United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case is before the court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
(Docs. # 3, 13), Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (Doc. #
8), and Defendants' Motion to Strike (Doc. # 16). The
Motions have been fully briefed (Docs. # 10, 18, 21) and are
ripe for decision. After careful review, and for the reasons
explained below, the court concludes that although
Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (Doc. # 8) is due to be
denied, Plaintiffs must replead their complaint. As such,
Defendants' Motions to Dismiss (Docs. # 3, 13) and Motion
to Strike (Doc. # 16) are due to be denied without prejudice
Factual and Procedural Background
Bobbi Edwards and Christopher Edwards (collectively,
“the Parents”) and their two minor children
originally filed this action in the Circuit Court of Shelby
County, Alabama on October 18, 2018. Bobbi Edwards, et
al. v. Kim Mashego, et al., 58-cv-20118-900981. In their
state court complaint, Plaintiffs named the following
employees of the Shelby County Department of Human Resources
(“Shelby County DHR”) as Defendants: Kim Mashego,
the Director of Shelby County DHR; Corrine Matt; Yolanda
Barnes; and Alyssa Partridge. (Doc. # 1 at 10-11).
assert the following claims against Defendants in their
individual capacities: negligence and wantonness (Count One);
suppression of material fact (Count Two); negligent/wanton
training and supervision (Count Three); outrageous
conduct/intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count
Four); malicious prosecution (Count Five); abuse of process
(Count Six); civil conspiracy (Count Seven); and damages
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count Eight).
(Id. at 13-22). Specifically, Plaintiffs assert that
Defendants, while acting under color of state law, violated
their rights in a number of ways including depriving them of
their constitutional rights to “privacy” and
“due process of law” in violation of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. (Id. at 10). In support of these
claims, Plaintiffs allege the following facts in their
claim that on February 22, 2016, Partridge contacted the
Parents at their home to investigate the potential abuse or
neglect of their minor child. (Doc. # 1 at 11, ¶ 8).
Partridge and the Parents agreed to a “Safety Plan,
” which Plaintiffs allege “is an agreement made
by and between the family and [Shelby County DHR] with
respect to certain terms and conditions regarding further
activity and involvement by and between the family and
[Shelby County DHR].” (Id. at ¶ 9).
According to Plaintiffs, the Safety Plan ensured that the
minor children would live in the home with their mother, and
their maternal grandmother agreed to supervise all contact.
(Id. at ¶ 10). The Safety Plan further provided
that Mr. Edwards would not live in the home with the
children. (Id.). Plaintiffs allege that Partridge,
the Parents, and the maternal grandmother all signed the
Safety Plan. (Id. at ¶¶ 9, 11).
contend that on the following day, Partridge met with
Mashego, Matt, and Barnes for a “staffing
meeting.” (Id. at 12, ¶ 13). During this
meeting, they allegedly decided that the Safety Plan was
invalid and that the proper course of action was to
“seek authority and approval from the Shelby County
Juvenile Court to remove the minor children…from the
custody of their parents…and place the minor children
into a foster home.” (Id.). Consistent with
this decision, Partridge filed a Petition with the Shelby
County Juvenile Court and requested an Emergency Pick Up
Order, which would allow the children to be taken into
emergency protective custody and placed into a foster home.
(Id. at ¶ 14). Crucially, Plaintiffs submit
that Partridge made “untrue, false, misleading and
fraudulent representations, under oath, to the Shelby County
Juvenile Court for the purpose of inducing that Court to
enter the Emergency Pick Up Order.” (Id. at
¶ 15). The Juvenile Court issued the Emergency Pick Up
Order, and Partridge removed the children from the custody of
the Parents and placed them in a foster home. (Id.
at ¶ 16).
further assert that the cases involving the minor children
were eventually litigated before the Shelby County Juvenile
Court and resolved in their favor. (Id. at ¶
17). At some point during the litigation, the Juvenile Court
ordered the children to be placed into the temporary custody
of the maternal grandmother. (Id.). On August 30,
2016, the Juvenile Court returned custody of the children to
the Parents. (Id.). Almost one year later, on August
16, 2017, the Juvenile Court dismissed the Petitions filed by
Shelby County DHR. (Id.).
Plaintiffs filed suit in the Circuit Court of Shelby County
on October 18, 2018, Defendant Barnes removed this action to
federal court on November 28, 2018. (Doc. # 1). At the time
of removal, Defendant Barnes was the only defendant who had
been served. (Id. at 2). On December 20, 2018, less
than thirty days after the removal, Defendants Mashego and
Matt filed a notice of their consent to the removal. (Doc. #
12). Defendant Partridge, however, had still not been served.
the course of the next four months, this court granted
Plaintiffs three extensions to complete service upon
Defendant Partridge in federal court. (Docs. # 19, 24, 27).
Yet, despite the court's warning that failure to properly
serve Partridge may result in dismissal of their claims
against Defendant Partridge (Doc. # 27), Plaintiffs failed to
comply with the court's instructions. Plaintiffs only
managed to serve Partridge in the Circuit Court of Shelby
County on April 23, 2019. (Doc. # 30). Consequently, on June
3, 2019, the court dismissed without prejudice
Plaintiffs' claims against Defendant Partridge due to
Plaintiffs' failure to serve Defendant Partridge in
federal court after being granted three prior extensions to
do so. (Doc. # 34).
initial matter, the court concludes that Plaintiffs'
Motion to Remand is due to be denied because Plaintiffs'
complaint squarely presents a federal question under 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Thus, the court has original jurisdiction
over Plaintiffs' Section 1983 claim and supplemental
jurisdiction over their attendant state law claims. However,
in light of the court's recent dismissal of
Plaintiffs' claims against Defendant Partridge (and
because their allegations rely heavily on Partridge's
actions), the court finds it appropriate for Plaintiffs to
replead their complaint. As a result, Defendants' Motions
to Dismiss and Motion to Strike are due to be denied without
prejudice as moot.
Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand is Due to be Denied
argue this case should be remanded to the Circuit Court of
Shelby County Alabama “because this case does not
present a substantial federal question that merits removal
under 28 U.S.C. Section 1441.” (Doc. # 8 at 4-5).
Plaintiffs point out that Defendants are state agents, not
federal agents or employees, meaning that Defendants acted
under color of state law in removing the minor
children from the custody of the Parents. (Id. at
5-7). Plaintiffs further contend that the presence of a
single federal claim for damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 is insufficient to create federal question jurisdiction
when all of Plaintiffs' claims involve alleged ...