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S.D. v. Lajeunesse

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 20, 2017

S.D., a minor, through her Parents and Next Friends Douglas J. Dyer and Leah S. Dyer, LEAH S. DYER, DOUGLAS J. DYER, DYLAN J. DYER, Plaintiffs,
v.
DENISE LAJEUNESSE, in her individual capacity and as an employee of the Larimer County Department of Human Services “LCDHS”, ANTOINETTE SACHELBEN, in her individual capacity and as an employee of the LCDHS, MICHELLE WALKER, in her individual capacity and as an employee of the LCDHS, SUSAN KAUHL, in her individual capacity and as an employee of the LCDHS, COUNTY OF LARIMER, COLORADO, BEN RAYLS, in his individual capacity and as an employee of the Fort Collins Police Department “FCPD”, KATHLEEN CARVER, in her individual capacity and as an employee of the FCPD, SEAN GIDDINGS, in his individual capacity and as an employee of the FCPD, and THE CITY OF FORT COLLINS, COLORADO, a municipal corporation, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS WITHOUT PREJUDICE

          William J. Martinez United States District Judge

         This civil rights action is brought by Plaintiff S.D., through her parents Douglas and Leah Dyer; as well as by Douglas and Leah Dyer themselves; and by Dylan Dyer, S.D.'s brother (collectively, “Plaintiffs”). (ECF No. 25 ¶¶ 1-4.) Plaintiffs sue various individuals and entities whom the Court will refer to as follows: Denise Lajeunesse, Antoinette Sachelben, Michelle Walker, Susan Kauhl, and Larimer County will be collectively referred to as the “County Defendants”; and Ben Rayls, Kathleen Carver, Sean Giddings, and the City of Fort Collins will be collectively referred to as the “City Defendants.”

         Before the Court are two motions to dismiss Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), one motion brought by the City Defendants (ECF No. 30) and the other brought by the County Defendants (ECF No. 31). For the reasons explained below, these motions are granted, but Plaintiffs are granted leave to file a Third Amended Complaint.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a claim in a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” The 12(b)(6) standard requires the Court to “assume the truth of the plaintiff's well-pleaded factual allegations and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Ridge at Red Hawk, LLC v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007). In ruling on such a motion, the dispositive inquiry is “whether the complaint contains ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Granting a motion to dismiss “is a harsh remedy which must be cautiously studied, not only to effectuate the spirit of the liberal rules of pleading but also to protect the interests of justice.” Dias v. City & Cnty. of Denver, 567 F.3d 1169, 1178 (10th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). “Thus, ‘a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         II. FACTS

         During the time period relevant to this lawsuit, Defendant Lajeunesse was a caseworker for the Larimer County Department of Human Services (“LCDHS”). (ECF No. 25 ¶ 6.) On October 24, 2013, Lajeunesse “approved supervised parenting time and referral to a foster home for Plaintiff S.D., ” allegedly “intending to interfere with [Plaintiffs'] familial relationship.” (Id. ¶ 13.) The following day, a Colorado judge granted LCDHS's ex parte motion for an order permitting LCDHS to require Leah and Douglas Dyer's cooperation in an investigation of potential abuse of S.D. (Id. ¶¶ 14-15.) See also Colo. Rev. Stat. § 19-3-308(3)(b). Specifically, the warrant required Leah and Douglas Dyer to “produc[e] [S.D.] for an interview/inspection with [LCDHS]” and to “allow[] inspection of the child's place of residence by [LCDHS].” (ECF No. 31-2 at 1.)[1]

         On October 28, 2013, Defendants Carver and Giddings (both Fort Collins police officers) went to Plaintiffs' home and “made repeated requests” to enter. (ECF No. 25 ¶¶ 18-19.) Carver and Giddings did not have “any paperwork in hand and certainly no warrant of any kind, ” but stated that they were there to assist LCDHS in a welfare check. (Id. ¶¶ 20-21.) Plaintiff Leah Dyer asked that Carver and Giddings wait outside until LCDHS caseworkers arrived. (Id. ¶ 23.) It is not clear how Leah Dyer knew that LCDHS caseworkers were on their way. In any event, Carver and Giddings refused this request, announced that they were entering the home, and then entered. (Id. ¶¶ 24-25.) They did not have a warrant to enter, [2] nor did exigent circumstances exist. (Id. ¶ 25.)

         At that time, seven-year-old S.D. was in Plaintiffs' living room, watching a movie and playing with toys, and unaware of the police officers' entry. (Id. ¶¶ 26-27, 49.) Carver and Giddings found S.D. there, “stood over [her], ” and “announced their presence, by saying ‘HI S.D.'” (Id. ¶ 28 (capitalization in original).) “S.D. was startled by their sudden outburst and their arrival and immediately went into a seizure event.” (Id. ¶ 29.) Leah Dyer began attending to S.D., while Carver “proceeded to ask Mrs. Dyer questions” of an unspecified nature. (Id. ¶¶ 31-32.)

         Another Fort Collins police officer, Defendant Rayls, entered the house around this time, “also without a warrant.” (Id. ¶ 33.) One of the police officers called for paramedic assistance. (Id. ¶ 34.)

         A short time later, the paramedics arrived, as did Lajeunesse and Defendant Sachelben, another LCDHS caseworker. (Id. ¶ 36.) Lajeunesse and Sachelben conferred with the paramedics in the Plaintiffs' driveway, then Lajeunesse and Sachelben “pulled Mrs. Dyer away from S.D.” (Id. ¶ 37.)[3] The paramedics then began to examine S.D., and as they did so, Lajeunesse and Sachelben questioned Leah Dyer, while Carver questioned Douglas Dyer. (Id. ¶¶ 40-42.)

         In the midst of this questioning, the paramedics began removing S.D. from the home. (Id. ¶ 43.) All of the then-present Defendants (Lajeunesse, Sachelben, Carver, Giddings, and Rayls) in some unspecified manner “agreed to and authorized and participated in S.D.'s removal from her family home, ” “[w]ithout permission from S.D.'s parents.” (Id. ¶ 48.) “Mrs. Dyer frantically asked ‘What is going on?' and ‘Where are they taking S.D.?'” (Id. ¶ 44.) As it turned out, the paramedics took S.D. to a local hospital. (Id. ¶ 45.)

         Leah and Douglas Dyer asked the then-present defendants to leave so that they (the Dyers) “could accompany S.D. at the hospital.” (Id. ¶ 46.) But Giddings, Carver, and Rayls “remained outside of Plaintiffs' home continuing to investigate.” (Id. ¶ 47.)

         Apparently Leah and Douglas Dyer eventually made their way to the hospital, where hospital staff refused to let them see their daughter “for close to five hours” in light of unspecified “information” given to hospital staff by Lajeunesse, Sachelben, Walker, Carver, Giddings, and/or Rayls. (Id. ¶¶ 50, 70.) “S.D. was without any familial support during these [five] hours.” (Id. ¶ 52.)

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Summary of Claims

         Plaintiffs nominally assert two claims for relief, both arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court will describe them in reverse order given that the second claim is simpler to understand than the first.

         Plaintiffs' second claim for relief (“Count Two”) asserts municipal liability against Fort Collins and Larimer County, and claims that all of the alleged ...


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