United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
T.G., Jr., by and through his next friend, Katrina Greene, Plaintiff,
Detroit Public Schools, Karen Kohfeldt, Monique Edwards, Clover Brown, and Tia Von Moore-Patton, Defendants,
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT 
G. Edmunds United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendants Detroit Public
Schools, Karen Kohfeldt, Monique Edwards and Tia Von
Moore-Patton's Motion for Summary Judgment (docket 35).
Plaintiff T.G., Jr., by and through his next friend, Katrina
Greene (together "Plaintiff" and/or "TG")
filed a response. (Dkt. 39.) The Court heard this matter on
November 9, 2016.
BACKGROUND AND FACTS
suit arises from an incident on October 29, 2013, in which
Plaintiff TG came out of his wheelchair and sustained
injuries to his face and head while in his classroom at Jerry
L. White Center High School (the "Jerry White
School"). Plaintiff filed suit on October 26, 2015,
against Defendant Detroit Public Schools ("DPS")
and the following four Defendants in their individual and
official capacities: Karen Kohfeldt, a DPS employee and
TG's lead teacher at the time of the incident in
question; Monique Edwards, a DPS employee and teacher's
aide at the time of the incident; Clover Brown, a DPS employee
and teacher's aide at the time of the incident; and Tia
Von Moore-Patton, a DPS employee and principal at the Jerry
L. White School at the time of the incident. (Compl.
¶¶ 2-7.) Plaintiff brought claims for gross
negligence (Count I, Defendants Kohfeldt, Edwards and Brown);
substantive due process violations pursuant to the Fourteenth
Amendment, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count II, all Defendants);
supervisory liability, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count III,
Defendants DPS and Moore-Patton); violation of Michigan's
Child Protection Law, Mich. Comp. Laws § 722.623 (Count
V, all Defendants); violations of the Americans With
Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a), and the
Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794(a) (Count
VI, all Defendants); and violation of the Michigan Persons
With Disabilities Civil Rights Act (PWDCRA), Mich. Comp. Laws
§ 37.1301 (Count VII). This Court declined to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's gross
negligence claim and all claims in Plaintiff's Count I
and dismissed Count I without prejudice on November 17, 2015.
(Dkt. 3.) In the response, Plaintiff agrees that it will not
pursue its claims under the ADA and RA, or its PWDCRA claim.
Therefore, the Court dismisses all claims in Counts VI and
had cerebral palsy since birth, with severe physical and
cognitive impairments. (Greene Dep. 14, Pl.'s Resp. Ex.
A, dkt. 39-2.) On a daily basis, he needs help with bathing
and feeding, and he requires diaper changing. (Id.)
He is non-verbal, but communicates by vocalizing and
laughing, reaching for objects, taking and throwing objects,
looking at people and attending to direction. (Kohfeldt Dep.
15-16, Pl.'s Resp. Ex. B, dkt. 39-3.) At the time of
TG's mother Ms. Greene's deposition, TG was 17 years
old, weighed between 40 and 45 pounds and was approximately
four feet tall. (Greene Dep. 11.) At the time of the October
2013 incident, TG weighed approximately 40 pounds and was in
the tenth grade. (Id. at 11-12, 39.)
a wheelchair and a stroller. (Id. at 15.) When in
his wheelchair, he is secured with a lap belt and a harness
(also referred to as a shoulder strap). (Id. at 16.)
TG can unbuckle the lap belt by himself. (Id. at
18.) According to TG's mother, he is unable to unbuckle
the shoulder strap on his own and "as long as the
shoulder straps are strapped on he cannot get out" of
the wheelchair. (Id. at 18.) If both the lap belt
and the shoulder belt are unbuckled, he is able to ease out
of the wheelchair and onto the ground by himself.
(Id. at 18.)
attended the Jerry White School since ninth grade.
(Id. at 12.) Throughout the ninth grade and at the
beginning of his tenth grade school year, he was with teacher
Kohfeldt. (Greene Dep. 12, 39-40; Kohfeldt Dep. 12.)
Defendant Kohfeldt has been employed at the Jerry White
School for nine years and is a lead teacher. (Kohfeldt Dep.
12.) She teaches severely and multiply impaired students such
as TG. (Kohfeldt Dep. 12, 14.) She recalls first teaching TG
in September 2012. (Kohfeldt Dep. 12.) The parties agree that
prior to the October 2013 incident, Kohfeldt was aware that
TG would undo his lap belt. The parties agree that Defendant
Kohfeldt and Ms. Greene had discussed both TG undoing his lap
belt and the necessity of the belt and harness prior to the
October 2013 incident.
testified that In fall 2012, Kohfeldt contacted TG's
mother regarding his undoing the seatbelt and leaving his
chair. (Kohfeldt Dep. 23.) Ms. Greene testified that prior to
the accident there were a few times where Ms. Greene went in
and had a meeting about the harness. (Greene Dep. 38.)
Kohfeldt testified that she learned that TG would undo the
lap belt all the time and that she passed this information
along to her aides. (Id. at 26.) The aides to whom
she passed this information in 2012 were different than the
aides in the 2013 school year, when the incident occurred.
