Huertas Leon v. Colon-Rondon

Decision Date31 March 2019
Docket NumberCIVIL NO. 15-1017 (PG)
Citation376 F.Supp.3d 167
Parties Emmanuel E. HUERTAS LEON, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Idalia COLON-RONDON, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Puerto Rico

Carlos M. Calderon-Garnier, San Juan, PR, for Plaintiffs.

Idza Diaz-Rivera, P.R. Department of Justice, San Juan, PR, for Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

JUAN M. PEREZ-GIMENEZ, SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

Defendants Idalia Colon Rondon ("Colon-Rondon"), Rosa Muñoz-Marzan ("Muñoz-Marzan"), and the Family Department for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ("Family Department") (or collectively, "Defendants") filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), or for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted (Docket No. 27). Plaintiffs' filed a response in opposition thereto (Docket No. 35). For the reasons explained below, the court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendants' motion to dismiss.

I. BACKGROUND

The case, in a nutshell

Four of the five plaintiffs, Frances Quiñones Fontanez ("Quiñones-Fontanez"), Angel Cortes Maldonado ("Cortes-Maldonado"), Hilda Correa Delgado ("Correa-Delgado"), and Juanita Figueroa Garcia ("Figueroa-Garcia") are disabled elders who were committed to "Hogar Hacienda El Ruiseñor" ("HHER"), an institution or shelter devoted to the care of elders managed by the fifth plaintiff, Emmanuel E. Huertas Leon ("Huertas-Leon") (collectively, "Plaintiffs"). The services provided by HHER to the four disabled Plaintiffs were financed by the Family Department's "Adult Services Program" (in Spanish, "Programa de Servicios a Adultos") (the "Program").1

Between March 27, 2012 and December of 2014, Huertas-Leon allegedly exchanged correspondence with the Trujillo Alto, Carolina Program, as well as the Central Office of the Family Department and its regional director in Carolina, co-defendant Muñoz-Marzan. See Docket No. 29 at 10. Through these exchanges, Huertas-Leon said that the elders' developmental disabilities warranted a modification to the payments that they received as part of the Adult Services Program (the "Program"). See id. In 2013, Huertas-Leon purportedly informed Defendants that behavioral changes seen in one unnamed Program participant required specialized medical services that HHER was unable to provide.

On November 17, 2014, the Family Department revoked HHER's operating license due to its alleged failure to comply with the requisite laws and regulations. See Docket No. 27 (Exh._1). Huertas-Leon appealed this determination before the Family Department's Adjudicative Board (the "Board"). See Docket No. 35 at 17.

On December 6, 2014, Quiñones-Fontanez, Cortes-Maldonado, Correa-Delgado and Figueroa-Garcia, personally or through a family representative, apparently sought protective orders enjoining Defendants from transferring or relocating them to other licensed institutions through ex parte requests filed in state court. The state court judge denied their requests. See Docket No. 29 at 13.

On December 8, 2014, three of those four disabled Plaintiffs were transferred to other licensed homes. Cortes-Maldonado was transferred to Ciudad Dorada, and Correa-Delgado and Figueroa-Garcia were transferred to Hogar Shalom. See id. at 14-15. Defendant Muñoz-Marzan allegedly removed Quiñones-Fontanez from the Program in retaliation for his complaints. Id. at 14. One of the Family Department's social workers, Amanda Roman, intimidated him saying "I will place you in a mission, close you behind bars and you will not see your family or children ever again." Id. Figueroa-Garcia's son, Angel Berrios Figueroa, allegedly received similar threats from Family Department officials warning him that the services would be cancelled if he refused to keep her at Hogar Shalom. See Docket No. 1-3 (incorporated or adopted by reference in the amended complaint).

Plaintiffs Quiñones-Fontanez, Cortes-Maldonado, Correa-Delgado, and Figueroa-Garcia presented claims under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA" or "Title II"), 42 U.S.C. § 12134 et seq. ; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act ("Section 504" or "REHAB"), 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq. ; Puerto Rico's Bill of Rights for Persons with Disabilities, P.R. LAWS. ANN. tit. 1, § 512 et seq. ; Puerto Rico's Bill of Rights for Elderly Persons, P.R. LAWS ANN. tit. 8, § 341 et seq. ; and Articles 1802 and 1803 of Puerto Rico's Civil Code, P.R. LAWS. ANN. tit. 31, §§ 5141 and 5142. See Docket No. 29 at 2. In sum, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants discriminated and retaliated against them by removing them from HHER and transferring them into homes that do not provide the special services required by their incapacities, which were ostensibly taken care of at HHER. They contend that the abrupt termination of their stay at HHER constituted a violation of their due process rights.

