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Brittany O v. Bentonville School District

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division

March 15, 2016

BRITTANY O, as Parent and Next Friend of L PLAINTIFF




Plaintiff Brittany O brings this action as Parent and Next Friend ("Parent") of L ("Student"), her son. Student is a child who is disabled as defined in 20 U.S.C. § 1401(3). His diagnoses include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, disruptive behavior disorder, mood disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and sensory disorder. During the 2012-13 school year, Student was enrolled at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, which is in the Bentonville School District. Parent alleges in her Amended Complaint that after District Defendants identified Student as disabled, they transferred him to a therapeutic day treatment ("TDT") center privately owned and operated by Vista Health, where Student was subjected to physical abuse and provided with an inadequate and unequal education relative to his non-disabled peers in the District. She further alleges that State Defendants enabled or encouraged District Defendants' decision to transfer Student to Vista Health's TDT center, and that Vista Health warehouses disabled students at its TDT centers and profits therefrom by billing Medicaid for their inadequate treatment and education of such students.

Parent filed her original Complaint (Doc. 1) in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas on March 5, 2014. Then, on July 16, 2014, before any pleadings responsive to the original Complaint were filed, she filed her Amended Complaint (Doc. 10). The Amended Complaint names eleven different defendants, which can be analytically sorted into three separate classes:

• the District Defendants (Bentonville School District ("District"), Michael Poore, Tanya Sharp, Brad Reed, and Amy Simpson ("Individual District Defendants"));
• the State Defendants (Arkansas Department of Education ("ADE"), Tony Wood, and Tom Kimbrell); and
• the Vista Defendants (Vista Health, Allen Morrison, and Veronica Odum).

In her Amended Complaint, Parent asserts claims for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq.; the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 ("NCLBA"), 20 U.S.C. §6301 et seq.; the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq.; the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq., and Arkansas law.

After the Amended Complaint was filed, the defendants filed various motions to dismiss and a motion to transfer venue. On January 22, 2015, Judge Leon Holmes entered an Opinion and Order (Doc. 85) that, inter alia, dismissed Vista Health without prejudice because Plaintiff failed to timely serve it with the Complaint, dismissed Plaintiff's IDEA claims as time-barred, dismissed all claims against State Defendants except the claim for prospective injunctive relief against Mr. Wood in his official capacity, and granted a transfer of venue to this district. Upon the case being reassigned, this Court scheduled a hearing to further clarify the remaining claims- which were then summarized, without objection, in the Order that followed (Doc. 94). On March 12, 2015, this Court entered an Order (Doc. 93) dismissing Mr. Morrison without prejudice because Plaintiff failed to timely serve him with the Amended Complaint. On December 22, 2015, this Court entered an Order (Doc. 114) granting Plaintiff a voluntary dismissal of Ms. Odum with prejudice. On that same day, this Court entered an Order (Doc. 115) substituting the current Commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Education, Johnny Key, as the sole remaining State Defendant.

Mr. Key's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 116) was filed on December 30, 2015. On the following day, the District Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 119), and Plaintiff filed a Motion for Reconsideration (Doc. 126) and a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 122). All four Motions have been fully briefed and are now ripe for decision.


A. Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration

Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b), Plaintiff asks this Court to reconsider Judge Holmes's January 22, 2015 ruling that her IDEA claims are time-barred. Judge Holmes ruled that under 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2) and Ark. Code Ann. § 6-41-216(g), "a party aggrieved by a decision of a hearing officer in an IDEA case must seek review in court within ninety days from the date that the hearing officer's decision is rendered, " (Doc. 85, p. 7), and found that Plaintiff's IDEA claims were untimely since the hearing officer's decision in her IDEA case was dated November 25, 2013, and Plaintiff's original Complaint in this case was filed on March 5, 2014, see Id. at 8. See also Id. at 12-13 (ruling that the 90-day limitation for review of IDEA administrative decisions also applies to civil actions seeking attorney's fees and costs from such administrative decisions since the IDEA issues are intertwined) (citing Williams v. Cnty. of Dakota, Neb., 687 F.3d 1064, 1069 (8th Cir. 2012)).

Rule 60(b) states, in relevant part, that "the court may relieve a party . . . from a final judgment, [or] order, ... for the following reasons: (1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; ... (3) fraud (whether previously called intrinsic or extrinsic), misrepresentation, or misconduct by an opposing party; ... or (6) any other reason that justifies relief." Rule 60(b) relief "is an extraordinary remedy, " and should be granted "only when exceptional circumstances prevented a party from seeking redress through the usual channels." NucorCorp v. Neb, Pub. Power Dist, 999 F.2d 372, 374 (8th Cir, 1993). For example, "[a] court may recognize subsequent changes in either statutory or ...

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