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Bennett v. Susquehanna County Children and Youth Services

United States District Court, Third Circuit

August 26, 2013

JENNIFER BENNETT, on behalf of herself and her minor children, Plaintiff.


MALACHY E. MANNION, District Judge.

Pending before the court is the defendant's motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 7). Based upon the court's review of the motion and the materials related thereto, the motion to dismiss will be GRANTED with respect to Counts 1 through 9 and 11. Count 10 will be DISMISSED without prejudice to re-filing in state court.


The instant action arises from the allegedly unlawful seizure and withholding of two minor children from the care and custody of their mother, the plaintiff, on or about November 18, 2009. (Doc. No. 2). On November 17, 2009, plaintiff brought one of her children, Minor Child B, to the emergency room of a local hospital with complaints of a cough and fever. (Doc. No. 11 at 2). During a medical examination, the doctor and nurses noticed that the child had "bruising over the thoracolumbar region and hemorrhage." (Doc. No. 2 at 3). Additional x-rays disclosed a supracondylar fracture of the right distal humerus head. (Doc. No. 2 at 3). As a result of this diagnosis, the child was hospitalized and the hospital contacted Susquehanna County Children and Youth Services (hereinafter "SCCYS"). (Doc. No. 2 at 3). SCCYS subsequently proposed a safety plan where after Minor Child B's release from the hospital, both of the plaintiff's children, Minor Child A and Minor Child B, would be placed under the care of their paternal grandmother, Allison Reaves. (Doc. No. 2 at 3). Under the plan, the plaintiff would have limited visitation rights. Id . The plaintiff signed the safety plan on November 18, 2009. (Doc. No. 2 at 3). Upon Minor Child B's release from the hospital, SCCYS immediately placed both of the plaintiff's children in the custody of their paternal grandmother. (Doc. No. 2 at 3). Despite the plaintiff's objections, the children remained in the custody of their paternal grandmother until December 30, 2011, when the plaintiff regained physical custody on her own behalf. (Doc. No. 2 at 3-4).


On September 25, 2012, the plaintiff filed a complaint containing eleven counts against Susquehanna County (hereinafter "the County") and SCCYS. (Doc. No. 2). Counts 1 and 5 of the complaint allege a Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process violation concerning both minor children. Counts 2 and 6 allege unlawful searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment for both minor children. Counts 3 and 7 assert substantive due process violations under the Fourteenth Amendment concerning both minor children. Counts 4 and 8 allege that both minor children were deprived of their liberty in violation of the Fifth Amendment. In Count 9 the plaintiff asserts both that the defendant's actions resulted in Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress ("IIED"), which is a state law claim, and that the defendant's actions allegedly constituted cruel and unusual punishment for both minor children in violation of the Eighth Amendment, a federal claim. In Count 10, the plaintiff alleges a failure to carry out the provisions of 42 Pa.C.S.A. §6301, also known as the "The Juvenile Act." Finally, in Count 11, the plaintiff alleges that she is entitled to punitive damages.

On November 2, 2012, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and a brief in support of that motion. (Doc. Nos. 6, 7). The defendants argue both that the plaintiff has failed to comply with the statute of limitations and that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted for all counts. On December 28, 2012, the plaintiff filed a brief in opposition to the motion to dismiss arguing that the complaint was timely, that her claims were adequately pled, and that the court should retain jurisdiction over the Juvenile Act claim. (Doc. No. 11). On January 18, 2013, the defendant filed a reply brief. (Doc. No. 14). On July 16, 2013, the court directed both the plaintiff and the defendant to file a supplemental brief concerning the legal issues underlying the statute of limitations. (Doc. No. 22). On July 17, 2013, the plaintiff submitted her brief, and on July 22, 2013, the defendant submitted its brief. (Doc. No. 23, Doc. No. 24). On August 21, 2013, the plaintiff filed a motion to file the plaintiff's deposition transcript. (Doc. No. 25). Satisfied that the proffered reasons would have no impact upon the court's statute of limitation analysis, that motion is denied.

The plaintiff correctly states that this court has subject matter jurisdiction over the §1983 claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331 and §1343 and supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1367.


The defendants' motion to dismiss is brought pursuant to the provisions of Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). This rule provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, if the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The moving party bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated, Hedges v. United States , 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005), and dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting all of the facts alleged in the complaint as true, the plaintiff has failed to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, " Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007) (abrogating "no set of facts" language found in Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). The facts alleged must be sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. at 1965.This requirement "calls for enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" necessary elements of the plaintiff's cause of action. Id . Furthermore, in order satisfy federal pleading requirements, the plaintiff must "provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief, " which "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Phillips v. County of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (brackets and quotations marks omitted) (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65).

In considering a motion to dismiss, the court generally relies on the complaint, attached exhibits, and matters of public record. See Sands v. McCormick , 502 F.3d 263 (3d Cir. 2007). The court may also consider "undisputedly authentic document[s] that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff's claims are based on the [attached] documents." Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus. , 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). Moreover, "documents whose contents are alleged in the complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the pleading, may be considered." Pryor v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n , 288 F.3d 548, 560 (3d Cir. 2002). However, the court may not rely on other parts of the record in determining a motion to dismiss. See Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel , 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994).

Generally, the court should grant leave to amend a complaint before dismissing it as merely deficient. See, e.g., Fletcher-Harlee Corp. v. Pote Concrete Contractors, Inc. , 482 F.3d 247, 252 (3d Cir. 2007); Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp. , 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002); Shane v. Fauver , 213 F.3d 113, 116-17 (3d Cir. 2000). "Dismissal without leave to amend is justified only on the grounds of bad faith, undue delay, prejudice, or futility." Alston v. Parker , 363 F.3d 229, 236 (3d Cir. 2004).


The plaintiff brings this action alleging deprivations of her and her children's federally protected rights under 42 U.S.C. §1983 as well as state law claims for IIED and violations of ...

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