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Seldomridge v. Penn State Hershey Med. Ctr.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 4, 2014

MARK SELDOMRIDGE and ALISHA TORRES, Individually, and as the Natural Parents and Next Friend of L.S., a Minor, Plaintiffs
v.
THE PENN STATE HERSHEY MEDICAL CENTER, et al., Defendants

Page 426

For Marc Seldomridge, Individually, and as the natural parents and next friend of L.S., a minor, Alishe Torres, Individually, and as the natural parents and next friend of L.S., a monor, Plaintiffs: Mark D. Freeman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Mark D. Freeman, Esq., Media, PA.

For Penn State Hershey Medical Center, Kathryn R. Crowell, M.D., M.D. Andi C. Taroli, Dorothy V. Rocourt, M.D. Joel M. Weinstein, M.D. Jonas M. Sheehan, Mark S. Dias, M.D., Defendants: Kim Kocher, Thomas M. Goutman, White and Williams LLP, Philadelphia, PA.

For Lancaster County, Karen Garber, Amber Redcay, Sarah Hasselback, Susan Murray, Emily Heugel, Robin Boyer, Defendants: David L. Schwalm, Thomas, Thomas & Hafer, LLP, Harrisburg, PA.

OPINION

Page 427

MEMORANDUM

William W. Caldwell, United States District Judge.

I. Introduction

We are considering a motion to dismiss filed by the Lancaster County Defendants.[1] (Doc. 8). This civil rights lawsuit was filed on November 19, 2013, by Plaintiffs Mark Seldomridge and Alisha Torres, against: Penn State Hershey Medical Center (" PSHMC" ), six doctors employed at PSHMC, Lancaster County, and six individuals employed at the Lancaster County Children and Youth Services Agency (" CYS" ). Plaintiffs allege that their constitutional rights were violated when their two-month-old child, L.S., was removed

Page 428

from their care for seven months as a result of a misdiagnosis of shaken baby syndrome. On January 28, 2014, the Lancaster County Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. (Doc. 8). For the reasons that follow, we will grant the motion in part, and deny it in part.

II. Background

The following facts are set forth in Plaintiff's complaint and are taken as true, as they must be when considering a motion to dismiss, Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009): L.S. was born in September 2011 to Plaintiff Alisha Torres. (Doc. 1, ¶ 20). Torres was administered oxytocin during labor to augment her contractions. (Doc. 1, ¶ 20). At birth, L.S. presented with a rare complication, and Plaintiffs later learned that oxytocin should not be administered during these types of births. (Doc. 1, ¶ 23). Plaintiffs took L.S. to a pediatrician for three check-ups, and no evidence of abuse was ever noted. (Doc. 1, ¶ ¶ 26-28). On November 29, 2011, Plaintiffs took L.S. to the pediatrician because she was " sneezing, not eating, [and] vomiting." (Doc. 1, ¶ 29). The pediatrician diagnosed L.S. with being overfed. (Doc. 1, ¶ 29). A few days later, on December 2, Plaintiffs took L.S. to the pediatrician for her two-month-old check-up. This time, L.S. was " staring into space and less interactive." (Doc. 1, ¶ 30). Her head circumference, which had steadily measured in the 90th to 98th percentiles compared to other children her age, now measured well above the 98th percentile. (Doc. 1, ¶ ¶ 26, 28, 30). At the pediatrician's recommendation, Plaintiffs immediately took L.S. to the Ephrata Community Hospital, and a CT scan was performed. (Doc. 1, ¶ 32). The CT scan revealed subdural hematomas or hygromas, but no skull fractures. (Doc. 1, ¶ 32). Defendant Karen Garber, an intake case worker at Lancaster County CYS, met with Plaintiffs and told them that if they would not agree to an " Immediate Preliminary Safety Plan," L.S. would be placed in foster care. (Doc. 1, ¶ 34). The safety plan, which designated Plaintiffs as alleged perpetrators of child abuse, provided that neither parent would have unsupervised contact with L.S. (Doc. 1, ¶ 34-35). Plaintiffs were afforded no opportunity to contest the safety plan. (Doc. 1, ¶ 36). Defendant Garber requested that Plaintiff Seldomridge submit to an interview with a police detective, but he declined. (Doc. 1, ¶ 38).

L.S. was then transferred to PSHMC, and at 9:07 p.m. on December 2, Defendant Jonas Sheehan, M.D., issued a neurosurgery report recommending an " NAI [non-accidental injury] w/u [work up]." (Doc. 1, ¶ 39). At 9:43 p.m., Defendant Dorothy Rocourt, M.D., issued a pediatric surgery report recommending a " Child Safety consult" and a skeletal survey. (Doc. 1, ¶ 41). Around 10:30 p.m., Defendant Kathryn Crowell, M.D., interviewed Plaintiffs as part of the Child Safety Team consultation, and subsequently issued a report that also recommended a skeletal survey. (Doc. 1, ¶ 43-44). On December 3, Defendant Joel Weinstein, M.D., observed retinal hemorrhages and retinoschisis in L.S.'s eyes, which he reported were " highly suggestive of repetitive shaking injury and would be extremely rare in any other setting." (Doc. 1, ¶ 51). A skeletal survey was performed on L.S., but no evidence of fractures were found. (Doc. 1,¶ 59). An MRI performed on L.S. revealed a bilateral subdural hematoma. (Doc. 1, ¶ 60). Defendant Andi Taroli, M.D., Director of the PSHMC Child Safety Team, was also consulted. She reported that L.S.'s injuries were consistent with shaking, but that Plaintiffs had denied shaking the baby. (Doc. 1, ¶ ¶ 63-64).

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On December 6, 2011, Defendant Mark Dias, M.D., surgically drained L.S.'s subdural fluids. (Doc. 1, ¶ 71). On December 9, Defendants Garber, Redcay, and Boyer again threatened to place L.S. in foster care if Plaintiffs would not agree to a " Placement Safety Plan." (Doc. 1, ¶ 72-73). That plan provided that Plaintiffs would have two hours of supervised contact with ...


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