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Bauch v. Richland County Children Services

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

March 31, 2017

MONTY BAUCH, individually and as natural parent and next friend of O.B. his minor child, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
RICHLAND COUNTY CHILDREN SERVICES, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court upon the Motion (ECF DKT #202) of Defendants, Richland County Children Services (“RCCS”), Randy Parker, Patricia Harrelson, Edith Gilliland, Jason Kline, Tara Lautzenhiser and Holly Hartman, for Summary Judgment and the Motion (ECF DKT #204) of Plaintiffs, Monty Bauch and O.B., for Summary Judgment on Counts One, Two, Four and Eight Against Individual Defendants and RCCS. For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is granted in part and denied in part and Plaintiffs' Motion is denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This lawsuit arises out of the alleged wrongful removal of a four-year old child, O.B., from her father's (Monty Bauch's) home, on January 20, 2011, by RCCS based upon allegations of sexual abuse and neglect. The allegations of sexual abuse were never substantiated; yet, O.B. remained separated from her father for three years. Plaintiffs claim that RCCS violated its internal policies, state law and the United States Constitution when investigating O.B.'s case, securing the removal of O.B. from her home, and keeping O.B. from her father for an inordinately long time. RCCS insists that the individual Defendants enjoy absolute or qualified immunity from liability and that Plaintiffs cannot establish the substantive elements of their claims under state law and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         The Richland County Children Services Board is a public entity that is bound by the laws of the State of Ohio. RCCS's responsibilities include matters that relate to the custody of children in Richland County, Ohio.

         Defendant Jason Kline was a full-time employee of RCCS who served in the capacity of a case worker.

         Defendant Randy Parker was a full-time employee of RCCS serving in the capacity of Director.

         Defendant Patricia Harrelson currently serves as Director of RCCS.

         Defendant Tara Lautzenhiser was a full-time employee of RCCS serving in the capacity of a case worker.

         Defendant Holly Hartman was a full-time employee of RCCS serving in the capacity of a case worker supervisor.

         Defendant Edith Gilliland was a full-time employee of RCCS who served as in-house counsel. As of May 2016, Gilliland is no longer a Defendant in this action.

         Following the Stipulated Dismissal (ECF DKT #216) of a number of claims in Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint (ECF DKT #123), the remaining claims against the RCCS Defendants are Count One - Assault and Battery; Count Two - Unlawful Search; Count Four - Violation of Civil Rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Count Five - Monell Related Claims; Count Six - Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress; Count Eight - Negligent Training, Supervision and Retention; Count Twelve - Loss of Companionship; and Count Thirteen -Right to Equal Protection 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         II. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 Standard of Review

         Summary judgment shall be granted only if “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The burden is on the moving party to conclusively show no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Lansing Dairy. Inc. v. Espy, 39 F.3d 1339, 1347 (6th Cir.1994). The moving party must either point to “particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials” or show “that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A), (B). A court considering a motion for summary judgment must view the facts and all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). Once the movant presents evidence to meet its burden, the nonmoving party may not rest on its pleadings, but must come forward with some significant probative evidence to support its claim. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Lansing Dairy, 39 F.3d at 1347.

         This Court does not have the responsibility to search the record sua sponte for genuine issues of material fact. Betkerur v. Aultman Hospital Ass 'n., 78 F.3d 1079, 1087 (6th Cir. 1996); Guarino v. Brookfield Township Trustees, 980 F.2d 399, 404-06 (6th Cir.1992). The burden falls upon the nonmoving party to “designate specific facts or evidence in dispute, ” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986); and if the nonmoving party fails to make the necessary showing on an element upon which it has the burden of proof, the moving party is entitled to summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Whether summary judgment is appropriate depends upon “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Amway Distributors Benefits Ass 'n v. Northfield Ins. Co., 323 F.3d 386, 390 (6th Cir.2003) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52).

         Abandonment of claims

         The Sixth Circuit's “jurisprudence on abandonment of claims is clear: a plaintiff is deemed to have abandoned a claim when a plaintiff fails to address it in response to a motion for summary judgment.” Brown v. VHS of Michigan, Inc., 545 F.App'x 368, 372 (6th Cir.2013).

         With that in mind, the facts show that Defendant Patricia Harrelson was not employed by RCCS as Executive Director until after Plaintiff O.B. was returned to her father. Since Plaintiffs make no allegations against this individual and do not offer any argument in the Rule 56 briefing, summary judgment is granted on behalf of Defendant Patricia Harrelson.

         Also, Count Thirteen of Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint recites in ¶¶ 188-89 as follows:

The RCCS Defendants failed to provide Plaintiffs with equal protection under the law based on their misguided and unsupported stereotypes regarding the appropriateness of an older single father's ability to raise a young girl alone.
The RCCS regularly treated couples, single females, and younger individuals more favorably then [sic] they treated Mr. Bauch. Mr. Bauch's gender, age and his status as an “unconventional” single parent were substantial contributing factors in the Defendant's [sic] disparate and wrongful treatment of Mr. Bauch.

         Plaintiffs never identify any policy or custom of RCCS that deprives them of equal protection under the law. Moreover, Plaintiffs submit no evidence that Plaintiff Bauch's gender, age or “unconventional” parental status played any role in the actions taken by the RCCS Defendants. Thus, Plaintiffs' Equal Protection Claim in Count Thirteen is considered abandoned; and the RCCS Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted in this regard.

         Executive Director Randy Parker

         Plaintiffs allege that the RCCS Defendants, with the knowledge and approval of Defendant Randy Parker, “falsely represented to Mr. Bauch and his attorney that all claims of sexual abuse would be dropped if Mr. Bauch agreed to have O.B. adjudicated as a dependent child;” and that if Bauch agreed, O.B. would be returned to his custody within thirty days. (Second Amended Complaint, ECF DKT #123 at ¶82). However, the evidence demonstrates that Bauch admitted in open court that O.B. was a dependent child as defined in R.C. § 2151.04(C). (May 12, 2011 Magistrate's Decision Adjudicatory and Dispositional Hearing, ECF DKT #202-2). The Magistrate further found that the admissions were “voluntarily made with an ...


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