United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
DELEON MAJOR, Administrator of the Estate of DEVON MAJOR and Administrator of the Estate of EZEKIEL MAJOR, Plaintiff
LUZERNE COUNTY CHILDREN AND YOUTH SERVICES, : PHILADELPHIA DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, DIVISION OF: CHILDREN AND YOUTH, and CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, : Defendants
MALACHY E. MANNION UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the court are a motion for judgment on the pleadings
filed on behalf of defendant Luzerne County Children and
Youth Services (“LCCYS”) (Doc. 27) and a motion
for judgment on the pleadings filed on behalf of defendants
Philadelphia Department of Human Services, Division of
Children and Youth (“DHS”) and the City of
Philadelphia (Doc. 29). Upon review, the defendants’
motions will be granted.
of relevant background, on July 9, 2018, Deleon Major
(“plaintiff”), as Administrator of the Estates of
Devon Major and Ezekiel Major, filed a complaint in the Court
of Common Pleas of Luzerne County alleging a single claim
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. On August 6, 2018, the
matter was removed to this court. (Doc. 1). On September 5,
2018, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint in which he
again sets forth only one count alleging substantive and
procedural due process violations under the Fourteenth
Amendment. (Doc. 10).
February 1, 2019, a motion for judgment on the pleadings was
filed on behalf of LCCYS (Doc. 27) along with a brief in
support thereof (Doc. 28). A motion for judgment on the
pleadings was filed on behalf of DHS and the City of
Philadelphia on February 5, 2019 (Doc. 29) along with a brief
in support thereof (Doc. 30). The plaintiff filed a brief in
opposition to DHS’s motion on February 19, 2019 (Doc.
35) and a brief in opposition to LCCYS’s motion on
March 1, 2019 (Doc. 37). Reply briefs were filed by DHS on
March 5, 2019 (Doc. 39) and LCCYS on March 7, 2019 (Doc. 41).
standard for deciding a motion for judgment on the pleadings
pursuant to Rule 12(c) is identical to that for deciding a
motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Turbe v.
Gov’t of V.I., 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991).
In deciding the defendants’ motions, the court must
read the complaint in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff and all well-pleaded, material allegations in the
complaint must be taken as true. Estelle v. Gamble,
429 U.S. 97 (1976). However, the court need not accept
inferences drawn by the plaintiff if they are unsupported by
the facts as set forth in the complaint. See California
Pub. Employee Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d
126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004) (citing Morse v. Lower Merion
School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997)). The
court also need not accept legal conclusions set forth as
factual allegations. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 554, 555 (2007) (citing Papasan v. Allain,
478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).
viable complaint must include “enough facts to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 554 (rejecting the traditional
12(b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355
U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). “Factual allegations must be
enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.” Id. at 555. See also Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (holding that, while the
complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, it
must contain more than a “formulaic recitation of the
elements” of a claim and must state a claim that is
plausible on its face) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, supra, and providing further guidance
on the standard set forth therein).
deciding the defendants’ motions, the court should
generally consider only the allegations contained in the
complaint, the exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of
public record, and “undisputably authentic”
documents which plaintiff has identified as the basis of his
claim. See Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. v. White
Consolidated Industries, Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d
to the factual allegations of the amended complaint, on
November 18, 2014, the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas
ordered that the plaintiff, the father of Devon and Ezekiel
Major, and Susan Major (“Ms. Major”), the mother
of the children, share legal custody of the children. The
order gave the plaintiff primary physical custody of the
children and permitted the children to relocate to the
plaintiff’s residence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The order further gave partial physical custody of the
children to Ms. Major during the summers, on alternate
weekends and on specific school breaks.
January 12, 2016, DHS received a Child Protective Services
report which alleged that Ezekiel, then five years old, was
observed that day with a bruise on the left side of his face
near his eye and that there was a bruise on the back of his
left shoulder. The report alleged that when Ezekiel was asked
what happened, he stated that on January 11, 2016, the
plaintiff had hit him with a belt because he was hitting
Devon. The report alleged that Ms. Major was residing in
Arizona and was not involved in the children’s care and
that the plaintiff was the primary caregiver for the
date of the report, DHS conducted a home visit with the
plaintiff, Devon and Yolanda Edwards, who was the
plaintiff’s paramour at the time. During this visit,
the plaintiff admitted to hitting Ezekiel with a belt causing
injury to his back, but denied being the cause of the other
injuries. DHS then informed the plaintiff that the children
could not remain in his care while the investigation was
pending. Ms. Major, who was apparently residing in
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, not Arizona, agreed to care for
the children pending a Shelter Care Hearing. On that date,
DHS obtained an Order for Protective Custody and the children
were placed with Ms. Major in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.
January 14, 2016, a Shelter Care Hearing was held in the
Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas and, as a result of
that hearing, the Order for Protective Custody was lifted,
DHS’s temporary commitment was discharged, and DHS was
ordered to supervise. The court ordered that Ms. Major
provide a progress report and treatment plan, a list of the
types of medications prescribed by her
psychiatrist/psychologist and a list of her previous
hospitalizations. It was further ordered that DHS make a
referral to LCCYS to request a courtesy home visit of Ms.
Major’s home to assess the safety of the children in
the home due to Ms. Major having a history of mental health
issues, namely, post-traumatic stress disorder
(“PTSD”) and severe depression. At the time, Ms.
Major had been hospitalized in mental health facilities three
times within the prior five years. It is alleged that Ms.
Major would become suicidal and have homicidal ideations with
thoughts of killing Mr. Major and his paramour, she admitted
to using cannabis on a daily basis, and she had been charged
with use/possession of drug paraphernalia and credit card