Third Circuit rejects argument over labeled 'incapacity' of appellant's mother

By Nicholas Malfitano | May 27, 2016

PHILADELPHIA – A federal appellate court upheld a trial court ruling to dismiss a Willow Grove woman’s civil rights-based lawsuit centered on the cognitive capacity of her mother on Tuesday.

Judges Michael A. Chagares, Cheryl Ann Krause and Morton I. Greenberg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that Alvianette Gibson-Kennedy’s appeal (filed on behalf of her mother, Lillian R. Gibson) would not proceed.

In 2013, the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas judged Gibson to be “totally incapacitated” and selected Kalpana Doshi to serve as Gibson’s legal guardian. Gibson-Kennedy’s efforts to challenge that ruling in state court have been unsuccessful.

Not long after the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas issued its decision, Gibson-Kennedy, on her mother’s behalf, filed a civil action in the District Court.

“Gibson-Kennedy’s amended complaint, brought against Doshi and several other defendants, alleged Gibson had been ‘falsely accused’ of having diminished capacity. The relief sought in the amended complaint included the restoration of Gibson’s ‘personhood,” the Third Circuit said.

The defendants moved to dismiss the amended complaint, believing Gibson-Kennedy “does not have standing to assert claims on Gibson’s behalf” and Gibson-Kennedy would not be permitted to appear on Gibson’s behalf sans representation in federal court.

On Jan. 29, 2014, the District Court, relying on those two grounds, granted the defendants’ motions, dismissed the amended complaint with prejudice, and closed the case. Gibson-Kennedy’s appeal followed.

However, the Third Circuit did not find favor with the 21-page appeal, labeling it “rambling and disjointed.”

“Instead, the brief alleges facts and makes arguments that appear to relate to the various state court proceedings – proceedings that are not on review here,” the Third Circuit said. “Additionally, appellant appears to use her brief as a vehicle for raising claims on her own behalf; however, those claims were not before the District Court and, therefore, may not be considered here.”

The Third Circuit explained Gibson-Kennedy’s appeal brief “has not preserved any argument that bears on the District Court’s decision to dismiss her amended complaint” and deemed her challenge to that order waived.

“We note that even if we were to abstain from invoking the waiver doctrine and reach the merits of this appeal, appellant still would not be entitled to relief. For substantially the reasons provided by the District Court, we agree with its dismissal of appellant’s amended complaint. In light of the above, we will affirm the District Court’s order,” the Third Circuit stated.

The appellants are represented by Aaron E. Moore and Joseph J. Santarone Jr. of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin in Philadelphia, Philip W. Newcomer of the Montgomery County Solicitor’s Office and Craig H. Fox of Fox & Fox Attorneys At Law, in Norristown.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit case 14-1508

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 5:13-cv-04324

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at

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