United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division
GREGORY A. LAMASTER; PAMELA J. LAMASTER; A.G.A.L., a minor, by his next friends and parents, Gregory A. Lamaster and Pamela J. Lamaster; and E.M.L., a minor, by her next friends and parents, Gregory A. Lamaster and Pamela J. Lamaster, Plaintiffs,
THE INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF CHILD SERVICES; TERRY J. STIGDON, in her official capacity as Director of the Indiana Department of Child Services; JOAN KELLY, in her individual capacity as a county director of the Indiana Department of Child Services; ALLISON BERRY, in her individual capacity as a worker supervisor of the Indiana Department of Child Services; and CLAUDIA STRANGE, in her individual capacity as a worker of the Indiana Department of Child Services, Defendants.
ENTRY ON THE DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO
RICHARD L. YOUNG, JUDGE
an action filed by Plaintiffs, Gregory Lamaster and his wife
Pamela Lamaster (collectively the “Lamasters”),
both individually and on behalf of their two minor children,
A.G.A.L. and E.M.L. (collectively “Plaintiffs”),
against the Defendants, the Indiana Department of Child
Services (“IDCS”); Terry Stigdon, in her official
capacity as Director of IDCS; and Joan Kelly, in her
individual capacity as the IDCS Scott County Director;
Allison Berry, in her individual capacity as an IDCS Scott
County Caseworker Supervisor; and Claudia Strange, in her
individual capacity as an IDCS Scott County Caseworker.
Plaintiffs allege Kelly, Berry, and Strange (collectively
“County Defendants”) placed a six-year-old child,
R.D.S., and his teenaged siblings (collectively the
“Stacy children”) with the Lamasters and their
children, ages six (A.G.A.L.) and two (E.M.L.). During the
time the Stacy children were under the Lamasters' care,
the Lamasters allege R.D.S. sexually abused their children.
Plaintiffs allege the County Defendants knew R.D.S. had been
sexually abused but did not disclose that information to the
Lamasters prior to placement. Plaintiffs also allege they
were never paid foster care maintenance payments for any of
the 173 days the children were placed in their home.
Plaintiffs now bring claims for violation of their Fourteenth
Amendment substantive due process rights for failing to
protect the Lamaster children from R.D.S.'s sexual abuse
and for failing to disclose R.D.S.'s sexual abuse
history. The also bring a claim for foster care maintenance
payments, a declaratory judgment claim against Stigdon, and
various state law claims.
now move to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The court,
having read and reviewed the parties' submissions and the
applicable law, now finds the motion should be
GRANTED in part and DENIED in
to Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint may be dismissed if the
plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted. To survive a motion to dismiss, “the complaint
need only contain a ‘short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.'” EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs.,
496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2)). Thus, the complaint must describe the claim in
sufficient detail to give the defendant “fair notice of
what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests.” Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). In addition, the
complaint's “allegations must plausibly suggest
that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that
possibility above a ‘speculative level.'”
Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at
555). “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.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
court will begin its discussion with Plaintiffs'
substantive due process claims set forth in Counts I (failure
to protect) and II (failure to disclose).
Due Process Claims
Count I of their Complaint, Plaintiffs allege the County
Defendants (Kelly, Berry, and Strange) knew R.D.S. was a
sexual abuse victim and that victims like him are more likely
than non-victims to sexually assault other children, like
A.G.A.L. and E.M.L., if safeguards are not put in place.
(Filing No. 1, Compl. ¶ 34). Nevertheless, they failed
to disclose R.D.S.'s past sexual abuse to the Lamasters.
(Id. 35). Plaintiffs allege the County
Defendants' failure to protect the Lamasters and their
children from the danger they created in placing R.D.S. with
the Lamasters proximately caused their injuries.
(Id. ¶ 36). In Count II, Plaintiffs allege the
County Defendants' failure to disclose R.D.S.'s
sexual abuse history proximately caused their injuries.
(Id. ¶ 39). Their claims are brought pursuant
to Section 1983. To state a claim for relief under Section
1983, a plaintiff must allege (1) the deprivation of a right
secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United States
which (2) was caused by a person acting under color of state
law. D.S. v. East Porter Cty. Sch. Corp., 799 F.3d
793, 798 (7th Cir. 2015).
Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the
state from depriving a “person of life, liberty, or
property.” U.S. Const. amend. XIV. The Clause places a
limitation on the state's power to act; however, it does
not act “as a guarantee of certain minimal levels of
safety and security.” DeShaney v. Winnebago Cty.
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 195 (1989). In
other words, its purpose is “to protect people from the
State, not to ensure that the State protect[s] them from each
other.” Id. at 196. Thus, in
DeShaney, the Supreme Court concluded that “a
State's failure to protect an individual against private
violence simply does not constitute a violation of the Due
Process Clause.” Id. at 197.
exceptions have arisen out of DeShaney's general
rule. First, the state is duty-bound to protect individuals
with whom it has a “special relationship, ” such
as a custodial relationship that cuts off alternative avenues
of aid. D.S., 799 F.3d at 798 (citing Monfils v.
Taylor, 165 F.3d 511, 516 (7th Cir. 1998)). Second, the
“state created danger” exception applies when
“the state affirmatively places a particular individual
in a position of danger the individual would not otherwise
have faced.” Doe v. Vill. of Arlington
Heights, 782 F.3d 911, 916 (7th Cir. 2015) (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted).
Plaintiffs proceed under the “state-created
danger” exception. Plaintiffs state a claim under the
state-created danger exception “if they allege state
action that creates, or substantially contributes to the
creation of, a danger or renders citizens more vulnerable to
a danger than they otherwise would have been.” Reed
v. Gardner, 986 F.2d 1122, 1126 (7th Cir. 1993). This
exception consists of three elements: (1) the state, by its
affirmative acts, created or increased a danger faced by an
individual; (2) the state's failure to protect that
individual from danger was the proximate cause of her injury;
and (3) the state's failure to protect shocks the
conscience. D.S., 799 F.3d at 798. The failure to
find any one element precludes the claim. Bryan v. Erie
Cty. Office of Children & Youth, 861 F.Supp.2d 553,
578 (W.D. Penn. 2012). Here, the Defendants argue
Plaintiffs' allegations are insufficient on each element
of the state-created danger exception.
and foremost, state officials must have created the dangerous
condition through their affirmative acts. See Sandage v.
Bd. of Commr's of Vanderburgh Cty., 548 F.3d 595,
600 (7th Cir. 2008) (“When courts speak of the
state's ‘increasing' the danger of private
violence, they mean the state did something that turned a
potential danger into an actual one, rather than that it just
stood by and did nothing to prevent private
violence.”); Windle v. City of Marion, Ind.,
321 F.3d 658, 662 (7th Cir. 2003) (finding no due process
violation where police, who had knowledge of sexual
relationship between student and teacher, failed to intervene
and protect student, reasoning the police “did nothing
to create a danger, nor did they do anything to make worse
any danger [the student] already faced”). Moreover, the
state officials must have actually known or suspected that
danger would arise. See, e.g., Lewis v. Anderson,
308 F.3d 768, 773 (7th Cir. 2002) (“[I]n the context of
child placement by an adoption agency, the agency officials
and case workers are liable only if they violated ‘the
right of a child in state custody not to be handed over by
state officers to a foster parent or other custodian . . .
whom the state knows or suspects to be a child
abuser.'” (emphasis in original.));
Reed, 986 F.2d at 1127 (where police arrested sober
driver and “left behind a passenger, whom they knew to
be drunk, with the car keys, ” the police knew their
actions would create a dangerous situation for others on the
road); Bryan, 861 F.Supp.2d at 577 (stating there
must be allegations of “an awareness on the part of
state actors that rises to the level of actual knowledge or
an awareness of risk that is sufficiently concrete to put the
actors on notice of the harm”) (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted). This is because
“[n]egligence or even gross negligence does not give
rise to liability under § 1983.” Lewis,
308 F.3d at 773; see also K.H. v. Morgan, 914 F.2d
846, 852 (7th Cir. 1990) (state officials must have knowledge
“because merely negligent or even grossly negligent
misconduct by state officers is not actionable under section
cases help guide the court's analysis. In Lewis v.
Anderson, the Seventh Circuit addressed a situation in
which several officials of the Department of Health and Human
Services placed children with foster parents who later abused
the children. 308 F.3d at 771. The court held that the
state-created danger exception could apply only if the state
officers “actually knew of or suspected the existence
of child abuse in the prospective adoptive family.”
Id. at 773. The court affirmed the district
court's grant of summary judgment in ...