No. 94-2256 (E.D. Pa. April 10, 1996), the court held that without clear direction from the Third Circuit, the Albright decision provided insufficient guidance for the court to conclude that a § 1983 malicious prosecution claim no longer existed. See also Haddock v. Christos, 866 F. Supp. 170, 173 n.9 (M.D. Pa. 1994) (presuming that elements identified by Third Circuit in Lee for malicious prosecution claim survived Albright); Ferraira v. Mobil Oil Corp., 1994 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12081, 1994 WL 470280 at *3-4 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 19, 1994) (same), aff'd, 68 F.3d 456 (3d Cir. 1995). But see Pansy v. Preate, 870 F. Supp. 612, 622 (M.D. Pa. 1994) (granting summary judgment on malicious prosecution claim on Albright grounds and because of existence of probable cause), aff'd, 61 F.3d 896 (3d Cir. 1995); Patterson v. Board of Probation and Parole, 851 F. Supp. 194, 201 (E.D. Pa. 1994) (holding that no § 1983 malicious prosecution claims exist after Albright); Smith v. Holtz, 856 F. Supp. 227, 236 (M.D. Pa. 1994) (stating that existence of § 1983 malicious prosecution claim was unresolved issue), aff'd, 87 F.3d 108 (3d Cir), cert. denied, 136 L. Ed. 2d 536, 117 S. Ct. 611 (1996). In Brooks v. Carrion, 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14652, 1996 WL 563897 *3 (E.D. Pa. Sept 26, 1996), a post-Hilfirty decision, the court held that between January, 1994 and July, 1996, malicious prosecution was not clearly established as a constitutional violation and, consequently, state officials have qualified immunity for claims arising out of incidents occurring during that period.
This court holds that without clear direction from the Third Circuit concerning the impact of Albright, malicious prosecution remains a valid claim under § 1983. Further, in light of the Third Circuit's explicit holding in Lee, the implications of Albright are not apparent enough for this court to conclude that malicious prosecution was not a clearly established constitutional violation under § 1983 during the eighteen months prior to Hilfirty.
Therefore, plaintiffs state a § 1983 claim for malicious prosecution if they allege the elements of the common law tort.
C. Scheer's State Immunity
Section 6318 of the CPSL grants social workers a good faith immunity from civil liability under state law. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6318 (Supp. 1996). Scheer's good faith must be judged on an objective standard. Brozovich v. Circle C Group Homes, Inc., 120 Pa. Commw. 417, 548 A.2d 698 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1988). To overcome immunity, plaintiffs must allege facts that display Scheer's bad faith. Allegations of bad faith that use general language with regard to motive and malice are insufficient to overcome the statutory presumption of good faith. Heinrich v. Conemaugh Valley Mem. Hosp., 436 Pa. Super. 465, 648 A.2d 53, 58 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1994).
Here, Scheer is not entitled to good faith immunity under § 6138 because plaintiffs state sufficient allegations that Scheer acted in bad faith. Plaintiffs allege that Scheer attempted to suborn perjury, induced CHOP to falsify records and misrepresented Dr. Henretig's medical report to Judge Sheppard.
D. Civil Conspiracy
Plaintiffs concede that they do not have a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1985. (Plain. Memo. at 18.) Instead, plaintiffs bring a civil conspiracy claim under state law. Defendants' motion to dismiss is denied with respect to this claim and plaintiffs' other state law claims because as stated above, plaintiffs have stated sufficient allegations of bad faith to overcome Scheer's good faith immunity defense.
E.Liability of City and DHS
Plaintiffs aver that the City and the DHS violated their constitutional rights through a policy, custom, and practice whereby social workers can subject persons like Miller to judicial process and accusations of child abuse without basis for doing so. (Amended Complaint at 53.) Further, plaintiffs allege that the City and DHS failed to adequately discipline and train their staff in the correct way to handle child abuse cases. (Amended Complaint at 63.)
Local governments may be held liable for constitutional violations caused by official custom and policy. Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 694, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611, 98 S. Ct. 2018 (1978). A municipality cannot be liable for the failure to supervise or train an officer when there is no underlying constitutional violation by the officer. City of Los Angeles v. Heller, 475 U.S. 796, 89 L. Ed. 2d 806, 106 S. Ct. 1571 (1986). However, actions of city policymakers, rather than those of the individual officer whose behavior directly impacted the plaintiffs, can be the predicate for § 1983 claims against a municipality. Simmons v. City of Philadelphia, 947 F.2d 1042, 1063 (3d Cir. 1991) (holding city policymakers, rather than turnkey, were the city actors whose primary liability must be shown to establish § 1983 claim arising from prisoner suicide), cert. denied, 503 U.S. 985, 118 L. Ed. 2d 391, 112 S. Ct. 1671 (1992).
Here, plaintiffs have alleged a cause of action against City of Philadelphia and DHS premised on Scheer's conduct in obtaining temporary custody of Miller's children.
Defendants argue that plaintiffs fail to state a claim against DHS and City of Philadelphia regarding their policy and custom for investigating child abuse allegations because plaintiffs fail to identify any persons, groups of persons or official offices that are responsible for the alleged unconstitutional policy. Simmons, 947 F.2d at 1062; Wendy H. v. City of Philadelphia, 849 F. Supp. 367, 376-77 (E.D. Pa. 1994) (holding that plaintiffs "must identify officials with ultimate policymaking authority in the area in question and adduce scienter-like evidence . . . with respect to them"). This defense is premature at this stage of the proceedings because it is perfectly permissible for the plaintiffs to name the appropriate city officials at a later stage of the litigation after discovery has been completed.
Therefore, defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiffs' § 1983 claim against the City and DHS is denied.
Defendants' motion to dismiss is granted with respect to plaintiffs' procedural due process claim. With respect to plaintiffs' additional claims, defendants' motion is denied.
Finally, the court orders plaintiffs to file a statement of claim. The court previously directed plaintiffs to file an amended complaint that more clearly articulated the specific claims alleged against each defendant. Plaintiffs' amended complaint was little changed from its predecessor, it provided defendants with no additional details of the specific statutory or constitutional violations alleged, and the court sympathizes with defendants' difficulties in responding to plaintiffs' complaint. Considerable time for discovery has now elapsed and plaintiffs should be able to articulate their claims with more specificity. Therefore, plaintiffs are ordered to file a statement of claim within 14 days of the date hereof setting forth the specific claims against each defendant, the specific statute or constitutional provision on which each claim is based, and a short summary of the specific facts underlying each claim as they relate to each defendant. The plaintiffs are urged to list only those claims which they feel will be submitted to the jury so as to not waste valuable legal and judicial resources dealing with claims that will ultimately be discarded by the plaintiffs as redundant or superfluous. No claims not so listed will be submitted to the jury.
An appropriate order follows.
AND NOW, THIS 29th DAY OF January, 1997, upon consideration of defendants City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Department of Human Services, and Owen Scheer's motion to dismiss, and the response thereto, IT IS ORDERED that defendants' motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART. Specifically,
(1) defendants' motion with respect to plaintiffs' procedural due process claim is GRANTED ;
(2) defendants' motion with respect to plaintiffs' remaining claims is DENIED.