Bowers v. National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n

Decision Date01 July 2008
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 97-2600 (JBS).
Citation563 F.Supp.2d 508
PartiesKathleen BOWERS, Plaintiff, v. NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of New Jersey

Jennifer R. Clarke, Esq., Barbara E. Ransom, Esq., Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, Richard L. Bazelon, Esq., A. Richard Feldman, Esq., Noah H. Charlson, Esq., Bazelon, Less & Feldman, P.C., Philadelphia, PA, for Plaintiff.

J. Freedley Hunsicker, Jr., Esq., Daniel H. Aiken, Esq., Kathryn Elizabeth Bisordi, Esq., Drinker, Biddle & Reath, LLP, Philadelphia, PA, for Defendant National Collegiate Athletic Association.

OPINION

SIMANDLE, District Judge:

                TABLE OF CONTENTS
                I.   INTRODUCTION ................................................................. 512
                II.  BACKGROUND ................................................................... 512
                     A.  Michael Bowers ........................................................... 512
                     B.  Procedural History ....................................................... 513
                III. DISCUSSION ................................................................... 515
                     A. Threshold Considerations of the Law of the Case ........................... 515
                        1. The NCAA Bylaws and Judge Orlofsky's Ruling ............................ 515
                        2. Analysis ............................................................... 516
                     B. Plaintiffs Motion to Preclude "Reasonable Modification" and "Waiver
                          Proceeding" Defenses .................................................... 520
                        1. Reasonable Modification Defense ........................................ 521
                        2. NCAA's Eligibility Waiver .............................................. 523
                           a. Eligibility Waiver as a Reasonable Accommodation .................... 523
                           b. The 1997 Waiver Review of Bowers' Credentials ....................... 524
                     C. Plaintiffs Motion to Exclude After-Acquired Evidence ...................... 527
                        1. The After-Acquired Evidence Doctrine ................................... 527
                        2. The Parties' Arguments ................................................. 528
                        3. Analysis ............................................................... 530
                     D. Plaintiffs Motion to Preclude the NCAA from Contesting that Bowers
                          was Disabled ............................................................ 531
                     E. NCAA's Motion to Exclude Evidence of the 1998 Consent Decree and
                          Other Subsequent Bylaw Changes .......................................... 534
                        1. The Bylaws and the 1998 Consent Decree ................................. 534
                        2. Admissibility of the Consent Decree .................................... 535
                        3. Admissibility of Pre-Decree Bylaw Changes .............................. 537
                IV.  CONCLUSION ................................................................... 538
                

I. INTRODUCTION

This case arises out of Plaintiffs allegations that during the 1995-1996 academic year, Defendants subjected her son, Michael Bowers ("Bowers"), to unlawful discrimination on account of his learning disability. Presently before the Court are a series of in limine motions: (1) the NCAA's motion to exclude evidence of the 1998 Consent Decree between the NCAA and the Department of Justice [Docket Item 398]; (2) Plaintiffs motion to preclude Defendants' "reasonable modification" and "waiver proceeding" defenses [Docket Item 405]; (3) Plaintiffs motion to preclude after-acquired evidence on the issue of liability [Docket Item 406]; and (4) Plaintiffs motion to preclude Defendants from contesting that Bowers was disabled [Docket Item 407]. Trial in this case is scheduled to commence on July 7, 2008.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant the NCAA's motion to exclude evidence of the 1998 Consent Decree without prejudice to Plaintiffs renewal of its request to introduce evidence of pre-Decree bylaw changes if the NCAA controverts the feasibility of alternative policies in its defense. The Court will grant in part and deny in part Plaintiffs motion to preclude Defendants' "reasonable modification" and "waiver proceeding" defenses. Additionally, the Court will grant Plaintiffs motion to preclude the admission of after-acquired evidence on the issue of liability in its entirety, and will deny Plaintiffs motion to preclude Defendants from contesting that Bowers had a learning disability.1

II. BACKGROUND

A. Michael Bowers

The facts and procedural history of this case have been discussed in detail in numerous opinions issued by this Court and the Court of Appeals, and the following summary reviews only those facts that pertain to the instant motions. At issue in this action are the policies of the NCAA pertaining to the initial eligibility of student athletes for participation in Division I intercollegiate athletics programs as they existed in 1995-1996, when Plaintiffs late son, Michael Bowers ("Bowers"),2 submitted an application to the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse (the "Clearinghouse"), the organization responsible for assessing the eligibility of potential student athletes to participate in college sports. The late Michael Bowers was an excellent high school football player at Palmyra High School who sought to play college football in a top-echelon intercollegiate football program. Most of Michael Bowers' high school courses were in special education classes rather than college preparatory courses, and Plaintiff alleges that Michael suffered from a disability.

At the time of the 1995-1996 school year, the Clearinghouse reviewed students' applications and placed applicants into one of three categories: qualifier, partial qualifier, or nonqualifier. In brief, Plaintiff alleges that her son was designated as a nonqualifier largely on account of his high school special education curriculum, that such a designation discriminated against him on account of his learning disability, and that the designation negatively impacted his opportunity to receive an athletic scholarship.

