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Ross v. Ricciuti

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Northern Division

August 14, 2014

BETSY ROSS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
NICHOLAS RICCIUTI, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

WILLIAM D. QUARLES, JR., District Judge.

Betsy Ross, for herself and as next friend of her minor daughter K.R., sued Nicholas Ricciuti and others[1] (collectively "the Defendants"), for constitutional violations and other claims. Pending are the Defendants' motion for summary judgment on all the remaining claims, and the Plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment on Count Ten. No hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). For the following reasons, the Defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted in part and denied in part. Ross's cross-motion for partial summary judgment will be denied.

I. Background[2]

A. General Background

In 2008, Ross was a licensed Foster Care Parent through the Cecil County Department of Social Services ("CCDSS"). See ECF No. 94, Ex. A at 1. Ross resided with her one biological child, one adopted child, and five foster children. See ECF No. 94, Ex. A at 8. Ross was scheduled to adopt K.R., one of the foster children. See ECF No. 94, Ex. A at 9.

Ricciuti is the Director of CCDSS. See ECF No. 94, Ex N; ECF No. 46 ΒΆ 3. Mary Klesius is a social work supervisor at CCDSS. See ECF No. 94, Ex. C at 6:16-20. At the relevant time, Latonya Cotton was a Foster Care Coordinator for CCDSS. See ECF No. 94, Ex. H at 6:20-8:19. Rebecca Larson[3] was a Child Protective Services ("CPS") assessor with CCDSS. See ECF No. 94, Ex. E at 27:3-8. Kim Compton was a Foster Care Worker with CCDSS. See ECF No. 94, Ex. A at 9. Tina Linkous is a pre-adoption coordinator with CCDSS. See ECF No. 94, Ex. B at 6:14-7:2. Susan Bailey was the Assistant Director of CCDSS. See ECF No. 94, Ex. N. Barbara Siciliano was the In-home Services Administrator at CCDSS at the time, which involved supervision of CPS investigations. See ECF No. 94, Ex. D at 7:15-10:14. Helen Murray-Miller worked as a licensing coordinator at the Office of Licensing and Monitoring in the Maryland Department of Human Resources. See ECF No. 94, Ex. P at 10:9-12:4.

B. Events on August 15, 2008

Tina Linkous, a pre-adoption case worker with CCDSS, testified that she conducted an interview with T.G., one of Ross's former foster children, at the Pennsylvania home of T.G.'s grandparents at 10:00 a.m. on August 15, 2008. See ECF No. 98, Ex. A.3; ECF No. 98, Ex. B at 155:17-156:20. T.G. lived at Ross's home from 2006 to October 2007. ECF No. 94, Ex. A at 4. Linkous's interview notes and testimony state that, during the home visit, T.G. disclosed a number of incidents of neglect by Ross, including occasions when young children were left in the swimming pool unsupervised. See ECF No. 94, Ex. A at 4-6; ECF No. 98, Ex. A3; ECF No. 94, Ex. B at 39:16-41:12. Linkous testified that she left the home visit sometime after 11:30 a.m. and spoke with Katie Horn, a CPS in-take worker, to report the allegations of neglect over the phone.[4]

Klesius testified that she then spoke with her supervisor, Barbara Siciliano, and together they decided that Ross's foster children should be removed pending the CPS investigation. See ECF No. 94, Ex. C at 46:1-4. At around 12:30 p.m., Rebecca Larson, a CPS assessor, was assigned to conduct a CPS investigation. See ECF No. 94, Ex. A at 8; ECF No. 94, Ex. E at 27:1-8. Ross testified that around 1:30 p.m. she arrived at the CCDSS office for a previously-scheduled meeting about the nominations of officers for the Cecil County Foster Parent Association (the "Foster Parent Association"). See ECF No. 94, Ex. F at 8:9-12, 21:1-10. After Ross arrived, Klesius and Larson met with her to discuss the CPS investigation of the neglect allegations. See ECF No. 94, Ex. F at 21:12-23:17; ECF No. 94, Ex. A at 8.

Ross testified, that in the meeting, Larson informed her that T.G. had come to the CCDSS offices to make the allegations. See ECF No. 94, Ex. F at 23:7-24:12. Ross testified:

She said, when we set down in the room she said that [T.G.] had come to Social Services that morning and made allegations against - well, I am sorry, she did not say [T.G.]. She said that allegations had come in that morning in reference to, you know, a former child that I had in foster care.

