The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAN E. DUBOIS
Plaintiff Marie Faison is the natural mother of minor plaintiffs Felicia Marie Porterfield and Ebony Sictoria Wiley. On September 27, 1984, the DHS placed Porterfield and Wiley in foster care after discovering that Faison had abandoned them. Porterfield and Wiley were returned to Faison's custody in the middle of October, 1984.
On October 15, 1984, Faison filed a complaint with the DHS alleging that both Porterfield and Wiley had been sexually assaulted while in foster care.
The SCU investigated the alleged sexual assaults and concluded in February, 1985 that the children had not been assaulted while in foster care, but rather had been assaulted by their brother after being returned to Faison's custody.
On January 31, 1985, prior to the completion of the SCU's investigation of the alleged sexual assaults, the DHS returned Porterfield and Wiley to foster care after discovering that Faison had again abandoned them. Initially, the DHS returned Porterfield and Wiley to foster care with the goal of reuniting them with Faison. On April 18, 1986, however, the DHS changed the placement goal for Porterfield and Wiley from reunification to adoption. Faison alleges that, at the time the DHS changed its placement goal, she was informed by Pamela Gofberg, the DHS employee in charge of her children's case, that she could no longer visit her children because her visitation rights had been suspended.
Porterfield and Wiley remained in foster care through September, 1988, when Miklos Pogonyi became the primary DHS employee handling their case.
By this time, the DHS' placement goal for Porterfield and Wiley had been changed back to reunification with plaintiff. On January 25, 1989, however, the DHS changed its placement goal again from reunification to adoption due to Faison's failure to visit her children. Subsequently, on November 21, 1991, a state custody hearing was held. As a result of that hearing, Faison's parental rights with respect to Porterfield and Wiley were terminated.
On July 21, 1992, Faison filed a Second Amended Complaint
against the City defendants
on behalf of herself and her two children, Porterfield and Wiley, asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law. The Second Amended Complaint alleges that 1) Porterfield and Wiley were sexually assaulted while in the custody of the DHS; 2) the SCU, the DHS, and Pogonyi failed to investigate adequately the alleged sexual abuse of Porterfield and Wiley; and, 3) the DHS and Gofberg improperly informed Faison in 1986 that she could no longer visit her children, thereby causing the termination of her parental rights in 1991. The Second Amended Complaint further alleges that the City defendants' conduct violated plaintiffs' federal and state constitutional right to due process, constituted negligence, and resulted in a breach of contract, and seeks compensatory and punitive damages, and a reinstatement of Faison's parental rights with respect to Porterfield and Wiley.
On May 21, 1992, the City defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint which was denied without prejudice by this Court's order of November 16, 1992. On September 27, 1993, the City defendants filed the Motion for Summary Judgment currently before the Court.
Under Rule 56, a party is entitled to summary judgment with respect to all or part of a claim if "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact" and the party is "entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). To establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party "must go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the 'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)).
In the instant case, the City defendants assert the following grounds for summary judgment: 1) Faison lacks standing to assert claims on behalf of Porterfield and Wiley, 2) plaintiffs' claims relating to the sexual assault of Porterfield and Wiley are barred by the statute of limitations; 3) the Court lacks jurisdiction over plaintiffs' request for a reinstatement of Faison's parental rights; 4) plaintiffs' claim that Faison's parental rights were improperly terminated is barred on the grounds of collateral estoppel; and 5) plaintiffs have failed to establish a violation of their constitutional right to due process.
The City defendants argue that Faison lacks standing to assert claims on behalf of Porterfield and Wiley because her rights to her children were terminated on November 21, 1991, following the state court custody hearing. In support of their argument, the City defendants rely on the Third Circuit's decision in Davis v. Thornburgh, 903 F.2d 212 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 970, 112 L. Ed. 2d 420, 111 S. Ct. 436 (1990).
In Davis, the plaintiff signed a form prepared in accordance with the requirements of the Pennsylvania Adoption Act giving consent to the adoption of her daughter, Angela. Shortly after the proposed adoptive parents took custody of Angela, however, the plaintiff attempted to revoke her consent. The proposed adoptive parents brought suit under the Adoption Act to terminate the plaintiff's parental rights involuntarily and were awarded full custody. After exhausting her state appeals, the plaintiff filed suit in federal court seeking visitation rights to Angela on the ground that the Adoption Act's consent procedure violated due process. The Third Circuit rejected the plaintiff's claim, however, concluding that, because the plaintiff's rights to Angela had been lawfully terminated, the plaintiff had no interest with respect to Angela and therefore lacked standing to seek visitation rights. 903 F.2d 212 at 220.
The instant case is distinguishable from Davis. In Davis, plaintiff was not challenging the validity of the specific proceedings that resulted in the termination of her parental rights. The Davis court expressly noted that the plaintiff's challenge to the Adoption Act's consent procedure was collateral to, and independent of, the involuntary termination proceedings that ultimately divested plaintiff of her parental rights. Id. at 220 & n.16. By contrast, plaintiffs' in the instant case are challenging the specific state court order terminating Faison's parental rights. Plaintiffs assert that this order is invalid due to the City defendants' unconstitutional conduct in informing Faison in 1986 that her parental rights had been suspended. ...