Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

K.S. v. Bruno

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 30, 2018

K.S. and J.H., Plaintiffs
v.
PAT J. BRUNO, M.D., and EVAN WALLACE CROWE, M.D., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          Kane, Judge

         Before the Court are (1) Defendants Patrick J. Bruno, M.D., and Evan Wallace Crowe, M.D. (the “Medical Defendants”) motion to dismiss Plaintiffs K.S. and J.H.'s complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (Doc. No. 13), and (2) the Medical Defendants' and Non-Party Geisinger Health's motion for a protective order (Doc. No. 19). For the following reasons, the Court will grant the Medical Defendants' motion to dismiss, and deny the pending motion for a protective order as moot.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         This case arises out of a child abuse investigation that resulted in B.H.'s temporary removal from the custody of his mother, Plaintiff K.S. B.H. is a minor born in 2012. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 3.) Plaintiff K.S. is the biological mother of B.H., and D.H. is B.H.'s biological father. (Id.) In 2015, when the events giving rise to this action occurred, Plaintiff K.S. resided with her boyfriend, Plaintiff J.H., and by agreement with D.H., had primary custody of B.H. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 26.) D.H. had visitation rights with B.H. (Id.)

         B.H. has a medical history of bruising and ear pulling. (Id. ¶ 13.) On January 29, 2013, Geisinger Health pediatrician Dr. Christopher Severs examined B.H. at his one-year well child visit, and noted K.S.'s concern that B.H. was “picking at his ears a lot . . .” (Id. ¶ 17.) Subsequently, on February 25, 2013, Geisinger Health pediatrician Dr. Joseph Romeo examined B.H. and noted that he was “pulling on [his] ear and fussy.” (Id. ¶ 18.) Dr. Severs again examined B.H. on May 13, 2013 for complaints of ear pulling. (Id. ¶¶ 29-30.) In February 2015, B.H. fell down a set a steps while in the care of K.S., causing red marks to his buttocks. (Id. ¶ 28.) While B.H. was visiting with D.H. over the weekend, D.H. noticed bruising on B.H.'s buttocks and called Mifflin County Children and Youth Services (“Children and Youth Services”), to report that J.H. had abused B.H. (Id. ¶¶ 29-30.)

         Subsequently, at the request of Children and Youth Services, K.S. took B.H. to the Geisinger Health pediatrician's office in Lewistown (“Geisinger Health pediatrician's office”), where it was noted that B.H. had bruising on his buttocks and back. (Id. ¶¶ 31-32.) The medical records note that K.S. claimed the bruising resulted from a fall; however, D.H. believed the bruising was the result of physical abuse. (Id. ¶ 32.) At the time, there was no documented history of requests for records from Children and Youth Services, visits for accidents or injuries, or a history of “no shows” to the pediatrician. (Id. ¶ 34.)

         On August 1, 2015, B.H. fell off the porch at his home and thereafter visited the emergency room. (Id. ¶¶ 35-36.) The medical records for this visit note a laceration on his scalp and old bruising to his posterior flank. (Id. ¶ 37.) On August 14, 2015, K.S. took B.H. to the Geisinger Health pediatrician's office for an examination, at which time the pediatrician noted that B.H. had new bruising on his back, which was not present after the previous incident and that there was concern because the bruising was getting darker. (Id. ¶ 39.) At that appointment, the Geisinger Health pediatrician ordered a CBC blood test, which revealed that B.H.'s hemoglobin and hematocrit levels were higher than the normal range. (Id. ¶ 40.)

         On August 18 and 23, 2015, K.S. took B.H. back to see Geisinger Health pediatrician Dr. Severs who examined him for follow up care for vomiting and bruising. (Id. ¶¶ 41, 43.) Thereafter, K.S. took B.H. to the Geisinger Health pediatrician's office on August 26, 2015, and to the emergency room on August 27, 2015, for symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting. (Id. ¶¶ 45-46.) On August 27, 2015, a CT scan of B.H.'s head was performed to rule out head trauma as the cause of B.H.'s vomiting; the scan was normal. (Id. ¶ 47.) However, on August 28, 2015, K.S. again took B.H. to the emergency room for continued vomiting. (Id. ¶ 48.)

         On October 2, 2015, K.S. took B.H. to the Geisinger Health pediatrician's office at the request of Children and Youth Services, who was investigating a report of suspected abuse due to bruising observed on both of B.H.'s earlobes. (Id. ¶ 49.) At the time, Dr. Severs noted that B.H. had no family history of bleeding disorders, and when asked how his ears were injured, answered “[J.H.] did it.” (Id. ¶ 51.) On October 9, 2015, K.S. took B.H. to the Geisinger Health pediatrician's office to request a bleeding work-up due to the repeated bruising. (Id. ¶ 52.) Accordingly, Dr. Severs ordered a screening consisting of three tests, the PT/INR-PT, PT/INR-INR & APTT, the results of which were within the normal range. (Id. ¶ 53.) On October 12, 2015, K.S. again took B.H. to the Geisinger Health pediatrician's office because B.H. fell on a step, hitting his head and bruising his knees. (Id. ¶¶ 55-56.)

