United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
DARNELL JONES, II J.
NOW, this 18th day of June, 2018, upon
consideration of the Amended Complaint (ECF No. 32),
Defendant's Partial Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 33),
Plaintiff's Response in Opposition thereto (ECF No. 34),
and Defendant's Reply (ECF No. 37), it is hereby
ORDERED that Defendant's Motion is
is directed to file an Answer to the Amended Complaint (ECF
No. 32) within fourteen (14) days of the filing of this
facts presently before the Court are largely the same as that
which the Court previously considered in its Memorandum dated
July 12, 2017 (ECF No. 24). As such, and in the interest of
brevity, this Court refers the parties to the Court's
earlier Memorandum for a full recitation of the facts.
previous Memorandum, this Court denied Defendant's Motion
to Dismiss the Complaint as it related to Plaintiff's
claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress
(“IIED”), and granted Defendant's Motion as
it related to Plaintiff's claim for negligent infliction
of emotional distress (“NIED”). (ECF No. 24, p.
9.) The Court found the pleadings insufficient to state a
claim for NIED because the record was bereft of facts that
would demonstrate that Plaintiff's alleged emotional
trauma manifested physically. (ECF No. 24, p. 5-6.)
Plaintiff's ambiguous allegation of “extreme pain
and discomfort” was insufficient to determine whether
Plaintiff's pain arose from his physical injury or from
the emotional trauma. Id. at 5. This Court, thus,
dismissed Plaintiff's NIED claim without prejudice and
with leave to amend to correct the pleading deficiency.
before the Court is Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, in
which Plaintiff alleges that the Federal Bureau of Prisons
(“BOP”) and Federal Detention Center's
(“FDC”) employees owed Plaintiff a duty of care,
breached said duty, and caused Plaintiff to suffer severe
emotional distress as a result. (ECF No. 32, ¶ 48.) The
Amended Complaint further alleges that the resultant
emotional distress Plaintiff experienced manifested in
physical symptoms including headaches, difficulty sleeping,
nightmares, anxiety, and sweating. (ECF No. 32, ¶ 48.)
Defendant timely filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's
claim for NIED on the grounds that Plaintiff failed to allege
sufficient facts to state a claim upon which can be granted.
(ECF No. 33, p. 4.)
deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6),
courts must “accept all factual allegations as true,
construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable
reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to
relief.” Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515
F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks
omitted). After the Supreme Court's decision in Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), it
was established that “[t]hreadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). But rather, “a
claim has facial plausibility 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. at 678 (citing Twombly,
550 U.S. at 556). This standard, which applies to all civil
cases, “asks for more than a sheer possibility that a
defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. at 678;
accord Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210
(3d Cir. 2009) (“[A]ll civil complaints must contain
more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me
accusation.”) (internal quotation marks omitted).
seeks dismissal of Plaintiff's claim for NIED on two
grounds. First, Defendant argues that Plaintiff fails to
allege the existence of a special relationship through which
Defendant would owe Plaintiff a duty of care. (ECF No. 33, p.
10.) And second, Defendant argues that Plaintiff fails to
plead sufficient facts to distinguish Plaintiff's claim
for NIED from Plaintiff's existing claim for malpractice
- a claim Defendant neither challenges here nor in its first
Motion to Dismiss the Complaint. (ECF No. 33, p. 10.) The
Court finds neither argument persuasive. For the reasons set
forth below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the Amended
Complaint is denied.
Pennsylvania, recovery for NIED is limited to four factual
scenarios: “(1) where the defendant had a contractual
or fiduciary duty toward the plaintiff; (2) where the
plaintiff was subjected to a physical impact; (3) where the
plaintiff was in a zone of danger, thereby reasonably
experiencing fear of impending physical injury; or (4)
[where] the plaintiff observed a tortious injury to a close
relative.” Classen v. Nutter, Civ. No.
15-4078, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 199269, *24 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 4,
2017)(citing Doe v. Philadelphia Comm. Health Alts. AIDS
Task Force, 745 A.2d 25, 26 (Pa. Super. Ct.
2000)). Though Pennsylvania courts recognize that a
doctor-patient relationship could serve as a basis for an
NIED claim, Toney v. Chester County Hosp.,
36 A.3d 83, 95 (Pa. 2011), Defendant argues that the facts of
this case are insufficient for a finding of one such special
relationship here. (ECF No. 33, p. 10.) This Court
preliminary matter, this Court finds none of the cases to
which Defendant cites, persuasive. Where said cases conclude
that their respective facts are incongruent with any of the
delineated scenarios from which a NIED claim may arise under
Pennsylvania law, there is insufficient discussion from which
this Court could reasonably determine that the courts'
holdings reflect a finding that no duty existed between the
parties - as opposed to a finding that no breach occurred.
None of the cited cases assess - in any degree of detail -
whether, or when, a special relationship could exist ...