Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Savokinas v. Borough of Avoca

June 27, 2008

MICHAEL SAVOKINAS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BOROUGH OF AVOCA, AND EDWARD LUKOWICH, IN HIS OWN INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendant Borough of Avoca's motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 12.)

Defendant's motion will be granted in part and denied in part. Plaintiff's claims for Pennsylvania remedies for federal constitutional violations in Counts I and II will be dismissed because Pennsylvania remedies are not applicable. The motion to dismiss with respect to Counts I and II will be denied because the Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged federal municipal liability of Defendant Borough of Avoca. The motion to dismiss with respect to Counts III and IV will be granted to the extent that Plaintiff seeks monetary damages against Defendant Borough of Avoca in these Counts because Avoca is immune from damages under the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act. The motion to dismiss with respect to Counts III and IV will be denied to the extent that Plaintiff seeks equitable relief in these Counts because Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged municipal liability under state law. The motion to dismiss with respect to Count V will be denied because Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged the elements of a cause of action for failure to train.

Finally, Plaintiff's claims for punitive damages against Defendant Avoca in Counts I, II, and V will be dismissed because, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, punitive damages may not be recovered from municipalities.

The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367 ("federal question and supplemental jurisdiction").

BACKGROUND

The facts as alleged in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint are as follows.

Plaintiff, Michael Savokinas, a resident of Luzerne County, was previously employed as a Police Officer for Defendant Borough of Avoca ("Avoca"), a Commonwealth municipality. (Am. Compl., Doc. 3. ¶¶ 1-2.) Defendant Avoca also employed Defendant Edward Lukowich as Chief of Police. (Id. ¶ 3.) In December 2005, Plaintiff told Defendant Avoca that Defendant Lukowich was involved in corrupt, illegal conduct as Police Chief of Avoca. (Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Avoca refused to exercise its power to act upon this information, after which Lukowich began to harass Plaintiff and make knowingly false accusations against him. (Id. ¶¶ 8-10, 12, 30.)

In fabricating the accusations, Defendant Lukowich attempted to intimidate citizens into making false criminal accusations against Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff alleges that this conduct was revenge by Defendant Lukowich in response to Plaintiff "blowing the whistle" on his corrupt activity. (Id. ¶ 12.) In January 2006, as a result of Defendant Avoca's inaction and Lukowich's fabricated charges, Plaintiff was allegedly forced to resign from the Avoca Police Department. (Id. ¶ 11.) Prior to Defendant Lukowich's false statements, Plaintiff had a reputation for honesty, and the statements accusing him of illegal drug trafficking caused him to lose his reputation and employment and to be subjected to ridicule, hatred, and emotional anguish. (Id. ¶¶ 26, 32-34.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Avoca failed to train its employees to not retaliate against other employees for exercising their freedom of speech. (Id. ¶ 39.)

On December 26, 2007, Plaintiff filed a Complaint. (Doc. 1.) On January 1, 2008, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. (Doc. 3.) On January 30, 2008, Defendant Avoca filed the present motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint. (Doc. 12.) 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 as true all the facts alleged in the complaint, Plaintiff has not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. ----, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1960, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), meaning, enough factual allegations "to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" each necessary element. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. Ct. App. 2008); see also Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. Ct. App. 1993) (requiring complaint to set forth information from which each element of a claim may be inferred). In light of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), the statement need only "give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, --- U.S. ----, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) (per curiam). "[T]he factual detail in a complaint [must not be] so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232; see also Airborne Beepers & Video, Inc. V. AT&T Mobility LLC, 499 F.3d 663, 667 (7th Cir. Ct. App. 2007).

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the 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. Ct. Ap. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1042 (1994). 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. Ct. App. 1998), nor credit a complaints "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions." Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. Ct. App. 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. The defendant bears the burden of establishing that the plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Gould Elecs. Inc., v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. Ct. App. 2000).

DISCUSSION

I. Pennsylvania Remedies for Federal Law Claims

In Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, Counts I and II, alleging First Amendment retaliation and abuse of official power, are raised under42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 15, 19, Doc. 3.) These are federal law claims; however, Plaintiff seeks remedies under Pennsylvania law. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.