United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Doe brought this suit under Title IX of the Education
Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq,
and Illinois law against Loyola University of Chicago in
connection with its handling of sexual misconduct complaints
against him. Doc. 19. Loyola moves under Civil Rule 12(b)(6)
to dismiss Doe's state law promissory estoppel and
negligent infliction of emotional distress claims. Doc. 27.
The motion is granted in part and denied in part.
resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court assumes the truth
of the operative complaint's well-pleaded factual
allegations, though not its legal conclusions. See Zahn
v. N. Am. Power & Gas, LLC, 815 F.3d 1082, 1087 (7th
Cir. 2016). The court must also consider “documents
attached to the complaint, documents that are critical to the
complaint and referred to in it, and information that is
subject to proper judicial notice, ” along with
additional facts set forth in Doe's brief opposing
dismissal, so long as those additional facts “are
consistent with the pleadings.” Phillips v.
Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 714 F.3d 1017, 1020 (7th
Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted). The facts are
set forth as favorably to Doe as those materials allow.
See Pierce v. Zoetis, Inc., 818 F.3d 274, 277 (7th
Cir. 2016). In setting forth the facts at the pleading stage,
the court does not vouch for their “objective
truth.” Goldberg v. United States, 881 F.3d
529, 531 (7th Cir. 2018).
expelled Doe, an undergraduate student, after finding that he
committed sexual misconduct. Doc. 19 at ¶ 4. Loyola
reached its decision following investigations and hearings
involving complaints lodged by two female undergraduate
students. Id. at ¶¶ 2-3. In the first
complaint, Jane Roe accused Doe of non-consensual sexual
penetration in three separate encounters. Id. at
¶ 2. The second complaint, filed the same day by
Elizabeth, was nearly identical to Roe's. Id. at
¶ 3. After an investigation and hearing on each
complaint, Loyola found Doe “not responsible” as
to Elizabeth's complaint but “responsible” as
to Roe's and expelled him. Id. at ¶¶
4, 145-146. Doe submitted an appeal, which Loyola's
“Appellate Officer” rejected. Id. at
code of student conduct, titled Community Standards
2016-2017, set forth provisions aimed at securing a fair
and just process for resolving sexual misconduct charges.
Id. at ¶¶ 87-93. The code stated that
“[a]ll complainants and respondents involved in the
University's formal conduct process can expect”
that Loyola would afford them certain protections.
Id. at ¶ 89. Among other things, the code
provided that the complainant and respondent would
“have the opportunity to review any investigative
report after the investigation has concluded but before a
formal hearing, ” ibid., later specifying that
each would “have at least two (2) days [before the
hearing] to review the Final Investigation Report, ”
id. at ¶ 92. The code also provided that
“[b]oth parties may present evidence throughout the
investigation, including proposing witnesses to be considered
for interviewing.” Id. at ¶ 89. The code
assured that university investigators would “separately
interview relevant witnesses that can provide a firsthand
account of something seen, heard, or experienced relating to
the alleged incident.” Id. at ¶ 91. And
the code stated that “each party may choose to be
accompanied by one advisor of their choice … at any
point in time throughout the conduct process.”
Id. at ¶ 89.
also made representations directly to Doe. On November 4,
2016, Timothy Love-then the university's Associate Dean
of Students and Interim Title IX Coordinator-told Doe that,
in order “to preserve the impartiality and fairness of
the hearing process, each complaint … will result in
separate and distinct investigative reports, which will then
each be heard by separate and distinct Hearing Boards (with
different personnel serving on each board).”
Id. at ¶¶ 95-96.
to Doe, Loyola did not comply with those procedures. Because
Loyola initially provided Doe with the incorrect version of
its investigative report for the Roe complaint, he had less
than 48 hours to review the correct version before the Roe
hearing. Id. at ¶ 116. Although Doe identified
two individuals with relevant exculpatory information,
Loyola's investigators did not interview them.
