United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division
DAVID BRENT TRAVIS as father and next friend of C.T., a minor Plaintiff,
CAYNE STOCKSTILL, K.S., a minor, RICHARD IMHOFF, CODY STOGNER, KENT KIRKLAND, WALT ESSLINGER, PICAYUNE SCHOOL DISTRICT, a/k/a PICAYUNE MEMORIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, and JOHN DOES 1-10 Defendants,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PICAYUNE SCHOOL DISTRICT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AS TO PLAINTIFF'S FEDERAL LAW CLAIMS AND REMANDING CASE TO STATE COURT
HALIL SULEYMAN OZERDEN, District Judge.
BEFORE THE COURT is Defendant Picayune School District's Motion for Summary Judgment  seeking judgment as a matter of law as to each claim asserted against it under federal law. Plaintiff David Brent Travis, as father and next friend of C.T., has filed a Response , and Defendant Picayune School District has filed a Reply . Having considered the parties' submissions, the record, and relevant legal authorities, the Court is of the opinion that Defendant Picayune School District's Motion  should be granted. Plaintiff's federal claims against Defendant Picayune School District should be dismissed with prejudice, and this case should be remanded to the Circuit Court of Pearl River County, Mississippi.
A. Factual Background
During the 2010-2011 school year, C.T. was a freshman member of the junior varsity baseball team at Picayune Memorial High School ("PMHS"). Aff. of C.T. ¶¶1, 8 [90-3]. Defendant Cayne Stockstill was the head coach of PMHS's baseball teams during that time. Aff. of Cayne Stockstill ¶3 [86-2]. Defendants Richard Imhoff and Cody Stogner were assistant coaches. Aff. of C.T. ¶6 [90-3]; Aff. of Cody Stogner ¶2 [47-3]. Defendant K.S. was an upper-class member of PMHS's varsity baseball team. Second Am. Compl. 4 .
On January 29, 2011, an incident occurred between K.S. and C.T. Aff. of Cayne Stockstill ¶4 [86-2]. According to Plaintiff, K.S. intentionally and violently punched C.T. in the ribs causing injuries to C.T. Second Am. Compl. 4 . Stockstill was not in the locker room when the incident occurred but was later told about the incident. Aff. of Cayne Stockstill ¶¶4-5 [86-2]. Stockstill "conducted an investigation and interviewed several members of the baseball team" and received conflicting reports as to what transpired between K.S. and C.T. Id. at ¶6. Stockstill recalls being told that K.S. and C.T. may have had a dispute at the water fountain or may have been horsing around. Id. Stockstill subsequently held a team meeting in which he instructed the team members to keep their hands to themselves. Id. at ¶7. Stockstill recalls suspending K.S. for one game, making him run additional laps during practice, and instructing him to stay away from C.T. Id. Other than the January 29, 2011, incident, C.T. did not report to Stockstill that C.T. was being harassed by K.S. or any member of the baseball team. Id. at ¶9. Plaintiff nevertheless claims that K.S. "continued taunting and verbally harassing C.T. for the remainder of the season." Second Am. Compl. 4 .
According to C.T., freshmen on PMHS's baseball teams were routinely subjected to hazing and physical violence. Aff. of C.T. ¶¶3-8 [90-3]. Freshmen would be punched in the chest prior to games, pushed and harassed on their birthdays, and singled out by upper-class members of the team for hazing. Id. Prior to his freshman year, C.T. had heard of "whistle day" which involved freshmen players being singled out and hazed by the upper-classmen while coaches were present, but C.T. does not state that he ever experienced a "whistle day" himself. Id. at ¶8; Aff. of Justin Pigott ¶7 [90-1]; Aff. of Micah Hickman ¶¶7-8 [90-2]. C.T. believes that the baseball coaches "had to know about the hitting and hazing" given the way the coaches talked and the comments they made about freshmen, but claims the coaches "never did anything to stop the hazing, harassment, or assaults." Aff. of C.T. ¶¶9-10 [90-3].
B. Procedural Background
On January 27, 2012, Plaintiff David Brent Travis, as father and next friend of C.T. ("Plaintiff"), sued Defendants in the Circuit Court of Pearl River County, Mississippi. Compl. 1 [2-2]. Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint on May 11, 2012, and Defendants removed the case to this Court on May 31, 2012. Notice of Removal 1 . Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint  on October 9, 2012, in which he asserts pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 a substantive due process violation, an equal protection violation, and a Fourth Amendment violation. Second Am. Compl. 8-11 . Plaintiff also asserts claims of negligence, gross negligence, assault and battery, infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy, and negligent supervision under Mississippi law. Id. at 5-8.
On October 12, 2012, Stockstill, Imhoff, Stogner, Kirkland, and Esslinger ("the Individual Defendants") filed their Motion for Qualified Immunity . This Court granted the Motion , finding that Plaintiff had "not alleged sufficient facts to state a constitutional violation in order to succeed on his claims" against the Individual Defendants in their individual capacities. Mem. Op. and Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defs.' Mot. for Qualified Immunity and to Dismiss State Law Claims 7-8 . The Court concluded that the Individual Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity and granted the Motion , but declined to dismiss Plaintiff's state law claims. Id. at 14.
Defendant Picayune School District ("the District") now moves for summary judgment as to Plaintiff's remaining federal claims. Mem. Br. in Supp. of Picayune School District's Mot. for Summ. J. 3 . The District primarily reasons that the Court's previous conclusion that the alleged assault upon Plaintiff was committed by a private actor precludes Plaintiff from establishing the requisite constitutional violation such that Plaintiff's § 1983 claims fail as a matter of law. Id. at 7-9.
In Response , Plaintiff argues that the District knew of but did nothing to stop the series of events which led to the hazing of freshmen baseball players at PMHS, including Plaintiff. Resp. in Opp'n 5-7 . Plaintiff contends that the alleged hazing violated his Fourteenth Amendment "right to be free from state occasioned damage to his bodily integrity" because it was "clearly arbitrary and conscious-shocking...." Id. at 7-8. Plaintiff claims that the District's student handbook created a "special relationship" with Plaintiff. Id. at 9. Plaintiff posits that the District created a dangerous situation by allowing and encouraging the alleged hazing. Id. at 10-12. Plaintiff also asserts that the allegations in the Second Amended Complaint establish that the District had a policy or custom of hazing freshmen baseball players such as C.T. Id. at 12-13.
A. Legal ...