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Crittenden v. Florence County School District One

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division

February 22, 2017

ALONDA CRITTENDEN, Individually and as Guardian ad Litem for J.C. a minor under the age of eighteen 18 years, Plaintiff,
Florence School District One, Bernard A. McIntosh, Myra Isaiah, and Janeene Johnson, Defendants.



         Currently pending before the court is Defendant Florence County School District One (the “District”) and Defendants Myra Isaiah and Janeene Johnsons' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. [ECF #6');">6]. The motion states that “the federal constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1');">1983 against these Defendants must be dismissed.” [ECF #6');">6, p. 2]. Both parties have had the opportunity to extensively brief the issues raised in the motion to dismiss, and this Court has thoroughly considered all pleadings filed in this case.[1');">1" name="FN1');">1" id="FN1');">1">1');">1] This Court will now consider the motion before it.

         Factual Background and Procedural History

         On May 1');">11');">1, 201');">16');">6, Plaintiff Alonda Crittenden, individually and as guardian ad litem for J.C., a minor under the age of eighteen (1');">18) years of age (the “Minor Child”), filed an Amended Complaint[2] pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1');">1983 against Defendants District, Bernard A. McIntosh, Myra Isaiah, and Janeene Johnson alleging Fourteenth Amendment (Substantive Due Process) and Eighth Amendment violations, as well as state law gross negligence claims. [ECF #1');">1-1');">1]. Plaintiff alleges that while the Minor Child was in the care of the Defendants at the Clinical Day Program (“CDP”), a school owned and operated by Defendant District, Defendant McIntosh physically assaulted her minor child in the presence of Defendants Isaiah and Johnson, two other school employees. [ECF #1');">1-1');">1, p. 6');">6]. Plaintiff alleges that the District is an agency, political subdivision and/or governmental entity of the State of South Carolina and that the other Defendants were employees of the District at the time the incident occurred. [ECF #1');">1-1');">1, pp. 5-6');">6]. Plaintiff alleges that as a result of the incident, the Minor Child sustained personal injury, including embarrassment, emotional distress, mental anguish, depression, and physical injury. [ECF #1');">1-1');">1, p. 7');">p. 7]. This matter was removed to federal court on June 1');">17, 201');">16');">6. [ECF #1');">1].

         On June 24, 201');">16');">6, Defendants District, and Defendants Myra Isaiah and Janeene Johnson, filed a Motion to Dismiss. [ECF #6');">6]. Defendant District brings its motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 1');">12(b)(1');">1), 1');">12(b)(2), and 1');">12(b)(6');">6) and Defendants Isaiah and Johnson bring the motion pursuant to 1');">12(b)(6');">6), arguing that this Court should dismiss the Amended Complaint's Fourteenth Amendment due process violations claims, Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and additionally for lack of subject-matter and personal jurisdiction as to Defendant District. [ECF #6');">6, p. 1');">1]. On July 1');">11');">1, 201');">16');">6, Plaintiff filed her response in opposition to the motion. [ECF #8], and Defendants District, Isaiah and Johnson replied on July 20, 201');">16');">6. [ECF #9].

         Standard of Review

         Defendant District files its Motion pursuant to Rules 1');">12(b)(1');">1) and 1');">12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. However, Defendant District does not explicitly argue why jurisdiction is improper under Rule 1');">12(b)(2). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 1');">12(b)(1');">1) governs motions to dismiss for “lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.” The plaintiff has the burden of proving federal jurisdiction is proper. McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 8 U.S. 1');">178');">298 U.S. 1');">178, 1');">189 (1');">1936');">6); Adams v. Bain, 6');">697 F.2d 1');">121');">13');">6');">697 F.2d 1');">121');">13, 1');">121');">19 (4th Cir. 1');">1982). Dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 1');">12(b)(1');">1) is proper only if the claim is “so insubstantial, implausible, foreclosed by prior decisions of this Court, or otherwise completely devoid of merit as not to involve a federal controversy.” Growth Horizons, Inc. v. Delaware County, Pa., 83 F.2d 1');">1277');">983 F.2d 1');">1277, 1');">1280-81');">1 (3d Cir. 1');">1993) (quoting Oneida Indian Nation v. County of Oneida, 1');">14 U.S. 6');">66');">61');">1');">41');">14 U.S. 6');">66');">61');">1, 6');">66');">66');">6 (1');">1974)). However, as Plaintiff points out, to the extent Defendants seek to invoke the protection of Eleventh Amendment immunity, this protection is unavailable to these Defendants because they voluntarily chose to remove this lawsuit from state court to federal court, thereby waiving immunity. Lapides v. Bd. of Regents, 6');">61');">13');">535 U.S. 6');">61');">13, 6');">61');">16');">6 (2002).

         Defendant District, along with Defendants Isaiah and Johnson also filed this Motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 1');">12(b)(6');">6) governs motions to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” The purpose of such a motion is to test the sufficiency of the facts alleged in a plaintiff's complaint. See Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 1');">178 F.3d 231');">1');">1');">178 F.3d 231');">1, 243 (4th Cir. 1');">1999). To survive a Rule 1');">12(b)(6');">6) motion to dismiss, the

“[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The United States Supreme Court recently stated that [t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” 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.

Iqbal, 1');">129 S.Ct. at 1');">1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). When ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court “must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint.” Erickson v. Pardus, 1');">1 U.S. 89');">551');">1 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In considering a motion to dismiss, the factual allegations in a complaint are accepted as true, and the plaintiff is afforded the benefit of all reasonable inferences to be drawn from the allegations contained within the complaint. Mylan Laboratories, Inc. v. Matkari, 1');">11');">130');">7 F.3d 1');">11');">130, 1');">11');">134 (4th Cir. 1');">1993). Moreover, materials outside the pleadings which relate to jurisdiction can be considered on a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. Land v. Dollar, 1');">1');">330 U.S. 731');">1, 735 (1');">1947).


         I. Section 1');">1983's “Policy or Custom” Requirement

         To prevail on a § 1');">1983 claim, Plaintiff must show that he or she was deprived of a federal statutory or constitutional right, and the deprivation was committed under state law. Lytle v. Doyle, 6');">6 F.3d 46');">63');">326');">6 F.3d 46');">63, 471');">1 (4th Cir. 2003). School boards[3] may not be sued under § 1');">1983 based solely on a theory of respondeat superior. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of N.Y., 6');">6 U.S. 6');">658');">436');">6 U.S. 6');">658, 6');">691');">1 (1');">1978). However, in cases where a municipality causes the deprivation through “an official policy or custom, ” liability may attach. Doyle, 326');">6 F.3d at 471');">1. Such a policy or custom can arise in four ways:

(1');">1) an express policy; (2) through decisions of a person with final policymaking authority; (3) through an omission, such as a failure to properly train officers that manifests deliberate indifference to the rights of citizens; or (4) through a persistent and widespread practice that ...

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