525 F.3d 112 (1st Cir. 2008), 07-1394, Cao v. Puerto Rico

Docket Nº:07-1394.
Citation:525 F.3d 112
Party Name:Dolores H. CAO, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. COMMONWEALTH OF PUERTO RICO through the Secretary of Justice, Roberto S
Case Date:May 13, 2008
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

[*] Senior Circuit Judge, and SMITH, District Judge//--> Page 112

525 F.3d 112 (1st Cir. 2008)

Dolores H. CAO, Plaintiff, Appellant,

v.

COMMONWEALTH OF PUERTO RICO through the Secretary of Justice, Roberto Sánchez-Ramos; Puerto Rico Department of Family; Puerto Rico Department of Family, Unit of Substitute Care of Adults; Félix Matos-Rodríguez, in his Personal Capacity and as Secretary of the Department of the Family; State Psychiatric Hospital; Administrator B of State Psychiatric Hospital, Doctor X; Unknown Defendants; AB Insurance Company; BC Insurance Company; CD Insurance Company; DF Insurance Company; FG Insurance Company, Defendants, Appellees.

No. 07-1394.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit.

May 13, 2008

Heard Nov. 5, 2007.

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO Hon. Jaime Pieras, Jr., U.S. Senior District Judge].

Page 113

Ralph Vallone, Jr., with whom Ralph Vallone, Jr. Law Offices was on brief, for appellant.

Susana I. Peñagarícano-Brown, Assistant Solicitor General, Department of Justice, with whom Salvador J. Antonetti-Stutts, Solicitor General, Mariana Negrón-Vargas, Deputy Solicitor General, and Maite D. Oronoz-Rodríguez, Deputy Solicitor General, were on brief, for appellees Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; Puerto Rico Department of the Family; Puerto Rico Department of the Family, Unit of Substitute Care of Adults; Félix Matos-Rodríguez; and State Psychiatric Hospital.

Before TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge, BALDOCK, [*] Senior Circuit Judge, and SMITH, [**] District Judge.

TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge.

Dolores H. Cao, an elderly resident of Cupey, Puerto Rico, was removed from her home, made to undergo a psychological

Page 114

evaluation, and placed in a substitute home and, later, a state institution for the elderly, by the Puerto Rico Family Department ("the Department"). She seeks recovery under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 for alleged violations of her procedural due process and equal protection rights, as well as under several state law causes of action. The district court dismissed Cao's complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) (6). After careful consideration, we affirm the district court's dismissal.

I. Background

Cao is a seventy three year-old woman who, at the time of these incidents, lived alone in a very rundown house; its roof had severe leaks and wild doves had entered through the openings and nested inside. On March 16, 2004, Cao was removed from her home by a Department social worker for fear that she was living in subhuman conditions and suffering from Alzheimer's disease. After removing Cao, the social worker took her to the local police department. Police officers transported Cao to the state psychiatric hospital where she was evaluated by two doctors. They diagnosed her with Senile Dementia Alzheimer I.

A Puerto Rico state court ordered Cao placed in a substitute home. On March 29, 2004, the court granted temporary custody over Cao to her son, and she was sent to live with him for a period of ten months. This placement was cut short, however, due to overcrowding and financial problems, and on December 1, 2004, 1 Cao was transferred to a state institution for the elderly. She remained there until May 2005, when she returned to her own home and brought an action in state court contesting her Alzheimer's diagnosis. Cao was able to prove that she had never suffered from the disease and, on July 21, 2005, the state court dismissed the Department's ongoing custody proceedings and lifted the temporary custody order it had granted Cao's son.

Cao then filed a complaint in federal district court on June 26, 2006. In it, she sought recovery under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 for alleged violations of her procedural due process and equal protection rights. She also put forth several state law causes of action. Cao named as defendants, inter alia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Department and its Substitute Care of Adults Unit, the State Psychiatric Hospital, and former Department Secretary Yolanda Zayas (collectively, "the Commonwealth"). The Commonwealth moved for dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) (6), and the district court granted the motion on November 28, 2006. In its Opinion and Order, the district court found § 1981 inapplicable because Cao had failed to allege any racial discrimination; Cao's § 1983 claims failed because they were time-barred, and the district court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over her state law claims. Cao now appeals the district court's dismissal of her § 1983 and state law...

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