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Kane v. County of Chester

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 2, 2015

JEREMIAH F. KANE, as Guardian ad litem of K.J. and I.J.P., also known as I.P., both minors, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF CHESTER, PENNSYLVANIA; SARAH SCOTTO, worker; SANDRA THOMAS, Supervisor; THE CHILDREN’S HOME OF READING YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, INC.; MICHAEL ROCK, CHOR Manager; TRISTA MORRISSEY; CARMEN RIVERA, Supervisor; KATHRYN REECE, worker; NANCY WARWICK, worker; and SHADELL QUINONES, Supervisor, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

JOSEPH F. LEESON, JR United States District Judge

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on the Motion of Defendants The Children’s Home of Reading Youth and Family Services, Inc., Michael Rock, and Trista Morrissey (collectively “the CHOR Defendants”), to Partially Dismiss and Strike the Fourth Amended Complaint. ECF No. 57. Also before the Court is the Motion of Defendants County of Chester, Pennsylvania, Sarah Scotto, Sandra Thomas, Carmen Rivera, Nancy Reece, Katheryn Warwick, and Shadell Quinones (collectively “the County Defendants”), to Strike and/or Dismiss Portions of the Plaintiff’s Fourth Amended Complaint. ECF No. 58.

The factual and procedural background of this case is comprehensively summarized in the Honorable James Knoll Gardner’s March 31, 2014, Opinion. 7-9; 12-19. ECF No. 42. In the Order accompanying that Opinion, the Court denied in part and granted in part the County Defendants’[1] and the CHOR Defendants’ respective motions to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint. ECF No. 43. After the Court issued its Opinion and Order, Plaintiff filed a Third Amended Complaint, ECF No. 44, and all Defendants filed motions to dismiss that complaint, ECF Nos. 46, 47, 48. On January 13, 2015, the Court issued an order and stipulation in which the parties consented to the filing by Plaintiff of a Fourth Amended Complaint. ECF No. 55. After Plaintiff filed the Fourth Amended Complaint, ECF No. 56, the County Defendants and the CHOR Defendants filed the motions now under consideration. On March 12, 2015, the case was reassigned from the calendar of the Honorable James Knoll Gardner to the calendar of the undersigned. ECF No. 64.

For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant in part and deny in part Defendants’ motions to dismiss and/or strike.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A. Motion to Dismiss The defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that a plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991)). This Court must “accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.” See Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the Supreme Court recognized that “a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Court subsequently laid out a two-part approach to reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).

First, the Court observed, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Id. at 678. Thus, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice” to survive the motion; “instead, ‘a complaint must allege facts suggestive of [the proscribed] conduct.’” Id.; Phillips, 515 F.3d at 233 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563 n.8). While Rule 8, which requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” was “a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era, . . . it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79 (“Rule 8 . . . demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555)); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). For “without some factual allegation in the complaint, a claimant cannot satisfy the requirement that he or she provide not only ‘fair notice’ but also the ‘grounds’ on which the claim rests.” Phillips, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3).

Second, the Court emphasized, “only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief . . . [is] a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 678. Only if “the ‘[f]actual allegations . . . raise a right to relief above the speculative level’” has the plaintiff stated a plausible claim. Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). This is because Rule 8(a)(2) “requires not merely a short and plain statement, but instead mandates a statement ‘showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.’” See id., 515 F.3d at 234 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). If “the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]’-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.’” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). “Detailed factual allegations” are not required, id. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555), but a claim must be “nudged . . . across the line from conceivable to plausible, ” id. at 680 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

“The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ’” but there must be “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “Where a complaint pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with’ a defendant’s liability, it ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of “entitlement to relief.”’” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557)).

B. Motion to Strike

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) “redundant, immaterial, impertinent or scandalous” material may be stricken from a pleading. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(f). Although generally not favored by courts, when allegations found in a pleading are so unrelated to the plaintiff’s claims as to be “unworthy of any consideration, ” a motion to strike ...


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