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Hall v. Raech

March 25, 2009

STEPHEN HALL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL RAECH, JEFFREY GIANNINI, CITY OF COATESVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT, AND VALLEY TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPARTMENT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yohn, J.

Memorandum and Order

Plaintiff brings this civil rights action against defendants Michael Raech, Jeffrey Giannini, City of Coatesville Police Department ("Coatesville"), and Valley Township Police Department ("Valley Township").*fn1 Presently before the court are a motion to dismiss Counts I, III, V, VII, IX, and plaintiff's punitive damages demand filed by Raech and Coatesville (Doc. No. 10) and a motion to dismiss counts II, IV, VI, X, and plaintiff's punitive damages demand filed by Giannini and Valley Township (Doc. No. 8). Both motions seek dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a cause of action upon which relief may be granted. For the reasons that follow, I will grant in part and deny in part defendants' motions.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Hall makes the following allegations in his Complaint, which the court must accept as true for purposes of a motion to dismiss. Hall suffers from type I diabetes, a condition that due to its severity requires Hall to travel with an insulin pump at all times. (Compl. ¶ 9.) On July 21, 2007, Hall attended his son's birthday party. (Id. ¶ 10.) Prior to departing in his vehicle, Hall tested his blood sugar level and found that it was within a healthy range. (Id. ¶ 11.) Soon after Hall left the party, however, he experienced a sudden diabetic episode, commonly known as insulin shock. (Id. ¶ 12.) The diabetic episode caused confusion, blurred vision, and minor trembling. (Id. ¶ 13.) As he approached his home, Hall abruptly turned his vehicle around. (Id. ¶ 14.) During this maneuver, Hall backed his vehicle into a telephone pole. (Id.) Hall then drove two blocks past his home. (Id.) At this time, Hall stopped the vehicle and drank a soft drink in an effort to stabilize his blood sugar levels. (Id.)

A local resident witnessed Hall back into the telephone pole and called Coatesville to report the incident. (Id. ¶ 15.) Coatesville dispatched Raech to the scene and requested assistance from Valley Township, which dispatched Giannini. (Id. ¶ 16.) When the officers arrived they found Hall sitting in his parked vehicle. (Id. ¶ 17.) Giannini approached Hall and asked that he turn off and exit the vehicle. (Id. ¶ 18.) Though he had already removed the key from the vehicle's ignition, Hall stated that he did not have the key.(Id.) Hall also attempted to explain that he was suffering from a diabetic episode, for which he had a medical bag with blood testing equipment and glucose gel packs on the passenger seat. (Id. ¶¶ 20, 22.) Hall also had a large medical alert decal attached to his vehicle's windshield. (Id. ¶ 21.) Despite Hall's explanation, visible medical bag, and medical alert decal, the officers pulled Hall from his vehicle, jumped on his back, punched and kicked his ribs, legs, and stomach, violently pulled his arms behind him, and placed Hall in handcuffs. (Id. ¶¶ 23-25.) Once detained, the officers forced Hall to sit on the side of the road. (Id. ¶ 25.) During this time, Hall asked the officers if he could test his blood sugar levels with the medical equipment sitting in plain view on his front seat. (Id. ¶ 27.) After approximately eight to ten minutes, Raech located the medical equipment in Hall's vehicle and called for an ambulance. (Id. ¶ 26.) When the paramedics arrived, Hall was treated for both his low blood sugar and for the wounds inflicted by the officers when they pulled Hall from his vehicle. (Id. ¶ 28.) After Hall's blood sugar stabilized, the paramedics left. (Id. ¶ 29.) The officers also left, without charging Hall. (Id. ¶ 30.) As a result of this encounter, Hall has suffered severe injuries, which require ongoing treatment. (Id. ¶ 31-32.)

Hall filed his Complaint against defendants on October 22, 2008. The Complaint asserts ten counts: (I)-(II) unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitutionand Article 1, §§8 and 26 of the Pennsylvania Constitution against Raech and Giannini respectively;(III)-(IV) unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitutionand Article 1, §§8 and 26 of the Pennsylvania Constitution against Raech and Giannini respectively; (V)-(VI) intentional infliction of emotional distress against Raech and Giannini respectively; (VII)-(VIII) assault and battery against Raech and Giannini respectively; and (IX)-(X) failure to train in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, § 26 of the Pennsylvania Constitution against Coatesville and Valley Township respectively. Hall seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney fees, costs, and interest.

On December 16, 2008, Giannini and Valley Township jointly filed a motion to dismiss Counts II, IV, VI, X, and Hall's punitive damages demand for failure to state a cause of action upon which relief may be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). On December 22, 2008, Raech and Coatesville jointly filed a motion to dismiss Counts I, III, V, VII, IX, and Hall's punitive damages demand for failure to state a cause of action upon which relief may be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Hall responded to both motions.

II. Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint.*fn2 Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). When evaluating a motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations of fact in the plaintiff's complaint, and must view any reasonable inferences that may be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008); Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996).

The complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief[.]" Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). This statement must "'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. 1964-65(citations and alterations omitted). Furthermore, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Id. at 1965 (citations and footnote omitted); see also Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232.

III. Discussion*fn3

A. Official Capacity

Plaintiff seeks to recover against Raech and Giannini in both their individual and official capacities. "Since official-capacity suits generally represent only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent," Monell v. Dept. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 n.55 (1978), it is appropriate to dismiss the claims against the individual in his official capacity and retain them against the real party in interest. See Gregory v. Chehi, 843 F.2d 111, 120 (3d Cir. 1988) (citing Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-66 (1985)) (reasoning that claims raised against local officials "in their official capacities, are only a duplication of the counts against the Township itself"); McCachren v. Blacklick Valley Sch. Dist., 217 F. Supp. 2d 594, 599 (W.D. Pa. 2002) (dismissing official capacity actions for this reason in case involving claims under the IDEA, the Rehabilitation Act, § 1983, and the Fourteenth Amendment); Mitros v. Cooke, 170 F. Supp. 2d 504, 506 (E.D. Pa. 2001) (finding in a case involving a borough police officer that "[w]here a suit is brought against a public officer in his official capacity, the suit is treated as if the suit were brought against the governmental entity" for which the officer works).

I therefore will dismiss all claims against defendants Raech and Giannini in there official capacities and retain those same claims against the real parties in ...


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