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Montoya v. New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology Board of Regents

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

March 21, 2017

Jennifer Montoya and Joe C. Montoya, Plaintiffs,
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology Board of Regents; and Leonard Garcia, Defendants.


          M. CHRISTINA ARMIJO Chief United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss filed May 20, 2016. [Doc. 6] The Court has considered the parties' submissions, the record, and the relevant law. The Motion is well taken and shall be granted as to Plaintiffs' federal claims, with the remaining state claims remanded to the state court.


         The following background information is derived from the factual allegations in Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint for Damages Under New Mexico Law and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (the Complaint). [Doc. 1-1]

         Plaintiff Jennifer Montoya is employed by the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (the Institute) in Socorro, New Mexico. [Doc. 1-1 p. 1] Plaintiff Joe C. Montoya is Jennifer Montoya's husband. [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 1] Defendant Leonard Garcia is employed by the Institute. [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 3] The Institute's Board of Regents, a named Defendant in this case, constitutes “a body corporate” through which the institute may sue or be sued. [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 2] See NMSA 1978, § 21-11-4 (1953) (vesting the operations of the Institute in a board of five regents). The Institute receives federal financial assistance. [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 5]

         Ms. Montoya and Mr. Garcia worked together at the Institute's Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center (EMRTC) from April 2011, when Ms. Montoya was hired by the Institute, until November 2013, when Mr. Garcia took a position in the Institute's Petroleum Recovery and Research Center (PRRC). [Doc. 1-1 ¶¶ 27-28] On March 10, 2014 Mr. Garcia gave Ms. Montoya his CPR card so that Ms. Montoya could laminate it. [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 30] On March 19, 2014, Ms. Montoya, Mr. Garcia, and others had lunch together at a restaurant whereupon Ms. Montoya could give the laminated CPR card to Mr. Garcia. [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 32] When they returned to campus after lunch, Ms. Montoya accepted Mr. Garcia's invitation to go inside PRRC building so that she could see could see his new office. [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 33]

         From the hallway, Ms. Montoya peeked into Mr. Garcia's office. [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 36] Mr. Garcia, who was standing behind Ms. Montoya, pushed her into the office, entered behind her, and closed the door. [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 37] Mr. Garcia then repeatedly and forcibly fondled Ms. Montoya, made repeated sexual and degrading advances and comments, and removed articles of his own clothing. [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 38] Ms. Montoya did not consent to these acts, and she repeatedly told Mr. Garcia that she wanted to leave his office, said “no, ” and told him to “stop.” [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 38] After several attempts to leave the office were unsuccessful because Mr. Garcia pushed her away from the door, physically blocked her path, and cornered her, Ms. Montoya eventually escaped. [Doc. 1-1 ¶¶ 39-40]

         Minutes later, Ms. Montoya phoned EMRTC Assistant Facility Security Officer David Urban to inform him that Mr. Garcia had sexually attacked her in his office in the PRRC building. [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 41] By the time she called Mr. Urban, Ms. Montoya had been on campus after lunch for approximately fifteen minutes. [Doc. 1-1 ¶¶ 33, 41] Mr. Urban advised Ms. Montoya that he would be on campus the following day (March 20th), and that they could meet in person. [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 42] When they met, Mr. Urban advised Ms. Montoya to report the incident to Mona Torres, Director of Finance and Human Resources for EMRTC, and she did so that day. [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 45] Ms. Torres advised Ms. Montoya to seek counseling, to take FMLA leave, and to report the attack to Jo Ann Salome, Director of Human Resources for the Institute. [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 48] Ms. Salome and Ms. Torres both possessed authority to take disciplinary action against Mr. Garcia. [Doc. 1-1 ¶¶ 47, 52]

         Mr. Urban reported the matter to the Institute's Assistant Police Chief, Scott Scarborough. [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 45] The next day (March 21) Mr. Scarborough interviewed Ms. Montoya regarding the “sexual attack.” [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 49] During this interview, Ms. Montoya asked Mr. Scarborough to help her get a restraining order against Mr. Garcia. [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 49] For reasons that are not given, Ms. Montoya “never received a protective order of any form against [Mr.] Garcia.” [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 54]

         Ms. Montoya took leave from her job from March 24, 2014 to April 1, 2014 pursuant to a directive from “treating health care personnel.” [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 50] Four days into her leave period, Ms. Montoya met with Ms. Salome (the human resources director). [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 51] Five days earlier (on March 23rd) Mr. Garcia had tried twice to contact Ms. Montoya by telephone, and Ms. Montoya told Ms. Salome about the attempted telephone contact. [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 51] Ms. Salome told Ms. Montoya that Mr. Garcia had already been placed on leave by that time, as a disciplinary action, so that it was “impossible” for him to have contacted Ms. Montoya. [Doc. 1-1 ¶¶ 51, 55] Ms. Salome also advised Ms. Montoya that “‘it would be best for [Ms. Montoya] to put [the assault] behind her.'” [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 51] And she advised Ms. Montoya that “to be fair” Mr. Garcia would be permitted to return to work on April 1st-the same day that Ms. Montoya planned to return. [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 51] Ms. Montoya contacted Ms. Salome again on March 31st, one day before she returned to work “to inquire regarding a protective order against [Mr.] Garcia.” [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 53] In response to that inquiry, Ms. Salome advised Ms. Montoya that she had told Mr. Garcia “not to go near” her. [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 53]

         Mr. Garcia was not subjected to further discipline beyond the approximate week-long leave period and Ms. Salome's admonishment to him not to go near Ms. Montoya. [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 55] “[Mr.] Garcia retained his position with full access to his PRRC office and campus facilities from the end of his . . . leave to the present-leaving open the potential for interactions between [him and Ms.] Montoya[.]” [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 56] Ms. Montoya suffered mental health injuries that have required her to incur the expense of ongoing mental health care, and to take a job reassignment. [Doc. 1-1 ¶¶ 57-58] She has also used sick leave, annual leave, and she has taken unpaid leave for time off work. [Doc. 1-1 ¶ 57]

         Based on the foregoing, Ms. Montoya filed the present lawsuit. The Complaint includes the following claims: Count 1, a false imprisonment claim against Mr. Garcia; Count II, an assault claim against Mr. Garcia; Count III, a battery claim against Mr. Garcia; Count IV, a claim against Mr. Garcia for intentional infliction of emotional distress; Count V, a claim by Mr. Montoya against Mr. Garcia for loss of consortium; Count VI, a claim against the Institute of a violation of Title IX for its “clearly unreasonable response” to the attack perpetrated by Mr. Garcia; and Count VII, a claim against the Institute of a “hostile work environment” based on its allegedly inadequate response to the attack. [Doc. 1-1 p. 10-18]

         Defendants seek dismissal of the Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) on the ground that the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. [Doc. 6]

         The Court concludes that Plaintiffs' claims under Title IX are not plausible. Plaintiffs' remaining claims, which are brought pursuant to state law, shall be remanded to the ...

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