United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
D. MARIANI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
Introduction and Procedural History
before the Court is a Report and Recommendation
("R&R") (Doc. 47) by Magistrate Judge Carlson,
in which he recommends granting the "Motion of Defendant
Luzerne County Children and Youth Services to Dismiss
Plaintiffs Complaint Pursuant to F.R.C.P. 12(b)(6) or in the
Alternative Motion for Summary Judgment" (Doc. 42) and
further recommends that this case be dismissed as to the
remaining unserved defendants. Plaintiff has filed a
"Statement of Appeal" and accompanying "Brief
in Appeal of Recommendation of Magistrate Judge" (Doc.
50), which the Court interprets as Objections to the R&R.
Defendants Luzerne County Children and Youth Services
("LCCYS"), JoAnn Costanzo, and Jamie Stuart filed a
response in opposition to Plaintiffs "Appeal."
reasons that follow, upon cte novo review of the
R&R, the Court will overrule Plaintiffs Objections and
adopt the pending R&R.
December 8, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Complaint naming as
Defendants the following twelve individuals and entities:
Luzerne County, LCCYS, Frank Castano, Joann Costanzo, Jamie
Stuart, Loreen Yeager, Kayci Konopki, Tracy Schultz, Nicole
Bednarek, Amanda Young, Tricia Godshalk, and Brian Waugh.
(Doc. 1). The Complaint contains two counts alleging
constitutional violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
and one state law count alleging intentional infliction of
August 22, 2016, the Court entered two Orders (Docs. 29, 30)
adopting Magistrate Judge Carlson's Reports and
Recommendations (Docs. 27, 28) wherein the Magistrate Judge
recommended granting the motions to dismiss filed by
Defendant Young (Doc. 8) and Defendants Luzerne County,
Yeager, and Bednarek (Doc. 18).
September 23, 2016, LCCYS filed a motion to dismiss, or in
the alternative, motion for summary judgment (Doc. 42),
requesting that the complaint be dismissed against LCCYS and
its employees JoAnn Costanzo and Jamie Stuart.
this case pending for over 20 months, to date, the record
indicates that none of the other five defendants, i.e. Frank
Castano, Kayci Konopki, Tracy Schultz, Tricia Godshalk, and
Brian Waugh, have been served.
Statement of Facts
the Report and Recommendation succinctly presents the facts
set forth in Plaintiffs Complaint, this Court will again
reiterate the relevant alleged facts, which the Court takes
as true for purposes of this motion.
Ciprich and Eric Phillips are the mother and father of two
minor children, E.P. (DOB 2/9/11) and T.P. (DOB 10/18/13).
(Doc. 1, ¶¶ 16, 17). On November 18, 2013, Phillips
entered Ciprich's home and assaulted her, an incident
characterized by Plaintiff as "serious."
(Id. at ¶ 18). During this incident, Phillips
repeatedly struck Ciprich and fired a gun next to her head
"in an effort to terrorize" her. Additionally,
minor child T.P. was thrown to the floor and sustained
injuries. (Id.). As a result, T.P. was transported
to Geisinger Danville for further evaluation for a depressed
skull fracture and E.P. was transported to Community Medical
Center in Scranton for treatment. (Id. at
¶¶ 19, 20). This entire incident was reported to
LCCYS and investigated by them. (Id. at ¶ 21).
On that same day, Phillips was arrested and later posted
bail. Ciprich states that she "had nothing to do with
that release." (Doc. 1, at ¶ 22).
November 20, 2013, Plaintiff sought and obtained a PFA
against Phillips. A final PFA hearing was scheduled for
November 26, 2013. (Id. at ¶ 23). However,
Plaintiff did not appear for the PFA hearing, purportedly
because "Plaintiff had been asked to appear for a large
variety of court dates and medical appointments and had been
confused by the date." (Id. at ¶ 24). On
that same day, Ciprich became aware that she had missed the
court date and contacted law enforcement to discuss how to
refile for a PFA. (Id. at ¶ 25).
began staying with Catherine Yankovwich, a long term friend
with a bipolar disorder, due in part to the November 18
incident. (Id. at¶ 27). On November 30, 2013,
Yankovwich had "a serious psychiatric episode and
Plaintiff was forced to use pepper spray to keep Ms.
Yankovwich away from her." Ciprich's child E.P. was
in the area when she used the pepper spray. According to
Plaintiff, "[t]his was the only time Ms. Yankovwich had
ever acted in this manner." (Id.).
December 5, 2013, Plaintiff refiled the PFA against Phillips
and was granted a temporary PFA. The matter was set for a
hearing on December 12, 2013. (Doc. 1, ¶ 28).
