Court Grants in Part, Denies in Part Motion to Dismiss

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania grants in part and denies in part a motion to dismiss claims brought against a state skilled nursing facility, its director, and third-party contractors. The daughter of a resident who died after suffering a fall at the facility asserts four claims: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 survival and wrongful death actions against the director and nursing facility; nursing home negligence survival action claim under Pennsylvania law; and nursing home negligence wrongful death action claim under Pennsylvania law. In Georgianne McEntyre v. Southeastern Veterans’ Center, et al. (U.S.D.C., E.D. Pennsylvania, Civil Action No. 21-3622., October 4, 2022).

Georgianne McEntyre filed a lawsuit against Southeastern Veterans’ Center, its director Rohan Blackwood and third-party contractors alleging her mother, Henrietta Drew, received substandard care that led to her death from a fall. Southeastern and Mr. Blackwood filed a motion to dismiss Ms. McEntyre’s claims.

In reviewing these claims, the Court first finds that Ms. McEntyre fails to plead facts that demonstrate that Southeastern or Mr. Blackwood had inadequate staffing, failed to train or supervise employees, that these failures caused her mother’s injury, or that it had a custom and policy of disregarding regulations. Her current allegations are not enough to rise above a level of speculation. However, to the extent her claims are not barred by sovereign immunity, she may amend and fix her pleading deficiencies.

Second, the Court finds that Ms. McEntyre’s claims against Southeastern regarding the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 survival action are barred by sovereign immunity under the 11th Amendment. Southeastern is an agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and has not waived its immunity. The Court also finds no exception to sovereign immunity is applicable here. Ms. McEntyre also cannot escape 11th Amendment immunity by imputing municipal liability to Southeastern, a state agency and arm of the state. These claims against Southeastern are dismissed with prejudice.

Furthermore, Ms. McEntyre’s claims against Mr. Blackwood are insufficiently pled. She must allege his personal involvement in the events that led to her mother’s death to survive the dismissal of this claim against him. Her current claim is dismissed without prejudice, and she may amend her pleadings concerning Mr. Blackwood.

The Court declines to rule on Ms. McEntyre’s 42 U.S.C. § 1983 wrongful death claim, as the questions of standing pertinent to this claim are currently pending before the Supreme Court. The Court denies the motion to dismiss this claim to await the outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision.

Third, Ms. McEntyre has alleged state law negligence claims against Southeastern and Mr. Blackwood. Concerning her corporate negligence claims against Southeastern, they are barred by sovereign immunity. However, her claims for medical-professional negligence are not barred by sovereign immunity. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has waived sovereign immunity for medical-professional liability. Therefore, Ms. McEntyre’s claims that assert this type of liability against individual health care employees fall within this exception.

To the extent Ms. McEntyre has asserted corporate liability claims against Southeastern or Mr. Blackwood as an employee acting within his capacity as a Commonwealth employee, these are dismissed with prejudice. Furthermore, the claims against Mr. Blackwood do not fall within the medical-professional liability exception because he is not a health care employee, and these are dismissed as well. However, her medical-professional liability claims against individual health care employees fall within the medical-professional negligence exclusion to sovereign immunity. They are dismissed without prejudice so she may amend her pleadings to cure deficiencies.

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