jurisdiction) or factual (conceding that the allegations are sufficient but offering contrary evidence). Apex Digital Inc. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 572 F.3d 440, 443-44 (7th Cir. 2009).

Defendants do not specify whether their challenge is facial or factual. Because their arguments address Goldberg's allegations without offering contrary evidence, the court construes defendants' challenge as facial. Thus, the court will "not look beyond the allegations in the complaint, which are taken as true for purposes of the motion." Id. at 444; see ...


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