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Sanford v. City of Scranton

November 7, 2006

GREGORY AND MICHELLE SANFORD, H/W, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF SCRANTON, SCRANTON POLICE DEP'T, OFFICER JOHN O'ROURKE, OFFICER JESSIE ROMANCHICK, OFFICER THOMAS MCDONALD, OFFICER DONALD HOFSUMMER, OFFICER ROBERT STELMAK, AND OFFICER JOSEPH HARRIS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendants City of Scranton and the Scranton Police Department's Motion to Dismiss the Plaintiffs' Complaint. (Doc. 15.) For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Dismiss will be granted. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.*fn1

BACKGROUND

The facts as alleged in Plaintiffs' Complaint are as follows.

Plaintiffs were members of a group tour run by the company Adventures Unlimited. (Doc. 1 ¶ 10.) The tour group arrived at the Hilton Scranton & Conference Center ("the Hilton") on Friday, February 17, 2006, and were assigned a block of rooms on the fifth floor. (Doc. 1 ¶ 13.)

At or around 9:30 p.m. on February 18, 2006, Plaintiffs were in the hallway on the fifth floor of the Hilton along with fellow group members Kimm Jones and his wife, Christine Jones-Combs. (Doc. 1 ¶ 15.) At that time, Plaintiffs and Mr. and Mrs. Jones were approached by hotel manager Paul Scimes and another hotel employee, and were asked where "the brawl" was located on their floor. (Doc. 1 ¶ 16.) In response, Plaintiff Gregory Sanford informed the manager that he did not hear any noise and assured the manager that there was no fight or brawl on the floor. (Doc. 1 ¶ 17.)

Shortly thereafter, two police officers entered the fifth floor hallway and began inquiring about the location of the fight. (Doc. 1 ¶ 18.) Plaintiff Gregory Sanford assured these police officers that there was no fight on the floor. (Doc. 1 ¶ 19.) A few minutes later, four additional police officers, accompanied by a black K-9 dog, arrived on the floor. (Doc. 1 ¶ 19.) These officers approached Mr. Sanford and began pointing their fingers in his face, shouting loudly and demanding identification, which Mr. Sanford produced. (Doc. 1 ¶ 20.)

The police officers then pushed Plaintiff Gregory Sanford against the hallway wall. (Doc. 1 ¶ 21.) Immediately afterwards, a guest in room 502 opened her door and Plaintiff Gregory Sanford ducked into that room. (Doc. 1 ¶ 22.) At or about the same time, Kimm Jones responded to the police officers' actions by stating that "none of this is necessary" and asked the police officers why a K-9 dog was present. (Doc. 1 ¶ 23.) Mr. Jones was told Mr. Jones to "shut up" and that the dog was "trained to bite". (Doc. 1 ¶ 24.) Mr. Jones was then pushed up against the wall and handcuffed. (Doc. 1 ¶ 25.)

A short time later, Plaintiff Gregory Sanford left room 502 and proceeded to enter his own room. (Doc. 1 ¶ 27.) The police officers followed him, knocked on his door, and requested entry. (Doc. 1 ¶ 28.) Plaintiff Gregory Sanford admitted the police officers. (Doc. 1 ¶ 29.) He was then told that he must leave the hotel within thirty (30) minutes or face arrest. (Doc. 1 ¶ 29.)

At this point, Mr. Jones was escorted in handcuffs from the elevator through the front lobby of the Hilton, and was placed into a police cruiser outside. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 32-33.) Christine Jones-Combs was also escorted by the police officers out of the hotel, where she was told that her husband would be issued a citation for disorderly conduct. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 32, 34.)

On April 7, 2006, Plaintiffs filed their Complaint against Defendants City of Scranton, the Scranton Police Department, and six "John Doe" police officers. (Doc. 1.) Defendants City of Scranton and the Scranton Police Department (hereinafter "the Municipal Defendants") filed their Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint on May 11, 2006. (Doc. 15.) A Brief in Support of this Motion to Dismiss was filed by the Municipal Defendants on May 22, 2006. (Doc. 18.) Plaintiffs filed a Brief in Opposition on June 6, 2006. (Doc. 22.) Defendants filed their Reply Brief on June 30, 2006. (Doc. 25.) On September 29, 2006, the Court issued an Order amending the caption of the case to replace the unnamed "John Doe" Defendants with the names of the now identified officers (hereinafter collectively referred to as "the Officer Defendants"). (Doc. 37.)

This motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARD

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 ...


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