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Nin v. Luzerne County

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 12, 2019

KARELIZ NIN, Plaintiff,


          MARIANI, JUDGE

         I. Introduction and Procedural History

         The above-captioned action was filed by Plaintiff, Kareliz Nin, asserting a single Section 1983 claim against Defendants Luzerne County and Luzerne County Children and Youth Services ("LCCYS") for their alleged involvement in the administration of Plaintiffs deceased child's estate. Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Second Amended Complaint. (Doc. 57).

         Nin filed a Writ of Summons in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County on October 21, 2016, naming Luzerne County and LCCYS as Defendants. (Doc. 1-1). On April 20, 2017, Nin filed her Complaint in state court, alleging a single count of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 violation and naming only LCCYS as a defendant. (Id.) LCCYS removed the action to this Court (Doc. 1) and moved to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (Doc. 3). On August 25, 2017, Nin filed a motion for leave to amend the Complaint to add Luzerne County as a defendant, without adding any new claims or substantive allegations. (Doc. 19). This Court granted Nin's Motion to Amend (Doc. 28) and Defendants filed a second motion to dismiss after the Amended Complaint was filed (Doc. 32). On August 3, 2018, this Court granted Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint and granted Nin leave to amend her complaint. (Doc. 52). On August 24, 2018, Nin filed a Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 53), and on September 26, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 57). For reasons that follow, Defendants' motion will be granted, without prejudice and with leave to Plaintiff to file a Third Amended Complaint.

         II. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiffs Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 53) alleges the following facts which, for the purposes of resolving Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, the Court takes as true:

         Kareliz Nin gave birth to her daughter, Cecilia Nin, on May 21, 2012. (Id. at ¶ 2). On December 28, 2012, after becoming unresponsive, Cecilia was taken by ambulance to the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. (Id. at ¶ 10). After conducting various diagnostic tests, the Hospital discharged Cecilia back to the care of her mother. (Id. at ¶ 11). About a week later, Cecilia was again unresponsive and taken to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center. (Id. at ¶ 12.) Based on the results of the diagnostic tests performed during that second visit, LCCYS petitioned the state court for dependency of Cecilia and Plaintiffs other two children, Reina and Faviyan, alleging suspected abuse. (Id. at ¶ 13). The state court granted LCCYS's petition and directed that Plaintiffs children be removed from Plaintiffs care and placed into foster care. (Doc. 53, at ¶ 14). On January 7, 2013, while still an inpatient at Geisinger hospital, Cecilia died. (Id. at ¶ 15). The court then issued an order finding Cecilia as not dependent because she was deceased. (Id. at ¶ 16). According to Cecilia's Autopsy Report, Cecilia died due to blunt force trauma to the head, and separately suffered multiple healing bilateral rib fractures and forearm fractures. (Id. at ¶ 18). The death of Cecilia triggered a criminal investigation by the Luzerne County District Attorney's office, the status of which is still unknown at this time. (Id. at ¶¶ 24, 27).

         Nearly two years later, on October 29, 2014, Plaintiff received a "Representative Notice of Estate Administration Pursuant to Pa. O.C. Rule 5.6" regarding the Estate of Cecilia Nin (the "Representative Notice"), which was prepared and issued by two lawyers ("Estate Counsel") and named a third lawyer as administrator of the estate. (Id. at ¶¶ 29-31). Plaintiff alleges that she had no participation in and was never made aware of the administration of her daughter's Estate, and that she cannot access Cecilia's estate files because the files are sealed. (Doc. 53, at ¶¶ 33-37). Plaintiff further alleges that prior to the opening of her daughter's estate, Estate Counsel were not legally privy to the confidential information contained within her and her daughter's CYS files. (Id. at ¶ 39). Thus, any dissemination of that information was "illegal and unauthorized" and "the only way" the Estate Counsel could have ascertained the information necessary to open the Estate was through CYS's illegal and unauthorized dissemination of information. (Id. at ¶ 41).

         On August 10, 2015, Cecilia's estate representative filed a medical malpractice suit against various defendants, including Kareliz Nin. (Id. at ¶¶ 42, 43). Plaintiff alleges that "the sole reason for the Estate Counsel to open the Estate of Cecilia was to file the Complaint" and that "the only way Estate counsel could have come across the information necessary to prepare and file the [medical malpractice suit's] Complaint and continue to litigate the lawsuit would have been through illegal and unauthorized information disseminated through representatives of [LCCYS]." (Id. at ¶¶ 44, 46). Plaintiff further alleges that "CYS has thrown road blocks at every chance they had through various delays" (Id. at ¶ 49), and that she has still not regained custody of her other two daughters who remain in foster care (Doc. 53, at ¶ 54).

         The medical malpractice Complaint includes "very specific and detailed information," with regard to Cecilia's medical information, her treatment during her Emergency Room visits, and the autopsy report. (Id. at ¶¶ 65-67). The information disclosed is "highly confidential and protected by various County, State and Federal Rules and Regulations." (Id. at ¶ 68). Additionally, Nin never gave any of the information to the Estate Counsel or Representative, the information was not publicly accessible, and the only way the information could be accessed would be via Court Order or with Plaintiff's authorization. (Id. at ¶¶ 69-72). As a result, Plaintiff alleges that LCCYS failed to implement any policies or procedures to ensure compliance with Federal and State law, and consequently, by illegally releasing said information, infringed upon Plaintiff's Constitutional right to privacy. (Id. at ¶¶ 78-87, 94).

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants, "while acting under color of state law, unlawfully, intentionally, unreasonably, maliciously, with deliberate indifference and/or with reckless indifference to [Plaintiffs] civil rights, violated 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983 and deprived the [Plaintiff] of her rights and privileges guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States and acting as follows:"

a. Violating various Child Protective Services laws;
b. Attempting to cover up, minimize and ignore the illegal activities of their employees, agents, and servants;
c. Releasing confidential information regarding Kareliz and Cecilia's CYS file to individuals with absolutely no legal standing to have access to said ...

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