United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
D. Mariani United States District Court Judge.
Introduction and Procedural History
February 22, 2016, Plaintiff, Leah Brizzy, filed a writ of
summons in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County.
Plaintiff then filed a complaint asserting one count against
Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs complaint
alleged that she was denied procedural and substantive due
process and requested an award of damages. (Doc. 1). On
December 14, 2017, Defendants timely removed the action to
this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 and 1331.
(Doc. 1). Defendants filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) on December 21, 2017. (Doc. 4).
22, 2018, the matter was referred to Magistrate Judge
Carlson. On June 27, 2018, Magistrate Judge Carlson
recommended that Defendants' motion to dismiss the
complaint be granted, and that Plaintiff be granted leave to
amend the complaint in order to address the deficiencies
identified. (Doc. 9). On July 11, 2018, Plaintiff filed an
Amended Complaint. (Doc. 11). On July 12, 2018, this Court
issued an Order, adopting Magistrate Judge Carlson's
Report and Recommendation and deeming Plaintiff's Amended
Complaint as filed. (Doc. 13).
August 1, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiffs Amended Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6) (Doc. 20), which is now before the Court. The issues
have been fully briefed and Defendants' Motion is ripe
for disposition. For the reasons set forth below, the Court
will deny Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.
Amended Complaint (Doc. 11) alleges the following facts
which, for the purposes of resolving Defendants' Motion
to Dismiss, the Court takes as true:
Leah Brizzy, gave birth to C.B. on March 26, 2012.
(Id. at ¶ 3). On November 2, 2012, Brizzy
noticed that C.B.'s eyes were red, slightly swollen, and
emitted a green discharge. (Id. at ¶ 9). On
November 4, 2012, she also noticed a laceration on C.B.'s
tongue. (Id. at ¶ 10). C.B. had appointments
with his pediatrician, Dr. Douglas R. Lincoln, M.D.
("Dr. Lincoln"), on November 2, 4, and 6, 2012.
(Id. at¶ 11). During those appointments, Brizzy
sought care for C.B. for conjunctivitis and the tongue
laceration. (Id.). Pursuant to Dr. Lincoln's
recommendation, Brizzy took C.B. to Geisinger Hospital on
November 6, 2012. (Doc. 11, ¶ 12). At Geisinger
Hospital, the Hospital performed a CT Scan, revealing that
C.B. also had bilateral healing femoral fractures and a
possible acute left tibia buckle fracture. (Id. at
November 7, 2012, Dr. Paul J. Bellino, M.D. ("Dr.
Bellino"), referred C.B. to Luzerne County Children and
Youth Services ("CYS") based on the medical
conditions revealed during C.B.'s visit to the Hospital.
(Id. at ¶ 14). Following the referral, an
unidentified CYS caseworker went to Brizzy's home and
interviewed her and her partner at the time. (Id. at
¶ 16). During the interview, Brizzy explained that C.B.
regularly received medical care since birth and reached all
developmental milestones. (Id. at ¶ 17).
Moreover, Brizzy explained that she did not notice any signs
of injury to C.B. and was unaware of any bone fractures until
the Hospital visit. (Id. at ¶ 18). During
C.B.'s appointments with Dr. Lincoln, Dr. Lincoln never
expressed concern about C.B.'s welfare. (Doc. 11, ¶
19). Likewise, C.B.'s daycare provider did not express
concerns regarding C.B.'s welfare. (Id.).
after the interview, CYS issued a Shelter Care Order,
requiring that C.B. be placed into shelter care and
determining that allowing C.B. to remain in Brizzy's home
would be contrary to C.B.'s welfare. (Id. at
¶ 20). On or about January 3, 2013, the Department of
Public Welfare ("Department"), filed an indicated
report of child abuse with the ChildLine Register.
(Id. at ¶ 21). The report named Brizzy and her
partner as perpetrators of physical abuse upon C.B.,
specifically, for lack of supervision. (Id.).
then filed a request to expunge her name from the ChildLine
Registry, but her request was denied. (Id. at ¶
22). Brizzy appealed that decision, and a hearing was held on
October 3, 2013, at the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals in
Plymouth, Pennsylvania. (Id. at ¶ 23).
Brizzy's appeal was, however, sustained on the grounds
that CYS did not meet its burden of establishing, by clear
and convincing evidence, a lack of supervision constituting
physical child abuse pursuant to 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann.
§ 6303. (Doc. 11, ¶ 24).
December 19, 2013, the Department of Welfare filed an
application for reconsideration. (Id. at ¶ 25).
On January 17, 2014, the Secretary of Public Welfare granted
the application and remanded the matter to the Bureau of
Hearings and Appeals to receive testimony from Dr. Bellino,
the Department's additional witness. (Id.). On
March 10, 2014, the Bureau held a hearing, at which Dr.
Bellino testified. (Id. at ¶ 26). On May 22,
2014, Brizzy's appeal was sustained on the grounds that
CYS did not meet its burden of presenting substantial
evidence that there was a lack of supervision constituting
child abuse. (Id. at ¶ 27). Because the appeal
was sustained, the Department was also directed to expunge
Brizzy's indicated child abuse report from the ChildLine
Registry. (Id. at ¶ 28).
the administrative processes, CYS did not provide evidence
establishing "how such injuries would be observable to a
parent," "evidence of the non-accidental
nature" of C.B.'s injuries, nor evidence that C.B.
had been abused by Brizzy. (Doc. 11, ¶¶ 30, 32).
Moreover, Brizzy "voluntarily participated in CYS's
investigation, followed all directions she received from the
agency and complied with all requested service."
(Id. at ¶ 31).
to the Amended complaint, C.B. was placed in CYS custody for
almost two years, as a result of CYS's investigation.
(Id. at ¶ 33). The "continued separation
of C.B. from Brizzy and the refusal of CYS to otherwise
permit [Brizzy] to have contact and continuous relations and
have a parental bond with C.B. when they knew that they had
no evidence that [Brizzy] had ever abused or neglected
C.B." violated Brizzy's Fourteenth Amendment right
to procedural and substantive due process. (Id. at
¶¶ 38, 39).
Standard of Review
complaint must be dismissed under Fed. R. Civ. P 12(b)(6), if
it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly,550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167
L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). The plaintiff must aver "factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct