The Schatz Family v. Gierer, No. 4:00 CV 00489 ERW.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
Writing for the CourtWebber
Citation399 F.Supp.2d 973
PartiesTHE SCHATZ FAMILY, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Lynne GIERER, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. 4:00 CV 00489 ERW.
Decision Date24 March 2004
399 F.Supp.2d 973
THE SCHATZ FAMILY, et al., Plaintiffs,
Lynne GIERER, et al., Defendants.
No. 4:00 CV 00489 ERW.
United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division.
March 24, 2004.

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Richard D. Sabbert, St. Charles, MO, for Plaintiffs.

Paul M. Rauschenbach, State of Missouri Attorney General's Office, Priscilla F. Gunn, Rabbitt, Pitzer & Snodgrass, P.C., Kevin T. Lake, Lake & Gantz, Kenneth C. Brostron, Lashly & Baer, P.C., Robert L. Brady, Robert W. Cockerham, Brown & James P.C., Michael P. Bastian, St. Louis, MO, Daniel A. Brackmann, Daniel M. Buescher, Buescher & Franke, Washington, MO, William L. Berry, Dunham & Boman, Belleville, IL, David E. Overby, Harrison & Hyde, Springfield, MO, for Defendants.


WEBBER, District Judge.

Before the Court are Defendant Marsha Roy's Motion for Summary Judgment [doc. # 293]; a Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendants Ozark Youth Residential Services, Mark Owings, and Woodrow Friel [doc. # 295]; Defendant Timothy Jones's Motion for Summary Judgment [doc. # 296]; Defendant Vicki Simmons's Motion for Summary Judgment [doc. # 299]; Defendant Cheryl Savage's Motion for Summary Judgment [doc. # 300]; a Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendants Fee-Fi-Fo-Fun Day Care, Joanne Gratzer, and Stephanie Light [doe. # 303]; a Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendants James Powers, Judith Schechtman, Monica Houttuin, Dina Vitoux, Joseph Long, and Robert Schnidman [doe. # 304]; a Motion for Ruling on Qualified Immunity by 21 defendants [doe. # 356];

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and Defendant Marie Clark's Motion to Dismiss [doc. # 362].

I. Background

A. Procedural history

Plaintiffs Andy and Joanne Schatz have eleven children, currently ranging in ages from 13 to 26. On October 22, 1990, the Missouri Division of Family Services, Franklin County (DFS), removed Joy, Charity, Angel, Rebekah, Jonathan, Deborah, Rachel, Sarah, Timothy, and Abigail Schatz from their parents' home involuntarily and placed them in various foster homes. David Schatz, the youngest child, was removed in November 1992. Joy, Charity, and Angel Schatz, the three oldest children, were not returned to the custody of their parents because they eventually reached the age of majority. Rebekah, Rachel, Sarah, Timothy, Abigail, and David were returned home in 1995, and Jonathan and Deborah were returned in 1997.

Andy and Joanne Schatz and ten of their eleven children—Joy, the oldest child, is not a plaintiff—brought suit against the Missouri Department of Family Services, and numerous other defendants under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985(3), alleging several violations of the federal constitution as well as an overarching conspiracy to commit those same violations. Plaintiffs have amended their complaint twice, and the Third Amended Complaint named 49 defendants. The Third Amended Complaint recites 60 paragraphs of allegations common to all counts against the various Defendants and lists 12 causes of action. The thrust of the Complaint is that certain defendants conspired to remove the Schatz children from the family home, and certain defendants made erroneous conclusion that resulted in the children being placed in foster homes where they were emotionally and sexually abused. The Complaint also accuses certain defendants of interfering with the parents' wishes on how to raise the children. The childrens' claims are premised on their right to the enjoyment of each others' association. The 12 causes of action are: (1) denial of right to liberty interest in the care and companionship of parents and children as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) denial of the First Amendment right to petition the courts; (3) denial of the children's rights as siblings in their liberty interest in the family, companionship and society and the intimate association of one another; (4) violation of the parents' right to parental control over the religious training of children as guaranteed by the First Amendment and Mo. Rev.Stat. § 211.221; (5) violation of the childrens' rights to substantive due process and privacy for protection from harm as well as the right to protection from unreasonably and unnecessary intrusions into their emotional and physical well-being under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments; (6) violation of the childrens' substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to be free from the infliction of unnecessary harm to children in State regulated foster homes; (7) denial of the children's rights when placed in State custody to reasonably safe conditions of confinement; (8) denial of the Plaintiffs' substantive constitutional rights in the preservation of family integrity under the First Amendment's broad right of association and the Fourteenth Amendment's general substantive due process protections; (9) denial of the Plaintiffs' rights given to them pursuant to the funding statutes for child welfare and as implemented under the various statutes of the State of Missouri including, but not limited to, Chapters 207, 210, and 211 and the regulations promulgated thereunder in 13 CSR Division 40; (10) denial of the Plaintiff's rights as to privacy

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and their liberty and due process rights, privileges, immunities and guarantees and procedural safeguards as provided and guaranteed under the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth amendments to the Constitution of the United States in the care and companionship of parents and children for one another and the integrity of the family unit.; (11) state law negligence; and (12) false imprisonment of the Schatz children.

On September 27, 2002, this Court considered motions to dismiss of 26 defendants, and motions for summary judgment of five. The 26 defendants1 moved to dismiss based on qualified immunity, but the Court denied their motions. Twenty-one of those defendants appealed the Court's ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.2 The Court also granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants Bonnie Wessler, Alpha for Adolescents, Glenda Edwards, Wendy Jackson, and Peggy Bridges. On May 9, 2003, the Court granted summary judgment to Defendants Deborah Schlitt, Jackie Fischer, Glen Kuehn, and Robert Schlitt.

In October 2003, the Eighth Circuit dismissed the appeal of the 21 "motion-to-dismiss defendants" for lack of appellate jurisdiction, finding that despite this Court's denial of the defendants' motions to dismiss, it failed to clearly rule on the ultimate issue of whether the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. Schatz Family ex rel Schatz v. Gierer, 346 F.3d 1157, 1160 (8th Cir.2003). Those 21 defendants are before this Court again seeking a ruling on the qualified immunity issue. The remaining defendants in the case have all moved for summary judgment, with the exception of Priscilla Grier, who is dead,3 and Marie Clark, who filed a motion to dismiss. In this opinion, the Court disposes of the claims of the remaining defendants, and clarifies its conclusions reached in its earlier orders.4

II. Discussion

A. Rulings applicable to all defendants

(1) Common allegations

In paragraphs 72 through 123 (excluding paragraph 99) of the Third Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs attempted to allege facts common to all counts against the various defendants. They did not, however, allege specifically how each defendant deprived the Plaintiffs of their constitutional rights.

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Because a defendant's liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is founded only on a particular defendant's, personal involvement in unlawful activity, see Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203, 1208 (8th Cir.1990), this Court ruled, in both its September 27, 2002, and May 9, 2003 orders, that the plaintiffs may not rely on the allegations in paragraphs 72 through 123 (excluding paragraph 99) of the Third Amended Complaint to support their claims for relief. That conclusion applies equally here, and as a consequence, no defendant is liable for the allegations in those paragraphs.

(2) Statute of limitations

As the Court recognized in its both its September 27, 2002, and May 9, 2003 orders, the statute of limitations for certain plaintiffs and certain claims has expired. The applicable statute of limitations for § 1983 actions is Mo.Rev.Stat. § 516.120, which provides for a five-year time limit. See Lovejoy v. Goodrich, 798 F.2d 1201, 1202 n. 2 (8th Cir., 1986) (internal citations omitted). The plaintiffs filed their original Complaint on March 23, 2000, and alleged acts which occurred between 1989 and March 3, 1995, all of which predate the five-year limitations period. This Court concluded in its earlier orders that the Missouri savings statute applied because the plaintiffs filed a similar lawsuit on April 8, 1998 and voluntarily dismissed it. See Mo.Rev.Stat. § 516.320. Under the savings statute, if a plaintiff brings an action within the applicable limitations period and suffers a nonsuit, that plaintiff may bring a new action within one year of the nonsuit. Id.

Plaintiffs Andy and Joanne Schatz (the parents), therefore, are barred from asserting § 1983 claims against any defendant for acts occurring before April 8, 1993, but not for acts occurring after that time. In addition, for any Schatz child for which the cause of action accrued when the child was under 21 years of age, the statute of limitations is tolled until that child turns 21. See Mo.Rev.Stat. § 516.170. Charity Schatz, the oldest of the child plaintiffs, was born on August 29, 1977, and did not turn 21 until August 29, 1998. The Complaint was filed on March 23, 2000, well within the five-year time limit for her claims. As all of the remaining children plaintiffs are younger than Charity, no Schatz child is barred from asserting any § 1983 claim against any defendant.

B. The motion-to-dismiss defendants

(1) Heightened pleading requirements

The defendants argued in their original motion, and again on appeal,...

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