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Resendez v. Prance

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

January 26, 2018

JOSE RESENDEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
SHANE PRANCE, et al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Michael G. Gotsch, Sr. United States Magistrate Judge.

         On May 16, 2017, Defendants, Shane Prance, Thomas Albano, James Dworkin, Mitch Daniels, Purdue University Northwest (“PNW”) (formerly known as Purdue University North-Central (“PNC”), Purdue University, and the trustees of Purdue University (collectively, “the Defendants”), filed their Motion to Dismiss. On May 31, 2017, Plaintiff Jose Resendez (“Resendez”), filed his response in opposition to Defendants' motion. Defendants' motion became ripe on June 2, 2017, when Defendants filed a reply brief. On October 19, 2017, Defendants' motion was referred to the undersigned for a report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b), and N. D. Ind. L.R. 72-1(b). Before the undersigned could issue a report and recommendation, Defendants augmented the record by filing a Notice of Supplemental Authorities on December 26, 2017. Resendez filed his response to Defendants' supplemental authorities on January 10, 2018. For the following reasons, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that Defendants' motion be GRANTED. [DE 21].

         I. Relevant Background

         Resendez brought this action as the result of a series of events culminating in his suspension from the PNC baseball team. As he alleges himself, Resendez is a brown-skinned and darkly complexioned[1] Hispanic of Mexican descent, who enrolled as a student at PNC on August 26, 2013, and earned a spot on the PNC baseball team for the 2014-2015 season. [DE 17 at 2-3, ¶¶ 16, 28, 31]. Resendez alleges that Shane Prance (“Prance”), the team's head coach, maliciously directed a racially derogatory comment at him on March 19, 2015, when he said, “I don't want to deal with campus police saying a Mexican with a beard is jumping the fence and causing trouble on the field, [Resendez] that was directed to you.” [Id. at 3-4, ¶ 34]. On March 30, 2015, Prance then called Resendez a “pussy” and a “lazy piece of shit, ” which led to a verbal altercation between them. [Id., ¶¶ 32, 36, 38]. Afterwards, on March 31, 2015, Prance forced Resendez, and Resendez alone, to run for two hours straight rather than be engaged in the team's regular practice session. [Id., ¶ 40].

         Subsequently, Prance allegedly told Resendez's father, who had called Prance, that Resendez had attacked him and chest-bumped him four to five times during the March 30th altercation. Similarly, Prance allegedly told PNC athletic director Tom Albano (“Albano”) that Resendez had physically assaulted him by charging and bumping into him during the March 30th altercation. [Id. at 3, 6, ¶¶ 41, 58].[2]

         On April 13, 2015, Prance filed a police report regarding a separate incident at his home. According to the police report attached to Resendez's Amended Complaint, Prance was lying in his bed in Westville, Indiana when a paint ball gun was fired at his house. [DE 17-1 at 5]. Prance then reported seeing Resendez's girlfriend's vehicle parked in front of his residence, and that he later saw Resendez driving that same vehicle. Resendez denies having had anything to do with the paint ball attacks and alleges he and his girlfriend were in LaPorte, Indiana at the time of the incident.

         The day after, however, Resendez met with Albano as documented in a PNC Police Department Case Report attached to Resendez's Amended Complaint. [Id. at 2]. During the meeting, Albano discussed with Resendez what appears to be the March 30th altercation with Prance as well as the April 13th paint ball incident at Prance's home. Additionally, Resendez was informed that he was suspended from the baseball team until an investigation into the incidents was completed. [Id.].

         On October 6, 2015, Resendez then filed a false information report with the PNC Police Department as documented in a supplemental Case Report attached to Resendez's Amended Complaint. [Id. at 1]. In the supplemental report, Resendez indicated that Albano and Prance had given false information in a previous police report, presumably regarding the March 30th altercation and the paint ball incident. The supplemental report stated that “Albano conducted an investigation and found that [Prance's] allegation was false yet [Resendez] remains suspended.” [Id.]. Resendez alleges that no one at PNC filed false reporting charges relating to this incident. [DE 17 at 7, ¶ 71].

