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Dahmer v. Western Kentucky University

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green

March 15, 2019

LOANDRIA DAHMER PLAINTIFF
v.
WESTERN KENTUCKY UNIVERSITY, et al DEFENDANTS

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Lanny King, Magistrate Judge United States District Court

         Judge Joseph McKinley referred this matter to Magistrate Judge Lanny King for determination of nondispositive matters, pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1)(A)[1]. (Docket #7).

         Plaintiff Loandria Dahmer filed a Motion for Leave to File First Amended Complaint (Docket #32), to which Defendants Responded (Docket #34) and Plaintiff Replied. (Docket #35). Also before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Strike Reply. (Docket #36). These matters are now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons stated below, the Plaintiff's Motion to File First Amended Complaint is GRANTED and Defendant's Motion to Strike Reply is DENIED.

         Background

         This case arises out of allegations of gender-based discrimination experienced by Plaintiff Dahmer during her time at WKU as a student and in her role as Student Government Association (“SGA”) President. (Docket #1 at 5). Plaintiff has filed this action against multiple Defendants, including WKU, Timothy Caboni (President of WKU), Andrea Anderson (Title IX Coordinator at WKU), and Charley Pride (SGA Advisor at WKU). (Id. at 1-2). The Complaint alleges that Defendants failed to adequately respond to gender-based discrimination suffered by Plaintiff at the hands of other SGA students, as well as staff of WKU. (Id. at 5-13). Plaintiff specifically alleges that Defendant Pride both failed to address her concerns and actively participated in the environment of gender-based harassment, and that Defendants Caboni and Anderson failed to intervene. (Id.).

         On January 29, 2019, Plaintiff Dahmer tendered a Motion to File her First Amended Complaint, in accordance with the Scheduling Order in this case. (Docket #32). As a basis for the filing, Plaintiff contends that new facts have arisen through discovery that allow for additional causes of action against Defendants, particularly a retaliation claim related to a scholarship endorsement purportedly withheld by Defendant Caboni in retaliation for Plaintiff's sexual harassment claims. (Id. at 1). Plaintiff states that no Defendant would be unduly prejudiced by this filing, as discovery has only just begun, and the litigation is in its infancy. (Id.).

         Defendants' Response argues three points, one aimed at each amendment sought by Plaintiff. First, Defendants argues that Plaintiff's first amendment seeks to assert claims that she does not have standing to bring. (Docket #34 at 4). Second, Defendants alleges that Plaintiff's second amendment is not supported by evidence. (Id. at 5). Third, Defendants contends that Plaintiff's third amendment would not withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion and would unduly prejudice Defendants. (Id. at 8).

         Plaintiff's Reply focuses on three points, one regarding each proposed amendment. (Docket #35). First, Plaintiff states that she is not trying to bring additional claims via her first proposed amendment, she seeks only to add more factual information. (Id. at 1). Second, Plaintiff asserts that her second amendment is supported by fact, and that Defendants' argument does not present the whole substance of Plaintiff's deposition testimony. (Id. at 2). Third, Plaintiff argues that she has sufficient proof at this stage to allow discovery on the retaliation claim she seeks to assert and that exclusion of the claim does not fit within the results contemplated by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Id. at 4).

         Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) provides the standard for amending pleadings prior to trial. The Supreme Court has held that “leave to amend ‘shall be freely given whenever justice so requires' … If the underlying facts or circumstances relied upon by a plaintiff may be a proper subject of relief, he ought to be afforded an opportunity to test his claim on the merits.” Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). The Court further held that amendment should be “freely given” in the absence of reasons “such as undue delay, bad faith, or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment, etc.” Id. The decision whether to permit amendment is within the discretion of the trial court. Goldman Services Mechanical Contracting, Inc. v. Citizens Bank & Trust Co. of Paducah¸812 F.Supp. 738, 743 (W.D. Ky. 1992); see also General Elec. Co. v. Sargent & Lundy, 916 F.2d 1119, 1130 (6th Cir. 1990).

         Amendment 1: Information Regarding Annalicia Carlson

         Plaintiff's first amendment seeks to include information from another SGA Executive Board member, Annalicia Carlson, about her experiences in the WKU SGA. The information alleges that Ms. Carlson also had concerns of sexual harassment, approached Defendant Pride regarding these concerns, and was harassed further by Defendant Pride himself. (Docket #32-2 at 12). The amendment also contains allegations from Ms. Carlson that the environment of the WKU SGA was hostile, and that it is believed that Ms. Carlson filed a Title IX complaint regarding Defendant Pride with the WKU Title IX office. (Id.).

         Defendants contend that this amendment must fail, because Plaintiff had the ability to present these facts at the time of filing the complaint, the amendment would not withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, and Plaintiff may not bring claims on behalf of Ms. Carlson, who is a third party. (Docket #34 at 4). Plaintiff replies that she only seeks to amend her complaint to add factual information to the Complaint, which lend credence to her own claims. (Docket #35 at 1). She does not seek to bring claims on behalf of Ms. Carlson. (Id.).

         The Court finds this Amendment to be proper under Rule 15. To prove her claim of a pervasive atmosphere of hostility and sex discrimination in SGA at WKU, the Plaintiff must show multiple instances of improper behavior by the Defendants. (Docket #1 at 11-13). Under 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a), a party seeking to prove discrimination on the basis of sex must show that her “educational experience was ‘permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive [so as] to alter the conditions of the victim's' educational ...


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