Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code (§ 1983) provides a remedy for deprivations, under color of state law, of a right secured by the Constitution or federal law. Salisbury v. Stone, 518 A.2d 1355, 1360 (R.I. 1986) (citing Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 924, 102 S.Ct. 2744, 2747, 73 L. Ed. 2d 482 (1982)).
It is well-settled that neither § 1983 nor the Fourteenth Amendment applies to purely private actions. See Forbes v. Rhode Island Brotherhood of Correctional Officers, 923 F. Supp. 315, 321 (D.R.I. 1996) (citing Rodriguez-Garcia v. Davila, 904 F.2d 90, 95 (1st Cir. 1990)).
A viable § 1983 claim must establish two essential elements: "First, the plaintiff must allege and prove that some person or state governmental entity, while acting under color of state law, has deprived him or her of a federal right secured by federal law or constitution.
Second, the plaintiff must identify the federal right alleged to have been violated." Brunelle v. Town of South Kingstown, 700 A.2d 1075, 1081 (R.I. 1997).
Traditionally, the definition of acting under color of state law "requires that the defendant in a § 1983 action have exercised power 'possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because the wrongdoer is clothed with the authority of state law.'" Forbes, 923 F. Supp at 321 (citing West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 49, 108 S.Ct. 2250, 2255, 101 L. Ed. 2d 40 (1988)).
Therefore, the validity of a plaintiff's § 1983 claim initially hinges on a demonstration of either direct or indirect state action. Rodriguez-Garcia, 904 F.2d at 95.
The second required element of a § 1983 cause of action requires the plaintiff to prove deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or federal law.
To satisfy this second element of a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must also prove that the defendant's conduct was the cause in fact of the alleged deprivation. Rodriguez-Cirilo v. Garcia, 115 F.3d 50, 52 (1st Cir. 1997).
Causation of damages in a § 1983 action is based on "basic notions of tort causation" and "may be fleshed out with reference to state law tort principles." Id.
Although not articulated as such in the amended complaint, the plaintiff essentially argues that this case involves a foster child's substantive due process right to be free from harm at the hands of a foster care institution.