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Stevens v. USA Diving, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

May 21, 2019

AMY STEVENS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
USA DIVING, INC., et al., Defendants.

          ENTRY ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Senior Judge

         This cause is before the Court on three motions to dismiss, each of which is ripe for review. The Plaintiffs agree to the dismissal of Indiana Diving Association of USA Diving, Inc.; accordingly, its motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 70) is GRANTED, and Indiana Diving Association of USA Diving, Inc., is dismissed without prejudice. The Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART the motions of USA Diving, Inc. (Dkt. No. 66); and Indiana Diving Academy, Inc., (which does business as RipFest) and John Wingfeld (Dkt. No. 68) for the reasons set forth below.

         I. STANDARD

         Some of the Defendants in this case move to dismiss the Plaintiffs' amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that the amended complaint fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted. In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court “must accept all well pled facts as true and draw all permissible inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” Agnew v. National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 683 F.3d 328, 334 (7th Cir. 2012). For a claim to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, it must provide the defendant with “fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007)) (omission in original). A complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Agnew, 683 F.3d at 334 (citations omitted). A complaint's factual allegations are plausible if they “raise the right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007).

         II. BACKGROUND

         The Plaintiffs allege the following relevant facts in their Amended Complaint. Defendant Indiana Diving Academy, Inc., operates a residential diving program in Arcadia, Indiana. Plaintiff Amy Stevens was 16 years old when she moved from another state to join the program at the Indiana Diving Academy. Plaintiff Jane Doe 1 was an employee of Indiana Diving Academy. Defendant John Wingfield is the President of Indiana Diving Academy's residential diving facility and became the head coach of USA Diving in 2009. Defendant Johel Ramirez Suarez is a citizen of Venezuela. Defendant Chris Heaton is a former Indiana Diving Academy coach and former head diving coach at Harvard University. Stevens and Doe were allegedly assaulted by Suarez.

         Every member of USA Diving signs a contract with USA Diving and pays a membership fee. Both Plaintiffs were USA Diving members and, as such, were required to pay dues to USA Diving. Suarez and Heaton were USA Diving certified coaches.

         A diving club with a USA Diving “full coach member” can become a USA Diving-sanctioned club by paying annual dues. For a person to become a USA Diving coach, five steps are required: (1) paying money to USA Diving; (2) studying materials relating to safety and risk management; (3) taking an online safety training regarding lifeguarding skills; (4) completing concussion awareness training; and (5) completing a 90-minute SafeSport training.

         USA Diving offers its banner to be displayed by more than 240 diving clubs across the country. Clubs display the banner to entice divers to dive there. Divers who see the banner trust that USA Diving has checked the quality and ensured the safety of its diving clubs. USA Diving assumed a duty to supervise and maintain a safe environment at the diving clubs which flew its banner. Further, by taking fees directly from diving members like the Plaintiffs, USA Diving assumed a duty to its members. By 2010, it was foreseeable to USA Diving that its members relied on it to ensure they could participate in diving without being sexually assaulted.

         Suarez was the agent, servant and/or employee of Indiana Diving Academy from 2015 to 2017. At all relevant times, Suarez was the agent, servant, and/or employee of USA Diving because he coached USA Diving members at USA Diving member clubs and traveled with these teams to USA Diving-sanctioned events. Suarez had the actual and apparent authority to represent USA Diving, and he used his power as a USA Diving coach to manipulate the Plaintiffs so that he could sexually assault them.

         By 2016, Indiana Diving Academy and Wingfield had received complaints that Suarez was sexually exploiting, assaulting, and raping multiple female athletes. Specifically, by late 2016, Wingfield and Indiana Diving Academy were aware that Suarez had assaulted Jane Doe 1. By late 2016, at least one other USA Diving employee had knowledge that Suarez had committed sexual assaults. No one at USA Diving or Indiana Diving Academy took steps to stop Suarez's abuse of young women.

         Suarez helped Plaintiff Stevens stretch. By the end of 2015, Suarez was placing his hands and fingers over Stevens' swimsuit, directly on her vulva. In 2015 and 2016, Suarez touched and rubbed Stevens' vulva approximately a dozen times. He performed such actions on other minor Indiana Diving Academy athletes. He was arrested in 2017 and pled guilty to three counts of battery for touching the vulva of a minor Indiana Diving Academy diver.

         In the fall of 2016, Suarez attempted to digitally penetrate Jane Doe 1, who was sleeping in her room in the Indiana Diving Academy dorms. The next day, Doe told Wingfield, who was Doe's direct boss, that Suarez had assaulted her in the dorms. Wingfield took no action. Stevens, Doe, and other minors who were Indiana Diving Academy athletes and staff complained to Wingfield that Suarez was touching them inappropriately. Wingfield was dismissive of their complaints.

         From 2014 to 2016, Heaton coached USA Diving members at USA Diving member clubs and traveled with these teams to USA Diving-sanctioned events and therefore was the agent, servant and/or employee of USA Diving. He also was the agent, servant, and/or employee of Indiana Diving Academy. Heaton had the actual and apparent authority to represent USA Diving, and he used ...


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