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Fm v. Anderson Ctr. for Autism

United States District Court, N.D. New York

September 10, 2014

F.M., a minor, by and through his mother Ms. M., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDERSON CTR. FOR AUTISM; and TACONIC HILLS CENT. SCH. DIST., Defendants.

ROBERT W. SADOWSKI, ESQ., RAPHAEL KATZ, ESQ., SADOWSKI FISCHER PLLC, New York, NY, Counsel for Plaintiff.

CHRISTOPHER P. LANGLOIS, ESQ., GIRVIN & FERLAZZO, P.C., Albany, New York, Counsel for Taconic Hills Cent. Sch. Dist.

MICHAEL J. MURPHY, ESQ., BROOKE D. YOUNGWIRTH, ESQ., CARTER, CONBOY, CASE, BLACKMORE, MALONEY & LAIRD, P.C., Albany, NY, Counsel for Anderson Ctr. for Autism.

DECISION and ORDER

GLENN T. SUDDABY, District Judge.

Currently before the Court, in this civil action filed by F.M., a minor by and through his mother Ms. M ("Plaintiff") against the Anderson Center for Autism ("Defendant Anderson") and the Taconic Hills Central School District ("Defendant Taconic Hills"), are Defendant Anderson's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim (Dkt. No. 15), and Defendant Taconic Hills's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim (Dkt. No. 17). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant Anderson's motion is granted, and Defendant Taconic Hills's motion is granted.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Claims

Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this action on January 10, 2013. (Dkt. No. 1.) Generally, Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that, between approximately September of 2006 and March of 2010, Defendants discriminated against F.M. by (a) wrongfully denying him a free appropriate public education ("FAPE") through failing to properly implement the individualized educational program ("IEP") required to accommodate his autism spectrum disorder, (b) engaging in the abusive use of adverse physical interventions against him through "standing wraps, " "basket-holds, " and "takedowns, " and (c) assaulting and battering him through wrongfully allowing members of the Anderson school staff to strike him. ( Id. )[1]

Based on these allegations, Plaintiff asserts the following 13 claims against Defendants: (1) a claim that Defendants discriminated against F.M. based on his disabilities, in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("Rehabilitation Act"); (2) a claim that Defendants retaliated against F.M. for lodging complaints against them, in violation of the Rehabilitation Act; (3) a claim that Defendants discriminated against F.M. based on his disabilities, in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"); (4) a claim that Defendants retaliated against F.M. for lodging complaints against him, in violation of ADA; (5) a claim that Defendants subjected F.M. to a hostile learning environment under the Rehabilitation Act; (6) a claim that Defendants subjected F.M. to a hostile learning environment under the ADA; (7) a claim that Defendants discriminated against F.M. based on his disabilities, in violation of Section 296 of the New York Executive Law; (8) a claim that Defendants acted negligently, recklessly and/or with deliberate indifference toward Plaintiff, in violation of New York State common law; (9) a claim that Defendants breached a contract with Plaintiff, in violation of New York State common law; (10) a claim that Defendants subjected Plaintiff to the intentional infliction of emotional distress, in violation of New York State common law; (11) a claim that Defendants assaulted and battered Plaintiff, in violation of New York State common law; (12) a claim that Defendants denied Plaintiff a FAPE by failing to comply with the mandates of his IEP, in violation of the Individuals with Disabilites Education Act ("IDEA"); and (13) a claim that Defendants violated F.M.'s right to due process under the United States Constitution. ( Id. )

Familiarity with these claims, and the factual allegations supporting them, is assumed in this Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for review by the parties. ( Id. )

B. Parties' Briefing on Defendant Anderson's Motion

1. Defendant Anderson's Memorandum of Law

Generally, in support of its motion, Defendant Anderson asserts three arguments. (Dkt. No. 15, Attach. 2 [Def. Anderson's Memo. of Law].)

First, Defendant Anderson argues, Plaintiff's claims under the Rehabilitation Act, ADA and IDEA are barred by the applicable statute of limitations, because (a) his claims accrued when he withdrew from the Anderson Center (due to Defendant Anderson's failure to provide him with a suitable education, and the fact that he had come home with bruises) on or about May 6, 2009, (b) the two-year statute of limitations for exhausted claims expired on or about May 6, 2011, and the three-year statute of limitations for unexhausted claims expired on or about May 4, 2012, and (c) he did not file the Complaint in this action until January 10, 2013. ( Id. at 5-7 [attaching pages "2" through "4" of Def. Anderson's Memo. of Law].)

