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Schutt v. Garland Independent School District

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

July 9, 2019

STEPHEN and NORA SCHUTT, a/n/f for A.S., CHERISH HOOPER, a/n/f for J.H., and GUADALUPE MARES, a/n/f for A.N., Plaintiffs,
v.
GARLAND INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, MICHELE BURFORD, LESLIE COBURN, GRAYDENE BROWN, JENNIFER BENAVIDEZ, and MICHAEL ROLL, Defendants. MICHAEL ROELL, Counter-Plaintiff,
v.
PLAINTIFFS, Counter-Defendants. MICHAEL ROELL, Cross-Plaintiff,
v.
GARLAND INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, GRAYDENE BROWN, and JENNIFER BENAVIDEZ, Cross-Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JANE J. BOYLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are the motions to dismiss filed by Defendants Garland Independent School District (“GISD”), Gradyne Brown, Jennifer Benavidez, and Plaintiffs Stephen and Nora Schutt, as next friend for A.S.; Cherish Hooper as next friend for J.H.; and Guadalupe Mares, as next friend for A.N.; against pro se Defendant Michael Roell. (Docs. 89, 102 & 104). These parties move to dismiss all crossclaims and counterclaims asserted by Roell for a variety of reasons, including for mootness, a failure to state a claim, and a lack of jurisdiction. As discussed below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motions to dismiss (Doc. 102; Doc. 104) and also GRANTS Plaintiffs' motion to dismiss (Doc. 89).

         I.

         BACKGROUND

         This case involves the alleged abuse of disabled students at the hands of a school district, teacher, and school officials. The current motions arise from a complaint filed on June 28, 2017, by parents Stephen and Nora Schutt on behalf of their minor child against GISD that named Roell, a teacher, as a defendant. Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 2. On January 3, 2018, the Schutts filed a second amended complaint that named school officials Brown and Benavidez as additional defendants. Doc. 28, Second Am. Compl., 1. On April 17, 2018, the Court then consolidated this case, 3:17-CV-1708-B (“Schutt case”), with two later-filed cases, 3:17-CV-1776-B (“Hooper case”) and 3:17-CV-3461-B (“Mares case”), which involved related allegations brought by similar parents and their minor children. Doc. 52, Consolidation Order, 1.

         Prior to consolidation-and acting pro se, as he has throughout the entirety of this litigation-Roell had filed crossclaims in each of the cases against GISD, Brown, and Benavidez. He also counterclaimed against all of the plaintiffs. Against all plaintiffs he counterclaimed for defamation, slander, and libel; against the Schutt plaintiffs he also added a gross-negligence claim. Doc. 38, Roell's Schutt Ans., 6; No. 3:17-cv-1776, Doc. 40, Roell's Hooper Ans., 6; No. 3:17-cv-3461, Doc. 14, Roell's Mares Ans., 6. In the Hopper and Mares cases, Roell crossclaimed against Defendants GISD, Brown, and Benavidez for hostile work environment and wrongful termination. No. 3:17-cv-1776, Doc. 40, Roell's Hooper Ans., 6; No. 3:17-cv-3461, Doc. 14, Roell's Mares Ans., 6. In the Schutt case, Roell filed these same crossclaims, but also added a claim for gross negligence. Doc. 38, Roell's Schutt Ans., 6 (alleging GISD, Brown, and Benavidez committed “[g]ross negligence for not providing information, including paperwork, about [student] to Michael Roell . . ., hostile work environment . . . and wrongful termination.”).

         Prior to consolidation, Plaintiffs never moved to dismiss Roell's claims. Brown and Benavidez filed motions to dismiss each of the crossclaims prior to consolidation. Doc. 46, Officials' MTD (Schutt case); No. 3:17-cv-1776, Doc. 49, Officials' MTD (Hooper case); No. 3:17-cv-3461, Doc. 18, Officials' MTD (Mares case). GISD also filed motions to dismiss each of the crossclaims prior to consolidation. Doc. 43, GISD's MTD (Schutt case); No. 3:17-cv-1776, Doc. 46, GISD's MTD (Hooper case); No. 3:17-cv-3461, Doc. 16, GISD's MTD (Mares case). Those motions were mooted when the case was consolidated. Doc. 52, Consolidation Order, 1 (denying as moot motions filed in No. 3:17-cv-1776 and No. 3:17-cv-3461); Doc. 53, Elec. Order (denying as moot motions filed in No. 3:17-cv-1708).

         After consolidation, the plaintiffs from each case filed a third amended complaint on May 4, 2018, that consolidated their claims from the three separate cases. Doc. 56, Third Am. Compl. Roell never filed an amended answer, nor reasserted his counterclaims before the Court stayed all proceedings relating to him, on July 13, 2018. See Doc. 73, Elec. Order. The same day, Plaintiffs filed a joint answer to Roell's counterclaims. Doc. 74, Pls.' Ans.

         The next filing related to Roell was made on March 21, 2019, when Plaintiffs filed a motion to dismiss Roell's counterclaims. Doc. 89, Pls.' MTD; Doc. 90, Pls.' Br. The Court lifted the stay as to Roell on May 3, 2019, and extended his response deadline for the motion. A few days later, GISD, Brown, and Benavidez filed their own motions to dismiss. Doc. 102, Officials' MTD; Doc. 103, Officials' Br.; Doc. 104, GISD's MTD; Doc. 105, GISD's Br.

         Brown and Benavidez moved for dismissal with prejudice on the grounds of mootness and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Doc. 103, Officials' Br., 5. GISD moved for dismissal with prejudice for a lack of subject matter jurisdiction and a failure to state a claim. Doc. 105, GISD's Br., 6-7, 9-10. Roell responded (Doc. 106) to both motions on May 28, 2019, providing more facts in support of his claims. Brown and Benavidez replied (Doc. 107) on May 31, 2019. The Court now considers the pending motions.

         II.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes the Court to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Id. 12(b)(6). To survive a 12(b)(6) motion, “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face” must be pled. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         “A claim has facial plausibility 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. At this stage, a court “must accept all well-pleaded facts alleged in the complaint as true and must construe the allegations in the light that is most favorable to the plaintiff.” J&J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Live Oak Cty. Post No. 6119 Veterans of Foreign Wars, 2009 WL 483157, at *3 (S.D. Tex. Feb. 24, 2009) (quoting Cent. Laborers' Pension Fund v. Integrated Elec. Servs., 497 F.3d 546, 550 (5th Cir. 2007)). “The ultimate question in a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is whether the complaint states a valid claim when all well-pleaded facts are assumed true and are viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Lone Star Fund V (U.S.), L.P. v. Barclays Bank PLC, 594 F.3d 383, 387 (5th Cir. 2010) (citing In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007)).

         “[R]egardless of whether the plaintiff is proceeding pro se or is represented by counsel, conclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions will not suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss.” Taylor v. Books a Million, Inc., 296 F.3d 376, 378 (5th Cir. 2002) (internal quotations omitted).

         III.

         ANALYSIS

         The Court first will address whether any of Roell's claims are moot for failure to replead. Then the Court will addresses Roell's crossclaims against GISD, Brown, and Benavidez. Lastly, the ...


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