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Goodwin v. Moyer

March 29, 2006

PERLE C. GOODWIN, PLAINTIFF
v.
STEVEN MOYER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Jones

Magistrate Judge Mannion

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

THE BACKGROUND OF THIS ORDER IS AS FOLLOWS:

Plaintiff Perle C. Goodwin ("Plaintiff" or "Goodwin") commenced this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on April 18, 2005, by filing a complaint against Defendants Steven Moyer, superintendent of the Tunkhannock Area School District ("School District"), Karen Delancey, director of transportation of the School District, Tunkhannock Area Board of Directors ("Board of Directors"), and Husband, the owner and operator of Forward Transportation/Husband's Trucking (collectively "Defendants"). (Rec. Doc. 1).

This case was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Malachy E. Mannion for preliminary review. On March 2, 2006, the Magistrate Judge prepared a report wherein he recommended that: Defendant Husband's Motion to Dismiss (doc. 26) be granted with respect to count one, Plaintiff's counts two through six be dismissed against Defendant Husband for lack of jurisdiction; Defendants Moyer's, Delancey's, and Board of Directors' Motion to Dismiss (doc. 9) be granted with respect to Plaintiff's substantive due process and invasion of privacy claims in count one; Defendants Moyer's, Delancey's, and Board of Directors' Motion to Dismiss be denied regarding Plaintiff's procedural due process claim in count one; and their Motion be granted with respect to Plaintiff's counts two through six.

On March 20, 2006, Defendants Moyer, Delancey, and Board of Directors filed objections to the Magistrate Judge's report and on March 21, 2006, Plaintiff filed objections to the report. The resolution of such objections will form the basis of this narrative.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On April 18, 2005, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in which he alleges that Defendants, in their individual and official capacities, separately and in concert invaded his privacy in violation of the Fourth Amendment and deprived him of substantive and procedural due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants are liable for conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, interference with a contractual relationship, wrongful discharge, and invasion of privacy in violation of Pennsylvania law. On May 16, 2005, Plaintiff amended his complaint against all Defendants, which reiterates the claims, legal arguments, and seeks the same relief as the original complaint, but makes three factual changes. (See Rec. Docs. 1, 7).

Defendants Moyer, Delancey, and Board of Directors filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint on June 20, 2005, which has been fully briefed. As Defendant Husband, acting pro se, failed to respond to the complaint, the Court entered default against him on October 7, 2005; however, on November 8, 2005, the Magistrate Judge set aside the entry of default. (Rec. Docs, 20, 25). Defendant Husband subsequently filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint on November 18, 2005, which has been briefed by the parties. The Motions are therefore ripe for disposition.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants are liable in their individual and official capacities for violating his civil rights under the United States Constitution and Pennsylvania law because they invaded his privacy by installing a video camera on Plaintiff's school bus and deprived him of substantive and procedural due process of law by circumscribing and then terminating his employment as a bus driver without a hearing. As the Magistrate Judge accurately submits, Plaintiff's theory of liability is premised upon the following facts he submits, which the Court must accept as true at this juncture, for the purpose of considering Motions to Dismiss.

Plaintiff was employed as a school bus driver by Defendant Husband's company, Forward Transportation/Husband's Trucking, which contracted with the School District to provide school bus service. Plaintiff's school bus was equipped with a video camera, which Defendants allegedly installed "individually, jointly and severally" and "with the knowledge, concurrence and approval of the individual defendants." (Rec. Doc. 7). On June 6, 2003, Plaintiff drove bus number 20 and Defendant Husband was on the bus to show Plaintiff the route because he had not previously driven that route. After delivering the children on that date, Plaintiff received a letter from Defendant Delancey informing him that "he had let a little girl walk from the mini-mart on Route 292 to her home in a trailer park." Id. Defendants Moyer and Delancey met with Plaintiff concerning the incident. Defendant Delancey sent Plaintiff a letter informing him that he was authorized only to drive bus number 48 and "the late run two times a week." On June 10, 2003, Defendant Delancey sent Plaintiff a letter informing him that, after discussing the issue with Defendant Moyer, he was not approved to be a full-time driver for the 2003-2004 school year. In addition, if Plaintiff were ever to be used as a substitute bus driver, the School District administration would first have to approve the use.

On or about November 3, 2004, Plaintiff requested a hearing concerning his employment before the Board of Directors; however, he received no response. Plaintiff contends that the School Code mandates a hearing before a bus driver can be dismissed or terminated. This refers to the Public School Code, 24 P.S. § 5-514, which provides the following:

The board of school directors in any school district . . . shall after due notice, giving the reasons therefor, and after hearing if demanded, have the right at any time to remove any of its officers, employees, or appointees for incompetency, intemperance, neglect of duty, violation of any of the school laws of this Commonwealth, or other improper conduct.

Plaintiff contends that he was an appointee of the School District and accordingly entitled to due process under the Public School Code.

Plaintiff's amended complaint consists of six counts against Defendants: 42 U.S.C. § 1983, conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, interference with a contractual relationship, wrongful discharge, and invasion of privacy. On each count, Plaintiff seeks relief against Defendants "individually, jointly and severally" in the form of compensatory and punitive damages in excess of eighty thousand dollars.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

In considering a motion to dismiss, a court must accept the veracity of a plaintiff's allegations. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); White v. Napoleon, 897 F.2d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 1990). In Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996), our Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit explained that when considering a motion to dismiss based upon a failure to state a claim argument, a court should "not inquire whether the plaintiffs will ultimately prevail, only whether they are entitled to offer evidence to support their claims." Additionally, "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); see District Council 47 v. Bradley, 795 F.2d 310, 313 (3d Cir. 1986).

When objections are filed to a report of a magistrate judge, we make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge to which there are objections. See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667 (1980); see also 28 U.S.C. ยง 636(b)(1); Local Rule 72.3l. Furthermore, district judges have wide discretion as to how they treat recommendations of a magistrate judge. See id. Indeed, in providing for a de novo review determination rather than a de novo hearing, Congress intended to permit whatever reliance a district judge, in the exercise of sound discretion, chooses to place on ...


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