United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
B.S., a minor, by Natalie M.R. Burston, Esq., Guardian Ad Litem, Plaintiff
YORK COUNTY, et al., Defendants
the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File an
Amended Complaint. (Doc. No. 28.) For the reasons that
follow, the Court will grant Plaintiff's motion.
B.S. (“Plaintiff”), is a minor residing in York
County, Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 1.) Defendants are
York County, which operates a department known as the York
County Office of Children, Youth and Families (“York
County OCYF”), Nan Mavor (“Mavor”), Cathy
Lyman (“Lyman”), and Jacy Nemec
(“Nemec”), who were caseworkers or supervisors
employed by York County OCYF. (Id. ¶¶ 4-8.)
2012, York County OCYF removed Plaintiff from his
mother's home. (Id. ¶ 11.) York County OCYF
assigned caseworkers Mavor and/or Nemec to Plaintiff's
case. (Id. ¶ 12.) Lyman was the supervisor in
charge of Plaintiff's case. (Id. ¶ 13.)
Upon Plaintiff's removal from his mother's home, York
County OCYF was required to find an appropriate placement for
Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 14.) York County OCYF placed
Plaintiff in foster care with Ronald Witmer. (Id.
¶ 15.) In March of 2013, Plaintiff was adjudicated
dependent on York County OCYF. (Id. ¶ 16.) York
County OCYF recommended that physical and legal custody of
Plaintiff be given to Ronald Witmer and his wife, Mary Ann
Stough. (Id. ¶ 17.) Ronald Witmer and Mary Ann
Stough received legal custody of Plaintiff in 2013.
(Id. ¶ 18.) In January of 2014, York County
OCYF closed Plaintiff's case but required that it be
notified of any change in Plaintiff's custody.
(Id. ¶¶ 19-20.)
Plaintiff was in the custody of Witmer, Witmer sexually
abused him, and in the spring of 2017, was arrested for that
abuse. (Id. ¶¶ 22-23.) Ultimately, Witmer
pled guilty to Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse, 18
Pa..C.S. § 3123(a)(7), and Corruption of Minors, 18
Pa.C.S. § 6301(a)(1)(ii), related to his sexual abuse of
Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 25.) Prior to Plaintiff's
placement in Witmer's home, Witmer had sexually abused
young boys on at least two occasions, resulting in two
criminal convictions in 1989 and 1991. (Id.
October 3, 2017, Plaintiff filed his complaint in this Court
alleging that York County OCYF should never have placed him
in Witmer's home given his history of sexual abuse of
young boys. (Id. ¶¶ 45-47.)
Plaintiff's complaint alleges that at the time of these
events, York County OCYF was inadequately staffed and its
caseworkers insufficiently trained, resulting in the
oversights that led to Plaintiff's placement in
Witmer's home. (Id. ¶¶ 48-53.) Based
on these factual allegations, Plaintiff's complaint
asserts two claims against York County OCYF, Mavor, Lyman and
Nemec: count one alleges a state-created danger claim
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and count two alleges a
special relationship claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
(Id. ¶¶ 56-74.) Defendants filed an answer
to the complaint on February 5, 2018. (Doc. No. 10.)
after the filing of Plaintiff's complaint, Plaintiff
filed a motion to appoint a guardian ad litem for
Plaintiff. (Doc. No. 7.) On February 15, 2018, the Court
granted in part Plaintiff's motion for the appointment of
a guardian ad litem and appointed Natalie M.R.
Burston, Esq. as guardian ad litem for Plaintiff.
(Doc. No. 11.)
thereafter, the Court held a case management conference in
this matter and referred the case to mediation pursuant to
the Court's mandatory mediation program. (Doc. Nos.