Additionally, Huertas-Leon filed suit as director of HHER, alleging he has standing to sue under Title II of ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12203(c) ; within the meaning of Section 1 of the Puerto Rico Law Prohibiting Discrimination Against Disabled Persons, P.R. LAWS ANN. tit. 1, § 501(c) ; and a person who conducts a "program or activity," or is an "individual's representative," pursuant to the Rehab Act claims, 29 U.S.C. §§ 794 and 705(22). See Docket No. 29 at 3. Huertas-Leon claims that Defendants' decision to revoke HHER's operating license constitutes retaliation for having complained with the Family Department. See supra at 172.

Based on the allegations summarized above, Plaintiffs request declaratory judgment and preliminary and permanent injunctions prohibiting Defendants from terminating the services provided to the elder and disabled Plaintiffs at HHER, and from enrolling or transferring them to any other institution without their consent. Additionally, they request a "preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining Defendants from denying patients due process, executing service agreements without the elders' or their relatives' consent, and endorsing undesirable missions and shelters with unfit facilities." Id. at 32. Finally, they request compensatory damages of no less than $ 1,000,000 for each individual Plaintiff, as well as costs and attorneys' fees. See id.

Recent Developments

On November 20, 2018, the court ordered Plaintiffs to supplement the record with copy of the final determination issued by the Family Department in the administrative proceeding challenging the revocation of HHER's license. See Docket No. 44. The information was deemed necessary considering that much of Plaintiffs' arguments in opposition to the motion to dismiss hinge on the adequacy of the Family Department's processes and policies (or lack thereof). The court also takes note of their request to be reinstated at HHER "until administrative proceedings are decided by the state proceedings." See Dockets No. 35, 44 and 47.

Plaintiffs informed the court that on January 10, 2019, Huertas-Leon's voluntarily dismissed his appeal before the Department's Adjudicative Board. Again, that appeal challenged administrative decisions and process in connection with the cancellation of HHER's license. See Dockets No. 46 and 51. Plaintiffs explained that "[l]icense renewal was not processed by the Family Department, the shelter became insolvent and was evicted from its premises. Therefore, the owner/licensee notified the appeals body that administrative remedy was moot." Docket No. 51 at 1.

Notably, Plaintiffs also informed that Cortes-Maldonado and Correa-Delgado had passed away. But Plaintiffs have not followed the process set out in Rule 25 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedurethey never requested substitution of the parties or any other available remedy for that matter. See Fed R. Civ. P. 25. Given the time elapsed since, the court on its own dismisses Cortes-Maldonado's and Correa-Delgado's claims.2 As a result, only the claims asserted by Huertas-Leon, Quiñones-Fontanez, and Figueroa-Garcia remain.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), a district court must "accept as true the well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint, draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in the plaintiff's favor, and determine whether the complaint, so read, limns facts sufficient to justify recovery on any cognizable theory." Rivera v. Centro Medico de Turabo, Inc., 575 F.3d 10, 15 (1st Cir. 2009) (citing LaChapelle v. Berkshire Life Ins. Co., 142 F.3d 507, 508 (1st Cir. 1998) ). Even though detailed factual allegations are not necessary for a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitlement to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do [.]" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). Those nonconclusory factual allegations that the court accepts as true must be sufficient to give the claim facial plausibility. See Quiros v. Munoz, 670 F.Supp.2d 130, 132 (D.P.R. 2009). "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will ... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009).

When deciding motions to dismiss, the analysis of the courts is not limited solely to the facts alleged in the complaint. See Rederford v. US Airways, Inc., 586 F.Supp.2d 47, 50 (D.R.I. 2008). A court may consider the complaint alongside any "facts extractable from documentation annexed to or incorporated by reference in the complaint and matters susceptible to judicial notice." Jorge v. Rumsfeld, 404 F.3d 556, 559 (1st Cir. 2005). Furthermore, courts may consider documents that are "integral or explicitly relied upon in a complaint, even if that document is not annexed to the complaint." Id.

III. DISCUSSION

As noted before, Defendants...

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