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Urso v. Bradley University

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

March 29, 2018

NATALIE URSO Plaintiff,
v.
BRADLEY UNIVERSITY, LAURA WALLENFANG, both Individually and as Agent of Bradley University, DR. CINDY BRUBAKER, both Individually and as Agent of Bradley University, DR. PEGGY FLANNIGAN, both Individually and as Agent of Bradley University, DR. JOAN SATTLER, both Individually and as Agent of Bradley University, DR. KARA WOLFE, both Individually and as Agent of Bradley University, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Michael M. Mihm U.S. District Court Judge

         This matter is now before the Court on the Defendants' Bradley University (“Bradley”), Laura Wallenfang (“Wallanfang”), Dr. Cindy Brubaker (Brubaker”), Dr. Peggy Flannigan (“Flannigan”), Dr. Joan Sattler (“Sattler”), and Dr. Kara Wolfe (“Wolfe') (collectively “Defendants”) combined Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim and Motion for Lack of Jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 21). For reasons stated herein, the Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff was a student in Bradley's nursing program. She was enrolled in Nursing 317, a nursing practicum taught by Wallenfang. After failing the practicum she was expelled from the nursing program. She challenged her dismissal through the grievance process but the decision was affirmed by the Student Grievance Committee and the Provost.

         On February 5, 2018, Plaintiff, Natalie Urso (“Plantiff”) filed an amended complaint against Defendants. (ECF No. 19). Count I is to recover for violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Count II claims that Bradley University breached the contract they signed with Plaintiff. Id. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim and for the Court to Decline Jurisdiction. (ECF No. 21). On March 1, 2018, Plaintiff filed a response in opposition. (ECF No. 22). This matter is fully briefed, and this Order follows.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is proper if a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, which when accepted as true, states a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id. (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A plaintiff's claim must “give enough details about the subject matter of the case to present a story that holds together” to be plausible. Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010). A court must draw all inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Bontkowski v. First Nat'l Bank of Cicero, 998 F.2d 459, 461 (7th Cir. 1993).

         Statements in the complaint must be sufficient to provide the defendant with “fair notice” of the claim and its basis. Appert v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Inc., 673 F.3d 609, 622 (7th Cir. 2012). This means that (1) “the complaint must describe the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant ‘fair notice of what the … claim is and the grounds upon which it rests'” and (2) its allegations must plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a “speculative level.” EEOC v. Concentra Health Services, Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007).

         When evaluating a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint. Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678. However, the Court need not accept as true the complaint's legal conclusions; “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citing Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 555). Conclusory allegations are “not entitled to be assumed true.” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 554-55).

         DISCUSSION

         COUNT I

         Plaintiff alleges that the conduct surrounding her expulsion from the Bradley Nursing Program violated her Due Process rights and she is entitled relief under § 1983. Section 1983 provides a cause of action for “the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws” by any person acting “under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, or any State or Territory.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To establish a claim under Section 1983, the Plaintiff must allege (i) that the defendant has deprived plaintiff of a federal right and (ii) the defendant acted under color of state law. Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). In considering whether a claim can be brought under § 1983, the important question to be answered is, “is the alleged infringement of federal rights “fairly attributable to the State?” Lugarv. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 937 (1982).

         The main issue raised by the motion to dismiss is not whether the Plaintiff was deprived of a federal right but instead whether the actions by the Defendants can be considered state action. To act ‘under color of state law, ' demands that the defendant has exerted power “possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because the wrongdoer is clothed with the authority of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 49 (U.S. 1988) citing United States v. Classic, 313 U.S. 299, 326, (1941).

         There is no dispute that Bradley is a private, not-for-profit corporation. (ECF No. 21 at 2; ECF No. 22 at 4). However, Plaintiff claims that “Bradley's nursing program has become so permeated with government character that its actions are indeed the actions of the State of Illinois…” and is therefore, ...


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