14-16.) When the case failed to resolve through mediation,
the Court issued a case management order that bifurcated the
issues of liability and damages, setting October 9, 2018 as
the date for the close of fact discovery on liability issues,
and November 9, 2018 as the date for dispositive motions
related to the issue of liability. (Doc. No. 19.) Plaintiff
subsequently filed an unopposed motion for a two-month
extension of time to complete discovery on liability issues,
which the Court granted, setting December 9, 2018 as the date
for the close of discovery and January 8, 2019 as the date
for the filing of liability-related dispositive motions.
(Doc. No. 27.)
November 8, 2018, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion for
Leave to File an Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 28), with a
proposed first amended complaint attached as an exhibit (Doc.
No. 28-3), and a supporting brief (Doc. No. 29). After
receiving an extension of time to respond to the motion,
Defendants filed their Brief in Opposition to Plaintiff's
Motion to Amend on November 29, 2018 (Doc. No. 33), with
exhibits (Doc. No. 33-1). Plaintiff filed a Reply Brief in
further support of his motion on December 13, 2018. (Doc. No.
34.) Defendants then requested permission to file a sur-reply
brief, which the Court granted. (Doc. No. 38.) On January 4,
2018, Defendants filed their sur-reply brief (Doc. No. 39),
with supporting exhibits (Doc. No. 39-1). Accordingly, the
motion is ripe for disposition.
Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) governs Plaintiff's request
for amendment and provides, in pertinent part, that after
amending a complaint once as a matter of right, “a
party may amend its pleading only with the opposing
party's written consent or the court's leave. The
court should freely give leave when justice so
requires.” See Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). As the
Supreme Court has stated, “the grant or denial of an
opportunity to amend is within the discretion of the District
Court . . . outright refusal to grant the leave without any
justifying reason appearing for the denial is not an exercise
of discretion, it is merely an abuse of discretion and
inconsistent with the spirit of the Federal Rules.”
See Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962).
potentially justifying denial of leave to amend are
“undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, prejudice,
and futility.” See id.; In re Burlington
Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1434 (3d Cir.
1997). “Futility” means that the complaint, as
amended, would fail to state a claim upon which relief could
be granted. See In re NAHC, Inc. Sec. Litig., 306
F.3d 1314, 1332 (3d Cir. 2002); In re Burlington,
114 F.3d at 1434. In assessing “futility, ” a
district court applies the same standard of legal sufficiency
as applies under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
See In re Burlington, 114 F.3d at 1434; 3
Moore's Federal Practice, § 15.15 at
15-55 to 15-61 (3d ed. 2013). Accordingly, in assessing the
potential futility of a proposed amended complaint, the Court
must accept as true the allegations in the proposed amended
complaint and construe those allegations in the light most
favorable to the party seeking leave to amend. See In re
Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 314 (3d
issue of “prejudice” focuses on hardship to the
defendant if the amendment were permitted, specifically,
whether amendment “would result in additional
discovery, cost, and preparation to defend against new facts
or new theories.” See Cureton v. Nat'l
Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 252 F.3d 267, 273 (3d
Cir. 2001). With regard to “undue delay, ” the
Third Circuit has held that the mere passage of time does not
require that a motion to amend a pleading be denied;
“however, at some point, the [movant's] delay will
become ‘undue,' placing an unwarranted burden on
the court, or will become ‘prejudicial,' placing an
unfair burden on the opposing party.” See Adams v.
Gould, Inc., 739 F.2d 858, 868 (3d Cir. 1984). In
assessing the issue of “undue” delay, the
Court's focus is on the movant's motives for not
amending sooner. See id.
motion and supporting brief seek leave to file a first
amended complaint that accomplishes the following: (1) it
corrects some factual inaccuracies in his original complaint
that were revealed in the course of discovery; (2) it adds an
additional defendant, Ashley Rohrbaugh
(“Rohrbaugh”), pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 20; and (3) it adds a Monell claim
for municipal liability against Defendant York County OCYF.
Defendants oppose the addition of Ashley Rohrbaugh as a
defendant and the addition of a Monell claim against
Defendant York County OCYF, arguing that the Court should