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Kesterson v. Kent State University

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

February 12, 2018

LAUREN KESTERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
KENT STATE UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants.

          JUDGE SARA LIOI

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Kathleen B. Burke United States Magistrate Judge

         This case is before the undersigned on a discovery dispute.[1] Plaintiff Lauren Kesterson (“Kesterson”) seeks discovery from Defendant Kent State University (“KSU”) regarding KSU's handling, including investigation, of all reports of sexual harassment, discrimination, or assault made by persons other than Plaintiff at KSU's main campus during the 5-year period beginning August 2010.[2]

         Kesterson argues that the discovery is relevant to her claim against KSU under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq., which is Claim 1 of her First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). Claim 1 alleges that KSU acted improperly and in violation of Title IX in the manner in which it responded to reports Kesterson made in 2014 and 2015 regarding a sexual assault against her that occurred in 2012; Claim 1 does not allege that KSU is liable for the underlying 2012 assault.

         KSU objects to the discovery, arguing that it is not relevant to Claim 1, that it would violate the privacy expectations of other students and employees, and that it is overly burdensome. Doc. 83, p. 2.

         As is explained below, neither Claim 1 nor the case law cited by Kesterson supports the discovery she seeks. Accordingly, the undersigned finds that she is not entitled to that discovery.

         I. The First Amended Complaint

         A. The FAC's Factual Allegations

         Kesterson's First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) (Doc. 20) alleges that she is a former member of the varsity softball team at KSU, which was coached by Defendant Karen Linder (“Linder”). She alleges that, in December 2012, she was raped by Linder's son. Doc. 20, p. 6, ¶¶27-34.

         In mid-May 2014, Kesterson reported the rape to Linder. Id., pp. 9-10, ¶¶56-63. Following Kesterson's report to Linder, Linder violated a number of KSU's policies by failing to report the assault to KSU's Title IX coordinator. Linder also failed to take any steps to address the assault; all she did was instruct Kesterson not to tell anyone about it. Id., p. 13, ¶¶80, 83.

         On August 24, 2015, Kesterson met with KSU's Deputy Coordinator for Title IX and signed a Title IX complaint against Linder. Id., p. 19, ¶¶113-116. Four days later, Linder resigned from KSU. Id., p. 21, ¶127. On January 8, 2016, after being contacted by Kesterson's attorney, KSU issued a report on its investigation of Kesterson's complaint. Id., p. 31, ¶188.

         B. Claim 1 of the FAC

         Claim 1 of the FAC is captioned “Sex discrimination including retaliation against Kent State University under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681- 1688.” Doc. 20, p. 35. Claim 1 alleges that Kesterson's report to Linder in May 2014 gave KSU actual notice of the sexual assault against Kesterson (id., p., 36, ¶221) and that Kesterson's report to the Title IX Deputy Coordinator in August 2015 gave KSU actual knowledge of Linder's discriminatory conduct in covering up Kesterson's complaint about the rape. Id., p. 38, ¶247. Claim 1 asserts that KSU “was deliberately indifferent to the sex-based harassment that Ms. Kesterson reported” to Linder and the Title IX Deputy Coordinator and that KSU “acted with gender-based discriminatory intent in failing to respond to her complaints including taking adequate steps to prevent retaliation.” Id., p. 40, ¶¶ 269, 271.

         II. ...


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