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Farmer v. Kansas State University

United States District Court, D. Kansas

March 13, 2017

TESSA FARMER, Plaintiff,
v.
KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JULIE A. ROBINSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Kansas State University's (“KSU”) Motion to Join an Additional Party Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(a)(2), or, in the Alternative, to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(7) and 19(b) (Doc. 16). KSU seeks to have the student alleged to have sexually assaulted Plaintiff joined to this case, in which Plaintiff asserts Title IX, Kansas Consumer Protection Act (“KCPA”), and negligence claims. The motion is fully briefed and the Court is prepared to rule. For the reasons explained below, the Court denies KSU's motion for joinder.

         I. Factual Allegations

         The following allegations are taken from Plaintiff's Complaint. On Friday, March 6, 2015, Plaintiff went with a group of friends to a KSU fraternity party, where members passed out margaritas and beer. Another person at the party carried around a bag of wine and gave people, including Plaintiff, drinks directly from the bag's spout. Plaintiff became very intoxicated.

         At about 2:00 a.m., a designated driver took Plaintiff home. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff received a Facebook message from KSU student T.R., a member of the fraternity she had known since high school and had seen at the party. T.R. told Plaintiff she should come to his fraternity house because they were “still turning up.” He was persistent, even offering to pick her up.

         Plaintiff relented, and T.R. picked her up and brought her to the fraternity house. T.R. and Plaintiff went to his room and had sex. Sometime later, T.R. told Plaintiff he was going to start his car, presumably to take her home, and he left Plaintiff alone in the room.

         While T.R. was gone, Tessa discovered a stranger had been hiding in the closet. She later learned he was C.M., another KSU student. C.M. admitted T.R. had made him go into the closet. Plaintiff, inebriated and confused, fell face first onto a bed, where she blacked out. C.M. pulled down Plaintiff's pants and penetrated her vaginally with his penis while pulling her hair and whispering in her ear. Plaintiff regained consciousness and screamed into the mattress until he finished. C.M. did not use a condom. Plaintiff reported the rape on the following Monday or Tuesday. She alleges that C.M. was sanctioned for alcohol use, but that KSU refused to investigate the rape. Plaintiff alleges C.M.'s continued presence on campus has placed her in fear and that the sexual assault was so severe, pervasive, and offensive as to deny her access to the benefits and opportunities of an education at KSU. Among other relief, Plaintiff seeks an injunction “ordering K-State to conduct an investigation and disciplinary proceedings into” Plaintiff's report of sexual assault.

         II. Discussion

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(a) provides, in relevant part:

         (1) Required Party. A person who is subject to service of process and whose joinder will not deprive the court of subject-matter jurisdiction must be joined as a party if:

         . . .

         (B) that person claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and is so situated that disposing of the action in the person's absence may: (i) as a practical matter impair or impede the person's ability to protect the interest; or (ii) leave an existing party subject to a substantial risk of incurring double, multiple, or otherwise inconsistent obligations because of the interest.

         (2) Joinder by Court Order. If a person has not been joined as required, the court must order that the person be made a party. A person who refuses to join as a plaintiff may be made either a defendant or, in a proper case, an involuntary plaintiff.

         Failure to join a necessary party is a defense under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(7).

         KSU argues that C.M. is a necessary party under both Fed.R.Civ.P. 19(a)(1)(B)(i) and 19(a)(1)(B)(ii). KSU argues that disposition of this action without C.M. would violate his due process liberty and property interests, and would subject KSU to a substantial risk of incurring double, multiple, or otherwise inconsistent obligations. Thus, KSU moves for joinder of C.M.

         as a party in this case, or for dismissal of the case pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(7).

         A. Interests of Party to be Joined

         Pursuant to Rule 19, a person who claims an interest in the litigation is a necessary party where disposing of the action in the person's absence would “as a practical matter impair or impede the person's ability to protect the interest.”[1] KSU argues that resolution of this action in the absence of C.M. would impede his ability to protect his interests. KSU's argument rests on two fundamental assertions. First, KSU claims that to recover on her Title IX, KCPA, and negligence claims, Plaintiff will have to prove that C.M. raped her. Second, KSU asserts that because Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief ordering KSU to conduct “disciplinary proceedings, ” Plaintiff seeks an order compelling a pre-ordained finding by KSU that C.M. raped her.

         KSU further argues that because Plaintiff must prove in this action that C.M. raped her, and because the relief Plaintiff seeks would compel a finding by KSU to the same effect, resolution of this action without C.M. would impede C.M.'s due process interests. KSU asserts that categorizing someone as a “sex offender” implicates a protected liberty interest where that labeling is accompanied by a “plus” factor that will significantly alter the person's status.[2] KSU further asserts that C.M. has a protected property interest in continued education, such that he cannot be expelled or dismissed without due process.[3] Because KSU will be compelled to find C.M. a rapist in any forthcoming investigation and disciplinary proceedings, and because Plaintiff will likely be able to ...


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