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Moe v. Seton Hall University

April 20, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. William J. Martini




On January 29, 2009, Plaintiff, Alison Moe, filed a complaint in Essex County Superior Court against Defendant Seton Hall University (the "University"), and against Brian B. Shulman, Ph. D, Joseph Monoco, PA-C, James Phillips, Ph. D, and Ellen Mendel, M-PA, (the latter four, collectively, the "Individual Defendants"). The complaint was removed to federal court on March 27, 2009, and on April 20, 2009, Defendants submitted a motion to dismiss the complaint in lieu of an answer. However, the motion was terminated when Plaintiff subsequently filed a sixteen count Amended Complaint alleging: violations of due process under federal and state law; negligence; breach of contract; breach of quasi-contract; breach of implied contract; promissory estoppel; breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, unjust enrichment; intentional misrepresentation and fraud; intentional infliction of emotional distress; defamation; and tortious interference with prospective economic advantage. Am. Compl. All sixteen counts in the Amended Complaint are brought against all Defendants.

In lieu of an answer to the amended complaint, Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss (the AMotion@), which is presently before the Court.

The Court, for the reasons elaborated below, will GRANT in part, and DENY in part, Defendants‟ Motion. Specifically: Count I -- the general due process claim;*fn2 Count II -- the state due process claim; Count III -- the federal due process claim; Count XIII -- the common law due process claim; Count XIV -- the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim; and Count XVI -- the tortious interference with perspective economic advantage claim will be dismissed in their entirety.

Count IV -- the breach of contract claim; Count V-- the breach of quasi-contract claim; Count VI -- the breach of implied contract claim; Count X -- the breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing claim; and Count XI -- the unjust enrichment claim will be dismissed against the Individual Defendants, but not against the University. The motion is DENIED in all other respects.


The Amended Complaint alleges that in September of 2003, Plaintiff, Alison Moe, entered Defendant Seton Hall University‟s three year Physician Assistant ("PA") program. During the first year and part of the second year of Moe‟s enrolment, she maintained an average grade of an "A." Moe‟s studies were conducted without incident until one of her instructors, Defendant Mendel, allegedly assigned Moe an arbitrarily low grade for a group research project. Moe further claims that the "C" grade, assigned to Moe was below the "B" grades assigned to the other members of the group, despite the allegations that Moe was the only member to present the group‟s project during a mandatory symposium, and Moe received an award for her presentation. Moe complained about the grade to Defendant Monoco, the director of the PA program, but he took no action.

As a result of the Defendants‟ inaction, the "C" grade was applied to Moe‟s overall grade point average ("GPA"). However she alleges that her GPA was incorrectly calculated, and as a result of mere arithmetic error, she fell below the minimum 3.0 required to remain in good standing in the PA program. Moe complained to Monoco and other representatives of the University, but again, no action was taken. As a result Moe was unable to graduate on time.

The University allowed Moe to complete her studies on the condition that she retake a class and complete two clinical rotations while maintaining a "B" average. A written agreement ("the Agreement") was entered into between Moe and the University. Monoco acted on behalf of the University. The Agreement detailed the terms of Moe‟s conditional reenrolment into the PA program.

After Moe had been reenrolled into the PA program and at a time when she was serving on a clinical rotation, she requested that she be excused from the rotation for two days in order to attend her own (planned) wedding (which ultimately did not take place). Moe obtained approval from her professors and rotation leaders, and notified the University‟s administration in compliance with the procedures detailed in the University‟s student handbook.

Despite meeting all academic objectives conditioned in the Agreement and following University protocol in requesting excused absences, Moe was accused of misconduct by Defendant Monoco, who sought to have Moe dismissed from the PA program. Monoco claimed that Moe‟s absences from the clinical rotations constituted professional misconduct and a failure to meet the requirements for successful completion of the clinical rotation. But, Moe claimed in her appearance before the Student Performance Review Grievance Committee ("SPRGC") that her absences had been excused. The SPRGC was headed by Defendant Phillips. The Committee refused to accept proof or adduce evidence that Moe had fully complied with school policy and determined that she was guilty of misconduct. Moe appealed the decision to the acting dean, Defendant Shulman, who heard her in a closed proceeding on January 31, 2007. Moe‟s appeal was denied by letter dated February 5, 2007, and she was dismissed from the PA program for the alleged misconduct.

Subsequent to her dismissal from the University, Moe attempted to complete her education at other academic institutions. However, these institutions denied her admission upon receiving her transcript from the University, which stated that Moe was dismissed for "academic" reasons as well as "unacceptable professional behavior."

After her dismissal from the PA program and subsequent unsuccessful attempts to complete her education, Moe filed a complaint against Defendants, which has since been superseded by the Amended Complaint, and Defendants brought the instant motion to dismiss.


The Defendant=s motion to dismiss is brought pursuant to the provisions of Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). This rule provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, if the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The moving party bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated, Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005), and dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting all of the facts alleged in the complaint as true, the plaintiff has failed to plead Aenough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face,@ Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (abrogating Ano set of facts@ language found in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). The facts alleged must be sufficient to Araise a right to relief above the speculative level.@ Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. This requirement Acalls for enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of@ necessary elements of the plaintiff=s cause of action. Id. Furthermore, in order satisfy federal pleading requirements, the plaintiff must Aprovide the grounds of his entitlement to relief,@ which Arequires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.@ Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (brackets and quotations marks omitted) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

In considering a motion to dismiss, the court generally relies on the complaint, attached exhibits, and matters of public record. Sands v. McCormick, 502 F.3d 263 (3d Cir. 2007). The court may also consider Aundisputedly authentic document[s] that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff=s claims are based on the [attached] document[s].@ Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). Moreover, Adocuments whose contents are alleged in the complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the pleading, may be considered.@ Pryor v. Nat= l Collegiate Athletic Ass= n, 288 F.3d 548, 560 (3d Cir. ...

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