In the fall of 1996, after the football scholarship and recruiting opportunities dried up, Bowers enrolled at Temple University as a commuter student, although he did not begin taking classes that semester because he was scheduled to have back surgery. In the spring 1997 semester, Bowers earned a 3.63 GPA at Temple and made the Dean's List. By November 1997, however, Bowers' life had taken a turn for the worse: he complained to his physician about being depressed about breaking up with his girlfriend and was prescribed antidepressant medication, and his grades began to drop and he failed to complete several courses and dropped out.

In addition, Bowers had started to abuse drugs. Bowers was prescribed numerous painkillers between 1996 and 1997 in order to treat the pain he experienced as a result of a back injury, and ultimately, he became addicted to these medications and started obtaining them illegally. In addition, by August 1998, Bowers started using cocaine and heroin. For nearly four years, Bowers received treatment for his substance abuse and mental health problems, and in June 2002, he died as a result of a drug overdose. His undisclosed drug abuse and treatment occurred while substantial discovery was underway in this case, including his own depositions and several tests and interviews by Plaintiffs own proposed experts.

B. Procedural History

Bowers filed the original Complaint in this case on May 23, 1997 [Docket Item 1], alleging that the NCAA and the Clearinghouse had violated Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12132, 12182, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794(a). Plaintiff subsequently amended the Complaint to assert additional claims based on the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"), N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 10:5-1, et seq., and to name Temple University, the University of Iowa, and the American International College as defendants.

Nearly seven years after this action was initiated — and after considerable discovery and motion practice and numerous decisions by the District Court and the Court of Appeals — and after Michael Bowers died, Plaintiff disclosed to Defendants for first time that Bowers had a substance abuse problem. Thereafter, Defendants moved for the imposition of sanctions in the form of dismissal, arguing that they had been prejudiced as a result of Plaintiffs concealment of Bowers' substance abuse and drug treatment. On March 21, 2005, the Court issued an Opinion and Order that imposed preclusion sanctions upon Plaintiff. Specifically, the Court found that because

Defendants lack the practical ability to question Mr. Bowers about the full extent and duration of his drug abuse, and thus suffer irreparable prejudice, the records that have belatedly been supplied to Defendants in and after May 2004 must be deemed conclusive and unopposed by Plaintiff. Plaintiff shall be precluded from disputing the facts shown by direct and circumstantial evidence in the records of Mr. Bowers's drug abuse and severe depression, and Plaintiff shall be precluded from arguing that gaps in these records give rise to some favorable inference in opposition to summary judgment.

Bowers v. National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n., No. 97-2600, 2005 WL 5155198, *12 (D.N.J. Mar.21, 2005), overruled in part by 475 F.3d 524 (3d Cir.2007). The Court then addressed Defendants' motion for summary judgment in light of the discovery sanctions it had imposed and determined that the evidence warranted the entry of summary judgment in Defendants' favor. Id. at *16.

Plaintiff appealed the March 21, 2005 Opinion and Order, and on February 1, 2007, the Court of Appeals issued its decision affirming in part and reversing in part this Court's Order. With regard to the question of preclusion sanctions, the Court of...

To continue reading

Request your trial
49 cases
  • J.H. ex rel. J.P. v. Bernalillo Cnty.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Mexico
    • 19 Noviembre 2014
    ...the two concepts are distinct. See Reply to Response to MSJ No. 1 ¶ 8, at 2 (citing, e.g., Bowers v. Nat. Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 563 F.Supp.2d 508 (D.N.J.2008) ). In the end, to the extent that the Plaintiffs ask the Court to conclude that, as a matter of law, J.P.'s eligibility for spe......
  • J.H. ex rel. Her Minor Child J.P. v. Bernalillo Cnty. & J.M. Sharkey
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Mexico
    • 8 Julio 2014
    ...the two concepts are distinct. See Reply to Response to MSJ No. 1 ¶ 8, at 2 (citing, e.g., Bowers v. Nat. Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 563 F. Supp. 2d 508 (D.N.J. 2008)). In the end, to the extent that the Plaintiffs ask the Court to conclude that, as a matter of law, J.P.'s eligibility for s......
  • Frilando v. Bordentown Driver Training Sch., LLC
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Jersey
    • 27 Julio 2017
    ...cannot be rebutted by facts of which the alleged discriminator was unaware. See generally Bowers v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 563 F. Supp. 2d 508, 527 (D.N.J. 2008); see also Bowers v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 475 F.3d 524, 537 (3d Cir. 2007) (defendants alleged to have unlaw......
  • B.C. ex rel. J.C. v. Mount Vernon Sch. Dist.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • 16 Septiembre 2016
    ...life activity, which is an inquiry entirely absent from the IDEA definition.”); see also Bowers v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n , 563 F.Supp.2d 508, 533 (D.N.J. 2008) (reaching the same conclusion).9 Section 504 operates similarly to the ADA, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of di......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT