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Felicia Taylor, et al v. District of Columbia

January 17, 2012

FELICIA TAYLOR, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara J. Rothstein United States District Judge

ORDER AND MEMORANDUM

OPINION ON MOTION TO DISMISS

This case is before the court on a Motion to Dismiss filed by defendant the District of Columbia and defendants Golden, Jordon, Sanders, Sweeney, Abunaw, Walks, and Roberts (hereinafter "District employees") [dkt. #164] ("Mot. to Dismiss.").*fn1 This court, having reviewed the motion and the relevant documents in support of and opposition thereto, hereby grants the motion in part and denies it in part.

I. BACKGROUND

This lawsuit was filed in 2008. Plaintiffs allege that plaintiffs D.B. and T.B., who are minor children (hereinafter "minor plaintiffs"), experienced lead poisoning as a result of their placement in a foster home by the District of Columbia and its employees. Mot. to Dismiss at 3. The minor plaintiffs resided in the foster home of Annie Malloy from June 2000 to March 2003, during which time plaintiffs claim the District of Columbia and District employees knew or should have known of the inappropriate conditions at the foster home, including lead paint contamination. Third Amended Complaint [dkt. #159] ¶¶ 20-39. Plaintiffs allege that T.B. and D.B. have elevated blood lead levels resulting from their exposure to the lead-based paint in the foster home. Id. ¶¶ 40-42. Plaintiffs further allege that T.B. and D.B. have suffered neurological damage and cognitive defects stemming from their exposure. Id. ¶ 101. Plaintiff Felecia Taylor, who took custody of the minor plaintiffs after they were removed from the home in the District of Columbia, claims that she has suffered emotional distress, medical expenses, and lost wages. Id. ¶ 102. Plaintiffs bring claims of civil rights violations against the District of Columbia and the District employees under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Counts IV and V), and claims for common law negligence and gross negligence against the District employees, along with a claim for punitive damages (Counts I, II, and VI).*fn2 Id. ¶¶ 91-169.

This case was originally assigned to Judge Kennedy. In a hearing held on March 11, 2010, Judge Kennedy granted in part and denied in part a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, filed by the District employees (with the exception of Roberts, who was not yet named in the lawsuit). Order [dkt. #147] at 1. Judge Kennedy made clear that he was resolving that motion as a motion for summary judgment: "Assuming for the sake of analysis that Taylor has adequately pled a Section 1983 cause of action against the supervisors and the social workers, the Court concludes that Taylor has failed to produce evidence sufficient to overcome defendant's motion for summary judgment." Transcript of Proceedings [dkt. #186] ("Transcript") at 7. Specifically, Judge Kennedy granted the motion as it related to plaintiffs' federal claims against the District employees, but denied it to the extent it requested that the court decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining common law claims against the District employees. Id.

Following Judge Kennedy's decision, on May 3, 2010, Magistrate Judge Kay issued an opinion on plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint, which sought the addition of defendants Nell Roberts and five Doe defendants to plaintiffs' complaint. See Memorandum Order [dkt. #158]. Judge Kay denied leave to add Roberts to the federal claims in the Third Amended Complaint as futile, but granted leave to add her to plaintiffs' common law claims:

To the extent Plaintiffs wish to pursue the same federal claims against Ms. Roberts as they did against District Defendants, these claims would not survive a motion to dismiss for the reasoning given by the trial court in its oral ruling on District Defendant's motion to dismiss. (See Order dated [147] 03/12/2010.) However, to the extent Plaintiffs wish to pursue the common law claims against Ms. Roberts, the proposed amendment to add these Plaintiffs would not be futile.

Id. at 9.

Judge Kay denied leave to add the Doe defendants to any of plaintiffs' claims. Id.

On May 28, 2010, defendants filed the immediate Motion to Dismiss the Third Amended Complaint. This case was re-assigned to this court on October 18, 2011. Reassignment of Civil Case [dkt. #184].

II. LEGAL STANDARD

The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) is to test "the sufficiency of the allegations within the four corners of the complaint after taking those allegations as true. In re Interbank Fund Corp. Sec. Litig., 668 F. Supp. 2d 44, 47-48 (D.D.C. 2009) (citing Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)). Ambiguities must be resolved in favor of the plaintiffs, giving them the benefit of every reasonable inference drawn from the well-pleaded facts and allegations in their complaint. See id.

To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must plead sufficient facts, taken as true, to provide "plausible grounds" that discovery will reveal evidence to support the plaintiffs' allegations. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (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 alleged misconduct." Aschroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, ___, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "This amounts to a 'two-pronged approach' under which a court first identifies the factual allegations entitled to an assumption of ...


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