The opinion of the court was delivered by: Caputo, District Judge.
Now before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss
Plaintiffs' amended complaint. (Doc. 14.) Plaintiffs' original
complaint was filed on September 11, 2000. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiffs
filed an amended complaint on February 15, 2001. (Doc. 8.) The
present motion to dismiss was filed by Defendants Luzerne County
Child and Youth Services, Helen Mericle, Jacqui Maddon, Ellis W.
Carle, Peggy A. Peterson, David Gryczko, and Anthony Michaels on
April 23, 2001. Defendants Pennsylvania Department of Welfare
(PDW) and Pennsylvania Division of Children, Youth
and Families (PDCYF) filed a separate motion to dismiss on
August 10, 2001. (Doc. 18.) I granted Defendants PDW and PDCYF's
motion to dismiss on September 27, 2001. (Doc. 20.)
In the present case, Defendants' motion to dismiss on the
grounds of statute of limitations, collateral estoppel and
Rooker-Feldman will be denied. Defendants' motion to dismiss
Counts I, II, and V of Plaintiffs' amended complaint, and
Plaintiffs' claim of intentional infliction of emotional
distress, will be granted. Defendants' motion to dismiss Count
IV of the amended complaint, as it pertains to Defendant Maddon,
will also be granted. Defendants' motion to dismiss Counts II
will be denied, as will Defendants' motion to dismiss Count IV
as it pertains to Defendants Mericle and Caprio. In addition, I
do not reach Defendants' argument that portions of Plaintiffs'
amended complaint should be stricken for scandalous and
impertinent material, as Defendants have not filed the
appropriate motion under Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of
Defendants are: the Luzerne County Children and Youth Services
(LCCYS); Eugene Caprio, Director of LCCYS; Helen Mericle, Social
Service Coordinator at LCCYS; Jackie Maddon, Social Service
Coordinator at LCCYS; Ellis W. Carle, Casework Manager at LCCYS;
Peggy A. Peterson, Caseworker at LCCYS; David Gryczko,
Caseworker at LCCYS; and Anthony Michaels, Caseworker at LCCYS.
(Defs.' Brief in Support of their Mot. to Dismiss; Doc. 14 ¶ 7.)
In May 1991 and March 1992, Mia Behm and Plaintiffs Elijah and
David Behm ("the children") were found dependent in an
uncontested dependency hearing. (Doc. 8 ¶¶ 44-45.) Plaintiffs
allege that the children's mother, Plaintiff Pike, was urged to
"cooperate" and sign the dependency petitions on both occasions,
under threat of losing her children if she did not cooperate.
(Doc. 8 ¶¶ 44-46.) In February 1993, Defendants took custody of
the children and placed them in foster care after they were
discovered in Dekalb County, Georgia with Plaintiff Pike and
Robert Schreffler, in violation of a Luzerne County Court of
Common Pleas order stating that the children were not to have
any contact with Schreffler. (Doc. 8 ¶ 47; Doc. 14, Ex. D.) The
incident report from the event states that the children looked
"very nervous" and "afraid of" Schreffler. (Pls.' Brief in Opp.
to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, Doc. 15, Ex. A.) The incident report
also states that Plaintiff Pike told authorities that she was in
the process of moving from Pennsylvania to Georgia, and that she
was not capable of taking care of her children, or providing
food and shelter for the children, at that time. (Doc. 14, Ex.
D.) Plaintiff Pike remained in Georgia with Schreffler while the
children were returned to Pennsylvania. (Doc. 15 at 5.) From the
complaint, it is unclear whether the children were immediately
placed in foster care, and then returned to family members, or
whether they were first placed with family members before being
placed into foster care. At some point during the spring of
1993, Plaintiffs David and Elijah Behm were placed with their
sister, Lisa Kellerman, and Mia Behm was placed with her
grandmother, Monica Bergman. (Doc. 8 ¶¶ 49, 50, 51.)
In March 1993, Defendants informed the children that their
mother had abandoned them. (Doc. 8 ¶ 48.) Plaintiffs allege that
Defendants published this information and distributed it to the
children's sister, Lisa Kellerman, and grandmother, Monica
Bergman, and the Luzerne County Children and Youth Services (LCC
& Y) case file. See id.
On May 10, 1993, Plaintiff David Behm was removed from
Kellerman's home and placed in foster care by Defendants. (Doc.
8 ¶ 49.) On March 16, 1994, Plaintiff Elijah Behm was also
removed from Kellerman's home and placed in a group home by
Defendants. (Doc. 8 ¶ 50.) On May 25, 1994, LCC & Y dropped
dependency of Mia Behm, and she continued to live with her
From February 1993 until May 1994, Plaintiff Pike maintained
contact with Kellerman and Bergman to keep up to date on her
children's health and welfare and to arrange visits with her
children. (Doc. 8 ¶ 51.) On January 22, 1995 and February 5,
1995, Plaintiff Pike visited Plaintiff Elijah Behm at the group
home. (Doc. 8 ¶ 52.) Plaintiff Pike arranged this visit herself,
as LCC & Y failed to arrange visits between the plaintiffs. See
id. On February 14, 1995, Plaintiff Pike received a letter from
Defendants stating that she was not to have any further contact
with the children until further order of the court. (Doc. 8 ¶
54.) In a March 1995 Family Service Plan, Defendants again
mentioned a court order prohibiting Plaintiff Pike from having
any contact with the children. See id. Plaintiffs allege that
there was no such court order, and that their repeated requests
to see this court order were denied. (Doc. 8 ¶¶ 54-55.) On
November 4, 1996, Plaintiff Pike sent a letter to Defendant
Carle to inquire why, despite court ordered visits, no visits
were being scheduled between herself and Mia Behm. (Doc. 8 ¶
Between May 10, 1993 and May 1, 1999, Mia Behm and Plaintiffs
Elijah and David Behm remained in alternate care without contact
with their mother or each other. (Doc. 8 ¶ 57.) Plaintiffs
allege that, during this time, Defendants systematically
interfered with the Plaintiffs' efforts to contact one another.
