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K.R. v. Visionquest National, Ltd.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

April 25, 2018

K.R., A Minor, By N.R., Guardian
v.
VISIONQUEST NATIONAL, LTD.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Savage, J.

         In this negligence action, the plaintiff, K.R., alleges that while a resident at a facility housing juveniles with a history of sexually inappropriate behavior, he was sexually assaulted by his roommate. He avers that defendant Visionquest National, Ltd., operator of the facility, placed him in a room with the roommate who later assaulted him, despite knowing that the roommate posed a high risk of abusing children.

         Visionquest moves to dismiss the complaint, arguing that it owed no duty of care to K.R. Because Visionquest was in a special relationship with K.R.'s assailant recognized by Pennsylvania law, it had a duty to protect K.R. from the assailant's dangerous propensities. Therefore, we shall deny the motion to dismiss.

         Background

         In March 2016, K.R., a thirteen-year-old, was sexually assaulted by his eighteen-year-old roommate, D.N., at Blue Ridge Academy, a facility for juveniles with a history of sexual victimization and/or sexual offenses.[1] D.N. had abused other juveniles prior to this assault. In 2015, while at Blue Ridge Academy, D.N. was evaluated by a psychiatrist who concluded he presented a “high risk of reoffending.”[2]

         At the time of the assault, Blue Ridge Academy had no health and safety plan for either D.N. or K.R., as required by 55 Pa. Code § 3800.142.[3] Blue Ridge Academy never reported K.R.'s incident as mandated by 55 Pa. Code § 3800.16(c).[4]

         K.R. contends that Visionquest breached its duty of care to protect him from harm by failing to properly supervise D.N. and K.R.; properly hire and train employees and agents to supervise residents; enforce policies and procedures related to supervising residents and preventing misconduct; inform or warn staff of D.N.'s history of sexual misconduct and likelihood to reoffend; install and monitor motion detectors; complete vulnerability assessments for residents, including K.R. and D.N.; and, comply with relevant law and regulations, including 55 Pa. Code § 3800 et seq.[5] He also brings a negligence per se claim. K.R. contends that Visionquest's violations of 55 Pa. Code § 3800 et seq. were the direct and proximate cause of his sexual abuse. Moving to dismiss the complaint, Visionquest contends it had no duty to control D.N. because it had no knowledge or notice of the pending assault.

         Standard of Review

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of the allegations contained in the complaint. In order to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible “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.

         A conclusory recitation of the elements of a cause of action is not sufficient. Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). The plaintiff must allege facts necessary to make out each element. Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563 n.8). In other words, the complaint must contain facts which, if proven later, support a conclusion that a cause of action can be established. In this case, we must determine whether the facts alleged establish that Visionquest had a duty owing K.R.

         In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), we first separate the factual and legal elements of a claim, accepting the well-pleaded facts as true and disregarding legal conclusions. Then, we determine whether the facts alleged, if proven, show that the 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).

         All well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true and interpreted in the light most favorable to K.R., and all inferences must be drawn in his favor. See McTernan v. City of York, 577 F.3d 521, 526 (3d Cir. 2009).

         Analysis

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