In July 2007, a special education student who was sexually assaulted and harassed by other students sued the Board of Education for the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools ("MNPS") in Tennessee state court. The plaintiff later added Genesis Learning Center, the school he attended, as a defendant. The plaintiff, represented by private counsel, asked the court for punitive damages and attorneys' fees, claiming that the defendants violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Tennessee state law due to their deliberate indifference towards the plaintiff's special needs and the harassment he experienced; failure to train and supervise bus drivers; retaliation against the plaintiff based on his exercise of constitutional and statutory rights; breach of special custodial arrangement; a state-created danger; and violation of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Finally, the plaintiff claimed that the defendants' failure to properly perform their respective duties to provide plaintiff as a disabled student with appropriate transportation, violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and their indifference to sexual conduct based on the plaintiff's sex violated Title IX, 20 U.S.C. § 1681.
The case was removed to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee on August 2, 2007. In his complaint, the plaintiff sought class certification on behalf of similarly situated special education students, but this request was denied on April 1, 2008 (Judge Robert L. Echols). On September 14, 2007, the Board of Education was dismissed from the action and replaced with the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County ("Metro").
After almost a year of discovery, the United States moved to intervene on behalf of the plaintiff on September 10, 2008 and the Court (Magistrate Judge Juliet E. Griffin) granted the motion on November 4. See Lopez v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville & Davidson Cnty., No. 3-07-0799, 2008 WL4831318, at *1 (M.D. Tenn. Nov. 4, 2008).
On January 15, 2009, all parties cross-moved for summary judgment. On July 7, 2009, the Court (Judge Robert L. Echols) denied the plaintiffs' motions for summary judgment. Lopez v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville & Davidson Cnty., 646 F. Supp. 2d 891, 922 (M.D. Tenn. 2009). The Court also denied in part and granted in part the defendants' motions for summary judgment. See id. The Court granted Genesis' Motion regarding plaintiff's § 1983, Americans With Disabilities Act, and Rehabilitation Act claims, leaving plaintiff's Title IX and state negligence claims standing against them. See id. As for Metro, the Court granted its motion regarding plaintiff's Equal Protection, failure to train, ADA, and Rehabilitation Act claims, but denied the motion in regard to plaintiff's state law negligence and state-created danger claims under § 1983, and his Title IX claims. See id.
On February 9, 2010, the Court entered a consent decree and settlement negotiated between the United States and Metro, dismissing Metro from the case. The decree required Metro, overseen by the United States, to eliminate unreasonable risks of sexual harassment to students with disabilities attending MNPS schools and to establish reporting requirements and bus monitors. The settlement required Metro to pay the plaintiff $1,475,000, attorneys' fees amounting to $85,618.13; a contribution of no more than $139,539.18 to the plaintiff's insurance company; and $25,000 to the plaintiff's mother for travel and time spent away from work. On February 23, 2010, the United States was dismissed from the case, as its claims were dealt with in the decree.
After continued discovery, Genesis and the plaintiff went to trial, and the jury returned a judgment in favor of Genesis on March 17, 2010. On June 3, 2010, Genesis' motion for costs was dismissed without prejudice, and their motion for attorney's fees was denied. The Court also denied the plaintiff's motion for a new trial and his motion for oral argument.
On June 16, 2010, the plaintiff appealed the court's order granting the defendant's motion for summary judgment (July 7, 2009) and the court's order denying plaintiff's motion for new trial (June 3, 2010) to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. On June 30, 2010, Genesis cross-appealed. On July 12, 2010, the Court taxed costs against the plaintiff in favor of Genesis for $10,263.06.
On September 7, 2010, the case was remanded from the Court of Appeals to the District Court, based on an agreement reached in the parties' settlement discussions. On September 8, the Court (Judge Juliet E. Griffin) entered the parties' settlement, which required Genesis to pay the plaintiff $25,000 and for the parties' appeals to be dismissed with prejudice. On November 15, 2010, the Court dismissed the case with prejudice, constituting the final judgment in the case.Stella Cernak - 03/23/2014