United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
A. L., Plaintiffs,
ADELAIDE L. EICHMAN, Defendants.
Barry Fischer United States District Judge
before the Court is Defendants Allegheny County, Andrew
Fleming, and Anjelica Salih's Motion to Dismiss for
Failure to State a Claim and supporting brief, (Docket Nos.
, ); Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition, (Docket
No. ); and Allegheny County, Fleming, and Salih's
reply, (Docket No. ); as well as Defendant Adelaide L.
Eichman's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim
and supporting brief, (Docket Nos. , );
Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition, (Docket No. );
and Eichman's reply, (Docket No. ). After careful
consideration of the parties' submissions, in light of
the standards governing motions to dismiss set forth by the
Supreme Court in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009), and as articulated in Third Circuit
precedent, see, e.g., Connelly v. Lane Const.
Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 790 (3d Cir. 2016), and for the
following reasons, Defendants' respective motions,
(Docket Nos. , ), are DENIED, without prejudice to
Defendants renewing their arguments at the motion for summary
judgment stage of this matter.
matter arises from allegations of child abuse made against
Plaintiffs. The following pertinent facts are alleged in the
Complaint, which the Court will accept as true for the sole
purpose of deciding the pending motion.
are the natural parents to two children, S.L.W. and D.W.
(Docket No. 1 at ¶¶ 4-5). Plaintiffs' child,
S.L.W., was born in 2015. (Id. at ¶ 13). During
his one-month well visit on July 14, 2015, four bruises were
noticed on S.L.W., one on his forehead, left inner elbow,
left lower back, and right bottom back of the leg.
(Id. at ¶¶ 17-18). The pediatricians'
office became concerned that S.L.W. might have a coagulation
disorder and insisted that S.L.W. be taken to Children's
Hospital of Pittsburgh (“CHP”). (Id. at
medical records indicate that on July 14, 2015, at 11:20
a.m., a “4 week old previously healthy male presenting
with multiple bruises over body noticed by PCP at wellness
baby check. Parents not able to give appropriate explanation
for all bruises. Possible trauma to head from swing as per
mother and bruise to back from father doing massaging the
tummy with his plam [sic] around his back.”
(Id. at ¶ 20). At the CHP emergency room,
S.L.W.'s blood pressure was taken. (Id. at
¶ 21). As the cuff was being removed from S.L.W.'s
leg, a bruise was noticed where the cuff had been, and this
new bruise was documented and marked as “MD
aware.” (Id. at ¶¶ 22-23). S.L.W.
was found not to have any abnormalities in his eyes, no
retinal hemorrhages, and no fractures of any bones.
(Id. at ¶¶ 30-32).
approximately 11:45 a.m., Eichman, who is a physician
licensed to practice medicine in Pennsylvania and who holds
herself out as an expert in distinguishing medical conditions
that can mimic the appearance of child abuse from cases of
actual child abuse, interviewed A.L. (Id. at
¶¶ 6, 24). During the interview, Eichman indicated
that she would order the most common blood disorder testing
but that, more often than not, abuse by an adult caretaker
causes such bruising, not a coagulation problem.
(Id. at ¶ 25). Eichman was informed that
S.L.W.'s mother, Plaintiff A.L., had a history of easy
bruising and heavy menstrual blood flows but that she had not
had a formal workup done. (Id. at ¶¶
26-27). Eichman directed A.L. to bring in her older child,
D.W., for an examination for possible abuse because of her
diagnosis that S.L.W. had been abused. (Id. at
¶¶ 4-5, 28).
was found to have no abnormalities during her exam.
(Id. at ¶ 33). At approximately 7:00 p.m. on
July 14, 2015, Defendant Salih arrived at CHP and conducted
interviews with A.L. and S.W. (Id. at ¶ 34).
During the interview, Salih stated that a safety plan must be
imposed that prohibited all unsupervised contact between S.W.
and both children and that A.L. must submit to home visits by
Defendant Allegheny County in the Allegheny County Children,
Youth, and Families Services Agency (“CYF”) and
their contracted agencies. (Id. at ¶¶ 8,
34). A.L. signed the safety plan but neither A.L. nor S.W.
were given a copy of it or told that they had any right to
appeal the safety plan. (Id. at ¶¶ 34-36).
Because the unilaterally imposed safety plan prohibited
contact between both children and S.W., Plaintiffs both left
the hospital, leaving S.L.W. alone at the hospital overnight.
