Judge denies WVU’s motion to dismiss Title IX suit

By Kyla Asbury | Dec 16, 2016

CLARKSBURG – District Judge Irene Keeley has denied West Virginia University’s motion to dismiss in a Title IX lawsuit.

The court conducted a scheduling conference on Dec. 8, during which it addressed the motion to dismiss filed by West Virginia University. The court denied the motion.

Since the parties stated their intention to engage in early mediation, the court ordered early discover to close on March 31 and scheduled a status conference for April 21 to discuss the early mediation and to further schedule the case.

WVU filed the motion to dismiss on Nov. 4, stating that the plaintiff’s complaint does not contain the requisite allegation under West Virginia law limiting recovery on her claims to the applicable insurance coverage and her reliance on non-binding authority to cure that defect is unpersuasive and misplaced.

“Plaintiff’s Complaint makes evident that she is not seeking funds solely from WVU’s insurance coverage. Therefore, WVU enjoys sovereign immunity from Plaintiff’s common-law claims and they must be dismissed,” the motion to dismiss states.

The lawsuit was filed on July 8 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.

On April 13, 2014, Bianca N. Saporito was a student at WVU and was sexually assaulted by another student at a home in Morgantown. She met with the Morgantown Police Department and reported that her assailant raped her in a bathroom at the residence and gave a videotaped statement regarding the assault to MPD.

The next day, WVU DEI Investigator Peggy Runyon spoke with the MPD detective assigned to the plaintiff’s sexual assault investigation and the assailant was arrested by MPD on April 17, 2014, according to the suit.

Saporito claims on April 22, 2014, Runyon interviewed her regarding the sexual assault and a second interview occurred on May 9, 2014. A third interview occurred on May 27, 2014.

During the third interview, Runyon attempted to dissuade Saporito from proceeding with a WVU expulsion hearing to be held for the assailant before a WVU Student Conduct Board, according to the suit.

Saporito claims on May 29, 2014, Runyon spoke with the MPD detective assigned to the sexual assault and viewed the plaintiff’s video statement on June 4, 2014.

On June 5, 2014, Saporito’s assailant e-mailed WVU’s Office of Student Conduct, stating that he had heard from his lawyer that the school investigator concluded that he was innocent. On July 7, 2014, Saporito was notified that an expulsion hearing would be held at 9 a.m. the next morning.

On July 8, 2014, Runyon produced her report, stating that she believed that Saporito consented to sexual events and that the assailant stopped his sexual advances once Saporito told him to stop, among other damaging misinformation regarding Saporito, according to the suit.

Saporito claims Runyon further found in her report that the plaintiff’s “actions and inactions prior to her rape demonstrated ‘silence with activity and meets the consent definition for Title IX cases.’”

Runyon did not provide the WVU Student Conduct Board with the MPD videotaped statement of Saporito and did not produce the MPD report and the detective assigned to Saporito’s case was not asked to testify at the expulsion hearing, according to the suit.

Saporito claims she testified at the hearing, as did her assailant, and the board found that the assailalnt was “not responsible” for sexual misconduct and he was allowed to remain a student at WVU.

On July 17, 2014, Saporito e-mailed the Assistant Dean of Students at WVU’s Student Conduct Office and stated her reasons for her appeal of the finding, according to the suit.

Saporito claims she was forced to withdraw from WVU because she was being directly exposed to her assailant.

On Jan. 6, the assailant entered into a plea agreement with the state, through the Monongalia County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, in which he pled guilty to battery and unlawful restraint, according to the suit.

Saporito is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. She is being represented by Bader C. Giggenbach of Brewer & Giggenbach; and Robert G. McCoid of McCamic, Sacco & McCoid PLLC.

WVU is represented by Benjamin Bailey, Michael B. Hissam and Mary Pat Statler of Bailey & Glasser LLP.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia case number: 1:16-cv-00152

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U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia Clarksburg Division West Virginia University

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