United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Honorable Edmond E. Chang, United States District Judge.
case arises out of Plaintiff John Doe's challenge to the
University of Chicago's handling of sexual assault
allegations brought against him by two female students, Jane
Roe and Jane Doe. In his Amended Complaint, John Doe claims
that the University violated Title IX of the Educational
Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §1681, et seq. R. 50,
Amended Complaint (Am. Cmplt.) ¶¶ 93-126. He also
brings state-law claims for promissory estoppel and for
negligent and intentional infliction of emotional
distress. Am. Cmplt. ¶¶ 127-51. The
University moves to dismiss John Doe's complaint in its
entirety for failure to state a claim. R. 64, Def.'s
Motion to Dismiss.
reasons stated below, the University's motion is granted
as to Counts 4 (Promissory Estoppel), and 5 (Negligent
Infliction of Emotional Distress). The Court also dismisses
Count 1 insofar as it asserts a hostile-environment theory of
Title IX liability. The claims of gender discrimination and
retaliation under Title IX (Counts 1, 2, and 3) and the claim
of intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count 6)
survive, albeit narrowly. As detailed in the Opinion, their
survival is contingent on a particular interpretation of key
allegations in the Amended Complaint, Am. Cmplt. ¶¶
46-48, and Plaintiff must file a position paper confirming
that interpretation by the deadline set forth below.
purposes of this motion, the Court accepts as true the
allegations in the Amended Complaint. Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Documents attached to a
complaint are considered part of the complaint for all
purposes. Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c).
Accusations by Jane Roe
Spring 2014, Jane Roe, a female University of Chicago
student, accused John Doe of sexual assault. Am. Cmplt.
¶¶ 15, 20. The University convened a disciplinary
proceeding, which resulted in a finding that the
preponderance of the evidence did not support the
allegations. Am. Cmplt., Exh. 2.
the no-liability finding, in Fall 2014, Roe began to publicly
accuse John of sexual assault. She placed John's name on
a document called the “Hyde Park List, ” which
purported to identify “people known to commit varying
levels of gender-based violence.” Am. Cmplt. ¶ 21.
This list was distributed during student orientation week and
published online. Id. Roe also told members of the
University of Chicago community that John Doe was a
“sexual predator, ” and falsely told fellow
students that the University found John Doe
“guilty” but failed to punish him. Id.
After the publication of the Hyde Park List, John Doe brought
Jane Roe's actions to the attention of University
employees who had been involved in the earlier disciplinary
process. Am. Cmplt. ¶ 22. In response, the University
allegedly told John Doe that the University's
confidentiality policies prohibited him from personally
refuting Jane Roe's accusations. Id. The
University also refused to discipline Jane Roe. Id.
continued to make the sexual-assault accusations in October
2014, when she blogged that the University was forcing her to
participate in a class “with the person who sexually
assaulted her.” Am. Cmplt. ¶ 23. Soon after that
blog post, the University removed John Doe, over his
strenuous objections, from the physics lab that he shared
with Jane Roe. Am. Cmplt. ¶ 24.
in November 2014, John Doe's adult sister responded
(without John Doe's knowledge) to Roe's Twitter
comments about the alleged sexual assault. Am. Cmplt. ¶
26. Based on John Doe's sister's contact with Jane
Doe, the University threatened to discipline him for
violation of a “No-Contact Directive” that was in
place in connection with the earlier disciplinary proceeding.
Am. Cmplt. ¶ 26; Am. Cmplt. Exh. 2 (directing John Doe
to refrain from contact with Jane Roe).
Accusations by Jane Doe
Amended Complaint also details accusations of sexual assault
by Jane Doe, another female University of Chicago student.
Am. Cmplt. ¶ 14. John Doe and Jane Doe “hooked
up” in September 2013, an encounter which Jane Doe
described on her Tumblr blog. Am. Cmplt. ¶¶ 27-28.
According to the Amended Complaint, all sexual contact
between John and Jane Doe was consensual. Am. Cmplt. ¶
29. John Doe also alleges that this characterization is
consistent with Jane Doe's blog posts, which describe the
September 2013 encounter as “beautiful and sweet and
all great things” and stated that Jane wanted to pursue
a romantic relationship with John Doe in the months following
the alleged assault. Id. at ¶ 51; Am. Cmplt.,
Exh. 3. By November 2014, however, Jane Doe began to claim on
her blog that she had been sexually assaulted, and by
December she had definitively identified John Doe as her
attacker. Am. Cmplt. ¶ 30. Jane Doe continued to repeat
her accusations against John Doe through Summer 2016. Am.
Cmplt. ¶ 31.
