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Toguchi v. Matayoshi

United States District Court, District of Hawaii

December 31, 2014

MONICA TOGUCHI, individually and as the personal representative of the estate of Charles Anthony Lee, II, Plaintiff,
KATHRYN MATAYOSHI, et al., Defendants.


Derrick K. Watson, United States District Judge.

Monica Toguchi’s First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) asserts four official and individual capacity claims against various State of Hawai‘i defendants whom she holds responsible for the suicide of her son, Charlie. Because a Section 1983 claim may not be based on an alleged violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act or of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), and because Toguchi fails to state a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress (“NIED”), the Court dismisses with prejudice Counts 2 and 4 of the FAC. The Court also dismisses Counts 1 (Section 504 violation) and 3 (intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”)), with leave to amend, because they lack the requisite specificity needed to state a claim.


Shortly after moving to Hawai‘i in 2007, Charlie began attending fifth grade at Mililani Uka Elementary School. Toguchi “requested special education services for her son because Charlie had a difficult time adjusting to his new life in Hawaii and to Mililani Uka Elementary School.” FAC ¶ 16. Toguchi alleges that although Charlie was transferred to Mililani Middle School to address some of his behavioral problems, he finished his sixth grade year without any notable issues. FAC ¶ 18.

Starting with his seventh grade year, Charlie began cutting himself. He continued to do so, despite hospitalization at Queen’s Medical Center. During his eighth grade year, Charlie received in-home intensive therapy from the Department of Health (“DOH”). FAC ¶¶ 19–20. Toguchi alleges that Charlie’s behavioral problems escalated:

Charlie locked himself in Plaintiff’s car with a knife and refused to attend school and on another occasion stood on top of a three story building and threatened to jump. Following both of these incidents Charlie was taken to Queen[’]s Medical Center for treatment.

FAC ¶¶ 24–25.

During this time, Toguchi alleges that she expressed concern to individuals at the DOH and to individuals on Charlie’s Individual Education Program (“IEP”) team, to the effect that the programs in place were insufficient to address Charlie’s problems. Despite these expressions, Toguchi alleges that the DOH discontinued Charlie’s in-home therapy after five months and thereafter “only provided minimal care management services” for Charlie “even though it was clear that Charlie still needed those or other mental health services.” FAC ¶ 27–28.

Toguchi alleges that Charlie’s behavior continued to decline as he transitioned to his ninth grade year at Roosevelt High School, and that defendants continued to do little or nothing in response to address his escalating problems. According to Toguchi:

At the initial IEP meeting which occurred on August 18, 2011, the Defendants failed and refused to consider or provide the level of intensive and/or residential care that Charlie required based upon his long history of self[-]abusive behaviors and his most recent difficulties adjusting to a new school.
Following the initial IEP meeting Charlie continued to cut himself and threatened to commit suicide by hanging.
Although Plaintiff regularly voiced her concerns regarding Charlie’s threats to take his own life, the threats were not taken seriously by any of the Defendants, who instead began to reduce Charlie’s services.

FAC ¶¶ 31–33 (paragraph numbering omitted).

Because of Charlie’s poor school attendance record, he was placed at Home Maluhia, where the DOH initially provided Multi Systemic Treatment (“MST”). Even this, however, did not meet Toguchi’s expectations because she believed that Charlie required residential treatment. Regardless, the DOH shortly thereafter terminated the MST, allegedly because, without an IEP, “Charlie could not be in Home Maluhia and be receiving MST at the same time.” On the evening of November 6, 2011, the same day that he was released from Home Maluhia (after being there for two weeks), Charlie committed suicide. FAC ¶¶ 34–37.

Toguchi generally asserts that Defendants: “did nothing to change the IEP to help Charlie benefit from his education”; “knowingly, deliberately, and repeatedly failed to determine the educational and related services necessary”; “failed to assure that the programs and/or services provided to Charlie resulted in significant learning and/or improvement in his mental health”; “failed to take appropriate corrective actions”; “had knowledge that it was substantially likely that their acts and failures to act . . . would jeopardize Charlie’s federally protected rights to have meaningful access to education and reasonable accommodations and could potentially result in Charlie harming himself”; and “proximately caus[ed] Charlie’s death at the age of fourteen.” FAC ¶¶ 38–43.

The FAC asserts four claims: violation of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act against all defendants in their official capacities (Count 1); a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against all defendants in their individual capacities, for violations of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and for violations of the IDEA (Count 2); ...

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