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Howell v. Father Maloney's Boys' Haven, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

January 3, 2020

ADRIENNE L. HOWELL, et al. PLAINTIFF
v.
FATHER MALONEY'S BOYS' HAVEN, INC., d/b/a FATHER MALONEY'S BOYS & GIRLS HAVEN, et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Greg N. Stivers, Chief Judge United States District Court

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (DN 34), Plaintiff's Motion to Certify and for a Stay (DN 27), Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File a Sur-Reply or to Strike (DN 48), and Plaintiff's Motion to Amend the Case Caption (DN 44). The motions are ripe for review. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, Plaintiff's motion to amend is GRANTED, and the remaining motions are DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This action arises from the assault Plaintiff Adrienne Howell (“Howell”) suffered while working for Father Maloney's Boys & Girls Haven (“BGH”), a residential institution that provides treatment to at-risk youth. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1-2, 8, DN 24-3). Specifically, one of BGH's residents, R.B.L., choked Howell unconscious and sodomized her while she was working in a secluded barn on the BGH campus. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 19-21).

         Howell originally brought this action on March 5, 2018, in Jefferson Circuit Court. (Compl. 1, DN 1-2). She asserted Fourteenth Amendment claims against BGH and Jeff Hadley (“Hadley”) (collectively “BGH Defendants”) and against the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (“CHFS”), former Secretary of CHFS Vickie Yates Brown Glisson (“Glisson”), and acting Secretary of CHFS Scott Brinkman (“Brinkman”) (collectively the “CHFS Defendants”). (Compl. ¶¶ 4, 6, 34-55). Howell also asserted a premises liability claim and what appears to be a fraudulent inducement claim, both under Kentucky state law, against the BGH Defendants. (Compl. ¶¶ 55-76). Finally, Howell asserted Kentucky state law intentional tort claims of assault and false imprisonment against R.B.L. (Compl. ¶¶ 77-83).

         The CHFS Defendants removed the case to federal court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction over the Fourteenth Amendment claims and supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining claims. (Notice Removal 1-2, DN 1). Howell eventually restyled her “Fourteenth Amendment” claims against the CHFS Defendants and the BGH Defendants as 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 32-33). The CHFS Defendants have since been dismissed from this case as a result of Howell's voluntary dismissal of her claims against CHFS and Brinkman and the Court's Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) dismissal of Howell's Section 1983 claim against Glisson. (Order 3-8, DN 30). The remaining claims are Howell's Section 1983 claims against the BGH Defendants and Howell's state law claims against the BGH Defendants and R.B.L.

         The BGH Defendants now seek to have all claims against them dismissed. (Defs.' Mot. Dismiss, DN 34). Howell asks this Court to amend the case caption, to certify a question of law to the Kentucky Supreme Court and stay all pending matters, and to file a sur-reply to the BGH Defendants' reply or to strike the BGH Defendants' reply.[1] (Pl.'s Mot. Amend Case Caption, DN 44; Pl.'s Mot. File Sur-Reply or Strike, DN 48; Pl.'s Mot. Certify Question, DN 27).

         II. JURISDICTION

         This Court possesses federal question and supplemental jurisdiction over this case. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331; 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” and is subject to dismissal if it “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When considering a motion to dismiss, courts must presume all factual allegations in the complaint to be true and make all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Total Benefits Planning Agency, Inc. v. Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, 552 F.3d 430, 434 (6th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted). “But the district court need not accept a bare assertion of legal conclusions.” Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). “A pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted) (citation omitted).

         To survive dismissal for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted) (citation omitted). A claim is facially 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.” Id. “A complaint will be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) if no law supports the claims made, if the facts alleged are insufficient to state a claim, or if the face of the complaint presents an insurmountable bar to relief.” Southfield Educ. Ass'n v. Southfield Bd. of Educ., 570 Fed.Appx. 485, 487 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 561-64).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Motion to Amend the Case Caption

         As a preliminary matter, Howell requests to amend this case's caption by modifying “R.B.L.” to reflect R.B.L.'s full name, Robert Brown Lester (“Lester”), and to remove in the case caption “as a minor by and through his parens patriae [the Cabinet for Health and Family Services]” and “by and through his natural parent, Sherri Carter.” (Pl.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Amend Case Caption 1, DN 44-1). Lester is the individual alleged to have sexually assaulted Howell and was a minor at the time of the alleged sexual assault and at the time of the filing of Howell's suit. (Pl.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Amend Case Caption 1-2). Lester has subsequently reached the age of majority. (Pl.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Amend Case Caption 2).[2] Howell requests the case caption change to facilitate service because service upon the Cabinet and Carter was returned unexecuted and because service may be made upon Lester personally now that he is an adult. (Unexecuted Service, DNs 45, 46); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(e)(2)(A).

         Finding no reason to deny Howell's motion, the Court will grant her request as Lester has now reached the age of majority and is the alleged perpetrator, not the victim, of the sexual assault, and because doing so will facilitate service. Compare M.P.T.C. v. Nelson Cty. Sch. Dist., 192 F.Supp.3d 798, 811 (W.D. Ky. 2016) (“To the extent that Plaintiff seeks to amend the case caption to substitute his initials with his full name because he has reached the age of majority, the Court grants the relief.”), with Doe v. Unified Sch. Dist. No. 259, No. 05-1151-JTM, 2007 WL 1796202, at *3 (D. Kan. Jun 19, 2007) (refusing to change case caption to identify minor sexual assault victim who subsequently reached the age of majority to preserve privacy of victim and because the victim reaching the age of majority was the only reason for the requested name change).

         B. Motion to Dismiss

         The BGH Defendants seek to dismiss the three claims that Howell has asserted against them: (1) a Section 1983 claim; (2) what appears to be a premises liability claim; and (3) what appears to be a fraudulent inducement claim. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 32-33, 43-76). As explained in the next section, the BGH Defendants' motion is granted to the extent the Section ...


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