The opinion of the court was delivered by: ARTHUR SCHWAB, District Judge
Defendants City of Farrell, Pennsylvania, Southwest Mercer
County Regional Police Department ["Police Department"], Police
Officer John Rococci of that Police Department, Mercer County,
Lowell Williams, and James P. Epstein bring motions to dismiss
Chadwick D. Pepiton's civil rights complaint (documents nos. 7,
11, 13). After careful consideration of defendants' motions and
plaintiff's stipulation of dismissal as to most of his claims,
this Court will dismiss Counts III, IV, V, and VI in their
entirety and Counts I, II, and VII in part.*fn1 II. Statement of Facts
The following facts appear in a light most favorable to the
Plaintiff alleges that on May 3, 2003, he was pulled over for
driving a motor vehicle with an expired inspection sticker.
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Rococci pointed his weapon at
Plaintiff and unlawfully arrested him. Plaintiff alleges that
Defendant Rococci used excessive force in the carrying out the
arrest, and claims that he suffered a fractured right wrist, a
fractured left arm which required immediate surgery, and numerous
contusions and abrasions as a result.
At the ensuing pretrial hearing, defendant Williams, the Public
Defender for Mercer County, was appointed as plaintiff's defense
attorney, while defendant Epstein was prosecuting the case for
the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, acting in his official capacity
as District Attorney for Mercer County. Plaintiff claims that
prior to his preliminary hearing, defendants Rococci, Epstein,
and Williams held a meeting at the local magistrate judge's
office and conspired to bring false charges against plaintiff so
that he would not file suit against defendant Rococci and the
Police Department. Plaintiff claims defendant Williams instructed
Plaintiff to plead guilty to the charges which, he claims,
Williams knew were false. Plaintiff claims he was unaware of the
alleged back-room conversation and followed his attorney's advice
and pleaded guilty. Following the preliminary hearing, plaintiff
was convicted and placed on one year probation. III. Standards
In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule
12(b)(6), the Court accepts the well-pleaded factual allegations
of the complaint as true, and draws all reasonable inferences
therefrom in favor of the plaintiff. Armstrong Surgical Center,
Inc. v. Armstrong County Memorial Hospital, 185 F.3d 154, 155
(3d Cir. 1999). A claim should not be dismissed for failure to
state a claim unless it appears beyond a doubt that the
non-moving party can prove no set of facts in support of its
allegations which would entitle it to relief. Conley v. Gibson,
355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); Marshall-Silver Construction Co. v.
Mendel, 894 F.2d 593, 595 (3d Cir. 1990).
In making this determination, the court must construe the
pleading in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.
Budinsky v. Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Resources,
819 F.2d 418, 421 (3d Cir. 1987). Further, the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure require notice pleading, not fact pleading, so to
withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the plaintiff "need only make
out a claim upon which relief can be granted. If more facts are
necessary to resolve or clarify the disputed issues, the parties
may avail themselves of the civil discovery mechanisms under the
Federal Rules." Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 233 n. 6 (3d
Cir. 2004), quoting Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, N.A., 534 U.S. 506,
512 (2002) ("This simplified notice pleading standard relies on
liberal discovery rules . . . to define facts and issues and to
dispose of unmeritorious claims.").
Viewed in the light of the forgoing liberal pleading standards,
this Court simply cannot say, at this early stage of the
proceedings, that plaintiff will be able to state no set of facts
in support of his Fourth Amendment claim for excessive force against
defendant Rococci at Count I, his Fourth Amendment claim against
defendants Rococci, the Police Department and City of Farrell at
Count II, and his Pennsylvania common law battery claim against
defendant Rococci at Count VII. This Court will dismiss Counts
III, IV, V, VI in their entirety and Counts I, II, and VII in
part, with prejudice.
Count I: Constitutional Claims Relating to the Lawfulness of
Plaintiff's Criminal Conviction Fail as a Matter Of Law
Plaintiff alleges deprivation of constitutional rights,
privileges, and immunities guaranteed by the Fourth, Sixth, and
Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and
brings his civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. No cause
of action exists under section 1983, however, for claims that
call into question the lawfulness of a plaintiff's conviction.
The Supreme Court has held that section 1983 claims which
expressly or implicitly challenge the lawfulness of a plaintiff's
conviction must be dismissed pursuant to Heck v. Humphrey,
512 U.S. 477 (1994). The only constitutional claim alleged in Claim I
which does not imply the invalidity of plaintiff's conviction
is the Fourth Amendment claim against Defendant Rococci relating
to the use of excessive force.
Accordingly, the Court will dismiss plaintiff's Sixth and
Fourteenth Amendment claims against defendant Rococci, pursuant
to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. The only claim in Count I to survive is
the Fourth Amendment claim against defendant Rococci related to
the use of excessive force. Count II: Constitutional Claims Relating to the Lawfulness of
Plaintiff's Criminal Conviction Fail as a Matter Of Law
Plaintiff alleges a conspiracy and violation of constitutional
rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments under a theory
of respondeat superior liability. Complaint ¶ 69. However, a
section 1983 claim against a governmental entity under a theory
of respondeat superior, will not lie. Monell v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978). A municipality cannot be held
liable solely as an employer, because there is no respondeat
superior theory of municipal liability in section 1983 actions.
Id. Plaintiff's claims under respondeat superior therefore
fail against defendants Police Department and City of Farrell.
Plaintiff agrees to the dismissal of these claims pursuant to
Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Therefore, the
Court will dismiss plaintiff's claims under respondeat superior
liability against these defendants pursuant to ...