December 10, 2013, LCCYS "claimed" to have had an
internal meeting which it characterized as an Act 33 meeting.
LCCYS "characterized what occurred as a near fatality
situation even though there were no records to support this
determination." (Id. at ¶ 29). Later that
same day, LCCYS filed an emergency petition for shelter care
of the minor children, which was granted. (Id. at
¶ 30). Also that same day, LCCYS visited Plaintiffs
residence and informed Ciprich that Phillips had been
released on bail. At that time, LCCYS caseworkers Stuart and
Konopki, in conjunction with Officer Shultz, took custody of
the minor children to have them placed in foster care.
(Id. at ¶ 31).
about December 19, 2013, LCCYS filed formal dependency
petitions for both minor children, alleging as a basis for
dependency that (1) Plaintiff should have told LCCYS that
Phillips was released from prison; and (2) Plaintiff was
involved in, what she characterizes as "an unrelated
minor altercation with a friend." (Doc. 1, ¶ 32).
These petitions were scheduled for a hearing to be held on
January 14, 2014. (Id.).
December 20, 2013, a hearing was held on the shelter care of
the minors. At this time, LCCYS Supervisor Costanzo,
"without foundation or factual support, " opined
that Ciprich had a "diminished capacity." The Court
found the children to be dependent, but transferred custody
of the minors back to Ciprich. The finding of Dependency was
then reversed and left as an open question. (Id. at
it is unclear from the Complaint who did so, it was requested
that Ciprich undergo a psychiatric assessment. On January 9,
2014, Dr. Fischbein returned a report finding that Plaintiff
"does not suffer from any major psychiatric
illness." (Id. at ¶¶ 34, 35).
March 14, 2014, following a hearing, Ciprich's children
were found not to be dependent and the LCCYS action was
dismissed. (Id. at ¶ 36).
to Plaintiff, this series of events demonstrates that
"the named employees of Luzerne County Children and
Youth Services all conspired to violate the Plaintiffs civil
rights". (Id. at ¶ 37). In relevant part,
Plaintiff asserts that:
Defendant Castano was the director of Children and Youth
Services during the time period at issue. Defendant Costanzo
was the CYS Supervisor who oversaw this case and provided
much of the testimony presented. Defendants Stuart and
Konopki are caseworkers employed by CYS who were directly
assigned to review this situation
(Doc. 1, ¶ 38).
District Court may "designate a magistrate judge to
conduct hearings, including evidentiary hearings, and to
submit to a judge of the court proposed findings of fact and
recommendations for the disposition" of certain matters
pending before the Court. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). If a
party timely and properly files a written objection to a
Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, the
District Court "shall make a de novo
determination of those portions of the report or specified
proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is
made." Id. at § 636(b)(1)(C); see also
Brown v. Astrue, 649 F.3d 193, 195 (3d Cir. 2011); M.D.
Pa. Local Rule 72.3.
present case, the Court referred Defendants' motion (Doc.
42), to Magistrate Judge Carlson on March 22, 2017. The
Magistrate Judge thereafter issued the R&R (Doc. 47)
currently pending before this Court.
objects to the R&R on several grounds. Plaintiffs
Objections fall within four categories: "Issues with the
Statement of Facts"; "Immunity of Individual
Defendants"; "Immunity of Agency"; and
"Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress."
(Doc. 50). The Court will address these Objections in
"Issues with the Statement of Facts"
Objections raise five "concerns" that "cause
Plaintiff concern that the facts have been properly
identified." (Doc. 50, at 1). The concerns are
summarized as follows: (1) the R&R does not "address
or consider the 'Act 33' meeting that was pleaded in
the complaint"; (2) the R&R incorrectly states that
there are two people named "Costanzo" whereas the
Complaint identifies a "Frank Castano" and
"JoAnn Costanzo"; (3) the R&R fails to
"evaluate or consider the fact that the children were
returned to Plaintiffs care 10 days after they were
seized"; (4) the R&R incorrectly concludes that a
finding of dependency had been entered and that on March 14,
2014, the children were found to be no longer dependent,
when, according to Plaintiff, "the children were never
found to be dependent and there was no finding that the
children were no longer dependent"; and (5) the R&R
inappropriately "appears to be blaming Plaintiff for the
external factors that led to this situation." (Doc. 50,
Court will not dwell on these issues. Each of these concerns
is remedied, to the extent there was any mistake by the
Magistrate Judge, by this Court's own Statement of Facts,
supra, and the Court's analysis and discussion
of the relevant facts below.
"Immunity of Individual ...