         On December 1, 2015, another report of suspected child abuse was made in connection with bruising on B.H.'s right ear, and Children and Youth Services instructed K.S. to take B.H. to the pediatrician. (Id. ¶¶ 58-59.) The Geisinger Health pediatrician's subsequent report to Children and Youth Services indicated that the bruises did not appear consistent with K.S.'s explanation that B.H. was bruised as a result of falling off a trampoline, and in light of the history of B.H.'s visits to the pediatrician for bruising, stated the suspicion that “something is going on.” (Id. ¶¶ 62-63.) On that same date, Detective Poff and Officer Vallimont of the Lewistown Police Department were called to the Geisinger Health pediatrician's office, and Children and Youth Services at that time: prevented K.S. from leaving with B.H.; removed B.H. from K.S.'s custody; and imposed a safety plan precluding K.S. from having unsupervised contact with B.H. (Id. ¶ 64.) On December 2, 2015, Children and Youth Services scheduled B.H. for a “CRC Interview” and an appointment with Dr. Bruno, the Medical Director of the Geisinger Medical Center's Child Advocacy Center of Central Susquehanna Valley (“CACCSV”), as part of their investigation. (Id. ¶¶ 65, 101-02.)

         Dr. Bruno and Dr. Crowe both examined B.H. (Id. ¶¶ 70-71.) During the examination, B.H. had difficulty answering some questions due to his age and developmental limitations. (Id. ¶¶ 108-09.) However, both doctors agreed that no further work-up for bleeding disorders would be necessary, and diagnosed B.H. as having been physically abused. (Id.¶¶ 70-71.) Dr. Bruno and Dr. Crowe subsequently contacted Children and Youth Services to provide the results of their examination. (Id. ¶ 112.) Dr. Crowe informed Children and Youth Services that the marks on B.H.'s ears “were not accidental and are consistent with abuse.” (Id. ¶ 113.) Dr. Bruno and Dr. Crowe's medical evaluation notes were faxed by Dr. Crowe to Children and Youth Services on December 4, 2015. (Id. ¶ 73.) Plaintiffs allege that based on Dr. Crowe and Dr. Bruno's assessment, Children and Youth Services continued the existing safety plan. (Id. ¶ 116.) Further, Plaintiffs allege that based on Dr. Crowe and Dr. Bruno's assessment, on December 14, 2015, Detective Poff of the Lewistown Police Department charged J.H. with simple assault. (Id. ¶ 118.)

         On May 20, 2016, B.H.'s blood was tested for von Willebrand's disease, and the results of that testing indicated that “[a]ll multimeters of von Willebrand Factor Antigen are present in normal amounts.” (Id. ¶¶ 135-36.) On or about September 16, 2016, B.H. was retested and diagnosed with type 1 von Willebrand's Disease. (Id. ¶ 119.) The testing hemotologist noted in her letter of the same date that “[p]atients with type 1 von Willebrand disease typically experience mucosal bleeding as a result of trauma, ” and that “[s]uperficial bleeding is common for children with bleeding disorders and does not necessarily mean that they are being physically assaulted.” (Doc. No. 1-2 at 1.)

         Based on this sequence of events, on January 5, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a complaint in this Court alleging numerous civil rights claims against the Medical Defendants as well as Mifflin County and individual defendants Casey O'Dell, Kristen Matula, and David. L. Smith, all employees of Mifflin County Children and Youth Services (collectively, the “Mifflin County Defendants”). (Doc. No. 1.) Both sets of defendants filed motions to dismiss Plaintiffs' complaint on March 7, 2017. (Doc. Nos. 12, 13.) The Medical Defendants and nonparty Geisigner Health subsequently filed a motion for protective order on March 24, 2017. (Doc. No. 19.)

         After the motions to dismiss were fully briefed, this matter was referred to mediation through the Court-annexed mandatory mediation program. (Doc. No. 30.) Accordingly, the Court ordered a stay of discovery pending the resolution of the mandatory mediation process. (Doc. No. 31.) After a June 14, 2017 status conference, the Court continued the stay of discovery pending the Court's resolution of the motions to dismiss. (Doc. No. 36.) Pursuant to the report of the mediator indicating that Plaintiffs had settled their claims with the Mifflin County Defendants, on June 27, 2017, the Court issued a 60-day Order dismissing Plaintiffs' claims against those defendants, and denying their motion to dismiss as moot. (Doc. No. 38.) The pending motions are ripe for disposition.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint's factual allegations. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” in order to “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted) (interpreting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)). Generally, a court considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) must determine whether the complaint contains sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Consistent with the Supreme Court's rulings in Twombly and Iqbal, the Third Circuit requires district courts to engage in a two-part analysis when reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion: (1) first, a court should separate the factual and legal elements of a claim, accepting well-pleaded factual matter and disregarding legal conclusions; (2) second, a court should determine whether the remaining well-pled facts sufficiently demonstrate that a plaintiff has a “plausible claim for relief.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). Facial plausibility exists when the plaintiff pleads factual content “that allows the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal citations omitted).

         In conducting its analysis, a court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true for purposes of determining whether the complaint states a plausible claim for relief, and must view the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008). The court's determination on a Rule 12(b)(6) review is not whether the non-moving party “will ultimately prevail, ” but whether that party is “entitled to offer evidence to support the claims.” United States ex rel. Wilkins v. United Health Grp., Inc., 659 F.3d 259, 302 (3d Cir. 2011) (internal ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.