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Gilley v. Board of Education of Trimble County

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

June 19, 2013

MEGAN GILLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF TRIMBLE COUNTY, KENTUCKY, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DANNY C. REEVES, District Judge.

This matter is pending for consideration of the Joint Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint filed by Defendants Marcia Dunaway, in her individual and official capacity; Garry Jackson, in his individual and official capacity, and the Board of Education of Trimble County, Kentucky[1] ("the Board"). [Record No. 17] The defendants have jointly moved to dismiss the various claims against them for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. For the reasons stated below, the defendants' motion will be granted.

I.

This case arises from an alleged sexual relationship between Plaintiff Megan Gilley and Jeff Vincent, Gilley's former high school cross country and basketball coach.[2] Gilley alleges that she was sexually abused by Vincent while she was a student at Trimble County High School from 2001 to 2004. [Record No. 16 ¶¶ 6-8] Gilley was born on September 7, 1987. Thus, she was seventeen years-old at the time of her high school graduation. [ Id. ¶ 6] The Amended Complaint alleges that the sexual relationship began when Gilley was fourteen, and that the "sexual abuse continued throughout the rest of [her] high school experience, and occurred on hundreds of occasions." [ Id. ¶ 8] Gilley claims that she would travel to Vincent's residence to partake in various sexual acts. [ Id. ¶ 9] In addition to the sexual abuse, she asserts that Vincent gave her alcohol and marijuana. [ Id. ¶ 10]

The Amended Complaint alleges that Dunaway, then an assistant superintendent of the Board, had "actual knowledge" and a "reasonable suspicion" of the sexual relationship between Gilley and Vincent. While Gilley was still a student, Dunaway was informed by another student, Lora Cull, that she had witnessed Vincent and Gilley kissing.[3] [ Id. ¶¶ 11-12; Record No. 16-2] In response to this report, Dunaway allegedly "retaliated against the student" and "called her a liar." [Record No. 16 ¶ 12] Gilley also alleges that Jackson, then superintendent of the Board, had "actual knowledge and reasonable cause" to believe that Vincent and Gilley were sexually involved. However, rather than report this behavior, Jackson "instructed Vincent to obtain a letter from [Gilley's] mother that no such relationship was occurring." [ Id. ¶¶ 14-15] Unaware of any sexual relationship between her daughter and Vincent, Gilley's mother provided such a letter. [ Id. ¶ 15]

Additionally, neither Dunaway nor Jackson reported any sexual relationship to the appropriate governmental authorities but, instead, conducted a "district investigation." [ Id. ¶¶ 11-15] During this investigation, Dunaway, Jackson, and former Principal Larry Phillips questioned Vincent about the alleged sexual relationship with Gilley. [ Id. ¶ 11; Record No. 16-2] And when questioned, both Vincent and Gilley denied the existence of any sexual relationship. [Record No. 16-2] The Amended Complaint alleges that both Jackson and Dunaway "actively concealed their knowledge of the sexual abuse towards [Gilley]." [Record No. 16 ¶ 16]

Gilley filed suit on May 9, 2012, in Trimble Circuit Court. The defendants removed the action on June 13, 2012. [Record No. 1] On November 11, 2012, Gilley filed an Amended Complaint asserting causes of action under Kentucky and Federal law. [Record No. 16] The Amended Complaint included allegations of: (1) violations of the Kentucky Constitution and United States Constitution; (2) violations of the Title IX and the corresponding provisions of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act; (3) civil liability for commission of a criminal act; and (4) negligence and gross negligence. All four counts are asserted against the Board, but only Count III names Jackson and Dunaway as defendants.

Through their pending motion, the defendants argue that: (1) they have governmental immunity from Gilley's state law claims; (2) the statue of limitations has expired on all of Gilley's claims; (3) the Board cannot be sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (4) naming Jackson and Dunaway as defendants in their official capacity is duplicative. [Record No. 17]

II.

When evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must determine whether the complaint alleges "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The plausibility standard is met "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 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Although the complaint need not contain "detailed factual allegations" to survive a motion to dismiss, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotation marks and alteration omitted).[4]

III.

The defendants argue that each of Gilley's claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. [Record No. 17-1, pp. 7-13] Gilley, however, asserts that the statute of limitations was tolled. She contends that the defendants had actual knowledge and reasonable cause to believe that she was being abused. In support, Gilley relies on the Cull affidavit which states that Cull reported the alleged abuse to Dunaway. Gilley also points to the written response to these allegations filed by Vincent which indicates that he was questioned about the alleged relationship by Jackson six to seven years ago. [Record No. 16-2, p. 1] Gilley argues that Dunaway and Jackson had a legal obligation to report the suspected sexual abuse, and that the statute of limitations applicable to her claims tolled due to the defendants' "active concealment, failure to report, and failure to warn other students and parents of Vincent's propensity towards sexual abuse of minors." [Record No. 16 ¶ 17] And Gilley further asserts that this "period of concealment" is ongoing. [ Id. ] In response, the defendants argue that Gilley has failed to offer any factual allegations from which this Court could conclude that the defendants had actual knowledge or reasonable cause to believe that Gilley was being sexually abused by Vincent. Therefore, they assert that the statute of limitations should not be tolled. [Record No. 17-1, pp. 7-13]

It is well-settled that Kentucky's one-year statute of limitations contained in KRS § 413.140 applies to Gilley's claims. See Brown v. Wigginton, 981 F.2d 913, 914 (6th Cir. 1992); Collard v. Ky. Bd. of Nursing, 896 F.2d 179, 182-83 (6th Cir. 1990); Fayette Cnty. Bd. of Educ. v. Manner, No. 2007-CA-2243-MR, 2009 Ky. App. Unpub. LEXIS 234, at *30 (Ky. Ct. App. May 22, 2009). In her response, Gilley concedes that the one-year statute of limitations applies to her federal law claims; however, she takes no position on the appropriate statute of limitations concerning her state law claims. [Record No. 18, p. 9] Whether the appropriate limitations period is one year or five years is of no consequence because Gilley's claims are time-barred under either period. See Clifton v. Midway Coll., 702 S.W.2d 835, 837 (Ky. 1985) (holding that the five-year statute of limitations period under KRS § 413.120 applies to claims brought under KRS § 344, et seq. ); Roman Catholic Diocese v. Secter, 966 S.W.2d 286, 288 (Ky. Ct. App. 1998) (holding that the one-year statute of limitations period set out in KRS § 413.140 applies to claims of personal injury resulting from sexual abuse).

Further, under Kentucky law, a cause of action does not accrue until the plaintiff reaches the age of majority. KRS § 413.170(1). Thus, Gilley's claims were tolled due to infancy until her eighteenth birthday - September 7, 2005. See KRS § 2.015 (establishing age eighteen as age of majority in Kentucky). However, she did not file her Complaint in Trimble County Court ...


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