Stuart T. O’Neal and Robert Forster obtained dismissal in the United States District Court in Philadelphia for Burns White’s client, a private placement and treatment services agency, from a matter raising serious claims of indifference, nonfeasance and malfeasance. Plaintiff, a woman alleging that she suffered physical abuse as a child while living in a foster home, brought the case after she reached the age of majority. She sued not only Burns White’s client, but also the local government’s Department of Human Services and multiple other private agencies that provided the plaintiff assistance during minority. Her claim was multifaceted, but centered upon Constitutional dimension claims under 42 U.S.C. §1983.
Plaintiff alleged that some or all of the defendants were responsible for recommending placement into the homes where she was abused, and failed to identify the potential that the foster parents presented for abuse, as well as the act of abuse itself. Burns White’s client, which exists only to help those in need, takes its responsibilities to its clients very seriously and was concerned about plaintiff’s unsupported claims.
O’Neal and Forster filed a motion to dismiss, relying upon not only the statute of limitations, but importantly, plaintiff’s failure to plead sufficient facts concerning the actions of the client to state a claim. Plaintiff in particular failed to establish that the client was acting under the color of state law when working on plaintiff’s behalf, which sets the precedent for a claim under Section 1983. In addition, plaintiff sought punitive damages. In both instances, the court agreed that the plaintiff failed to plead facts supporting allegations that would justify allowing the jury to consider awarding those damages against the client, granting a dismissal.
Note: The results obtained in a particular case are, of course, always heavily dependent on the facts and the law specific to that case.