Doe's allegations against John Doe came to a head in
Spring 2016. At the time, John Doe was the director of a
student-performed theater program (referred to in the
complaint as “the Show” in order to protect John
Doe's identity). Am. Cmplt. ¶ 33. In early May 2016,
Jane Doe published a series of tweets and a Facebook post
criticizing the University for putting on a show
“directed by the boy who sexually assaulted me/many
others on this campus.” Am. Cmplt. ¶ 36; Am.
Cmplt. Exh. 3. The Facebook post identified the Show and John
Doe as the subject of Jane Doe's criticism. Am. Cmplt.
The University's Response
learning about Jane Doe's tweets, John Doe emailed a
complaint to several University officials. Am. Cmplt. ¶
43-46; Am. Cmplt., Exh. 4. The complaint, sent on May 5,
2016, characterized Jane Doe's comments as “online
sexual harassment” and stated that the email
constituted a formal Title IX complaint. Am. Cmplt., Exh. 4.
Jay Ellison, the University's Dean of Students, referred
the complaint to Jeremy Inabinet, the Associate Dean for
Disciplinary Affairs. Am. Cmplt. ¶ 44.
John Doe's May 5 complaint was under review, Inabinet met
with Jane Doe. Am. Cmplt. ¶ 46. In a crucial allegation,
the Amended Complaint asserts that Inabinet
“intentionally and/or negligently encouraged and
‘approved' Jane Doe's filing of a false and
retaliatory” Title IX complaint against John Doe.
Id. Inabinet “encouraged” Jane to file
her complaint by (1) advising her that her complaint would be
adjudicated under the University's 2015 Student Manual,
which had a more stringent sexual assault standard than the
manual in place in 2013; (2) failing to tell Jane Doe that
the University was obligated to proceed on John Doe's May
5 complaint against her; and (3) failing to advise her that
her own complaint would subject her to disciplinary
proceedings. Am. Cmplt. ¶ 48.
May, Inabinet informed John Doe, via email, that the
University would not proceed on John Doe's May 5
complaint. Am. Cmplt. ¶ 49 & Exh. 5. The email
stated that Inabinet found “no evident violation”
of the University's Policy on Harassment, Discrimination,
and Sexual Misconduct. Am. Cmplt., Exh. 5. Instead, Inabinet
suggested that Jane Doe's behavior might violate other
University policies or be the basis of a defamation lawsuit.
Id. Inabinet also referred the matter to Assistant
Dean Stephen Scott. Id.
between Inabinet and John Doe continued to sour throughout
the summer. On August 5, 2016, John Doe and Inabinet
discussed the two dueling complaints on a phone call. Am.
Cmplt. ¶ 56. During the call, Inabinet told John that
the University would not consider Jane Doe's June 2016
complaint to have been filed in retaliation for John
Doe's May complaint. Am. Cmplt. ¶ 50. Inabinet
reiterated that the 2015 Manual's definition of sexual
misconduct would be applied Jane Doe's complaint, and
stated that John Doe would not be allowed to raise his
complaints of harassment in response to Jane Doe's
complaint. Am. Cmplt. ¶ 50. During the phone call, John
Doe repeatedly asked Inabinet if he would have investigated
the conduct exhibited by Jane Doe if it had been perpetrated
by a male student against a female student. Id.
Inabinet refused to give John a direct answer. Id.
the August 5 phone call, John wrote to Inabinet to ask UC to
change its position. Am. Cmplt. ¶ 51. As proof that Jane
Doe's allegations were false, John Doe provided Inabinet
with Jane Doe's blog posts from Fall 2013. Id.
As discussed above, these blog posts tended to undermine Jane
Doe's claim that John Doe had sexually assaulted her.
Id.; see also Am. Cmplt., Exh. 3. Inabinet
did not dismiss Jane Doe's complaint or change any of the
University's positions after receiving this evidence. Am.
Cmplt. ¶¶ 51-52. In light of the rapidly
approaching deadline to respond to Jane Doe's complaint,
John Doe filed this lawsuit. Am. Cmplt. ¶ 53.
Standard of Review
motion under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the
complaint to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police Chi. Lodge No.
7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). “[W]hen
ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must
accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in
the complaint.” Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94. A
“complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). These allegations
“must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
And the allegations that are entitled to the assumption of
truth are those that are factual, rather than mere legal
conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
Count 1 - Title IX Hostile Environment and/or
outlines at least two different theories of recovery under Title
IX. See R. 69, Pl. Mem. Opp. at 3-4. First, John
asserts that the University's Title IX disciplinary
process was biased against him because of his male gender.
Am. Cmplt. ¶¶ 99-111. For purposes of discussion,
this aspect of Count 1 will be labelled the
general-discrimination claim; it overlaps with Count 3's
selective-enforcement claim. Second, Count 1 alleges that the
University is liable on a deliberate indifference theory of
Title IX, specifically for failing ...