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Cherry v. Clark County School District

United States District Court, D. Nevada

April 22, 2014

DAVID CHERRY, et al., Plaintiff(s),


JAMES C. MAHAN, District Judge.

Presently before the court is defendants' renewed motion for summary judgment. (Doc. # 95). Plaintiffs have filed a response (doc. # 99) and defendants have filed a reply (doc. # 101).

I. Background

The facts of this case have been extensively detailed in prior orders. ( See, e.g., order doc. # 88). Only those facts necessary to the resolution of the instant motion will be revisited.

The plaintiffs in this case are Alexandria and David Cherry. They are the parents of Jacob Cherry. Jacob is autistic, non-verbal, and is eligible for special education and related services. Alexandria and David bring this lawsuit as individuals and as guardians ad litem of Jacob.

The defendants in this case are Clark County School District ("CCSD"), Susan M. Smith, and Sandra A. Piilo. Smith is the principal at Twitchell Elementary School. Piilo is a special education teacher at Twitchell. CCSD employs both Smith and Piilo....

The crux of the lawsuit involves the accommodations that CCSD provided (or failed to provide) for Jacob, as well as claims for various related state torts.

The amended complaint initially contained ten claims for relief. ( See doc. # 18). In its July 22, 2013, order, the court granted in part and denied in part defendants' motion for summary judgment. ( See doc. # 88). The court ordered supplemental briefing on whether plaintiffs had administratively exhausted certain IDEA related claims, and what the status of the claims seeking non-IDEA relief were if exhaustion had occurred. After considering the supplemental briefs, the court dismissed those claims that had not been exhausted, and permitted only the non-IDEA claims to proceed. ( See doc. # 92).

The following claims remain: (1) the sixth cause of action alleging violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000d; (2) seventh cause of action alleging defamation;

(3) eighth cause of action alleging invasion of privacy/false light; (4) ninth cause of action alleging negligent infliction of emotional distress; and (5) tenth cause of action alleging negligent supervision. Defendants have filed the instant motion seeking summary judgment on each remaining claim.

II. Legal Standard

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary adjudication when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A principal purpose of summary judgment is "to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986).

In determining summary judgment, a court applies a burden-shifting analysis. "When the party moving for summary judgment would bear the burden of proof at trial, it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial. In such a case, the moving party has the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of fact on each issue material to its case." C.A.R. Transp. Brokerage Co. v. Darden Rests., Inc., 213 F.3d 474, 480 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted).

In contrast, when the nonmoving party bears the burden of proving the claim or defense, the moving party can meet its burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence to negate an essential element of the nonmoving party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element essential to that party's case on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323-24. If the moving party fails to meet its initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the nonmoving party's evidence. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 159-60 (1970).

If the moving party satisfies its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue of material fact exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that "the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. P. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 631 (9th Cir. 1987).

In other words, the nonmoving party cannot avoid summary judgment by relying solely on conclusory allegations that are unsupported by factual data. See Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). Instead, the opposition must go beyond the assertions and allegations of the pleadings and set forth specific facts by producing competent evidence that shows a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324.

At summary judgment, a court's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The evidence of the nonmovant is "to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Id. at 255. But if the evidence of the nonmoving party is merely colorable or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. See id. at 249-50....

III. Discussion

The court will address each claim in the manner most convenient for it, beginning with the seventh claim for defamation as it sets the backdrop for the remaining claims.

1. Defamation

The general elements of a defamation claim require a plaintiff to prove: "(1) a false and defamatory statement by [a] defendant concerning the plaintiff; (2) an unprivileged publication to a third person; (3) fault, amounting to at least negligence; and (4) actual or presumed damages. ...

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