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A.J. v. Lancaster County

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 23, 2019

A.J. and K.J., Plaintiffs,
v.
LANCASTER COUNTY; CRYSTAL A. NATAN, Executive Director; ROBIN BOYER; ALEXIS PALMER; CHRISTOPHER HORNBERGER; CHRISTINE SEBASTIAN-BAIR; COURTNEY J. RESTEMAYER, ESQ.; PAT DOES #1-10; ATTORNEY DOES #1-10, Defendants.

          OPINION DEFENDANT'S MOTIONS TO DISMISS, ECF NO. 30 - GRANTED DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS AND STRIKE, ECF NO. 31 - GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART AS MOOT.

          JOSEPH F. LEESON, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         A.J., the biological parent of a minor initiated this action against Lancaster County, Crystal Natan, Robin Boyer, Alexis Palmer, Christopher Hornberger, Courtney Restemayer, Esq., David J. Natan, Esq., (collectively, “the County”); and Christine Sebastian-Bair (collectively, “Defendants”). Now, A.J. and A.J. (collectively “Parents”), the parents of the minor, assert, on behalf of themselves, claims of civil rights violations they allegedly sustained in connection with an investigation by Defendants of child abuse involving their child. This Court previously dismissed the first amended complaint when A.J. was the sole Plaintiff. Parents have filed a second amended complaint. The County and Sebastian-Bair have each moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Sebastian-Bair has additionally moved to strike Parents' second amended complaint for failure to provide a short and plain statement showing the pleader is entitled to relief.

         For the reasons set forth below, the motions to dismiss are granted and the motion to strike is denied as moot.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         On April 24, 2019, A.J. filed a complaint against the Defendants asserting violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and 42 U.S.C. § 1985; the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution of the United States; and Article 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. See ECF No. 1. On July 9, 2019, A.J. filed his first amended complaint asserting additional claims pursuant to § 1983. See ECF No. 15.

         The County filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on July 23, 2019. See ECF No. 21. That same day, Family Design[1] filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and a motion to strike the amended complaint for failure to conform with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) to provide a short and plain statement of the claim showing the pleader is entitled to relief. See ECF No. 22.

         This Court dismissed A.J.'s first amended complaint on October 11, 2019. See ECF No. 28. Parents then filed their second amended complaint on November 1, 2019, including K.J. as a Plaintiff. See ECF No. 29. The second amended complaint asserts violations pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. The County has filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. See ECF No. 30. Sebastian-Bair has also filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and a motion to strike the amended complaint for failure to conform with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) to provide a short and plain statement of the claim showing the pleader is entitled to relief. See ECF No. 31. Parents have responded to the motions and the matter is ready for review.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss Standard.

         In rendering a decision on a motion to dismiss, this Court must “accept all factual allegations as true [and] construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Only if “the ‘[f]actual allegations . . . raise a right to relief above the speculative level'” has the plaintiff stated a plausible claim. Id. at 234 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 540, 555 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). However, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Id. (explaining that determining “whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief . . . [is] a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense”). The defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that a plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991)).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         A. ...


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