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R.B. and V.B., Plaintiffs v. Westmoreland County

February 21, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge




Presently before this Court is the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants Westmoreland County ("Westmoreland"), Westmoreland County Children's Bureau ("WCCB"), John Cerra ("Cerra"), Karen Gilmore ("Gilmore"), and Kimberly Poppa ("Poppa"), individually and in their capacity as employees of WCCB (collectively referred to as "County Defendants").*fn1 Doc. No. 10. The Court has reviewed Plaintiffs' Complaint (Doc. No. 1), Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 10) and Brief in Support Thereof (Doc. No. 11) as well as Plaintiffs' Brief in Opposition (Doc. No. 14).*fn2 For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss will be GRANTED.

II. Statement Of The Facts

Under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, at this stage the Court accepts all of the factual allegations in the Complaint as true and all reasonable inferences are drawn in Plaintiffs' Favor. See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). Taking the Plaintiffs' factual allegations as true soley for the purposes of this Memorandum Opinion, the facts of this case are as follows:

Plaintiffs R.B. and V.B. are the parents and natural guardian of their daughter A.B., a minor. Doc. No. 1 ¶¶ 1, 2. Defendant WCCB is a local government agency of Westmoreland County (Id. at ¶ 4) and Defendant Westmoreland County is a local government subdivision pursuant to the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Id. at ¶ 5. Defendant Cerra is a caseworker supervisor, Defendant Gilmore is a caseworker and screener, and Defendant Poppa is a caseworker supervisor. Id. at ¶¶ 6-8. They are all adult individuals and at all times relevant were employed by the Defendant, WCCB in Westmoreland County. Id.

On May 9, 2010, Plaintiffs' daughter, A.B., ran away from her family's home after she was confronted by her father, R.B., with suspicion that she was having sexual relations with an older man. Id. at ¶ 11. R.B. subsequently called Rostraver Township Police and reported A.B. missing. Id. at ¶ 13.

A.B. went to the home of Barry O'Neal, Jr., a 20 year old male, with whom A.B. was having sexual relations. Id. at ¶ 14. Defendant Christine O' Neal,*fn3 the mother of Barry O'Neal, Jr., became aware of her son's relationship with A.B. and was concerned that A.B. would report her son to authorities because of their sexual relationship. Id. at ¶¶ 15, 16. In order to prevent A.B. from exposing their relationship to authorities, Christine O'Neal devised a plan to control supervision over A.B. by convincing her to go to authorities and falsely report that her father, R.B., attempted to rape her. Id. at ¶¶ 17, 18. Defendant Barry O' Neal, Sr.*fn4 was present when his wife concocted the false story and condoned such behavior without any interjection. Id. at ¶ 20.

With the assistance of Christine O' Neal, A.B. filed a police report with the Rostraver Police Department and falsely reported to Officer Kerry August ("August") that her father, R.B., had sexually abused her. Id. at ¶ 21. Defendant WCCB opened an investigation and allowed A.B. to return to the O'Neal home to live after a background check was performed on the O'Neal family. Id. at ¶¶ 24, 25. R.B. and V.B. were notified that A.B. had been found, she was staying at the O'Neal's, and they were the subject of child abuse allegations. Id. at ¶¶ 26, 27. Defendant Gilmore then informed R.B. and V.B. that their daughter could not stay with them and if A.B. were placed in foster care, then they would have to pay child support. Id. at ¶ 28. R.B. and V.B. agreed to let A.B. stay at the O'Neal residence. Id. at ¶ 29.

On May 9, 2010, R.B. called Defendant Gilmore and informed her that he had found out that his daughter, A.B., was dating 20 year old Barry O'Neal Jr., and if true, asked for him to be arrested for dating his 15 year old daughter. Id. at ¶ 30. Gilmore met with A.B. and Barry O'Neal Jr. that same day, but took no action to remove A.B. from the O'Neal home even though she was aware that some type of relationship had occurred between the two. Id. at ¶ 32.

On or about May 12, 2010, R.B. met with Officer August of the Rostraver Police Department and WCCB employee Defendant Cerra. Id. at ¶ 33. R.B. denied all allegations of sexual abuse against A.B. and averred his daughter was fabricating her story so she could continue living with Barry O'Neal Jr. Id. at ¶¶ 34, 35. Defendant Cerra ignored R.B.'s concerns and objections and acquiesced to A.B. remaining at the O'Neal residence and informed R.B. and V.B. they were to have no contact with their daughter while the investigation was taking place. Id. at ¶¶ 36-38.

On or about May 12, 2010, Defendant Cerra interviewed A.B. at her school and determined that her story was suspicious and fabricated, yet he continued to allow her to remain in the O'Neal home. Id. at ¶¶ 42-44.

On or about May 17, 2010, Defendant Cerra conducted a 10 Day Supervisor Review with Defendant Poppa to report that A.B.'s allegations were false and inconsistent. Id. at ¶¶ 46, 47. Thereafter, on May 26, 2010, Defendant Poppa conducted a 10 Day Supervisor Review and approved keeping A.B. in the O'Neal home even though she was informed that A.B. had "gone out" with Barry O'Neal, Jr. and that A.B's accusations against her father were fabricated. Id. at ¶¶ 48, 50.

At that meeting, Defendant Cerra informed R.B. and V.B. that Barry O'Neal, Jr. was not residing in the house where A.B. was staying. Id. at ¶ 54. Several weeks later A.B. told Defendant Cerra that, in fact Barry O'Neal, Jr. remained in the O'Neal residence. Id. at ¶ 57. Defendant Cerra subsequently followed up with Christine O'Neal about her son's living arrangements, and she accused A.B. of being difficult to live with and coming onto Barry O'Neal Jr. Id. at ¶¶ 58, 59.

During her stay at the O'Neal house, A.B. was sexually assaulted multiple times by Barry O'Neal, Jr. Id. at ¶ 62. Additionally, Barry O'Neal Jr. threatened A.B. at gunpoint and told her not to tell anyone about their relationship. Id. at ¶¶ 65, 66.

On or about June 8, 2010, Defendant Cerra called R.B. and told him to take his daughter back or risk being charged with the initial sexual abuse allegations against him, even though Defendant Cerra knew these allegations to be unfounded. Id. at ΒΆΒΆ 69, 70. Although WCCB was to return A.B. to her parent's residence, Defendant ...

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