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Choi v. Reed Institute

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

February 4, 2019

ANDREW CHOI, Plaintiff,
REED INSTITUTE, doing business as REED COLLEGE; and MARIELA L. SZWARCBERG DABY, individually, Defendants.



         This matter comes before me on Defendant Reed College's (“Reed” or the “College”) Motion for Summary Judgment. I heard oral argument on the Motion on November 30, 2018. After careful consideration, I GRANT Reed's Motion [62] and dismiss Plaintiff Andrew Choi's (“Choi”) claims with prejudice.


         Choi enrolled in Reed's four-year bachelor degree program in 2009. [49 at ¶ 5]. Choi is disabled due to Attention Deficit Disorder (“ADD”). [Id. at ¶¶16, 18]. Shortly after he started at Reed, Choi formally requested accommodations due to his ADD-related disability from the College's Disability Support Services (“DSS”) office. [Id.]. Choi provided the DSS office with medical records establishing his ADD diagnosis and explained that he would “from time to time” need disability related accommodations like extra time for exams and to complete assignments. [Id. at ¶ 16]. Each semester that Choi attended Reed, he provided the DSS office with medical documentation of his ADD diagnosis and requested accommodation for his ADD-related disability. [Id. at ¶ 18; 63-1 at 110:15-111:1].

         In 2012, when Choi was a student in one of political science professor Mariela Szwarcberg Daby's seminars, he went to her house for a party and they had sex. [49, ¶¶ 35, 41, 44]. Weeks later, Daby became Choi's thesis advisor. [Id. at 46]. Daby and Choi had sex again in the summer of 2013. [Id. at ¶¶ 47-48].

         During the summer of 2013, Choi and Daby worked together to apply for the Alta S. Corbett Grant for Research. [49 at ¶ 128]. Daby planned to use the Corbett Grant to write a book about voting, and Choi hoped to earn a publishing credit as her research and writing assistant. [Id. at ¶¶ 130, 129]. Even though Choi provided original content, Daby did not acknowledge his contributions. [ ¶¶ 136, 139, 142-143].

         In early September 2013, Daby ended her sexual relationship with Choi but told him she would remain his thesis advisor. [49 at ¶¶ 49-53]. Around the time their sexual relationship ended, Choi complained to political science professor Darius Rejali (“Rejali”) that he had interpersonal difficulties working with Daby and expressed concerns about his ability to complete his thesis with Daby as his advisor. [Id.]. Rejali reported Choi's concerns to the Dean of Faculty Nigel Nicholson (“Nicholson”). He also suggested Choi tell Paul Gronke, another political science professor who Choi had chosen to serve on his thesis panel, about Daby. [Id. at ¶¶ 58-59]. Choi met with Gronke. [Id. at ¶ 61]. When complaining about Daby, Choi did not tell Rejali, Gronke, or anyone else about their sexual relationship. [63-1 at pp. 101:14-25, 103:16]. Neither Nicholson nor Gronke responded to Choi's fall 2013 complaints about Daby. [49 at ¶¶ 60, 62].

         Choi delivered a final draft of his thesis by the December 10, 2013, due date. [49. at ¶ 70]. Daby signed off on the draft. Choi was scheduled to defend his thesis in an oral exam on December 12, 2019. [Id. at ¶ 71]. Choi, however, did not attend his oral exam due to a severe nosebleed, which he described as a “medical emergency” related to his hemorrhagic telangiectasia, another disabling condition from which Choi suffered. [Id. at ¶¶ 72, 76, 78]. Daby did not reschedule Choi's oral examination. [Id. at ¶ 77]. Instead, she sent him an email revoking her sign off on his thesis, telling him he would not be able to graduate because he did not defend his thesis, and urging him to think of this as “an opportunity to improve his thesis.” [Id. at ¶ 83].

         Subsequently, Choi received conflicting information about the deadline for submitting the second draft of his thesis. Daby told him January 22, 2014, and Marc Fowler, Reed's thesis advisor, told him January 27, 2014. [49 at ¶¶ 91-92]. When Choi attempted to turn in his thesis on January 27, 2014, Reed's Registrar Nora McLaughlin (“McLaughlin”) told him that she could not accept his draft because he had missed the deadline. [Id. at ¶¶94, 95]. McLaughlin told him he had failed his thesis and would not graduate. [Id.]. On the same day, Gronke rejected a paper for his “PS 333 class” that Gronke had given Choi an extension to complete because the paper was “a couple hours late.” [Id. at ¶ 98].

         Choi continued to communicate with various employees and administrators at Reed to request accommodations for his thesis and PS 333 class well into 2014. In April 2014, Choi's father emailed administrators at Reed about the lack of response to Choi's requests, “regardless of . . . Andrew not being a student at this time.” [49 at ¶ 105]. Reed did not open any investigation in response to Choi's father's email. [Id. at ¶ 106]. In an early April 2014 email Rajali told Choi that the faculty code indicated Choi could complete his degree by returning to Reed for one semester and submitting another thesis on a new topic. [Id. at ¶ 110]. Choi choose not to return to Reed in 2014 to submit another thesis. [ ¶ 113].


         Summary judgment is proper “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The initial burden for a motion for summary judgment is on the moving party to identify the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once that burden is satisfied, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to demonstrate, through the production of evidence, that there remains a “genuine issue for trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. The non-moving party may not rely upon the pleading allegations, Brinson v. Linda Rose Joint Venture, 53 F.3d 1044, 1049 (9th Cir. 1995) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P 56(e)), or “unsupported conjecture or conclusory statements, ” Hernandez v. Spacelabs Med. Inc., 343 F.3d 1107, 1112 (9th Cir. 2003). All reasonable doubts and inferences to be drawn from the facts are to be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

         In Oregon, “[t]o state a breach of contract claim, [a] plaintiff must allege the existence of a contract, ‘its relevant terms, plaintiff's full performance and lack of breach, and defendant's breach resulting in damage to plaintiff.'” Slover v. Oregon State Bd. of Clinical Social Workers, 144 Or.App. 565, 570-71 (1996) (citing Fleming v. Kids and Kin Head Start, 71 Or.App. 718, 721 (1985). Unjust enrichment is an equitable remedy. Comcast of Or. II, Inc. v. City of Eugene, 346 Or. 238, 253, 209 P.3d 800, (2009). The “generally accepted test which determines whether a ...

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