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WOODS v. NEW JERSEY DEPT. OF EDUC.

June 17, 1992

DONALD WOODS and DIANE WOODS, on behalf of their daughter T.W., Plaintiffs,
v.
NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION; NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, DIVISION OF DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES; NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, DIVISION OF YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES; MONROE TOWNSHIP BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: STANLEY S. BROTMAN

 BROTMAN, District Judge.

 Presently before the court are the following motions: 1) the motion of the Woods for default judgment and for partial summary judgment against the defendant New Jersey Department of Education ("NJDOE"); 2) the cross motion of defendants NJDOE, New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Youth and Family Services ("DYFS") and Division of Developmental Disabilities ("DDD") for summary judgment; and 3) the cross motion of defendant Monroe Township Board of Education ("Monroe School Board") to dismiss.

 I. FACTS AND PROCEDURE

 T.W., age nineteen, has a range of disabilities including communication and learning problems and emotional problems indicative of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In September, 1990, the Woods requested a Due Process hearing with the NJDOE to challenge the Monroe School Board's decision to place T.W. in a daytime education facility, the Hampton School in Burlington County, New Jersey, while she resided with her parents. The Woods wanted to have their daughter placed in a residential education facility. On September 27, 1991, NJDOE requested that the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") to conduct & hearing.

 After several prehearing conferences and several days of testimony before the ALJ on the issue of whether a residential placement was educationally necessary for T.W., the Woods entered into a Stipulation of Settlement with the Monroe School Board on April 1, 1991. By its terms, the Monroe School Board agreed to place T.W. at a residential education facility, the Pathway School, located in Jeffersonville, Pennsylvania, for a period of nine months, until January 1, 1992. In consideration of the Woods agreeing to make no further demands for placement or compensatory education from the Monroe School Board, the Monroe School Board agreed to pay for the costs of the Pathway School for nine months. *fn1" The ALJ approved the Stipulation of Settlement on May 9, 1991, stated that the settlement was voluntary, fully disposes of all issues in controversy and is consistent with the law. The ALJ ordered that the parties comply with its terms and also held that his decision approving the Stipulation of Settlement is final pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 1415(e)(1), and is appealable by bringing a civil action in a Superior Court of New Jersey or in a District Court of the United States.

 The Interdivisional Review Team made findings and recommendations. Among these including the finding that T.W. was eligible for the DDD's "functional services" based on DDD's reevaluation of her. In addition, the Interdivisional Review Team found that T.W. was not eligible for DYFS residential funding for her placement at the Pathway School since her placement at the Pathway School was made solely for educational reasons. As a result, the Interdivisional Review Team found that it was the Monroe School Board's responsibility to fully fund that placement.

 On September 25, 1991, William Waldman, Deputy Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services rendered a final decision in this matter on behalf of the Department. It upheld DDD's decision that T.W. is eligible for "functional services" based on the DDD's re-evaluation of her. It also upheld DYFS's decision finding T.W. ineligible for funds for the residential portion of her placement at the Pathway School.

 On September 24, 1991, the Woods filed the complaint in this case. In the complaint, the Woods contend that NJDOE, DDD and DYFS violated their duty of care toward T.W. by failing to provide her with an appropriate program and placement. They also contend that DYFS approved of residential funding for T.W., then lied by stating that no such approval occurred and that NJDOE is required to coordinate the services of all agencies who provide special education to T.W., but failed to do so. In addition, the woods contend that throughout the twelve year enrollment of T.W. in the Monroe Township public school system, the Monroe School Board never provided them with information concerning their rights as parents of a handicapped child.

 The Woods seek residential funding from DYFS and DDD for the Pathway School beginning in January, 1992. They also seek $ 605,000.00 in order to restore to T.W. the eleven years she was denied "a free and appropriate education" from NJDOE, DYFS and DDD and punitive damages from the Monroe School Board.

 The Monroe School Board filed an answer to the complaint on October 15, 1991. In its answer, the Monroe School Board argues that the Woods are barred as a matter of law from proceeding with this claim against it as a result of having entered into the Stipulation of Settlement. New Jersey Attorney General Robert Del Tufo and Deputy Attorney General James Hill represent NJDOE, DYFS and DDD. On October 29, 1991, Del Tufo and Hill filed an answer an behalf of the New Jersey Department of Human Services *fn2" after being granted an extension of time to answer. On December 18, 1991, Del Tufo and Hill filed an amended answer on behalf of the New Jersey Department of Human Services and NJDOE contending that he inadvertently omitted NJDOE in his original answer. The NJDOE was served with the complaint on September 27, 1991.

 On December 12, 1991, the Woods filed & request for emergency relief with the ALJ pursuant to N.J.A.C. 1:6A-12.1. The Woods sought an order keeping T.W. at the Pathway School after January 1, 1992. On January 7, 1992, the ALJ granted the requested relief and ordered that T.W. remain at the Pathway School in a residential placement paid for by the Monroe School Board until the Monroe School Board and the Woods agreed on an appropriate day placement.

 II. DISCUSSION

 a) Woods' Motion for Default Judgment

 In Boring v. Kozakiewicz, 833 F.2d 468 (3d Cir. 1987), the Third Circuit affirmed the trial court's ruling that an answer filed on behalf of a co-defendant will suffice to serve as an answer for a defendant who is represented by the same counsel and when the answer specifically responded to a paragraph in the complaint relating only to that defendant. Id. at 470; accord Mareno v. Rowe , 910 F.2d 1043, 1045 (2d Cir. 1990); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(f) ("All pleadings shall be construed as to do substantial justice").

 In Del Tufo's and Hill's answer filed on behalf the New Jersey Department of Human Services on October 29, 1991, they specifically responded to the allegations in Paragraph 6 of the complaint which related only to NJDOE. *fn3" They also responded to allegations 2-4 of the complaint relating to both NJDOE and the Monroe School Board, but not to the other state agency defendants, by denying them "as to the State." *fn4" In the December 18, 1991 amended answer, all responses to the allegations in the complaint and all the affirmative defenses remained the same. The December 18, 1991 amended answer only differed from the October 29, 1991 answer in that it named NJDOE ...


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