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Colbert v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

January 12, 2015

JACQUELINE COLBERT, as next friend of Katina Colbert, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For KATINA COLBERT, JACQUELINE COLBERT, ESTATE OF T.C., A Minor, Plaintiffs: Catherine D. Bertram, LEAD ATTORNEY, REGAN ZAMBRI LONG & BERTRAM, Washington, DC; Harvey S. Williams, LAW OFFICE OF HARVEY S. WILLIAMS, Washington, DC.

For DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant: Alex Karpinski, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL, Washington, DC; Joseph Alphonso Gonzalez, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Washington, DC.

For TOTAL CARE SERVICES INC, Defendant: Robert W. Hesselbacher, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, WRIGHT, CONSTABLE & SKEEN, LLP, Baltimore, MD.

For MAXIMA KRAHLING, GUARDIAN OF KELVIN MARTINEZ, Movant: Pamela Hope Roth, LEAD ATTORNEY, Washington, DC.

OPINION

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ROSEMARY M. COLLYER, United States District Judge.

Jacqueline Colbert, mother of Katina Colbert (K.C.), brought this suit individually, as next friend of K.C., and as personal representative of the Estate of K.C.'s deceased infant child, T.C. Based on an alleged violation of K.C.'s constitutional rights as well as other grounds, Ms. Colbert claims a right to damages from the District of Columbia and its contractor, Total Care Services, Inc. K.C. is intellectually disabled. In 2008, K.C. was hospitalized and underwent a psychological assessment, which revealed that K.C. needed care and supervision twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. As a result, K.C. began residing in a group home operated by Total Care, under contract with the District.

Proper supervision and reasonable care allegedly were lacking. K.C. allegedly had unprotected, nonconsensual sex and became pregnant. With little or no prenatal care, she gave birth to T.C. in 2011. T.C. was born with significant medical problems and died when she was just over a year old. The District of Columbia moves to dismiss, or alternatively for summary judgment, arguing that it is not constitutionally liable because K.C. was voluntarily committed to its care. The Court finds that Ms. Colbert's constitutional claim is the only potentially viable basis for federal jurisdiction here and will order limited discovery to determine if the claim may proceed.

I. FACTS

In September 2008, K.C. was 31 years old and living in an emergency shelter for the homeless in the District of Columbia. Am. Compl. [Dkt. 29] ¶ 87. She had three small children who were in the custody of D.C. Child and Family Services. Id. For reasons that are unexplained, K.C. was hospitalized and referred for a psychological assessment by Words of Life Development

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Center. Id. Dr. Tonya Lockwood, a licensed psychologist, conducted the assessment on September 2 and 4, 2008. Surreply [Dkt. 51], Ex. 2 (Lockwood Report) at 1. Dr. Lockwood determined that K.C. had an IQ of 53; that she functioned " within the moderate range of mental retardation cognitively and adaptively; " [1] that she needed " medical and psychiatric stabilization; " that she needed to be referred to a neurologist to " rule out . . . dementia; " that she suffered from " symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; " and that she had " symptoms of depression as well as grief related to the loss of her children and her own mortality." Lockwood Report at 1, 8.[2] The psychologist determined that K.C. was " unable to make independent decisions with regard[ ] to her finances, medical treatment, housing, habilitation, and life planning," and recommended " emergency residential placement in a community residential facility with on-site medical support as well as 24-hour supervision." Id. at 8. Soon thereafter, K.C. moved into a group home operated by Total Care under contract with the District.

Ms. Colbert alleges that the District of Columbia " referred" K.C. for the psychological assessment; that upon receiving the assessment, the District " assumed custody" of K.C.; that the District began to act as K.C.'s " guardian; " and that K.C. " has not been free to leave the District's custody since September 2008." Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 87-91.

Due to K.C.'s " retardation and low developmental age," Ms. Colbert alleges that she was incapable of consenting to sexual activity. Id. ¶ 11. K.C. had a prior history of sexual abuse. Id. ¶ 10, 14, 18. According to the Amended Complaint, K.C. " was facilitated and encouraged by Defendants to have unprotected, nonconsensual sexual intercourse with various men in 2010" and thereby became pregnant. Id. ¶ 17. She delivered T.C. on April 3, 2011. K.C. and her mother, Ms. Colbert, shared joint legal custody of T.C., but because K.C. was unable to care for her child, Ms. Colbert was awarded sole physical custody of T.C. Id. ¶ ¶ 3, 5, 21. T.C. was born with medical conditions that required surgery, hospitalization, and medical care; T.C. died on April 18, 2012. Id. ¶ ¶ 17, 54.

Kelvin Martinez, an intellectually disabled man who lived in the same group home as K.C., claimed that he was T.C.'s father. See Mot. to Intervene [Dkt. 16]. Mr. Martinez, through his guardian, has asserted that K.C. and her mother acknowledged his paternity and identified him as T.C.'s father in the custody case regarding T.C. See Colbert v. Colbert, 2011 DRB 1427 (D.C. Superior Ct.). The D.C. Superior Court granted visitation rights to Mr. Martinez. Reply [Dkt. 21], Ex. 3 (Custody Order). However, paternity was never established because Mr. Martinez is indigent and he was unable to find a public source to pay for a paternity test.[3] Reply [Dkt. 21] at 5.

Ms. Colbert, for herself, on behalf of K.C., and on behalf of the Estate of T.C., filed an Amended Complaint, which contains fifteen Counts asserted against both the District of Columbia and Total Care, unless otherwise noted:

Count I--Negligence;

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Count II-- Wrongful Birth;
Count III--Breach of Fiduciary Duty arising from special relationship;
Count IV--Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress;
Count V-- Intentional Infliction of ...

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