Lawsuit Against District Alleging Failure to Supervise Group Home Resident May Proceed, Court Rules

Washington_DC_view1.jpgThe U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia partly granted and partly denied a motion to dismiss brought by the defendant in a lawsuit alleging failure to supervise a group home resident. Colbert, et al v. District of Columbia, et al, No. 1:13-cv-00531, opinion (D.D.C., Dec. 13, 2013). The plaintiff sued the District of Columbia and a private contractor operating a group home, asserting various tort claims and a constitutional claim after her daughter, a developmentally disabled woman, became pregnant while in the custody of the District. The court declined to dismiss the suit outright, but it dismissed the constitutional claim without prejudice, giving the plaintiff an opportunity to amend her complaint. If the court dismisses that claim with prejudice, it may lose subject matter jurisdiction over the remaining claims based on DC law.

The plaintiff’s daughter, identified in the court’s opinion as KC, was hospitalized at the District’s request in the fall of 2008. A psychological assessment determined that KC needed 24/7 care and supervision, so she went to live at a group home operated by a contractor, Total Care Services, Inc. According to the plaintiff, KC had a history of sexual abuse and neglect, a history of failing to take her medication consistently, and mental impairment.

Total Care and the District were aware of KC’s history and how it affected her condition, the plaintiff claims, but they allegedly allowed her to have unprotected and nonconsensual sex with multiple individuals. The plaintiff does not appear to claim that any employee of either Defendant participated in sexual activity with KC. KC became pregnant and gave birth to a girl named TC, who was born prematurely in April 2011. The plaintiff was awarded sole custody of TC, but she was born with significant health problems and required frequent surgeries and hospitalization. TC died nine days after her first birthday.

The plaintiff sued the District and Total Care in federal court, asserting nine causes of action against both defendants, including negligence, wrongful birth, wrongful death, and both negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She also claimed negligent hiring and negligence per se against Total Care. She claimed Fifth Amendment violations against the District under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and civil rights violations against both defendants under D.C. Code § 7-1305.14.

The District moved to dismiss the case, asking for summary judgment in the alternative. The court found that the plaintiff had not stated a claim for relief under § 1983, so it dismissed her Fifth Amendment claim without prejudice. It allowed her a reasonable time to amend her complaint, but cautioned that the dismissal would be with prejudice if she failed to do so. It also dismissed her punitive damage claims against the District with prejudice. The court held back on the remaining issues, noting that it only had jurisdiction over the case because the Fifth Amendment claim presented a federal question. If it dismissed that claim with prejudice, it would lose jurisdiction entirely, and the plaintiff would most likely have to refile in DC Circuit Court.

The personal injury attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen help people in the Washington, DC area recover their just compensation when they have suffered injuries because of the negligent or unlawful conduct of others. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949.

More Blog Posts:

Penn State Prepares for Sexual Abuse Lawsuits After Sandusky Verdict, Maryland Accident Law Blog, June 28, 2012
Psychiatrist Accused of Sexual Misconduct Has Settled Maryland Injury Lawsuits from Alleged Victims, Maryland Accident Law Blog, December 5, 2009
Teenager Files $10 Million Personal Injury Lawsuit Against Washington DC For Rape in Clinic, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, June 19, 2008
Photo credit: By Architect of the Capitol’s Office [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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