(Id. at ¶ 38). At 10:00 p.m., Salih conducted a
home inspection of A.L.'s and S.W.'s home as part of
the safety plan. (Id. at ¶ 39). Salih again did
not explain that Plaintiffs had any right to appeal the
safety plan and did not provide Plaintiffs with a copy of the
safety plan or any notice of rights to appeal the safety
plan. (Id. at ¶¶ 40-42).
morning on July 15, 2015, Plaintiffs returned to CHP and
spoke with Eichman. (Id. at ¶¶ 43-44).
During Plaintiffs' meeting with Eichman, A.L. asked why
S.L.W. was bruised by the blood pressure cuff and pointed out
how small the bruises on S.L.W. were and that blood work was
still pending. (Id. at ¶ 45). In response,
Eichman stated, “I wouldn't hang your hat on [the
pending blood work].” (Id. at ¶ 46). A.L.
asked Eichman whether there was anything parents could do in
the daily routine of caring for S.L.W. that would exert the
same pressure on S.L.W. as a blood pressure cuff.
(Id. at ¶ 47). When pressed for an answer by
A.L., Eichman said that “it's not routine to get a
blood pressure on an infant” and then excused herself
from the room, directing further questions to the nurse
practitioner or the social worker. (Id. at
approximately 12:00 p.m., Defendant Fleming interviewed A.L.
and S.W. and reiterated the terms of the safety plan to them.
(Id. at ¶¶ 50-51). He did not give A.L. or
S.W. a copy of any safety plan, did not explain that they
have a right to appeal the safety plan, and did not give them
a copy of any notice of rights to appeal the safety plan.
(Id. at ¶¶ 52-54). At approximately 2:30
p.m., CHP employees informed Plaintiffs that S.L.W.'s
blood samples drawn the previous day had been lost and that
another blood sample would need to be drawn. (Id. at
¶ 55). S.L.W. was discharged from CHP after CHP
employees drew an additional blood sample from him for
coagulation studies. (Id. at ¶¶ 56-57).
17, 2015, Eichman called A.L. to inform her that the results
of the coagulation study were normal and that there was no
indication for repeat bleeding disorder testing.
(Id. at ¶¶ 58-59). Eichman's note in
the medical records dated July 17, 2015 stated:
I gave [S.L.W.'s] mother the preliminary result of his
von Willebrand screen. I explained that these results will be
verified by the hematologist and that I will call if there
are any changes in the results, I will call his family. His
mother asked whether there was any significance to his factor
IX level being at the lower range of normal range. I
explained that I spoke with the attending hematologist, and
that normal is normal. If [S.L.W.] had a clinically
significant bleeding disorder, the screens sent (Factor VII,
Factor IX and von Willebrand screen) would have showed an
(Id. at ¶ 60). There is no evidence in the
medical records obtained by Plaintiffs to indicate a
hematology consult at CHP for S.L.W. (Id. at ¶
61). Eichman failed to note in the medical record, or to
inform Plaintiffs, CYF, or law enforcement, that she knew
that a young child's screening tests could be normal even
when the child actually has a bleeding problem that could
cause bruising from normal child handling. (Id. at
began weekly visits to Plaintiffs' home on July 20, 2015.
(Id. at ¶ 63). After a police detective
notified Plaintiffs that a criminal investigation was
underway, they retained an attorney. (Id. at
¶¶ 64-65). On July 28, 2015, Plaintiffs took S.L.W.
to a follow-up appointment with Eichman at CHP's Child
Advocacy Clinic, at which time Eichman noted in her report
that S.L.W.'s bruises were from physical child abuse.
(Id. at ¶ 67-68). Eichman failed to note in her
report, or to inform CYF or law enforcement, that she was
aware that a young child's screening test could be normal
even when the child actually has a bleeding problem that
could cause bruising from normal child handling.
(Id. at ¶ 69). Upon Plaintiffs' information
and belief, Eichman's report was shared with CYF and law
enforcement for use in the criminal investigation.
(Id. at ¶ 70).
August 12, 2015, A.L. took S.L.W. to the Hemophilia Center of
Western Pennsylvania (“HCWP”) for an evaluation.
(Id. at ¶ 78). The August 12, 2015 report from
the HCWP stated that “[p]latelet function disorders and
Von Willebrand testing is often unreliable in infants younger
than 6 months of age.” (Id. at ¶ 84). The
report also stated that ...