Id. at ¶¶ 107-108. Love wrongly told Doe
that he was not entitled to have an advisor present
at his interview with investigators, and that error was not
corrected in time for Doe to secure an advisor's presence
for his interview. Id. at ¶¶ 102-105. And
rather than having two “separate and distinct”
hearing boards, the chairperson and other members of the Roe
hearing board were informed of Elizabeth's complaint.
Id. at ¶ 97.
raises a federal claim under Title IX and state law claims
for breach of contract, promissory estoppel, and negligent
infliction of emotional distress. Loyola moves to dismiss
only the promissory estoppel and negligent infliction of
emotional distress claims.
promissory estoppel claim, pleaded in the alternative to his
contract claim, alleges that Loyola's representations
concerning the procedures that would govern his disciplinary
proceedings were promises on which he “reasonably and
justifiably relied to his detriment.” Id. at
¶¶ 223-227. Under Illinois law, a promissory
estoppel plaintiff must allege that “(1) defendant made
an unambiguous promise to plaintiff, (2) plaintiff relied on
such promise, (3) plaintiff's reliance was expected and
foreseeable by defendants, and (4) plaintiff relied on the
promise to [his] detriment.” Firestone Fin. Corp.
v. Meyer, 796 F.3d 822, 827 (7th Cir. 2015) (quoting
Newton Tractor Sales, Inc. v. Kubota Tractor Corp.,
906 N.E.2d 520, 523-24 (Ill. 2009)) (internal quotation marks
omitted). Loyola contends that the complaint fails to
properly allege each element of the claim. Doc. 28 at 6-9.
the unambiguous promise element, Loyola relies on cases
holding that representations set forth in university policies
are insufficiently unambiguous if they reflect only a
“general commitment to preventing discrimination,
” Doe v. Columbia Coll. Chi., 299 F.Supp.3d
939, 961 (N.D. Ill. 2017), or “to broad principles of
fairness and nondiscrimination without giving specifics about
how those goals will be achieved, ” Doe v. Univ. of
Chi., 2017 WL 4163960, at *10 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 20,
2017). At the same time, “promises sufficient to
support a claim of promissory estoppel may come from a
defendant's policies and procedures manual” where
the promises are “specific” rather than
“general.” Ibid.; see also Columbia
Coll. Chi., 299 F.Supp.3d at 961.
representations that Loyola made to Doe in its code and in
Love's direct communications with him are far more
specific than the general commitments to fairness and due
process held insufficient in the above-cited cases. Rather
than merely stating broad goals, Loyola's representations
gave “specifics about how those goals will be
achieved.” Univ. of Chicago, 2017 WL 4163960,
at *10. As noted, the code set forth specific time frames
during which the respondent may review an investigative
report before a hearing, the standard for determining which
witnesses should be interviewed, the right to advisors or
counsel in interviews and hearings, and the separation of
panels hearing different complaints. Those promises were
definite and unambiguous. See Brown-Wright v. E. St.
Louis Sch. Dist. 189, 2016 WL 1182803, at *4 ( Ill. App.
Mar. 24, 2016) (holding that an employee sufficiently pleaded
a promissory estoppel claim by alleging that her
employer's written policies “contained …
specific and quantifiable” information concerning
severance pay “using language that was clear and
mandatory”); Chatham Surgicore, Ltd. v. Health Care
Serv. Corp., 826 N.E.2d 970, 976-77 ( Ill. App. 2005)
(finding “unambiguous” an insurer's promises
to pay for certain services because they were “definite
and complete” despite not being made in “the
express form of a promise”).
complaint also sufficiently alleges that Doe relied on
Loyola's promises and that such reliance was expected and
foreseeable. Loyola's code set forth detailed procedures
and made specific representations to students like Doe who
faced high-stakes disciplinary proceedings. Because an
individual in Doe's shoes would have had every reason to
rely on those assurances, the ...