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Roe v. St. Louis University

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

March 25, 2014

Joan Roe, Plaintiff - Appellant
St. Louis University, Defendant - Appellee Mary Roe; John Roe, Plaintiffs Sigma Tau Gamma Epsilon Xi Chapter; Sigma Tau Gamma Fraternity, Inc., Defendants; National Women's Law Center, Amicus on Behalf of Appellant

Submitted January 16, 2014.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - St. Louis.

For Joan Roe, Plaintiff - Appellant: David J. Fraser, Law Office of David J. Fraser, Trabuco Canyon, CA.

For St. Louis University, Defendant - Appellee: Debbie S. Champion, Victor H. Essen II, Rynearson & Suess, Saint Louis, MO; Sarah Elizabeth Mullen, Neal Frederick Perryman, Lewis & Rice, Saint Louis, MO.

For Sigma Tau Gamma Epsilon Xi Chapter, Sigma Tau Gamma Fraternity, Inc., Defendants: David Zachary Hoffman, Mary Anne Mellow, Sandberg & Phoenix, Saint Louis, MO.

For National Women's Law Center, Amicus on Behalf of Appellant(s): Neena Chaudhry, Fatima Goss Graves, National Women's Law Center, Washington, DC.

Before LOKEN, MURPHY, and COLLOTON, Circuit Judges.


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MURPHY, Circuit Judge.

Joan Roe[1] a student athlete recruited for the field hockey team at Saint Louis University, and her parents brought this case under Title IX, a federal statute banning discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded educational programs, and Missouri state law. Roe claims deliberate indifference by the University to her rape by another student and state law violations including breach of contract, misrepresentation, and negligence following a back injury she received in training.[2] The district court[3] granted summary judgment to the University, and Roe appeals. We affirm.


In reviewing a summary judgment, we take all facts in the light most favorable to the nonmovant who in this case is

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Joan Roe. Argenyi v. Creighton Univ., 703 F.3d 441, 446 (8th Cir. 2013). Roe arrived at Saint Louis University to begin her freshman year of college in August 2006. She had played as a goal keeper on her high school field hockey team and was recruited by the University's intercollegiate team and received a partial scholarship. Roe has stated that she chose to attend Saint Louis University based on her favorable impressions of its athletic programs, educational opportunities, and positive environment.

Roe arrived in St. Louis in August 2006 for preseason training. She began as a second line goal keeper but hoped to move up to starter. After the season began, she injured her back, an injury she first noticed after a hockey practice in late September. Her injury was aggravated by subsequent practices and particularly by a weightlifting trial on October 26. Dr. D. Thomas Rogers, a physician who treated her after she left the University, testified by deposition that the weightlifting trial had further herniated a disc in Roe's low back.

Near the end of October Roe received disappointing midterm grades: 1 C-, 1 D, and 3 Fs. Roe's academic advisor, Peggy Dotson, believed that her low grades were partly due to the demanding field hockey schedule. Roe also experienced other difficulties. Earlier in October she had been accused of plagiarizing a speech in one of her courses. The Athletic Department's academic services coordinator, Mary Clark, contacted Roe about her midterm grades and suggested university resources which could help her improve. These potential resources included a tutor, contacts with her professors, and study arrangements. Roe met with Clark who assisted her in finding a tutor for a geography class. The Athletic Department also arranged for weekly meetings with Roe, a weekly task list from Clark, structured study hall time, and random checks on her class attendance. Meanwhile, Mary Roe had become concerned about her daughter and contacted academic advisor Peggy Dotson who provided her with names and contact information for Joan's professors.

Because of her low grades, Roe was not permitted to travel with the field hockey team to a game in Virginia the weekend of October 26. That same weekend, Roe attended a Halloween costume party on Friday, October 27 at an off campus apartment building. Three students lived in the apartment, two of whom were members of the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity's Epilson Xi chapter. The party was not an official fraternity event, however, and was attended by other students. One guest later estimated that almost one hundred people were there while another thought there were up to two hundred.

Roe says she was raped during the Halloween party in a stairwell near the entrance to the hosts' apartment. While she is unable to remember all that happened, she later told the St. Louis police that she had been socializing with a male student whom she identified by name. He was a fraternity pledge who had been dressed in a blue Smurf costume on the night of the party. Other party attendees told the police they had seen Roe and that student dancing together; one witness described seeing them kissing in the stairwell. Both Roe and the male student admitted to drinking alcohol that night. Roe stated that she had started drinking earlier in the evening while watching a baseball game with friends in the dormitory and continued to drink at the party. The male student told the ...

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