Bower Law Successfully Defends Hospital and Employees in Federal Court Action Alleging Civil Rights Violations
Plaintiff presented to a hospital Emergency Room with infant daughter who had sustained visible injuries to her genital area. After clinical examination, and as required mandatory reporters, medical personnel contacted the Police Department regarding the infants’ injuries. After an investigation, an action was brought in Family Court and a Temporary Orders of Protection were issued. Under the Orders of Protection, Plaintiff was not permitted to return to the family home during the pendency of the Family Court Action. Moreover, Plaintiff’s visitation with the daughter, as well as another child in the home were restricted, monitored and supervised.
The matter was prosecuted in Family Court for over one year during which time Orders of Protection were modified. After one year, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, signed a statement “making an admission to child neglect” in connection with these incidents. The Family Court issued an “Order of Fact Finding and Disposition without Placement,” in which the Court specifically accepted the Admission, found that “the child suffered a serious injury for which there is no reasonable explanation,” made a finding by a preponderance of the evidence that the plaintiff had engaged in child neglect and ordered various relief to further safeguard the children, including various forms of supervision. After a Forensic Parenting Evaluation, plaintiff moved for a modification of the Family Court’s orders. An Order was then issued vacating all Orders of Protection.
After the resolution of the Family Court matter plaintiff brought an action in Federal Court against the hospital, various medical personnel and the police detectives who investigated the incident. The Complaint brought by husband and wife plaintiffs (parents of the minor children) alleged that their civil rights were violated under the Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution of the United States. The Defendants brought Motions to Dismiss based on various theories and arguments. These included: 1) the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine; 2) the doctor was not a “State actor” under §1983; 3) Plaintiffs failed to satisfy the criteria for a §1985 conspiracy; 4) Plaintiffs’ Abuse of Process claims failed as a matter of law; and 5) medical personnel were immune from liability pursuant to New York Social Services Law §§ 413 and 419.
The District Court issued a Decision dismissing Plaintiffs’ Complaint, With Prejudice, and specifically prohibiting Plaintiffs from any attempt to replead their case. The Court held that the bulk of the Complaint was made up of conclusory allegations which failed to state factual grounds upon which a valid Complaint could be allowed. It was held that nonconclusory allegations were implausible and failed to support all claims for relief, particularly when viewed in the context of the documents of which this Court took judicial notice. As a matter of law, the Court held that the Complaint must be dismissed as barred by the immunity enjoyed by mandated reporters under state law; the failure of the plaintiffs to allege adequate facts to support Monell liability; issue preclusion and the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; the improper characterization of the Hospital, its employees and independent contractors as state actors under §1983, and the existence of probable cause, which would defeat claims of malicious prosecution.