Aldrich v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, Case No. 5:20-cv-01733-EJD

Citation484 F.Supp.3d 779
Decision Date03 September 2020
Docket NumberCase No. 5:20-cv-01733-EJD
Parties Erin ALDRICH, et al., Plaintiffs, v. NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of California

Elizabeth A. Fegan, Pro Hac Vice, Fegan Scott LLC, Chicago, IL, Annika K. Martin, Rhea Ghosh, Lieff Cabraser Heimann and Bernstein, LLP, New York, NY, Lynn Ellenberger, Pro Hac Vice, Fegan Scott LLC, Pittsburgh, PA, Jonathan David Selbin, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, San Francisco, CA, for Plaintiffs Erin Aldrich, Londa Bevins, Jessica Johnson.

Elizabeth A. Fegan, Fegan Scott LLC, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff Beata Corcoran.

Carolyn Hoecker Luedtke, Terra Dawn Castillo Laughton, Munger, Tolles Olson LLP, San Francisco, CA, Ariel Tal Teshuva, Glenn Douglas Pomerantz, Lauren M. Harding, Munger Tolles & Olson LLP, Hailyn Jennifer Chen, Attorney at Law, Los Angeles, CA, for Defendants National Collegiate Athletic Association, Board of Governors of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Howard Lee Jacobs, Lindsay Scott Brandon, Law Offices of Howard L. Jacobs, Westlake Village, CA, for Defendant John Rembao.


Re: Dkt. Nos. 55, 58

EDWARD J. DAVILA, United States District Judge

The seriousness of the issue before the Court cannot be overstated. In recent years, it has become clear that sexual assault on college campuses is a pervasive problem. Of course, as Larry Nassar demonstrated, sexual assault on college campuses is not limited to peer-to-peer assault; it also occurs between coaches and their athletes. This case focuses on that latter type of sexual assault and addresses the National Collegiate Athletic Association's ("NCAA") responsibility (if any) to prevent sexual misconduct by collegiate coaches. Defendants NCAA and the Board of Governors argue that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over them and thus cannot determine the scope of the NCAA's responsibility. Defendant John Rembao maintains that Plaintiffs claims are time-barred by the relevant statutes of limitation. Having considered the Parties’ papers and having had the benefit of oral argument on September 3, 2020, the Court agrees with Defendants NCAA and the Board of Governors that personal jurisdiction cannot be established in this district. However, the Court disagrees with Defendant Rembao—various tolling doctrines prevent the Court from finding that Plaintiffs’ claims are time-barred. For these reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendants NCAA and the Board of Governorsmotion to dismiss, but TRANSFERS the action to the Southern District of Indiana, and DENIES Defendant Rembao's motion to dismiss.

A. Factual Background
1. Plaintiff Erin Aldrich

Plaintiff Erin Aldrich was a gifted high-jumper and volleyball player who dreamed of becoming an Olympian. See First Amended Complaint ("FAC") ¶¶ 147–49, Dkt. 54. Because of her skill, Plaintiff Aldrich was invited to attend the Junior Elite Development Camps in Colorado Springs. Id. ¶ 149. It was there that she met Defendant Rembao, who was known as the "high jump guru." Id. ¶¶ 149–50. At first, their relationship was normal; Defendant Rembao would counsel Plaintiff Aldrich about training and they would discuss her dreams and aspirations. See id. ¶ 151. But, as time passed, their relationship became more sinister. After Plaintiff Aldrich committed to the University of Arizona—where Defendant Rembao coached track and field—on a volleyball scholarship (with a plan to also train for the high jump), Defendant Rembao began calling Plaintiff Aldrich nightly and would ask her non-sports related questions. Id. ¶ 153. Defendant Rembao would also send Plaintiff Aldridge unsolicited gifts and would comment on her senior pictures, telling her which one was his favorite and why, and telling her she looked "super sexy." Id. ¶¶ 152, 154–55.

Eventually, Defendant Rembao physically forced himself onto Plaintiff Aldrich. Plaintiff Aldrich qualified for a spot to compete for Team USA Track and Field at the World Junior Championships in August 1996. Id. ¶ 159. The competition was in Sydney, Australia. Id. Because Plaintiff Aldrich's high school coach could not attend, her parents paid for Coach Rembao to accompany her. Id. On the plane ride to Australia, Defendant Rembao covered Plaintiff Aldrich with a blanket and fondled her under the blanket. Id. ¶ 160. He then penetrated Plaintiff Aldrich with his fingers and joked that they were members of the "mile high club." Id. ¶ 162. Because she trusted Defendant Rembao, she submitted to the touching. Id. ¶ 161. Defendant Rembao vowed to leave his wife and treated Plaintiff Aldrich as if she were his girlfriend. Id. ¶¶ 162–63.