See id. Plaintiffs also allege that, between May 10, 1993 and
May 1, 1999, Defendants caused Plaintiff Pike to live in fear
through their repeated verbal assaults, threats and other means
of intimidation. (Doc. 8 ¶ 58.) Plaintiffs allege that many
administrative and judicial reviews of their cases took place
from January 5, 1991 without their knowledge or prior
notification. (Doc. 8 ¶ 59.)
Plaintiffs allege that, although they informed Defendants
Mericle and Caprio of the caseworkers' unlawful conduct, these
defendants failed to investigate and exercise control over the
caseworkers, instead allowing the caseworkers to repeatedly and
systematically violate Plaintiffs' constitutional rights. (Doc.
8 ¶¶ 60-61.)
Plaintiffs allege that they first discovered their injuries in
January 1999, when Plaintiff David Behm returned to his mother's
home, and Plaintiffs David and Elijah Behm were reunited with
Plaintiff Pike and Mia Behm for the first time in 6 years. (Doc.
8 ¶ 62.)
Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides
for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting all factual
allegations in the complaint as true and "drawing all reasonable
inferences in the plaintiffs favor, no relief could be granted
under any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the
complaint." See Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. v. Mirage
Resorts Inc., 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir. 1998).
In deciding a motion to dismiss, the court should consider the
allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint
and matters of public record. See Pension Benefit Guar. Corp.
v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (1993). The
court may also consider "undisputedly authentic" documents where
the plaintiffs claims are based on the documents and the
defendant has attached a copy of the document to the motion to
dismiss. Id. The court need not assume that the plaintiff can
prove facts that were not alleged in the complaint, City of
Pittsburgh v. West Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 (3d Cir.
1998), nor credit a complaint's "bald assertions" or "legal
conclusions," Morse v. Lower Merion School District,
132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).
When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court's role is
limited to determining whether the plaintiff is entitled to
offer evidence in support of the claims. See Scheuer v.
Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974).
The court does not consider whether the plaintiff will
ultimately prevail. See id. In order to survive a motion to
dismiss, the plaintiff must set forth information from which
each element of a claim may be inferred. See Kost v.
Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). The defendant
bears the burden of establishing that the plaintiffs complaint
fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See
Gould Electronics v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir.
The Third Circuit has emphasized a policy of liberally
interpreting pro se complaints, so Plaintiffs' amended
complaint should be held to less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers. See Weaver v. Wilcox,
650 F.2d 22, 26 (3d Cir. 1981); Henderson v. Fisher, 631 F.2d 1115,
1117 (3d Cir. 1980); see also Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519,
520-21, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972) (per curiam).
A. Statute of Limitations
As 42 U.S.C. § 1983 does not contain a specific statute of
limitations period, courts apply the statute of limitations
period applicable to personal injury actions in the state in
which they sit. See Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276-78,
105 S.Ct. 1938, 1947-48, 85 L.Ed.2d 254 (1985); 287 Corporate
Ctr. Assocs. v. Township of Bridgewater, 101 F.3d 320, 323 (3d
Cir. 1996). Pennsylvania statute 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §
5524(2) (West Supp. 1997) imposes a two-year limitations period
on personal injury, and thus, Section 1983 actions. See
Fitzgerald v. Larson, 769 F.2d 160, 162 (3d Cir. 1985); Smith
v. City of Pittsburgh, 764 F.2d 188, 194 (3d Cir. 1985). As
Section 1985 also sounds in tort, a two year statute of
limitations also applies to actions brought under Section 1985.
See Bougher v. University of Pittsburgh, 882 F.2d 74, 79 (3d
The statute of limitations in a civil rights action begins to
accrue when the plaintiff knows or should have known of the
injury upon which his action is based. See Sandutch v.
Muroski, 684 F.2d 252, 254 (3d Cir. 1982); de Botton v. Marple
Township, 689 F. Supp. 477, 480 (E.D.Pa. 1988). Therefore, the
plaintiff must allege that an unlawful act which is actionable
under Sections 1983 or 1985 occurred in the two-year period
prior to the filing of the complaint. See Bougher, 882 F.2d at
In the present case, Plaintiffs filed the original complaint
on September 11, 2000. (Doc. 1.) Thus, Plaintiffs must allege
that an unlawful act actionable under Sections 1983 or 1985
occurred between September 11, 1998 and September 11, 2000. The
primary incidents alleged by Plaintiff occurred in the early to
mid-1990's, several years prior to 1998. However, Plaintiffs
allege that Defendants' unlawful acts continued through 1999.
(Doc. 8 ¶ 57-59.) In addition, Plaintiffs specifically allege
that they did not "discover their injuries and the cause of
these injuries" until they were reunited in January 1999. (Doc.
8 ¶ 62.) Defendants argue that Plaintiffs knew or should have
known of their alleged injuries prior to September 1998.
that, in December 1996, January 1997 and February 1997 Plaintiff
Pike filed complaints against Defendant Caprio and the executive
officers of Luzerne County Children and Youth in the Court of
Common Pleas for Luzerne County, alleging negligence for "undue
estrangement and decomposition of the Plaintiffs' family unit."
(Doc. 14 at 10; Ex. F, G, ...