The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN R. PADOVA
This case, apparently the first of its kind in Pennsylvania, is a "false memory" lawsuit
by parents against their daughter's former mental health counselors.
Plaintiffs, Kenneth J. Tuman and Joan E. Tuman, allege that while treating the Tuman's only child, Diane, for bulimia, Defendants implanted false memories that Plaintiffs murdered numerous children, sexually assaulted Diane, and routinely performed bizarre satanic rituals. Plaintiffs assert the following state-law claims: breach of contract (Count I), negligence (Count II), reckless, wanton, and malicious interference with filial relations (Count III), intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count IV), defamation (Count V), intentional misrepresentation (Count VI), and punitive damages (Count VII). Jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship, as Plaintiffs are New Jersey residents and Defendants reside in or have a principal place of business in Pennsylvania. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Defendants seek to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint. For the reasons set forth below, I shall grant in part and deny in part Defendants' Motion.
Plaintiffs allege the following facts, which I shall assume are true for purposes of the motion to dismiss. Beginning in July 1990, Diane, who was then twenty years old, became a Genesis client in order to improve her self esteem and to help deal with an eating disorder. Defendants informed Plaintiffs that Diane suffered from bulimia and would benefit from therapy, but that Plaintiffs must separate and detach from Diane for approximately two years. Plaintiffs agreed to the separation, and formed a contract with Genesis whereby Plaintiffs agreed to pay Defendants on a per-session basis, and Defendants agreed to provide Diane with psychological counseling and mental health therapy that was within acceptable standards of care.
Plaintiffs allege, however, that Defendants provided Diane with substandard care, and that Diane's mental health only deteriorated while Defendants treated her. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that the Defendants "brainwashed" Diane by implanting false memories that (a) Plaintiffs were members of a satanic cult; (b) Plaintiffs murdered Diane's twin brother and other children during satanic rituals; (c) Kenneth Tuman raped Diane and impregnated her; (d) Plaintiffs murdered Diane and Kenneth's child during a satanic ritual; and (e) cult members intended to harm Diane for attempting to leave the cult. Additionally, on January 30, 1991, during a "rage therapy" session, Diane suffered a catatonic seizure, fell to the floor, and was left unattended for more than eight hours before Defendants sought appropriate medical care.
Plaintiffs also allege that on numerous occasions during group therapy sessions, Defendants stated that Diane was the victim of incest and ritual satanic abuse, and then invited Diane to tell group members the identity of her abusers. With this encouragement, Diane falsely stated that Plaintiffs committed incest and murder, and lead a satanic cult.
Finally, during the summer of 1992, Defendants solicited money from other Genesis patients to help Diane hide from the cult. Diane has assumed a new identity and is no longer in Pennsylvania, and Plaintiffs have not seen or heard from her for more than two years.
II. STANDARD FOR MOTION TO DISMISS
A claim may be dismissed under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) only if the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim that would entitle her to relief. See ALA, Inc. v. CCAIR, Inc., 29 F.3d 855, 859 (3d Cir. 1994). The reviewing court must consider only those facts alleged in the complaint and accept all of the allegations as true. See id.
Plaintiffs seek relief based on contract and tort theories of liability. I shall discuss ...