(Kohfeldt Dep. 29-30.) In 2013, her aides were Defendants
Edwards and Brown. Kohfeldt testified that in 2013 when she
saw that TG was still unbuckling himself, she passed the
information about unbuckling along to her co-educators again.
(Kohfeldt Dep. 30-31.) Kohfeldt stated that TG could unbuckle
the lap belt "instantly" but it would take him
about a minute to get out of his chair. (Kohfeldt Dep. 54.)
October 29, 2013, when TG was in tenth grade in
Kohfeldt's classroom, TG came out of his wheelchair and
sustained injuries to his head and face. (Greene Dep. 40.)
Kohfeldt had left the room at the end of the lunch hour to
return a cart to the office and she told her aides that she
was leaving, indicating that she would be gone "a couple
minutes." (Kohfeldt Dep. 32-33, 39.) She was gone
approximately five minutes. (Kohfeldt Dep. 35.) When she
returned to the classroom she saw her two aides on the floor,
applying ice to TG's forehead and TG was on the floor in
a bean bag chair. (Kohfeldt Dep. 35.) TG was crying a little
bit and screaming. (Kohfeldt Dep. 35.) Defendant Edwards was
one of the aides at the time and she told Kohfeldt that TG
fell out of his chair. (Kohfeldt Dept. 36.) Defendant Brown,
the other aide, also indicated to Kohfeldt that TG fell out
of the chair. (Kohfeldt Dep. 37.) Kohfeldt did not recall if
they indicated whether they saw him fall from the chair or
saw him after he had already fallen out of his chair. When
Kohfeldt returned to the room, the nurse, Pam Joy, was also
there. (Kohfeldt Dep. 39.) Kohfeldt observed a knot above
TG's right eyebrow. (Kohfeldt Dep. 42.) Kohfeldt does not
recall if she made a report or gave a report on the incident
and though she thought she may have, she has not seen an
incident report. (Kohfeldt Dep. 44.)
the same day, Kohfeldt, Brown and Edwards were called to
Defendant Moore-Patton's office to review the incident.
They met for approximately 15-20 minutes. (Kohfeldt Dep.
58-59.) A Detroit Public Schools Student Accident Report
contains the following handwritten statement as the
"description of the accident": "Student was
fasten (sic) in chair with seat belt there was another
student standing next (sic) him when student fall (sic) out
his chair in the classroom. There was blood from mouth, nurse
and parents was (sic) called time of the accident."
(Pl.'s Resp. Ex. D, dkt. 39-5.) A second Accident Report
describes the following:
Student [redacted] Green was sitting in his chair. The safety
belt was fastened. I turned around and [TG] was on the floor
another student was standing near him. [TG] was on the floor
with blood coming from his . . . mouth and a bruise on his
head. The school nurse was called.
(Pl's Resp. Ex. D, dkt. 39-5.)
day of the incident, Ms. Greene received a call from the
school nurse who notified her that TG had a
"boo-boo" and had taken off his strap-- the lap
belt-- but that he was fine, that they were going to put ice
packs on him, and that he had a "little bump."
(Greene Dep. 19, 36.) Ms. Greene testified that when he was
dropped off by the school bus at the end of the day, she saw
the knot on his forehead immediately. (Greene Dep. 20.)
his eyes were bruised, the right eye was almost completely
shut, the left eye was puffy, and he had a cut on his lower
lip. (Greene Dep. 21.) TG's mother took him to the
hospital the same day. (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. E, dkt. 39-6.) It
took more than a month for the bruising around TG's eyes
to go away. (Greene Dep. 21-22.)
from the October 2013 incident and resultant injury, Greene
testified that there were other instances where TG's
bodily integrity was compromised. (Greene Dep. 38.) For
example, since the incident he has come home several times
"without his straps" or without being belted.
(Greene Dep. 37-38.) TG also kicks off his shoes and takes
off his socks, and several times both before and after the
incident he was not wearing shoes or socks when he arrived
home; they were tied to the back of his wheelchair. (Greene
Dep. 38-39.) This has also occurred in the winter. (Greene
Dep. 38.) The paraprofessionals (aides) and Kohfeldt are
responsible for getting their students ready to go home at
the end of the school day, making sure that they have their
coats, shoes and socks on. (Kohfeldt Dep 46.) Kohfeldt agreed
that TG removed his shoes or socks in the classroom
"several times" yet she alleges that she or the
paraprofessionals put them back on every time. (Kohfeldt Dep.
filed this action with this Court on October 26, 2015. (Dkt.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 is proper
when 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). When
reviewing the record, “the court must view the evidence
in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw
all reasonable inferences in its favor.” S.E.C. v.
Sierra Brokerage Servs., Inc., 712 F.3d 321, 326-27 (6th
Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). Furthermore, the
“substantive law will identify which facts are
material, and summary judgment will not lie if the dispute
about a material fact is ‘genuine, ' that is, if
the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.
(citation and quotations omitted). When considering the
material facts on the record, a court must bear in mind that
“[t]he mere ...