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Estate of Massey v. City of Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 24, 2015

ESTATE OF LAPORSHIA LORRAINE MASSEY, by and through the Co-Administrators of her Estate Pauline Hodges and Mark W. Richardson, Esquire, Plaintiff
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PHILADELPHIA, W.C. BRYANT PROMISE ACADEMY, TEACHER JANE DOE, and PRINCIPAL GADDY, Defendants

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For ESTATE OF LAPORSHIA LORRAINE MASSEY, BY AND THROUGH THE CO-ADMINISTRATORS OF HER ESTATE, PAULINE HODGES AND MARK W. RICHARDSON, ESQUIRE, Plaintiff: MICHAEL D. POMERANTZ, LEAD ATTORNEY, MARRONE LAW FIRM LLC, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

For SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PHILADELPHIA, W.C. BRYANT PROMISE ACADEMY, PRINCIPAL GADDY, Defendants: JEFFREY M. SCOTT, LEAD ATTORNEY, ARCHER & GREINER, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION

NITZA I. QUIÑ ONES ALEJANDRO, United States District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

This civil action matter arises out of the tragic death of Laporshia Massey (" Laporshia" or " Decedent" ) on September 25, 2013, which was allegedly caused by an untreated asthma attack that occurred at school. Presently, before this Court are the following pleadings: (1) a motion to dismiss filed by the School District of Philadelphia (" District" ), W.C. Bryant Promise Academy (" Bryant Academy" ), and Principal Gaddy (collectively " Defendants" ) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (" Rule" ) 12(b)(6), [ECF 12], which seeks to dismiss the amended complaint filed by Pauline Hodges and Mark W. Richardson, Co-Administrators of the Estate of Laporshia Massey, (" Plaintiff), [ECF 7]; and (2) Plaintiff's opposition. [ECF 13]. The issues in the motion to dismiss have been fully briefed by the parties and are ripe for disposition. For the reasons set forth herein, Defendants' motion to dismiss is granted, in part, and denied, in part.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

When ruling on the motion to dismiss, this Court must accept, as true, all relevant and pertinent factual allegations in Plaintiff's amended complaint. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). In the amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges the following facts:

Laporshia was born on February 21, 2001, and was a sixth grade student at Bryant Academy on the day of the events.[1] Laporshia suffered from chronic asthma which " is a medical condition that requires immediate intervention such that any delay can lead to death in a matter of moments," [2] and used medication to treat her asthma.[3] Defendants knew of Laporshia's medical condition prior to September 25, 2013.[4]
Plaintiff contends that the school followed a policy and/or custom that students could not " possess" or " use prescribed medication at the school without the supervision of a nurse." [5] On September 25, 2013, no nurse was on duty at Bryant Academy.[6] Plaintiff avers that " [t]he absence of a nurse from the school on that date was the result of decisions by Defendants, acting through high-level policymakers with final authority and/or acqui[e]scing to a longstanding custom and/or practice known to such high-level policymakers." [7] That morning, Laporshia complained to Defendant Teacher Jane Doe (" Teacher Doe" ) of " difficulty breathing," attributed

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to an asthma attack.[8] Teacher Doe responded that no nurse was on duty and that Laporshia should " be calm." [9] Although Laporshia's condition worsened, Defendants did not contact emergency medical aid or take Laporshia to the hospital.[10] Instead, Laporshia " was kept at school, despite her having told Defendants that she could not breath[e]." [11] Later that afternoon, " [Laporshia] was driven from the school to her home." [12] Upon her arrival at home, she was immediately driven to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.[13] On the way to the hospital, Laporshia suffered a respiratory arrest.[14] Emergency medical workers and hospital staff commenced CPR, but were unable to revive her.[15]
The Medical Examiner of Philadelphia pronounced the cause of death as acute exacerbation of asthma.[16]

On September 2, 2014, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants, City of Philadelphia (" City" ), and Teacher Doe,[17] [ECF 1], which was amended on January 13, 2015. In the amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges (1) claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (" § 1983" ) for (a) violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments; (b) liability under Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978) (" Monell " ); (c) supervisory liability; and (2) state law tort claims. [ECF 7]. On January 14, 2015, the City filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint against it, [ECF 8], which was granted, [ECF 14]. On January 29, 2015, Defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. [ECF 12].

LEGAL STANDARD

When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court " must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions." Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210-11. The court must determine " whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a 'plausible claim for relief" Id. at 211 (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)). The complaint must do more than merely allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief; it must " show such an entitlement with its facts." Id. (citations omitted). " [W]here 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)) (alterations in original). " A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678 (citing Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). " Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of

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action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice." Id. To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), " a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to 'nudge [her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.'" Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

DISCUSSION

In the amended complaint, Plaintiff asserts (1) federal claims under § 1983 against all Defendants for violations of Decedent's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment constitutional rights, a Monell claim against the District and Bryant Academy, and a supervisory claim against Principal Gaddy; and (2) state law tort claims against all Defendants. In their motion, Defendants move to dismiss these claims. This Court will address each claim separately.

Section § 1983 Claims

Congress enacted 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as a remedy for a violation of the United States Constitution and/or laws of the United States. Morrow v. Balaski, 719 F.3d 160, 165-66 (3d Cir. 2013). That is, § 1983 does not provide substantive rights but, instead, " provides only remedies for deprivations of rights established elsewhere in the Constitution or federal laws." M.U. v. Downingtown High Sch. E., 103 F.Supp.3d 612, 2015 WL 1893264, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 27, 2015) (quoting Kneipp v. Tedder, 95 F.3d 1199, 1204 (3d Cir. 1996)). Specifically, § 1983 provides:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress....

42 U.S.C. § 1983. Thus, to assert a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that a person acting under the color of state law violated a right secured by the Constitution and/or laws of the United States. Morrow, 719 F.3d 165-66.

Here, Plaintiff asserts Defendants violated Laporshia's constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. For purposes of the § 1983 claims, it is undisputed that a public school district and its employees, including the school principal, are state actors. See Daniels v. Sch. Dist. of Phila., 982 F.Supp.2d 462, 477 (E.D. Pa. 2013); K.S. v. Sch. Dist. of Phila., 2007 WL 1009815, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 28, 2007); Mohammed v. ...


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