ECF No. 94, Ex. F at 23:9-15. Ross continued:

I said, so are telling me [T.G.] came here today and she said, yes, [T.G.] was here. And she went onto say that there are serious safety concerns in your home. We are going to have to remove your children. I mean, I was just in disbelief. And I kept questioning her, you are telling me that [T.G.] was here today?' Yes, [T.G.] was here today. I did not see her but, yes, she was here.'

ECF No. 94, Ex. F at 23:20-24:9. Larson informed Ross that all the foster children in her home would be moved to another foster care home. See ECF No. 94, Ex. A at 8; ECF No. 94, Ex. E at 47:12-18; ECF No. 94, Ex. F at 24:2-4. Larson asked Ross when she could have the children ready to be picked up by CCDSS. See ECF No. 94, Ex. F at 24:15-17; ECF No. 94, Ex. E at 47:15-18; ECF No. 94, Ex. A at 8. Ross testified that she told Larson the children would be ready to be picked up "in a couple hours." ECF No. 94, Ex. F at 25:3-7. The CPS investigations records state "Ms. Ross agreed to allow Ms. [Larson] to come to her home in one hour and pick up the children." ECF No. 94, Ex. A at 8.

At around 4:00 p.m., Larson, Kim Compton, and Latonya Cotton arrived at Ross's house. ECF No. 94, Ex. F at 27:2-10. One of the women opened the storm door and knocked on Ross's front door. See ECF No. 94, Ex. F at 28:6-15. Ross testified that "I am not sure who opened the door for them, " and that "[m]y daughter was there and she had two friends there." ECF No. 94, Ex. F at 29:3-16. Ross testified: "They came in and said, you know, do you have the kids ready?' You know, they are as ready as they are going to be at this point." ECF No. 94, Ex. F at 29:19-30:1. The children either packed their own things or Ross's teenage daughter packed the children's things. ECF No. 94, Ex. F at 30:6-9. Ross declined to carry K.R. to the car. ECF No. 94, Ex. F at 30:6-16. The foster children were removed from Ross's home and placed in other licensed foster homes. See ECF No. 94, Ex. A at 9.

C. Testimony of Karen Edwards

On December 4, 2009, Karen Edwards, a foster parent familiar with Ross testified during a Department of Human Resources administrative hearing. ECF No. 98, Ex. B at 257-79. Edwards testified that T.G. "had a humongous problem with adults, I guess, in general, and she was a chronic liar." ECF No. 98, Ex. B at 260:23-24. Edwards testified that she received a call from CCDSS on August 15, 2008 before 10:00 a.m. asking if she could take in three foster children who were being removed from another foster home. ECF No. 98, Ex. B at 262:4-13, 263:6-22. Edwards said she was unable to take in the children. ECF No. 98, Ex. B at 262:14-22. During the call, CCDSS did not tell Edwards from which foster parent the children were being removed. ECF No. 98, Ex. B at 263:8-11. Edwards further testified: "Q. And did you have occasion to learn whose three children these were? A. I found out that very afternoon. Q. And whose were they? A. Betsy [Ross]'s." ECF No. 98, Ex. B at 262:23-263:2. Edwards testified about how she learned they were Betsy's children:

Q. Whether or not you knew that these were Betsy Ross' children and you said at first you thought it was an older couple.
A. Yes.
Q. But then you came to believe that - you stated earlier that these were actually Betsy Ross' children.
A. Yeah.
Q. And there were certain DSS or CPS agents that informed you of that, correct?
A. That was later. I found out from DSS agents later that it was Betsy's children. I found out that afternoon from Dr. Clifford and Betsy herself that they were her children.

ECF No. 98, Ex. B at 277:13-25. Edwards was asked to clarify her discussion with the CCDSS agents:

Q. I thought your testimony was Sara Ellis and Jen Crooks told you about the pool incident.
A. They did later, not that day.
Q. So, did they tell you that they or someone they knew called you at 10:00 in the morning to take Betsy Ross' children?
A. No, they -

ECF No. 98, Ex. B at 278:9-15. Edwards was permitted to ...


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