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Doe v. University of Incarnate Word

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division

December 10, 2019

JANE UIW-GEL DOE, Plaintiff,
v.
UNIVERSITY OF THE INCARNATE WORD and UNIVERSITY OF THE INCARNATE WORD SCHOOL OF OSTEOPATHIC MEDICINE, Defendants.

          ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS

          XAVIER RODRIGUEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On this date, the Court considered Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction (docket no. 5), Plaintiff's Response (docket no. 8), and Defendants' Reply (docket no. 11). For the foregoing reasons, Defendants' Motion is DENIED, but the Court ORDERS Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint within seven (7) days in which Plaintiff identifies herself pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 10.

         BACKGROUND

         This case arises from Plaintiff Jane Doe's (“Plaintiff”) tenure as a student at Defendants University of the Incarnate Word and the University of the Incarnate Word School of Osteopathic Medicine (collectively, “Defendants” or “UIW”). Plaintiff suffers from Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”) and a nerve condition in her hand. Plaintiff enrolled at UIW in the fall of 2017, and later that semester was in a car accident which exacerbated that hand injury to the extent that Plaintiff was diagnosed with a temporary physical limitation. She sought accommodations from UIW who, she alleges, refused to provide them. Through the following semester, Plaintiff was required to retake various examinations she alleges she would have otherwise passed if accommodations had been provided. And the following summer, UIW informed Plaintiff she would need to re-enroll as a first-year student. She appealed that decision, but her appeal was denied.

         As a first-year student again in 2018, Plaintiff alleges that UIW continued to refuse her accommodations but that UIW granted accommodations to white students. Later that fall, Plaintiff claims she lost faith such accommodations would ever be granted. She also felt that certain representations UIW made as to its curriculum would never be honored. She claims that instead of a “meaningful academic curriculum led by qualified and dedicated professors, ” she experienced a lack of formal education typical of a medical school, an inexperienced dean, and a faculty who showed little concern for students' learning.

         Soon thereafter, Plaintiff voluntarily left UIW. She claims that UIW continues to harm her in that it refuses to provide credit for classes Plaintiff passed as a UIW student and that UIW continues to report her as having failed out of UIW's program. Plaintiff alleges that administrators at UIW have worked in concert to harm her because of her disabilities and her Hispanic ethnicity.

         Without seeking leave of the Court, Plaintiff filed suit anonymously, bringing claims for: (1) violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, (2) fraud in the inducement, (3) breach of contract, (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress, (5) tortious interference, (6) conspiracy, and (7) breach of implied warranties.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Defendants moved to dismiss the claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). At all points, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove that subject-matter jurisdiction exists for his or her claims. Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001). A court should grant such a motion “only if it appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle plaintiff to relief.” Id. (citing Home Builders Ass'n of Miss., Inc. v. City of Madison, Miss., 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998)).

         In this case the Plaintiff has alleged a federal question, which provides this Court subject matter jurisdiction. Notwithstanding the federal question, Defendants argue that no subject matter jurisdiction exists because Plaintiff has brought this suit seeking anonymity. The Court finds unpersuasive Defendants' attempts to link its anonymity argument with its jurisdictional motion. If the Court here decided anonymity were proper, it would be peculiar for that very anonymity to also divest this Court of subject matter jurisdiction. Indeed, Defendants cite no authority from this Circuit-nor can the Court identify any-holding that a plaintiff's improper anonymity is grounds for a dismissal due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

         The only authority Defendants cite to justify such a dismissal does not, in fact, support Defendants' position. See docket no. 5 at 2 (citing Doe v. Bush, SA-04-CA-1186, 2005 WL 2708754, at *5 (W.D. Tex. Aug. 17, 2005)). In that case, the Magistrate Judge first acknowledged it had jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, but then confusingly recommended dismissal on subject matter jurisdiction grounds because the court's deadline for amending the plaintiff's complaint had passed and because “[p]laintiff has already been afforded sufficient time to consider whether she will identify herself” given the plaintiff's motion to proceed anonymously and request for reconsideration. Id. And crucially, the district court thereafter decided it “will not dismiss plaintiff's claims on the ground that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's claims on the grounds they have been brought anonymously.” Sims v. Bush, SA-04-CA-1186, 2005 WL 3337501, at *3 (W.D. Tex. Sept. 6, 2005).

         Accordingly, the Court DENIES Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because this Court does indeed have jurisdiction, specifically under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (Plaintiff's Rehabilitation Act claim) and § 1367 (related state-law claims). Plaintiff's anonymity is a distinct-and important-question, to which the Court now turns.

         II. ...


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