United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
VYNEEKA HOPKINS, as Parent and Natural Guardian of C.A., a Minor Plaintiff.
NICOLE YESSER, et. al. Defendant.
B. Brody, J.
weeks after his release from South Mountain Secure Treatment
Unit (“South Mountain”)-a state-run treatment
facility for juvenile offenders-Defendant Jamir Hill abducted
C.A., a young child, from her Philadelphia home. Hill
brutally beat C.A., sexually assaulted her, and left her for
dead in the tall weeds behind her home. He was later
convicted of burglary, kidnapping, rape, and attempted
murder. C.A.’s mother, Plaintiff Vyneeka Hopkins,
brings this suit against Hill, Defendants Nicole Yesser and
Rocco Manfredi (mental health workers who recommended
Hill’s release), and Manfredi’s employer,
Defendant Bonsall, Manfredi & Associates
(“BMA”). Hopkins brings state-law tort claims
against Hill for assault and battery. As to Yesser, Manfredi,
and BMA, she brings a state-law negligence claim and a claim
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of C.A.’s
substantive due process right to bodily
me are two motions to dismiss: one filed jointly by Manfredi
and BMA (collectively, the “Manfredi Defendants”)
and the other filed by Yesser. Both move to dismiss for failure
to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). As tragic as the facts of this case are, I
must ultimately dismiss the § 1983 claim and decline to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining
2014 Jamir Hill-a juvenile-was admitted into state custody
and housed in South Mountain. During his time at South
Mountain, Hill “was known to have violent and
uncontrollable tendencies, as well as deviant sexual
outbursts.” Am. Compl. at ¶ 21 (ECF No. 18). The
Amended Complaint does not specify why Hill was admitted to
in South Mountain, Hill received treatment from Defendants
Nicole Yesser and Rocco Manfredi. Yesser was Hill’s
assigned counselor and Manfredi was his assigned
psychiatrist. Id. at ¶ 22. Yesser was
responsible for overseeing Hill’s ongoing treatment and
determining his capacity to be released. Id. at
¶ 5. Manfredi also played a “supervisory role
related to [Hill’s] release.” Id. at
some point during Hill’s time at South Mountain, Yesser
and Manfredi recommended that Hill be released. The
recommendations arose in “notations” made during
the “ordinary course of [Hill’s]
treatment.” Id. at ¶ 28. The
recommendations were “not solicited or made as part of
an inquiry from any court, parole board, or other such
entity.” Id. Hill was released on July 6,
and Manfredi both knew that prior to his admission to South
Mountain, Hill “was known to target young members of
his family and their friends” for violence and sexual
abuse. Id. at ¶ 24. They also knew that Hill
and his family lived in “close proximity” to
C.A.’s family, that the two families had frequent
contact, and that Hill would return to his family’s
home when released. Id. at ¶¶
the time Yesser and Manfredi recommended that Hill be
released, they knew that he was still a “danger to the
public” with a “high risk of recidivism.”
Id. at ¶ 23. They knew that it was
“entirely foreseeable” that Hill, if released,
would “engage in behaviors that threatened the safety
of the community and C.A.” Id.
July 28, 2015-about three weeks after his release-Hill
abducted C.A. from her home. Id. at ¶ 29. He
then assaulted and raped C.A., leaving her for dead in the
tall weeds behind her house. Id. C.A. survived but
suffered severe and permanent physical and psychological
harm. Id. at ¶ 33. On May 22, 2017, Hill was
convicted for burglary, kidnapping, rape, and attempted
murder. Id. at ¶ 30.
Standard of Review
deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court
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, 515 F.3d at 233 (quoting Pinker v.
Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir.
survive dismissal, a complaint must allege facts sufficient
to “raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007). “Threadbare 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). In order to determine
the sufficiency of a complaint under Twombly and
Iqbal, a court must engage in the following
First, the court must take note of the elements a plaintiff
must plead to state a claim. Second, the court should
identify allegations that, because they are no more than
conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.
Finally, where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a
court should assume their veracity and then determine whether
they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.
Connelly v. Steel Valley Sch. Dist., 706 F.3d 209,
212 (3d Cir. 2013) (quoting Burtch v. Milberg
Factors, Inc., 662 F.3d 212, 221 (3d Cir. 2011)).
brings a substantive due process claim under § 1983 and
additional claims under Pennsylvania tort law. Because
Hopkins does not adequately allege a substantive due process
violation, her § 1983 claim must be dismissed. I will
also decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the
remaining state-law tort claims.
Substantive Due Process Claim
state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege a
deprivation of a constitutional right caused by someone
acting under the color of state law. Phillips, 515
F.3d at 235. The Due Process Clause provides that a state
shall not “deprive any person of life, liberty, or
property, without due process of law.” U.S. Const.
amend. XIV, § 1. Hopkins alleges that Manfredi and
Yesser deprived C.A. of her substantive due process right to
bodily integrity under the Fourteenth Amendment. See
Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702, 720 (1997)
(citing Rochin v. California, 342 U.S. 165 (1952))
(recognizing bodily integrity as a liberty interest under the
Due Process Clause). No. Defendants dispute Hopkins’s
allegation that they acted under color of state law. Rather,
they argue that Hopkins did not adequately allege a
general, the Due Process Clause imposes no duty on the state
to protect its citizens from violence by private actors.
See DeShaney v. Winnebago Cnty. Dep’t of Soc.
Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 195 (1989) (“[A]
State’s failure to protect an individual against
private violence simply does not constitute a violation of
the Due Process Clause.”). But the Third Circuit
recognizes a “state-created danger” exception to
that general rule. Kneipp v. Tedder, 95 F.3d 1199,
1211 (3d Cir. 1996). That exception provides that “the
Due Process Clause can impose an affirmative duty to protect
if the state’s own actions create the very danger that
causes the plaintiff’s injury.” Morrow v.
Balaski, 719 F.3d 160, 167 (3d Cir. 2013).
prevail on a substantive due process claim under the
state-created danger theory,  a plaintiff must prove each of
the following elements: (1) the harm ultimately caused was
foreseeable and fairly direct; (2) the state actor behaved
with a degree of culpability that shocked the conscience; (3)
there was some relationship between the state and plaintiff
that makes the plaintiff a foreseeable victim; and (4) the
state-actor used his or her authority to create a danger that
would not have otherwise existed had the ...