United States District Court, District of Columbia
N. McFADDEN, U.S.D.J.
the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq.,
an aggrieved party has “the right to bring a civil
action” in federal court challenging the administrative
agency's decision. The party “bringing the
action” has 90 days “to bring such an
action.” In his Report and Recommendation, the
Magistrate Judge found that Ingenuity's counterclaim
challenging the agency's decision was untimely because it
was filed more than 90 days after the administrative process
ended. Given the plain language of the statute, the Court
agrees and thus will adopt the Report and Recommendation.
Lloyd is the father of a student, M.L., who is protected by
the IDEA. Compl. at 2, ECF No. 1. Mr. Lloyd filed a due
process complaint against Ingenuity. Exhibit 1 at 2, ECF 1-1.
In the final administrative decision, a hearing officer
ordered Ingenuity to authorize additional hours of tutoring,
complete certain evaluations of M.L., and hold a meeting to
revise M.L.'s Individualized Education Program.
Id. at 17-18. But the hearing officer denied Mr.
Lloyd's other requested relief. Id.
Lloyd filed this action to recover reasonable attorneys'
fees under the IDEA.Compl. at 1. When Ingenuity filed its
answer, it also brought a counterclaim challenging the
hearing officer's determination. Def.'s Answer and
Counterclaim at 9, ECF No. 3. In response, Mr. Lloyd moves to
dismiss Ingenuity's counterclaim as time-barred under the
IDEA because it was filed more than 90 days after the hearing
officer's determination. Pl.'s Mot. to Dismiss at 1,
ECF No. 5. Mr. Lloyd argues that under the IDEA, a party has
only 90 days to “bring [an] action” challenging
the hearing officer's determination, citing 20 U.S.C.
§ 1415(i)(2)(B). Id. at 3. Ingenuity opposes
Mr. Lloyd's motion, arguing that the IDEA's statute
of limitations does not apply because filing a counterclaim
is not “bring[ing] an action.” Def.'s Mem. at
2-3, ECF No. 6.
full briefing, the Magistrate Judge issued his Report and
Recommendation, recommending that the Court grant the Mr.
Lloyd's Motion to Dismiss. Report and Recommendation
(“R. & R.”), ECF No. 9. Ingenuity filed its
Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and
Recommendation, see Objs., ECF No. 10, and Mr. Lloyd
responded, see Reply, ECF No. 13.
Lloyd moves to dismiss Ingenuity's counterclaim for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A party may raise a statute of
limitations argument in a motion to dismiss under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) “when the facts that
give rise to the defense are clear from the face of the
[document].” Smith-Haynie v. District of
Columbia, 155 F.3d 575, 578 (D.C. Cir. 1998). The Court
“may look to [the] record of another proceeding to
avoid unnecessary proceedings when an undisputed fact on the
public record makes it clear that [a party] does not state a
claim upon which relief could be granted.” Covad
Comms. Co. v. Bell Atl. Corp., 407 F.3d 1220, 1222 (D.C.
magistrate judge issues a report and recommendation, any
party may file written objections within 14 days.
See LCvR 72.2(b). If a timely objection is made,
then the Court will “make a de novo determination of
those portions of the report or specified proposed finding or
recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C.
in any statutory construction case, we start, of course, with
the statutory text, and proceed from the understanding that
unless otherwise defined, statutory terms are generally
interpreted in accordance with their ordinary meaning.”
Sebelius v. Cloer, 569 U.S. 369, 376 (2013) (cleaned
up). Under the IDEA, an aggrieved party “has the right
to bring a civil action” in federal district court
challenging the hearing officer's findings or decision.
See 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2)(A). And “[t]he
party bringing the action shall have 90 days from the date of
the decision of the hearing officer to bring such an
action.” Id. §
1415(i)(2)(B). The question is whether counterclaims are
included in this limitation.
the word “action” is broad enough to include a
counterclaim. “[T]he term ‘action' has been
at times construed to include a counterclaim.”
Bowles v. Murray, 68 F.Supp. 447, 448 n.2 (D.D.C.
1946); see also Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed.
2014) (defining “action” broadly as “[a]
civil or criminal judicial proceeding”). Even the
leading case that Ingenuity relies on, Jonathan H. v.
Souderton Area School District, acknowledged that
“[t]he word ‘action,' without more, is
arguably broad enough to encompass any type of judicial
proceeding, including counterclaims.” 562 F.3d 527, 529
(3d Cir. 2009). It follows that because the term
“action” can include a “counterclaim,
” a party bringing an “action”-here a
counterclaim-would be subject to the 90-day limitations
period of section 1415(i)(2)(B).
at first blush, the phrase “bringing an action”
sounds like filing a lawsuit. But this phrase is the typical
language of statutes of limitations. As the Supreme Court has
explained, “[t]he terms of a typical statute of
limitation provide that a cause of action may or must be
brought within a certain period of time.”
Beach v. Ocwen Fed. Bank, 523 U.S. 410, 416 (1998)
counterclaim, seeking affirmative relief, is typically
subject to the same statute of limitations as a would-be
complaint, seeking the same relief. See, e.g.,
King v. Barbour, 240 F.Supp.3d 136, 140 (D.D.C.
2017) (dismissing a compulsory counterclaim because it was
not filed within the one-year statute of limitations);
see also Hurst v. U.S. Dep't of Educ., 901 F.2d
836, 837 (10th Cir. 1990) (explaining that under federal
limitations law “[i]t is fairly well established . . .
that a counterclaim for affirmative relief . . . is subject
to the operation of pertinent statutes of limitation”).
This makes sense because the “essence of a
counterclaim, especially one that arises from ...