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SPOSTO v. BOROUGH OF DICKSON CITY

December 6, 2005.

DEAN SPOSTO, KEVIN SPOSTO and MILLENNIUM PACKAGING SERVICE, INC., Plaintiffs,
v.
BOROUGH OF DICKSON CITY, ET AL., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. CAPUTO, District Judge

MEMORANDUM

Before me is Defendants Borough of Dickson City ("Borough"), Paul Kwiec, William Stadnitski, and Philip Davitt's (collectively "Defendants") Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 16.) For reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

  The Amended Complaint alleges that the Plaintiffs, Dean Sposto and Kevin Sposto, are the owners of Millennium Packaging Service, Inc. ("Millennium") (collectively "Plaintiffs"), and that Millennium has a facility in Dickson City, Pennsylvania. They allege that they are aligned with the so-called Majority Faction in Dickson City politics. They allege on the other hand, Paul Kwiec is a member of the Minority Faction, and a minority member of Dickson City council, and that William Stadnitski is the Police Chief of Dickson City, and is aligned with the Minority Faction. Phillip Davitt is a patrolman on the Dickson City Police force. Plaintiffs allege that these political alignments and consequent differences of opinion are at the root of the Plaintiffs' claims.

  Plaintiffs allege that they secured a building permit in June, 2004, and that Chief Stadnitski and Patrolman Davitt undertook to investigate whether it was ever issued, and/or whether it was issued properly.*fn1 In addition to writing letters to the Zoning Board of Dickson City, letters were also written to the Department of Labor & Industry of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. At the same time, Chief Stadnitski made statements to the media to the effect that he was investigating a discrepancy in the dates and "we think things have been tampered with but we can't prove it." Councilman Kwiec is alleged to have said [the issuance of the permit] "is one of the crookedest things" and that he "said he found a backdated building permit."

  Plaintiffs also allege that Chief Stadnitski and Patrolman Davitt entered the Plaintiffs' property, despite `no trespassing' signs, and searched the property by riding around the lot and sometimes circling cars in the lot. The Chief and Patrolman Davitt also stopped Plaintiffs' employees as they left the premises and conducted license and registration checks, and sometimes issued citations for minor infractions, most of which were dismissed.

  Plaintiffs allege the foregoing conduct provides the grounds for six claims, viz, Count I — Violation of Plaintiffs' First Amendment Speech and Political Association Rights; Count II — Violation of Plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Rights; Count III — Violation of Pennsylvania Constitution; Count IV — Defamation Under Pennsylvania Law; Count V-Violation of Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment Rights; and, Count VI — Vicarious Liability, Failure to Train, Supervise and Discipline. This matter is now ripe for disposition.

  DISCUSSION

  1. STANDARD OF REVIEW

  a. Motion to Dismiss: Rule 12(b)(6)

  Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting all factual allegations in the complaint as true and "drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor, no relief could be granted under any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. v. Mirage Resorts Inc., 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir. 1998).

  In deciding a motion to dismiss, a court should consider the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint and matters of public record. See Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). The court may also consider "undisputedly authentic" documents where the plaintiff's claims are based on the documents and the defendant has attached a copy of the document to the motion to dismiss. Id. The court need not assume that the plaintiff can prove facts that were not alleged in the complaint, see City of Pittsburgh v. West Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 (3d Cir. 1998), nor credit a complaint's "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions." Morse v. Lower Marion School District, 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).

  When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court's role is limited to determining whether the plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of the claims. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The court does not consider whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See id. In order to survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must set forth information from which each element of a claim may be inferred. See Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). The defendant bears the burden of establishing that the ...


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