Second, Defendant Anderson argues, Plaintiff has failed to state a retaliation claim under either the Rehabilitation Act or the ADA, because he has failed allege facts plausibly suggesting that (a) he engaged in protected activity and (b) any adverse decision or course of action was taken against him. ( Id. at 7-8 [attaching pages "4" and "5" of Def. Anderson's Memo. of Law].)

Third, Defendant Anderson argues, Plaintiff has failed to state a substantive or procedural due process claim under the Fourteenth Amendment, because he has failed to allege facts plausibly suggesting that (a) Defendant Anderson is a governmental entity due to its receipt of federal funding, (b) possesses a protected property interest in his education, and (c) Defendant Anderson's acts were so outrageously arbitrary as to be a gross abuse of governmental authority. ( Id. at 8-10 [attaching pages "5" through "7" of Def. Anderson's Memo. of Law].)

2. Plaintiff's Opposition Memorandum of Law

Generally, in opposition to Defendant Anderson's motion, Plaintiff asserts three arguments. (Dkt. No. 23 [Plf.'s Opp'n Memo. of Law].)

First, Plaintiff argues, as he explains in another opposition memorandum of law, his federal claims are not barred by the applicable statute of limitations because (a) the earliest date on which he knew or could have known of the misconduct alleged (i.e., the failure to implement the Consent Decree and IEPs) was March 10, 2010, (b) in any event, to the extent any claims were based on events occurring on or after January 9, 2009, those claims are timely, (c) his ADA claim survives the statute of limitations due to infancy status and the tolling provision of N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 208. ( Id. at 6-8 [attaching pages "3" through "5" of Plf.'s Opp'n Memo. of Law].)

Second, Plaintiff argues, he has stated a claim for retaliation under the ADA and Rehabilitation Act, because he has alleged facts plausibly suggesting both that (a) Plaintiff engaged in protected activity through "lodging complaints" and (b) he experienced an adverse decision or course of action through a delayed response and investigation to those complaints. ( Id. at 8-9 [attaching pages "5" and "6" of Plf.'s Opp'n Memo. of Law].)

Third, argues Plaintiff, he has stated a procedural due process claim under the Fourteenth Amendment, because he has alleged facts plausibly suggesting that (a) Defendant Anderson is a state actor not simply due to its receipt of federal funding but also due to its implementation of an IEP in conjunction with the New York Committee on Special Education, and (b) Plaintiff possesses a protected property interest in a statutorily imposed free education. ( Id. at 9-12 [attaching pages "6" through "9" of Plf.'s Opp'n Memo. of Law].)

3. Defendant Anderson's Reply Memorandum of Law

Generally, in reply to Plaintiff's response, Defendant Anderson asserts four arguments. (Dkt. No. 24, Attach. 4 [Def. Anderson's Reply Memo. of Law].)

First, Defendant Anderson argues, the Court should reject Plaintiff's statute-of-limitations arguments, because (a) he has improperly attempted to incorporate those arguments by reference from another memorandum of law, (b) the Consent Decree and due process hearing have no bearing on the date on which Plaintiff's action against Defendant Anderson accrued (in that they are not alleged in the Complaint, and Defendant Anderson did not participate in them), (c) the four-year statute of limitations set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1658 (which is referenced Plaintiff's other memorandum of law) is inapplicable to Plaintiff's ADA claim and other claims, and (d) Plaintiff's ADA claims are not tolled by his infancy status, because (i) such tolling would defeat the purpose of the ADA (which is similar to the purposes of the Rehabilitation Act and the IDEA), and (ii) through the filing of this action Plaintiff has demonstrated an ability to pursue his rights during the relevant period (and he has not alleged facts plausibly suggesting an inability to pursue his rights during the relevant period). ( Id. at 3-8 [attaching pages "1" through "6" of Def. Anderson's Reply Memo. of Law].)

Second, Defendant Anderson argues, the Court should reject Plaintiff's arguments regarding his retaliation claim, because (a) while he alleges that he lodged complaints with various entities, he does not allege facts plausibly suggesting that he sought a reasonable accommodation for his disability or even that he sought such relief from Defendant Anderson rather than some other entity such as Defendant Taconic Hills, and (b) he does not allege facts plausibly suggesting that Defendant Anderson took adverse action against him as a result of any complaints with Defendant Anderson, or that Defendant Anderson even knew of his complaints to other entities. ( Id. at 8-9 [attaching pages "6" and "7" of Def. Anderson's Reply Memo. of Law].)

