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Profita v. Regents of University of Colorado

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 15, 2017

THE REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO, THE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO HEALTH SCIENCES CENTER, a/k/a University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus, JOHN J. REILLY, JR, M.D. in his official capacity as Dean of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Defendants.


          R. Brooke Jackson United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on defendants' motion to dismiss. ECF No. 18. For the reasons below, the Court GRANTS that motion and dismisses plaintiff Taylor Profita's suit with prejudice.

         I. FACTS

         Plaintiff Taylor Profita is a former student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine (“the University”). Compl., ECF No. 13, at ¶13. By all indications, prior to the events giving rise to this suit, Mr. Profita was a successful student. Id. at ¶¶14-15. However, in the fall of 2011 plaintiff was placed on academic probation after failing two clinical rotations in what was his fourth year of study.[1] Id. at ¶¶18-20. He alleges that the reason for his failing these two courses was worsening depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances. Id. at ¶17. These conditions appear to be a result of what plaintiff alleges is underlying Major Depressive Disorder (“MDD”), Unspecified Anxiety Disorder (“UAD”), chronic insomnia/sleep apnea, and hypothyroidism. Id. at ¶9.

         After failing those rotations, plaintiff received a letter from the University explaining to him that he could return to the school in academic good standing if he retook and passed those courses. Id. at ¶21. However, the letter also notified plaintiff that the school's Student Promotions Committee had voted to require him to undergo an evaluation by the Colorado Physicians Health Program prior to his return. Id. at ¶24. Plaintiff subsequently received a psychiatric evaluation per the University's request, which found that plaintiff has “symptoms that would suggest a mood syndrome . . . disabling anxiety disorder . . . [and] psychotic disorder.” Id. at ¶25.

         Plaintiff denies these symptoms. See, e.g., ¶¶27, 29. Instead, he explains that the doctor who evaluated him did not recognize or understand his previous diagnoses, including those for MDD and UAD. Id. at ¶27. In any event, after his psychiatric evaluation plaintiff resumed his studies, reenrolling in one of the two clinical rotations he had earlier failed. Id. at ¶29. He subsequently failed again. Id. After this second failure, the University dismissed plaintiff from the school for “unsatisfactory academic performance” per the school's dismissal policy. Id. at ¶33. That policy allegedly states, however, that while the final decision of dismissal for this reason resides with the Dean of the University, “exceptions may be made on the basis of particular circumstances.” Id. at ¶37.

         Plaintiff alleges that after his dismissal from school he began working on his psychological issues with professional help. Id. at ¶38. He contends that he has improved his symptoms greatly. See Id. at ¶44. Desiring the opportunity to return to school to finish his degree, plaintiff sent the University a letter in September of 2016 requesting that he be readmitted and granted credits for the work he already successfully completed. Id. at ¶39. The University denied his request. Id. at ¶52. It nevertheless notified plaintiff that it was also University policy to allow dismissed students to reapply as new students to start school afresh as first-year medical students. Id. at ¶54.

         Procedural History

         Plaintiff rejected the University's offer to reapply as a new student, choosing instead to file suit against the school, Dr. John Reilly (the school's dean), and the University regents in this Court on December 12, 2016. See generally Id. In his complaint, plaintiff alleges that by denying him the opportunity to reenroll at the University where he left off, defendants failed to “reasonably accommodate” his “disability” in violation of several provisions of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. ¶ 12132, et seq. See Id. at ¶¶55-92.[2] He asks that this Court declare that defendants violated Title II by refusing to readmit him, and subsequently enjoin them from continuing to deny him that opportunity. See Id. A few weeks after plaintiff filed suit, defendants moved to dismiss plaintiff's complaint on January 26, 2017. ECF No. 18. Defendants' motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for review.


         To survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ridge at Red Hawk, L.L.C. v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A plausible claim is a claim that “allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). While the Court must accept the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Robbins v. Wilkie, 300 F.3d 1208, 1210 (10th Cir. 2002), conclusory allegations are not entitled to be presumed true, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681. However, so long as the plaintiff offers sufficient factual allegations such that the right to relief is raised above the speculative level, he has met the threshold pleading standard. See, e.g., Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556; Bryson v. Gonzales, 534 F.3d 1282, 1286 (10th Cir. 2008).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Defendants contend that by requesting that the University readmit him as a fourth-year medical student, the relief plaintiff requested and now seeks here amounts to “excusal” for his prior poor academic performance. ECF No. 18 at 4. They subsequently argue that his claim for readmission must be dismissed because a request for such relief has been rejected as a “reasonable accommodation” by the Tenth Circuit in other ADA contexts. Id. Plaintiff responds that he is not asking for defendants to retroactively excuse his past performance. Pl.'s Resp., ECF No. 20, at 2. Rather, he argues that his request was for defendants to grant him a variance per the terms of University's dismissal policy and that, framed in this way, his relief is prospective. Id. I agree with defendants. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS defendants' motion to dismiss and dismisses the entirety of plaintiff's suit with prejudice.

         A. Title ...

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