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Henry v. Lane

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

April 18, 2017

TERI R. HENRY and, VIRGIL G. HENRY for M.H., Plaintiffs,
v.
DR. LINDA LANE Superintendent of Pgh. Public Schools, ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION ON MOTIONS TO DISMISS (DOC. 31 AND 33)

          Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         This is a civil rights action brought by Plaintiffs, Teri and Virgil Henry, as parents of M.H., against numerous Defendants in connection with what appears to be an appeal of a May 16, 2016 Decision and Final Order of Special Education Hearing Officer, Defendant Skidmore, who is employed by the Pennsylvania Office for Dispute Resolution. However, in the extensive and confusing narrative of Plaintiffs' pro se complaint, they reference claims relating to M.H.'s current Individualized Education Program (IEP), which presumably have not been subject to an administrative proceeding.

         On March 31, 2017, this Court previously Granted the Motion to Dismiss brought pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pr. 12(b)(1), (4), (5) and (6); Denied as Moot a Motion for More Definite Statement pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P 12(e); and, Granted a Motion to Strike Minor from Caption and Case filed by Defendants Pittsburgh Public School District, Denise (unknown last name), Mary-Lou (unknown last name), Amy Berner, Tracy Brezicki, Paulette Colonna, Mary-Jane Conley, Sylbia Kunst, Cicily Kurian, Dr. Linda Lane, David May-Stein, Tom Spickler, Donna Westbrooks-Martin, Kimberly Zangrilli, and Aimee Zundel, collectively referred to as the “School District Defendants.” Doc. 29 and Doc. 30. The Court will not recount the lengthy prior Memorandum Opinion on the Motion to Dismiss, et al., but instead will incorporate by reference the Opinion and Order at doc. 29 and doc. 30.

         Now pending before this Court is a Motion to Dismiss, filed by Defendant Skidmore, a Hearing Officer who presided over in the subject administrative hearing and issued a Decision thereon (doc. 31), and a Motion to Dismiss, for a More Definite Statement, and a Motion to Strike (doc. 33), filed by Defendant Egan, who was the “former director/principal” of the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children (WPSBC).

         Though Plaintiffs' Response to the instant Motions was due on March 10, 2017, 21 days after a ruling thereon, on April 14, 2017, Plaintiffs belatedly filed what appears to be a “Response, ” mainly to the Court's prior Memorandum Opinion at doc. 29, although it is largely incomprehensible, and contains over 115 pages of verbiage and attachments. Doc. 36.

         Plaintiffs were, in fact, ordered to respond to the instant Motions by April 14, 2017, and in what they have titled as a “Re-Memorandum Opinion on Motion to Dismiss (doc. 16) Re-AJS” and later as “Re-Motion Response” at doc. 36, it does not appear to be responsive to doc. 31 and doc. 33. The Court notes, however, that at page 17 of doc. 36, Plaintiffs state: “Responding to the per [sic] 33 motions Teri and Virgil Henry. We have a legal response against these non merit motions.” What follows, however, is a confusing list of factual allegations with cases interjected that are seemingly unrelated to and not applicable to the issue at hand. Doc. 36 at pp. 17-23.[1]

         II. Standards of Review

         A. Rule 12(b)(1)

         A Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) challenges this Court's “very power to hear the case.” See Judkins v. HT Window Fashions Corp., 514 F.Supp.2d 753, 759 (W.D. Pa. 2007) (quoting Mortenson v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977)). As the party asserting jurisdiction, Plaintiff “bears the burden of showing that its claims are properly before the district court.” Dev. Fin. Corp. v. Alpha Housing & Health Care, 54 F.3d 156, 158 (3d Cir. 1995). In reviewing a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), this Court must distinguish between facial attacks and factual attacks. See Petruska v. Gannon Univ., 462 F.3d 294, 302 (3d Cir. 2006).

         A facial attack challenges the sufficiency of the pleadings, and the Court must accept the Plaintiff's allegations as true. Id. A Defendant who attacks a complaint on its face “[asserts] that considering the allegations of the complaint as true, and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of [plaintiff], the allegations of the complaint are insufficient to establish a federal cause of action.” Mullen v. Thompson, 155 F.Supp.2d 448, 451 (W.D. Pa. 2001). Dismissal is proper under Rule 12(b)(1) only when “the claim clearly appears to be immaterial and made solely for the purpose of obtaining jurisdiction or . . . is wholly insubstantial and frivolous.” Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991) (quoting Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 682 (1946)).

         When, as in this case, a Defendant launches a factual attack on subject matter jurisdiction, “no presumptive truthfulness attaches to plaintiff's allegations, and the existence of disputed material facts will not preclude the trial court from evaluating for itself the merits of jurisdictional claims.” Petruska, 462 F.3d at 302 (quoting Mortenson, 549 F.2d at 891). In a factual attack, this Court must weigh the evidence relating to jurisdiction, with discretion to allow affidavits, documents, and even limited evidentiary hearings. See United States ex rel. Atkinson v. Pa. Shipbuilding Co., 473 F.3d 506, 514 (3d Cir. 2007).

         B. Fed. R. Civ. Pr. 12(b)(6)

         Under Rule 12(b)(6), a Complaint must be dismissed for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Detailed factual pleading is not required - Rule 8(a)(2) calls for a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” - but a Complaint must set forth sufficient factual allegations that, taken as true, set forth a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plausibility standard does not require a showing of probability that a claim has merit, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007), but it does require that a pleading show “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Determining the plausibility of an alleged claim is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679

         Building upon the landmark United States Supreme Court decisions in Twombly and Iqbal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit explained that a District Court must undertake the ...


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