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IRVIN v. BOROUGH OF DARBY

September 9, 1996

RENIQUE E. IRVIN, Plaintiff,
v.
BOROUGH OF DARBY, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOYNER

 Joyner, J.

 September 9, 1996

 Plaintiff Renique E. Irvin ("Irvin") has brought this federal question action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 against Defendants Borough of Darby, Darby Borough Police Department, ("Darby Police"), and Police Officers Collins, Kramer and Silberstein, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("section 1983"). Plaintiff also asserts pendent tort claims.

 In her complaint, plaintiff alleges false arrest, wrongful imprisonment, malicious prosecution, conspiracy, deceit, intentional violation of civil rights and defamation on the part of defendants. In response, defendants have jointly moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), or in the alternative, for a more definite statement, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e).

 BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff Irvin is a black, female employee of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority ("SEPTA"). In her complaint, Irvin alleges that on January 1, 1996, during the course of her employment, while operating a SEPTA trolley, a Darby police car approached suddenly and without warning, pulled in front of the moving SEPTA trolley. The plaintiff further alleges that she triggered an emergency stop to avoid hitting the police vehicle. The emergency stop caused the trolley's horn to sound and at that point, one of the Darby police officers, becoming enraged, jumped out of the police car and began banging on the SEPTA driver's window. The officer then began to yell profanities and epithets at plaintiff and told her that she was under arrest for sounding her horn. She was then ordered to get off the trolley. Plaintiff refused to comply with the police officer's request and stated that SEPTA policy required her to stay on the trolley until a supervisor arrived on the scene. Plaintiff further alleges that it took twenty minutes for her supervisor to arrive and that during that time, the officer continued to abuse and threaten her.

 Once the supervisor arrived, plaintiff was taken to the police station where she was charged with disorderly conduct and later released into the custody of a SEPTA supervisor. Plaintiff also alleges that during her detention at the police station, racial slurs were continuously made by the arresting police officer.

 On May 20, 1996 a warrant was issued for plaintiff's arrest and she appeared in Court and posted a bond for her release. Plaintiff was scheduled for trial on August 1, 1996 at the Darby Borough District Court.

 The complaint contains two counts. The first count alleges that defendants were negligent and reckless in their arrest and prosecution of plaintiff and that as a result, plaintiff suffered, and continues to suffer, emotional and physical distress, humiliation, and embarrassment. Plaintiff also alleges that she was defamed. She seeks damages in excess of one hundred thousand dollars, including attorney's fees, interest, and costs.

 The second count of the complaint alleges that plaintiff's arrest and prosecution were motivated by racial and gender-based animus in violation of her civil rights, and that the Darby government and police have a long history of racial and sexual discrimination which has been officially condoned. With regard to this count, plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages for emotional and physical distress, humiliation, embarrassment and defamation.

 Defendants' first motion is to dismiss plaintiff's complaint and they make several arguments in support of this motion.

 Defendants first argue that plaintiff's section 1983 claims should be dismissed because (a) section 1983 liability cannot be imposed on a municipal agency (b) allegations of negligence alone are insufficient for a section 1983 claim (c) plaintiff's false arrest claim under section 1983 is premature (d) plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim under section 1983 requires plaintiff to prove a favorable termination of the criminal proceeding against her and (e) punitive damages may not be assessed against a municipal defendant under section 1983. In addition, defendants also argue that plaintiff's pendent tort claims should be dismissed because defendants are immune from liability under Pennsylvania statutory law.

 In the alternative, defendants' second motion is for a more definite statement. In particular, defendants request that plaintiff identify the arresting officer who allegedly committed the misconduct described in the complaint, and that plaintiff describe any alleged misconduct on the part of the other two officers. Both of defendant's motions are resolved in this memorandum.

 DISCUSSION

 I. MOTION TO DISMISS

 When considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12 (b)(6), the complaint's allegations must be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. The court must accept as true all of the plaintiff's factual allegations and draw all reasonable inferences from them. Schrob v. Catterson, 948 F.2d 1402, 1405 (3d Cir. 1991). Thus, the court will grant a Rule 12(b)(6) motion only if the facts and reasonable inferences therefrom are legally insufficient and it is clear that the plaintiff cannot prove any facts upon which relief could be granted. Commonwealth ex. Rel. Zimmerman v. Pepsico, Inc., 836 F.2d 173, 175 (3d Cir. 1988). The court will apply this standard to each of the claims discussed below.

 1. Section 1983 Claims

 With respect to plaintiff's section 1983 claims, defendants make five arguments. First, defendants claim that the Darby Police must be dismissed from this action since municipal agencies cannot be sued under section 1983. Second, defendants claim that Count I must be dismissed in its entirety because there is no liability under section 1983 for negligence. Third, defendants claim that plaintiff's false arrest claim is premature. Fourth, defendants argue that plaintiff must wait until the criminal charges against her have terminated in her favor before she may bring a claim for malicious prosecution. Finally, defendants request that ...


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