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Doe v. USD 237, the Smith Center School District

United States District Court, D. Kansas

November 6, 2017

USD 237, the Smith Center School District, and BROCK HUTCHINSON, Defendants.


          John W. Lungstrum United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on defendant Brock Hutchinson's motion to dismiss the state-law claims asserted in plaintiffs' amended complaint (Doc. # 47). For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the motion.

         I. Background

         On December 8, 2016, plaintiff Jane Doe, a minor and former student in the Smith Center School District, and her mother and next friend, plaintiff Angela Harrison, initiated the present suit against the District and Brock Harrison, a teacher and coach in the District. By their original complaint, plaintiffs asserted claims against the District under Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq. Plaintiffs also asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against both defendants, alleging violations of plaintiff Doe's equal protection right to be free from sexual harassment in an educational setting and her right to privacy on personal sexual matters.

         Defendant Hutchison moved to dismiss the Section 1983 claims against him on the basis of qualified immunity. By Memorandum and Order of March 2, 2017, the Court granted the motion in part, ruling that plaintiffs had not pleaded a plausible privacy claim under Section 1983; but it denied the motion with respect to the equal protection claim. On April 3, 2017, Mr. Hutchinson file notice of his interlocutory appeal of the Court's ruling on the equal protection claim.

         On March 7, 2017, plaintiffs moved for leave to amend their complaint. Specifically, plaintiff Doe sought to add state-law claims for invasion of privacy, negligent supervision or retention of employees, negligent supervision of children, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and outrage. In addition, in the proposed amended complaint, defendant Harrison would no longer assert claims as next friend of Doe, but would assert a new claim on her own behalf for Title IX retaliation. By Memorandum and Order of September 1, 2017, Magistrate Judge James granted the motion to amend with the exception of the new claim for negligent supervision of children as asserted against Mr. Hutchinson, which claim was deemed futile. The Magistrate Judge rejected defendants' arguments that plaintiff Doe failed to provide sufficient notice of her state-law claims pursuant to K.S.A. § 12-105b. The Magistrate Judge further concluded that the proposed amended complaint contained sufficient allegations to support plaintiff Doe's negligence and outrage claims.[1]

         Defendants did not seek review of the Magistrate Judge's order. Mr. Hutchinson now moves to dismiss the new state-law claims asserted against him.

         II. Jurisdiction to Allow Amendment to Complaint

         The amended complaint that has now been filed includes new state-law claims by plaintiff Doe against Mr. Hutchinson for invasion of privacy, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and outrage (also known as intentional infliction of emotional distress).[2] Mr. Hutchinson first argues that, because of his pending interlocutory appeal of the denial of qualified immunity on the Section 1983 equal protection claim, this Court lacks jurisdiction to allow the amendment to add claims against him.

         In a sense, Mr. Hutchinson's argument is untimely, as the Court has already permitted the amendment. In opposing plaintiffs' motion to amend, Mr. Hutchinson did not argue that the Court lacked jurisdiction to permit the requested amendment or that the proposed amendment would be futile for that reason. Because the issue concerns its jurisdiction, however, the Court will nevertheless address the argument.

         Although an effective notice of appeal transfers jurisdiction from the district court to the circuit court as a general matter, that transfer is not unlimited:

[T]he transfer affects only those aspects of the case involved in the appeal. Thus, when an appeal is taken from a limited interlocutory ruling, as opposed to one the affects the litigation as a whole, the district court may proceed with the case.

See Howard v. Mail-Well Envelope Co., 150F.3d 1227, 1229 (10th Cir. 1998) (citations omitted). "Although filing notice of appeal generally divests the district court of jurisdiction over the issues on appeal, the district court retains jurisdiction over collateral matters not involved in the appeal." See Lancaster v. Independent Sch. Dist. No. 5, 149 F.3d 1228, 1237 (10th Cir. 1998) (internal quotations and citation omitted).

         In making his present argument, Mr. Hutchinson does not explain why the Court lacks jurisdiction concerning the new claims under this standard.[3] The Court concludes that the new claims asserted against Mr. Hutchinson in the amended complaint-discrete, common-law tort claims-are indeed collateral to the matter on appeal, which concerns only a single claim asserted under a federal statute. Mr. Hutchinson has not cited any authority suggesting that an interlocutory appeal of a qualified-immunity ruling robs the district court of jurisdiction over other, discrete claims. Mr. Hutchinson cites Mayv. Sheahan,226 F.3d 876 (7th Cir. 2000), a case from the Seventh Circuit. In that case, however, the proposed amendment did not involve new claims distinct from the claim on appeal, but rather involved new factual allegations and new plaintiffs, which amendment therefore implicated the claim on appeal. See Id. at 880-81. Thus, May does not lend support to Mr. Hutchinson's argument in this case. This case more closely resembles Smith v. Board of County Commissioners of Johnson County, ...

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