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United States v. Children's Advocacy Center of Delaware

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 20, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND STATE OF DELAWARE, EX REL. WEIH CHANG, Plaintiff,
v.
CHILDREN'S ADVOCACY CENTER OF DELAWARE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On June 1, 2015, Plaintiff, United States of America and State of Delaware, ex rel. Weih Chang ("Relator") filed this qui tarn action pursuant to the Federal False Claims Act ("FCA"), 31 U.S.C. § 3729 et seq., and the Delaware False Claims and Reporting Act ("DFCA"), 6 Del. C. § 1201 et seq., against Children's Advocacy Center of Delaware ("CAC"). (D.I. 2.)[1] CAC filed a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim on June 15, 2016 (D.I. 20) and Relator filed a Motion for Leave to file an Amended Complaint. (D.I. 27.) The court granted the Motion to Amend the Complaint, rendering CAC's first Rule 12(b)(6) Motion moot. (D.I. 30.) Presently before the court is CAC's Motion to Dismiss Relator's Amended Complaint (D.I. 32, 34.)

         For the reasons discussed below, the court will grant Defendant's motion in-part and deny it in-part.

         II. BACKGROUND

         CAC provides assistance for victims of child abuse by working with Delaware law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute individuals who victimize children. (D.I. 32 at ¶ 18.) As a Child Advocacy Center, CAC must be accredited by the National Children's Alliance ("NCA"). (D.I. 32 at ¶¶ 14-1.5.) Both the NCA accreditation guidelines and Delaware state law require Child Advocacy Centers to adopt a Multi-Disciplinary Team ("MDT") approach for its operations. (D.I. 32 at ¶ 19.) Delaware state law requires that CAC use an MDT approach to be eligible for state funding. (D.I. 32 at ¶ 21.)

         Relator alleges that CAC misrepresented its adoption of an MDT approach for all reported abuse cases. (D.I. 32 at ¶ 22.) Specifically, Relator alleges that CAC falsely reported in its marketing materials that it adopted an MDT approach in all abuse cases-. (Id. at ¶¶ 24-25.) Relator also contends that CAC supported its funding request with information that it utilized an MDT approach in all cases and that funds would be used to hire additional mental health staff. (Id. at ¶ 46.) In response to this request, the State of Delaware designated CAC as a recipient of federal funding, and defendant was allocated $55, 800 per year. (Id. at ¶ 48.)

         In support of the allegations against CAC, Relator indicates several instances when child abuse or neglect was reported to defendant and it failed to include all members of the MDT in the investigation. (D.I. 32 at ¶ 31.) For example, in September of 2008, a twelve year old female reported abuse from her physician. (Id. at ¶ 33.) CAC interviewed the child, but a prosecutor was not present at the interview, nor was the child sent for a medical examination. (Id.) Similar incidents occurred on December 9 and 12, 2008, and there is no record that a prosecutor or medical professional was present for any interviews, nor were the victims sent for a medical examination. (Id. at ¶ 34-35.)

         In addition to the events occurring in 2008, three additional incidents occurred on or around October 22, 2013. (Id. at ¶ 37-41.) In two of the cases, an employee of CAC concluded that the children were lying. (Id.) However, the employee did not refer the case to a mental health professional and no prosecutor, mental health professional, or child protection services representative was present at the interview. (Id.) In the third case, a ten year old autistic male was interviewed without a prosecutor, mental health professional, or child protection services representative present. (Id. at ¶ 41.) Lastly, plaintiff alleges that three interviews that took place between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014 were riot conducted by an MDT, despite defendant reporting that they followed MDT protocol. (Id. at ¶ 42.)

         Relator brings this action alleging claims under (1) the FCA; (2) the DFCA; and (3) unjust enrichment.[2] CAC filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim in which it argues that Relator's Amended Complaint fails to satisfy the pleading standards for all claims. For the reasons that follow, the court will deny the Motion for claims under the FCA and DFCA, but grant the Motion for allegations of unjust enrichment.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for dismissal where the plaintiff "fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In considering a motion to dismiss, the court "accept[s] all factual allegations as true, construe[s] the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine[s] whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). Plaintiffs must provide sufficient factual allegations "to state, a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). This requirement of plausibility is satisfied when "the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "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 (2009). A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the . ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 545.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         CAC claims Relator's Amended Complaint fails to (1) meet the pleading standards required to bring a FCA claim; (2) fails to plead all the necessary elements for unjust enrichment (D.I. 35 at 14); and (3) fails to plead fraud with particularity. (D.I. 35 at 14.) CAC also asserts that the court should not exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the DFCA claim (D.I. 35 at 10-13.) The court will address each contention in turn.

         A.False ...


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