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A school did not have third-party standing to sue protesters who interfered with the school’s students and parents

District of Columbia

,

United States

Background

In Nicdao v. Two Rivers Pub. Charter Sch., Nos. 16-CV-458, 16-CV-459, 16-CV-500 (D.C. 2022), a Planned Parenthood facility was being built next to the respondent school. Protesters of Planned Parenthood, including one of the appellants, protested outside the school on a number of occasions. The protestors held signs with graphic images, handed out flyers, shouted at students and parents, followed students and parents, and made them feel threatened and unsafe.

The school filed a complaint against the protestors asserting claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”), private nuisance, and conspiracy to create a private nuisance. At issue before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals was the school’s standing to assert claims of IIED (at 3).

Appellant’s position

The appellant protesters argued that the trial court erred in granting the school standing to proceed in the case. The trial court held that the school was bringing the claim on behalf of its students and parents, and that the school had third-party standing because the students and parents could not financially afford to litigate the case and because the students and parents were fearful.

Requirements for third-party standing

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals noted that standing requires an actual or imminently threatened injury that is attributable to the defendant and capable of redress by the court (at 4). 

To be successful, a claim brought on behalf of a third party requires (at 6):

  1. an injury in fact to the litigant bringing the claim, 
  2. a close relationship between the litigant and the third party, and 
  3. some hindrance to the third party's ability to protect his or her own interests.

The plaintiff bears the burden to establish standing (at 6).

The school did not meet the test for third-party standing

The Court explained that the school failed to demonstrate that there was some hindrance to the third party's ability to protect their own interests. On the record, the Court did not find any reason that financial considerations were a sufficient hindrance for the school to assert third-party standing, nor did the Court find any privacy concerns proving enough of a hindrance to warrant third-party standing. The Court noted that the students may have a valid IIED claim against the abortion protesters. However, the students should be the ones to bring the case, not the school (at 7-8). Therefore, the Court held that the trial court erred in ruling that the school had the standing to proceed with the IIED claim (at 6) and reversed and remanded so that the trial court could dismiss the case (at 12).

July 19, 2022
Nicdao v. Two Rivers Pub. Charter Sch., Nos. 16-CV-458, 16-CV-459, 16-CV-500 (D.C. 2022)
Author: Carli Kadish