         Resendez also alleges that he sought help from Chancellor James Dworkin (“Dworkin”) who promised he would “take care of the situation.” [Id., ¶ 73]. Resendez further alleges that Dworkin directed him to an HR person but refused to meet with him further or to lift his suspension. [Id.].

         Based on these facts, Resendez initiated this action on December 16, 2016. In response to a motion to dismiss, Resendez filed the operative Amended Complaint on April 25, 2017, which includes six counts. Count I alleges that Defendants PNC/PNW and Purdue University racially discriminated against Resendez in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d. In Count II brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Resendez alleges that Prance, Albano, and Dworkin, in their individual capacities, violated his rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by treating non-white students-athletes differently than white student-athletes. Also pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Resendez raises Monell failure to train, failure to supervise, failure to discipline, failure to adequately screen and investigate, and unconstitutional adopted policy claims against Prance, Albano, Dworkin, and Daniels in Count VI. Notably, the Amended Complaint does not specify whether Count VI is being raised against Prance, Albano, Dworkin, and Daniels in their individual or official capacities. Additionally, Resendez brings pendent claims against Prance in his individual capacity for defamation (Count III), defamation per se (Count IV), and intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count V) under Indiana law.

         In support of these claims, Resendez alleges that his suspension is a result of being treated differently based on his race. [Id., ¶ 81]. Resendez asserts that a white player on the PNC baseball team had multiple arrests for battery and driving while intoxicated, yet was only suspended for ten (10) games. [Id. at 8, ¶ 83]. Additionally, Resendez contends that multiple white players were found to have resisted arrest, yet were not suspended. [Id., ¶ 84]. More generally, Resendez alleges belief that he and the two other minority players did not get to play as much as their white fellow athletes. [Id., ¶ 86].

         Resendez further alleges that the Title VI and equal protection violations directed at him are part of a broader program of disparate treatment of minorities at PNC. He asserts systematic violations of the equal protection rights of minorities at PNC due to a lack of adequate employee training, supervision, protocols and investigation into matters of discrimination. [Id. at 8-10, ¶¶ 87-101]. He also claims that Dworkin, Albano, and Daniels are responsible for these failures. [Id.at 12, ¶¶ 118-36].

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Defendants now seek dismissal of all six of the claims in Resendez's amended complaint.

         I. Analysis

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), dismissal of a complaint is appropriate when the complaint fails to allege a cause of action for which relief can be granted. Federal law only requires a plaintiff to provide a short and plain statement of the claim that the pleader is entitled to relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8; see Bartholet v. Reishauer A.G. (Zurich), 953 F.2d 1073, 1078 (7th Cir. 1992). When considering a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court should read the complaint in the light most favorable to the non-movant, accepting all of her well-pleaded facts as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in her favor. Burke v. 401 N. Wabash Venture, LLC, 714 F.3d 501, 504 (7th Cir. 2013). A complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-79 (2009); see also Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007) (holding that there is no probability requirement at the pleading stage, yet the alleged facts must be plausible so as to entitle a person to relief even if recovery is remote and unlikely). A claim has the requisite 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.” Archer v. Chisholm, 870 F.3d 603, 612 (7th Cir. 2017) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. 678).

         A. Federal Claims under Title VI (Counts I) and the Equal Protection Clause (Counts II and VI)

         Resendez contends that his suspension from the baseball team violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as well as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids racial discrimination by recipients of federal grants. 42 U.S.C. § 2000d; cf. Brewer v. Board of Trustees, 479 F.3d 908, 921 (7th Cir. 2007) (analyzing a graduate student's Title VI claim that he was dropped from his graduate program because of his race). Resendez's Title VI and equal protection claims allege that he was punished more severely than if he had been white.

         Defendants assert that Counts I, II, and VI all rest on the same factual and constitutional foundation, but that Resendez fails to allege plausible facts and the requisite elements for an equal protection claim. Furthermore, Defendants argue that Defendants Prance, Albano, Dworkin, and Daniels are protected by the doctrine of qualified immunity. Additionally, Defendants contend that Count VI fails because it fails to state a claim and is ...


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