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Runnymede-Piper v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District Circuit

July 3, 2013

KAREN RUNNYMEDE-PIPER, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY United States District Judge

Karen Runnymede-Piper (“Plaintiff”) originally filed this action in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, alleging that the named defendants, governmental bodies and health care providers, wrongfully separated her from her child at birth. The action was subsequently removed by the defendants to this Court on June 4, 2012, pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1441, on the basis of federal question jurisdiction deriving from Plaintiff’s claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Notice of Removal, ECF No. [1] at ¶ 3; see also Notices of Consent to Removal, ECF Nos. [3], [7]. After the case was removed, this Court dismissed Plaintiff’s claims against several of the defendants, leaving only the District of Columbia (the “District”), the District of Columbia Child and Family Services Agency (“CFSA”), and the Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) as defendants in this action (collectively “District Defendants”). See Mem. Op. & Order (Sept. 21, 2012), ECF No. [28].

Presently before the Court is the [29] District Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss and the District’s Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff’s Non-Federal Claims. Upon consideration of the parties’ submissions, [1] the relevant authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court shall GRANT IN PART and DENY WITHOUT PREJUDICE IN PART the District Defendants’ motion. Specifically, the Court shall grant the motion insofar as it requests dismissal of Plaintiff’s Section 1983 claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief shall be granted. The motion is otherwise denied without prejudice. Instead, the Court, in an exercise of its discretion, shall decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s state law claims and shall remand this matter for further proceedings to the District of Columbia Superior Court.

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from the Complaint and must be accepted as true for purposes of a motion to dismiss. See Atherton v. D.C. Office of the Mayor, 567 F.3d 672, 681 (D.C. Cir. 2009), cert. denied, 559 U.S. 1039 (2010). On March 27, 2009, Plaintiff gave birth to a son while admitted as a patient at Washington Hospital Center. Compl. ¶¶ 11-12. Plaintiff and her newborn son were scheduled to be discharged from the hospital three days later, March 30, 2009. Id. ¶ 13. However, while Plaintiff was awaiting discharge, two MPD officers appeared and forcibly separated Plaintiff from her son, causing injury to Plaintiff’s hand. Id. ¶ 14. An unidentified individual then took the child to the hospital nursery while the MPD officers physically blocked Plaintiff from following the child and subsequently posted themselves outside of Plaintiff’s hospital room, preventing her from exiting the room to see her son. Id. ¶¶ 14-15. Several hours later, Plaintiff was informed by hospital staff that she had been reported to “child protective services, ” which had approved the forcible separation of Plaintiff from her child. Id. ¶¶16-17. Plaintiff was then forcibly escorted out of the hospital, without having been informed as to her son’s whereabouts or the status of her custody over him. Id. ¶ 18-19. Plaintiff further alleges, upon information and belief, that on April 1, 2009, CFSA told hospital staff – specifically, the doctor whom allegedly reported her – to discharge Plaintiff’s son to Plaintiff, but that the doctor defied CFSA’s directive until April 2, 2009. Id. ¶ 21. On April 2, 2009, Plaintiff retrieved her son from the hospital. Id. ¶ 22.

Plaintiff alleges that as a result of the forced separation from her child, she has suffered and will continue to suffer severe emotional distress, including impediments to bonding with her son; time and expense for psychological and/or medical care; and a lessening of enjoyment of life. Id. ¶ 26. The Complaint asserts the following five causes of action against the District Defendants: (i) negligence/gross negligence, (ii) intentional infliction of emotional distress, (iii) negligent infliction of emotional distress, (iv) deprivation of rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and (v) negligent training and supervision.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a party may move to dismiss on the grounds that the complaint “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. (8)(a), “in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (citation omitted). Although “detailed factual allegations” are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a plaintiff must furnish “more than labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Id. “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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement.” Id. (citation omitted). Rather, a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations that, if accepted as true, “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ’ but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must view the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff and must accept as true all reasonable factual inferences drawn from well-pleaded factual allegations. In re United Mine Workers of Am. Employee Benefit Plans Litig., 854 F.Supp. 914, 915 (D.D.C. 1994); see also Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979) (“The complaint must be ‘liberally construed in favor of the plaintiff, ’ who must be granted the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged.”). While the court must construe the complaint in the plaintiff’s favor, it “need not accept inferences drawn by the plaintiff if such inferences are unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint.” Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994). Moreover, the court is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted); accord Taylor v. FDIC, 132 F.3d 753, 762 (D.C. Cir. 1997).

III. DISCUSSION

A. The Court shall dismiss Plaintiff’s Section 1983 claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

In addition to bringing several common law tort claims, Plaintiff asserts that the District Defendants deprived her of her constitutional rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Compl. ¶¶ 41-44. Section 1983 creates a private cause of action as a remedy against constitutional violations. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2006). The act states, in pertinent part:

Every person who, under color of any statute1, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to ...

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