Third, Defendant Anderson argues, the Court should reject Plaintiff's state-actor argument (in support of his Fourteenth Amendment claim), because (a) the Complaint alleges that the New York State Committee on Special Education prescribed the IEP before Plaintiff attended the Anderson Center and without Defendant Anderson's input, and (b) the Complaint fails to allege that the government is entwined with Defendant Anderson's management or control or that the school district (or any other governmental entity) had any interest in personnel decisions at the Anderson Center. ( Id. at 9-11 [attaching pages "7" through "9" of Def. Anderson's Reply Memo. of Law].)

Fourth, Defendant Anderson argues, the Court should reject Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment argument, because the Second Circuit has explained that the Fourteenth Amendment does not protect a parent's ability to create his or her child's behavioral support plan as a substantive fundamental right or protect the child's right to a free private education. ( Id. at 11-12 [attaching pages "9" and "10" of Def. Anderson's Reply Memo. of Law].)

C. Parties' Briefing on Defendant Taconic Hills' Motion

1. Defendant Taconic Hills' Memorandum of Law

Generally, in support of its motion, Defendant Taconic Hills asserts five arguments. (Dkt. No. 17, Attach. 1 [Def. Taconic Hills' Memo. of Law].)

First, Defendant Taconic Hills argues, Plaintiff's claims under the Rehabilitation Act, the ADA and the IDEA should be dismissed because (a) all such claims barred by the applicable statute of limitations in that they are based on events occurring before January 10, 2010 (and the infancy tolling provision of N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 208 does not apply), (b) in any event, those claims arising under the Rehabilitation Act or IDEA and based on events occurring before the date of service of Plaintiff's "Demand for a Due Process Hearing" on July 2, 2009, are barred by the terms of the Consent Decree entered into by the parties on September 29, 2009, and "So Ordered" by an Impartial Hearing Officer ("IHO") on October 8, 2009 (which resolved all claims leading up to that demand), and (c) all such claims based on events occurring between January 10, 2010, and June 30, 2010, are barred by the doctrines of collateral estoppel and/or res judicata, due to an IHO's decision of January 31, 2011, and an State Review Officer's ("SRO") decision of April 29, 2011, which were never "[]appealed" to federal court, because those decisions preclude a claim of a denial of a FAPE during the above-referenced period, or a claim of either discriminatory or retaliatory intent. ( Id. at 9-18 [attaching pages "4" through "13" of Def. Taconic Hills' Memo. of Law].)

Second, Defendant Taconic Hills argues, Plaintiff's due process claim should be dismissed because of the failure to allege facts plausibly suggesting (a) that the alleged denial of his right to due process was the result of an act of an employee of Defendant Taconic Hills (as opposed to an employee of Defendant Anderson), or (b) that any act attributable to Defendant Taconic Hills was taken pursuant to an expressly adopted policy of Defendant Taconic Hills, pursuant to a longstanding policy or custom of Defendant Taconic Hills, or by an employee of Defendant Taconic Hills acting as a final policymaker, as required to establish municipal liability under Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). ( Id. at 19-20 [attaching pages "14" and "15" of Def. Taconic Hills' Memo. of Law].)

Third, Defendant Taconic Hills argues, Plaintiff's state law tort claims should be dismissed because of the failure to allege facts plausibly suggesting any cognizable duty of care owed to Plaintiff by Defendant Taconic Hills, any intentionally harmful act by Defendant Taconic Hills against Plaintiff, and/or any vicarious liability on behalf of Defendant Taconic Hills. ( Id. at 21-23 [attaching pages "16" through "18" of Def. Taconic Hills' Memo. of Law].)

Fourth, Defendant Taconic Hills argues, Plaintiff's claim under New York Executive Law § 296 should be dismissed because of Plaintiff's failure to allege facts plausibly suggesting that either Section 296(2) nor Section 296(4) applies to Defendant Taconic Hills under the circumstances. ( Id. at 23-24 [attaching pages "18" and "19" of Def. Taconic Hills' Memo. of Law].)

Fifth, Defendant Taconic Hills argues, Plaintiff's breach-of-contract claims should be dismissed because of the failure to allege facts plausibly suggesting that F.M.'s IEP was a legally binding contract. ( Id. at 24-25 ...


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