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Viola v. Village of Throop

August 2, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley


Before the court is defendants' motion to dismiss and for a more definite statement of (Doc. 2) the plaintiff's complaint. Having been fully briefed and argued, the matter is ripe for disposition.


Plaintiff Eric Viola was a police officer for the Village of Throop, where he worked for six years. (Complaint (Doc. 1) (hereinafter "Complt.") at ¶ 10). He was previously an officer for the Borough of Dunmore, working there for nine years. (Id. at ¶ 11). According to the plaintiff's complaint, on May 19, 2006 Officer Viola "testified at a hearing concerning family relationships." (Id. at ¶ 13). Village Mayor Stanley Lukowski, Police Chief Neil Furiosi and Councilman Tony Chazan attended this hearing. (Id. at ¶ 14). These officials had no purpose for being at the hearing. (Id.). They were witnesses for neither party. (Id.). Chief Furiosi transported the petitioner in the case to the courthouse "to pursue the issues being addressed against one of his own men, Officer Viola." (Id.).

Officer Viola prevailed in this hearing. (Id. at ¶ 15). Within seven days, however, "Officer Viola became the victim of an alleged investigation." (Id. at ¶ 16). This investigation resulted in an indefinite suspension for the plaintiff. (Id. at ¶ 17). He was not shown the evidence against him or given an opportunity to respond. (Id.). As a result of the suspension, he lost wages and benefits. (Id. at ¶ 18). In late June 2006 Officer Viola filed a grievance over this suspension. (Id. at ¶ 19). On July 14, 2006, Officer Viola received another ten-day suspension from work, which the plaintiff contends was issued in retaliation for his filing a grievance. (Id. at ¶ 20).

The plaintiff brought this suit in state court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his rights under the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Count one of the complaint alleges violations of Viola's "constitutional right to be free from injury to reputation" as well as due process and equal protection violations. Count two alleges retaliation for plaintiff's exercise of his right to petition by grievance. Count three alleges a violation of plaintiff's "constitutional right to be free from governmental interference with family relationships," state law invasion of privacy claims, and a complaint about publicity given to his private life. Count IV raises a failure to train complaint, alleging that Defendant Throop did not "train its employees and agents not to voluntarily interfere and/or assist in matters of familial relations." (Id. at ¶ 31). These allegations include failure to train employees in the need to provide plaintiff with due process rights before suspending him, and not to retaliate against employees who exercised their rights. (Id. at ¶ 32). Plaintiff also alleges that the defendants failed to have adequate polices in place to prevent such conduct. All of the claims are raised against all of the defendants, and each seeks in excess of $30,000. The defendants removed this case to federal court on September 28, 2006.

On October 5, 2006 defendants filed a motion to dismiss (Doc. 2). The motion seeks dismissal of Counts I and IV for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and dismissal of the complaint against the individual defendants in their official capacities. The motion also seeks a more definite pleading on Count III, which alleges violation of privacy rights and interfering with family relationships. The parties then filed briefs on the matter, bringing the case to its present posture.


As this case is brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. for unlawful employment discrimination, we have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."). We have supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

Legal Standard

The case is before this court in part on a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). When a 12(b)(6) motion is filed, the sufficiency of a complaint's allegations are tested. The issue is whether the facts alleged in the complaint, if true, support a claim upon which relief can be granted. In deciding a 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and give the pleader the benefit of all reasonable inferences that can fairly be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).

Defendants also filed a motion for a more definite pleading pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e). Rule 12(e) establishes that "[i]f a pleading to which a responsive pleading is permitted is so vague or ambiguous that a party cannot reasonably be required to frame a responsive pleading, the party may move for a more definitive statement before interposing a responsive pleading." FED. R. CIV. P. 12(e). Such motions are "directed to the rare case where because of the vagueness or ambiguity of the pleading the answering party will not be able to frame a responsive pleading." Schadler v. Eagle Publications, Inc., 370 F.2d 795, 798 (3d Cir. 1967); see also Pitcavage v. Mastercraft Boat Co., 632 F. Supp. 842, 850 (M.D. Pa. 1985).


Defendants have moved for dismissal of plaintiff's claims on a variety of grounds. We ...

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