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Bingaman v. Buhay

March 2, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge McClure



On November 1, 2006, plaintiff Jared R. Bingaman commenced this action by filing a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Christopher J. Buyah and David J. Donkochik, two Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania police officers. Specifically, plaintiff's first two counts allege that he was subjected to an unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, and that the defendants' actions were in retaliation for the exercise of his First Amendment rights. His complaint also alleges common law causes of action for assault (Count III), battery (Count IV), malicious prosecution (Count V), and intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count VI).

On January 8, 2007, defendants filed a partial motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Although phrased as a partial motion to dismiss, defendants actually argue that plaintiff has failed to state a claim with respect to every single count of the complaint. Plaintiff has filed an opposition brief and the time for filing a reply brief has since passed. Now, for the following reasons, we will deny defendants' motion.


I. Motion to Dismiss Standard

When considering a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must view all allegations stated in the complaint as true and construe all inferences in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). In ruling on such a motion, the court primarily considers the allegations of the pleading, but is not required to consider legal conclusions alleged in the complaint. Kost, 1 F.3d at 183. At the motion to dismiss stage, the court considers whether plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence to support the allegations in the complaint. Maio v. Aetna, Inc., 221 F.3d 472, 482 (3d Cir. 2000). A complaint should be dismissed only if the court, from evaluating the allegations in the complaint, is certain that under any set of facts relief cannot be granted. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997); Markowitz v. Northeast Land, Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1994).

The failure-to-state-a-claim standard of Rule 12(b)(6) "streamlines litigation by dispensing with needless discovery and factfinding." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27 (1989). A court may dismiss a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) where there is a "dispositive issue of law." Id. at 326. If it is beyond a doubt that the non-moving party can prove no set of facts in support of its allegations, then a claim must be dismissed "without regard to whether it is based on an outlandish legal theory or on a close but ultimately unavailing one." Id. at 327.

II. Statement of Relevant Allegations

The following allegations are taken from the plaintiff's complaint. On or around November 20, 2004, plaintiff was at a friend's house when the defendants arrived at the house in response to a noise complaint. (Pl.'s Compl, Rec. Doc. No. 1, ¶ 7.) When the defendants arrived, defendant Buhay asked the plaintiff for his name and where he was from. (Id., ¶ 10.) Plaintiff responded sarcastically that he was John Smith and that he was from Shamokin. (Id.) Then, defendant Buhay asked him for some identification. (Id., ¶ 11.) Plaintiff responded by asking multiple times whether he was under arrest. (Id.) Defendant Buhay then put plaintiff in a headlock, dragged him down the porch steps, and placed him face down on the sidewalk. (Id., ¶ 12.) While defendant Buhay held him down on the sidewalk, defendant Donkochik hit him in the legs and ribcage with his night stick. (Id., ¶ 12.) Then, defendant Buhay handcuffed plaintiff, put his finger in plaintiff's eye, and rubbed pepper spray into that same eye. (Id., ¶¶ 13-14.)

Following this incident, defendants charged plaintiff with resisting arrest, simple assault, false identification to law enforcement, harassment and stalking, and public drunkenness. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff alleges that the defendants only brought these charges to cover up their illegal behavior. (Id.) Every charge eventually ended up in an acquittal or a dismissal. (Id., ¶¶ 16-18.). Finally, plaintiff alleges that he suffered from severe emotional distress from this incident. (Id., ¶ 41.)

III. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

Defendants' motion to dismiss takes issue with each count alleged by the defendant. Therefore, we will analyze each count and determine whether it states ...

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