A physical relationship between Defendant Rembao and Plaintiff Aldrich ensued. Defendant Rembao would have Plaintiff Aldrich over for dinner, where his wife would prepare dinner. Id. ¶ 164. After dinner, Defendant Rembao would give Plaintiff Aldrich massages. Id. He would also perform oral sex on Plaintiff Aldrich at his home (and during road trips for competitions and camps). Id. ¶ 165. In the fall of 1996, during Plaintiff Aldrich's freshman year at Arizona, Aldrich's roommate discovered Coach Rembao in their room with Aldrich. Id. ¶ 170. The roommate reported the incident to University of Arizona officials. Id. ¶ 172. In 1997, Arizona's Athletic Director had a meeting with Plaintiff Aldrich and her parents. The director informed Plaintiff Aldrich and her parents that Defendant Rembao would be moving to University of Texas at Austin ("UT Austin") and asked Plaintiff Aldrich to stay at Arizona for another year. Id. ¶ 173. Ultimately, Plaintiff Aldrich transferred to the University of Texas in the spring of 1998. Id. ¶ 179. Once there, Defendant Rembao again pursued a physical relationship with Plaintiff Aldrich. Id. ¶¶ 180–81. Plaintiff Aldrich ignored Defendant Rembao's advances and kept her distance. Id. ¶ 181. Defendant Rembao then retaliated against Plaintiff Aldrich, which caused her high-jumping performance to suffer. Id. ¶¶ 181–85.

Plaintiff Aldrich maintains that she did not recognize that she had been sexually abused by Defendant Rembao until the end of March or early April 2019. Id. ¶ 186. Plaintiff Aldrich was watching Leaving Neverland , the documentary about young boys who were sexually abused by Michael Jackson under the guise of love, when she realized that she too had been a victim of sexual abuse. Id. ¶¶ 186–87. This realization caused her great stress and pressure and ultimately lead to hospitalization. Id. ¶ 187.

2. Plaintiff Jessica Johnson

Defendant Rembao's alleged abuse did not end with Aldrich. Next came Plaintiff Jessica Johnson, another gifted high jumper. Id. ¶¶ 189–92. Defendant Rembao took an interest in Plaintiff Johnson; he would regularly call her and send her emails. Id. ¶ 195. He would also comment on Plaintiff Johnson's appearance, telling her she had "Miss America looks." Id. ¶¶ 196–97, 199. The conversations also turned to more uncomfortable topics, like Plaintiff Johnson's sexual experiences with other young men. Id. ¶ 201.

Throughout high school, Plaintiff Johnson excelled at track and field and volleyball. UT Austin expressed interest in offering Plaintiff Johnson a volleyball scholarship. Defendant Rembao assured Plaintiff Johnson that she could play both volleyball and track and field at UT Austin. Id. ¶ 202. During Plaintiff Johnson's senior year, she suffered from mononucleosis

and dropped from first in state to second. Id. ¶ 203. Because of the mononucleosis, she gained some weight. Id. Defendant Rembao gained Plaintiff Johnson's trust by remaining supportive of and personal with Plaintiff Johnson during this time. Id. Ultimately, Plaintiff Johnson committed to UT Austin and was set to start as a freshman in the fall of 1999. Id. ¶¶ 204–05.

Before the semester started, Defendant Rembao invited Plaintiff Johnson to his home for dinner. Id. ¶ 206. During dinner, they discussed her work-outs and she explained that she had been lifting heavy weights that made her legs sore. Id. After dinner, Defendant Rembao told Plaintiff Johnson to go into the living room and lay down on the floor so he could work on her legs. Id. ¶ 207. She complied. Id. ¶ 208. He pushed Plaintiff Johnson's running shorts and the built-in underwear inside the shorts up so that her buttocks were fully exposed. Id. ¶ 209. He then massaged her inner thighs and buttocks. Id. In another incident at his home, she complained of a stomachache. Id. ¶ 210. Defendant Rembao proceeded to rub Plaintiff Johnson's stomach under her shirt with his wife present. Id.

Defendant Rembao would keep track of Plaintiff Johnson's whereabouts by calling her dorm room most nights. Id. ¶ 212. On one occasion, Plaintiff Johnson went out on a date, which Defendant Rembao discovered when he called Johnson's room. Id. ¶ 213. Defendant Rembao refused to speak to or give Plaintiff Johnson workouts for a week. Id. Defendant Rembao told her he was jealous and ostracized her from the team. Id.

Defendant Rembao would sometimes call Plaintiff Johnson into his office, where he would give her long and uncomfortable hugs. Id. ¶ 215. At other times, he would give her long and intimate back rubs or would cup her face and rub his thumbs over her cheeks and jaw. Id. For example, on January 21, 2000, Defendant Rembao called Plaintiff Johnson into his office. Id. ¶ 217. He gave her a full hug, licked her neck, and told her she tasted "salty." Id. ¶ 218.

In February 19, 2000, during the Oklahoma Invitational, Defendant Rembao called Plaintiff Johnson into his hotel room. Id. ¶ 220. He had her sit on the bed; he pushed her backwards so that she was laying down. Id. He then reached under her shirt and under her shorts. Id. She panicked, feigned sleep, and then left the room. Id.

During the indoor track season, Plaintiff Johnson suffered an ankle injury

and could not...

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6 cases
  • Aldrich v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Indiana
    • 30 Septiembre 2021
    ...outlined the allegations of abuse and the Court repeats those facts as necessary throughout this opinion. Aldrich v. NCAA , 484 F. Supp. 3d 779, 784–88 (N.D. Cal. 2020).The NCAA is an unincorporated association based in Indianapolis, Indiana. (SAC ¶ 28.) They act as the governing body for c......
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    • 30 Septiembre 2021
    ...the claims against Defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction and transferred those claims here under 28 U.S.C. § 1406. Aldrich, 484 F.Supp.3d at 796. After the Plaintiffs filed the SAC, (SAC, ECF No. 116), and Defendants moved to dismiss and/or strike the SAC under Federal Rules 12(b)(1)......
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