United States District Court, D. Connecticut
JOAN T. KLOTH-ZANARD, Plaintiff,
DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, et al., Defendants.
RULING ON MOTIONS TO DISMISS
F. Martinez, United States Magistrate Judge.
plaintiff, Joan T. Kloth-Zanard, brings this § 1983
action against Connecticut Department of Children and
Families ("DCF") employees Jean Norvig, Christine
Lupke, and Carl Graham-Leichner, alleging that they
improperly placed her on DCF's child abuse and neglect
registry in 1997 and failed to give her notice and an
opportunity to challenge her placement. She asserts a
"stigma-plus" procedural due process claim and
state law claims of breach of fiduciary duty, defamation, and
slander and libel. Pending before the court are the
defendants' motions to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). (Doc. ##134, 147.) For the reasons that follow, the
motions are granted.
following facts are taken from the plaintiff's fourth
amended complaint and are assumed to be true for purposes of
the motions to dismiss.
defendants were DCF employees. Jean Norvig
("Norvig") was a social worker; defendant Christine
Lupke ("Lupke") was a social worker supervisor and
Norvig's supervisor; and Carl Graham-Leichner
("Graham-Leichner") was a program supervisor and
Norvig and Lupke's supervisor. (Doc. #114, Fourth Amended
Compl. ¶¶9-11.) In August 1997, the defendants
"prepared and submitted" to Connecticut superior
court "a summary of facts substantiating allegations of
neglect" as to the plaintiff. (Compl.
¶¶15-16.) Graham-Leichner filed "a petition
for neglect against the plaintiff in Connecticut superior
court." (Compl. ¶17.) Connecticut maintains a
central registry for child abuse and neglect
("registry") pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. §
17a-101k. (Compl. ¶7.) The defendants "falsely and
without cause or justification" placed the
plaintiff's name on the registry. (Compl. ¶12.) They
did not inform the plaintiff of her placement on the
registry. (Compl. ¶14.) As a result, she had no
opportunity to challenge her placement on the registry.
hearing in November 1997, the superior court concluded that
the petition for neglect was "unsubstantiated and should
be withdrawn." (Compl. ¶17.) Graham-Leichner
"withdrew the petition without a finding of neglect
against the plaintiff and informed Norvig and Lupke of that
outcome." (Compl. ¶17.) The defendants failed to
remove the plaintiff's name from the registry. (Compl.
¶18.) Between 1997 and 1998, the plaintiff
"communicate[d] . . . with the State of Connecticut
Department of Children and Families but was never informed
that she had been placed and remained" on the
registry. (Compl. ¶22.) From 1997 through 2012,
the plaintiff sought, but did not obtain, employment with
employers "who would have and/or did perform background
checks upon her to check for her placement on the central
registry for abuse and neglect." (Compl. ¶23.) In
June 2012, the plaintiff discovered that she was on the
registry when a prospective employer informed her that a
background check indicated that she was on the registry.
(Compl. ¶24.) On June 26, 2012, the plaintiff "made
a request of the State of Connecticut for removal from the
registry and the State of Connecticut removed the
plaintiff's name . . . ." (Compl.
plaintiff sues the three defendants in their individual
capacities asserting a Fourteenth Amendment procedural due
process claim (count 1) and state law claims of breach of
fiduciary duty (count 2); defamation (count 4) and slander and
libel (count 5).
considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must
determine whether the plaintiff has alleged "enough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The court accepts the
complaint's factual allegations as true, Twombly, 550
U.S. at 572, and "draw[s] all reasonable inferences in
favor of the non-moving party." Vietnam Ass'n
for Victims of Agent Orange v. Dow Chem. Co., 517 F.3d
104, 115 (2d Cir. 2008). However, a court is "not bound
to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual
allegation" or "to accept as true allegations that
are wholly conclusory." Krys v. Pigott, 749
F.3d 117, 128 (2d Cir. 2014).
Stigma-Plus Due Process Claim
count one, the plaintiff alleges that the defendants deprived
her of a liberty interest without due process in violation of
the Fourteenth Amendment when "in 1997 and continuing
thereafter until 2012 [they] failed and refused to provide
the plaintiff" with notice of her placement on the
registry and denied her an opportunity to challenge her
placement or seek removal. (Compl. ¶29.) As a result of
her placement on the registry, she was denied employment
opportunities because prospective employers consulted the
registry. (Compl. ¶23.)
'stigma-plus' claim is a subset of procedural due
process.'" Grasson v. Bd. of Educ. of Town of
Orange,24 F.Supp.3d 136, 147 (D. Conn. 2014). "To
formulate a claim under the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment, a plaintiff must demonstrate that he or
she possesses a constitutionally protected interest in life,
liberty, or property, and that state action has deprived him
or her of that interest." Valmonte v. Bane, 18
F.3d 992, 998 (2d Cir. 1994). "'Stigma plus'
refers to a claim brought for injury to one's reputation
(the stigma) coupled with the deprivation of some
'tangible interest' [e.g., the loss of government
employment] or property right (the plus), without adequate
process." DiBlasio v. Novello,344 F.3d 292,
302 (2d Cir. 2003). "Although damage to one's
reputation is not by itself sufficient to invoke the
procedural protection of the Due Process Clause, [a
plaintiff] can demonstrate infringement of ...