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Doe v. University of Denver

A Summary of the Courts

Written by Dan Fotoples, J.D., M.A., Senior Content Developer, TNG

(2022COA57 – No. 20CA1545)

A state appeals court ruled that the University of Denver’s Office of Equal Opportunity Procedures were sufficiently certain for courts to enforce them under Colorado contract law. Doe, a respondent in a University Title IX process, alleged a series of deviations from the University’s published procedures, the sum of which deprived him of a thorough, impartial, and fair investigation. The court determined that procedural requirement of a “thorough, impartial, and fair” investigation, coupled with the procedural requirements contained within the procedures, was sufficiently definite to constitute a contract between Doe and the University. Reviewing the Doe’s allegations that the University did not interview his witnesses, verify the partial SANE report the Complainant submitted, or consider the Complainant’s motivation for filing a complaint, the court denied the University’s motion to dismiss Doe’s lawsuit.

The court’s ruling pertained only to the University’s motion to dismiss Doe’s claims, so there is no decision yet on the question of whether the University is liable, but it is significant that Doe’s lawsuit can proceed. We will have to wait for the outcome, which could be a verdict, a settlement, or dismissal at some other point in the process. Although this decision is based upon Colorado state law and may not transfer readily to other states, the court’s holding is nonetheless noteworthy. State courts may borrow ideas from other state courts or find their reasoning persuasive. This case reemphasizes the notion that institutions must stick to their published procedures or obtain written agreement from the parties prior to deviating.