United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
TIFFANY D. FERRY, et. al., PLAINTIFFS
COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY CABINET FOR HEALTH AND FAMILY SERVICES, et. al., DEFENDANTS
B. Russell, Senior Judge
matter is before the Court on a motion to dismiss filed by
Defendants, the Commonwealth of Kentucky Cabinet for Health
and Family Services, Caroline Spicker, Stephanie Webb,
Jennifer Bourgeois, “Field Social Worker Simmons,
” and “Family Services Supervisor Lyman”
(collectively, “Defendants”) in their official
capacities. [DN 4.] Plaintiffs Tiffany Ferry and Andrew Frank
Allen responded, [DN 8], and Defendants replied, [DN 9.]
Defendants also filed a motion to stay any discovery and Rule
26 obligations pending the resolution of their motion to
dismiss, [DN 5.] Plaintiffs responded, [DN 8], and Defendants
replied, [DN 10.] For the reasons explained below,
Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED
and their motion to stay is DENIED AS MOOT.
The Court will enter a separate Order and Judgment consistent
with this Memorandum Opinion.
case arises out of an investigation by Defendants, the
Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services
(“CHFS”) and its employees, into alleged abuse by
Plaintiffs Tiffany Ferry and Andrew Allen of their minor
children, KMA and IFA. [DN 1-1 (State Court Complaint).]
Plaintiffs allege that Defendants interviewed their children
regarding alleged domestic abuse on October 19, 2015 without
Plaintiffs' consent. [Id. at 4.] As a result, a
“prevention plan” was put in place, under which
the children were placed with their paternal grandmother.
[Id.] On August 2, 2016, Defendants filed a petition
in Jefferson County Circuit Court “alleging that the
minor children had been abused or neglected according to KRS
600.020(1).” [Id. at 5.] At a “temporary
removal hearing” on August 4, 2016, the court dismissed
the petition and the children were returned to
Plaintiffs' custody. [Id.] Plaintiffs brought
the instant action on August 4, 2017, alleging violations of
the U.S. and Kentucky Constitutions, civil rights violations
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and conspiracy under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1985. [Id. at 5-6.] Defendants removed the
action to the Western District of Kentucky on August 28,
2017. [DN 1 (Notice of Removal).]
order to survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a
party must “plead enough factual matter to raise a
‘plausible' inference of wrongdoing.”
16630 Southfield Ltd. P'ship v. Flagstar Bank,
F.S.B., 727 F.3d 502, 504 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). A
claim becomes plausible “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 678 (citing
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556
(2007)). Should the well-pleaded facts support no “more
than the mere possibility of misconduct, ” then
dismissal is warranted. Id. at 679. The Court may
grant a motion to dismiss “only if, after drawing all
reasonable inferences from the allegations in the complaint
in favor of the plaintiff, the complaint still fails to
allege a plausible theory of relief.” Garceau v.
City of Flint, 572 Fed. App'x. 369, 371 (6th Cir.
2014) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677-79).
also move to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) on sovereign immunity grounds.
“The Eleventh Amendment provides, ‘The Judicial
power of the United States shall not be construed to extend
to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against
one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by
Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.'”
Russell v. Lundergan-Grimes, 784 F.3d 1037, 1046
(6th Cir. 2015) (quoting U.S. Const. amend. XI). “The
sovereign immunity guaranteed by this Amendment deprives
federal courts of subject-matter jurisdiction when a citizen
sues his own State unless the State waives its immunity or
Congress abrogates that sovereign immunity.”
Id. (citing Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v.
Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98-100 (1984)).
suit, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants' actions violated
“Plaintiffs' constitutional rights under the United
States and Kentucky Constitution and violated Plaintiffs'
due process rights by breaking up the family unit and invaded
the privacy and dignity of Plaintiffs' home and
Plaintiffs' lawful exercise of authority as
parents.” [DN 1-1 at 5.] Additionally, Plaintiffs claim
that Defendants' actions “violated Plaintiffs'
civil rights under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 and were a
conspiracy against the rights of the Plaintiffs under 42
U.S.C. Section 1985.” [Id.]
Eleventh Amendment Sovereign Immunity
first move for the dismissal of all claims against the
Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services
(“CHFS”) and of all state law claims against the
CHFS employees in their official capacities on grounds of
Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity.
Eleventh Amendment provides that “The Judicial power of
the United States shall not be construed to extend to any
suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of
the United States by Citizens of another State, or by
Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.” U.S. Const.
amend. XI. “The Eleventh Amendment ‘bars all
suits, whether for injunctive, declaratory or monetary
relief, against the state and its departments.'”
Sefa v. Kentucky, 510 Fed.Appx. 435, 437 (6th Cir.
2013) (quoting Thiokol Corp. v. Dep't of Treasury,
State of Mich., Revenue Div., 987 F.2d 376, 381 (6th
Cir. 1993)). Applying this principle, the Sixth Circuit has
indeed held that a plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and
1983 “claims against the [Kentucky] Cabinet [for health
and Family Services] are barred by the Eleventh Amendment to
the United States Constitution. Id. “Because
Kentucky has not waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity and
Congress has not abrogated state sovereign immunity under
sections 1981 and 1983 or any other federal statute cited by
[Plaintiffs], [their] claims against the Cabinet cannot
proceed.” Id. Accordingly, all of Plaintiffs
claims against CHFS are dismissed for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1).