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Manolovich v. Park

May 21, 2009

GEORGE M. MANOLOVICH, III, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BETHEL PARK, CLIFFORD MORTIN, MAYOR, BETHEL PARK POLICE DEPARTMENT, JOHN W. MACKEY, CHIEF OF POLICE, AND ERIC M. ANIBALDI, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Terrence F. McVerry United States District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Presently before the Court is the MOTION FOR MORE DEFINITE STATEMENT PURSUANT TO RULE 12(e) AND MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO RULE 12(b)(6), with brief in support, filed by Defendants (Document Nos. 5-1, 5-2 and 6) and the RESPONSE AND MEMORANDUM OF LAW IN OPPOSITION filed by Plaintiff (Document Nos. 7 and 8).

Background

As the law requires, all disputed facts and inferences are resolved in favor of Plaintiff, the non-moving party. The following background is drawn from the Complaint and the factual allegations therein are accepted as true for the purpose of this opinion.

On December 23, 2008, Plaintiff commenced this civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in which he alleges that Defendants violated his Fourth Amendment constitutional rights on or about December 27, 2006, when they conducted an unreasonable search and seizure of his medical records and also violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights to life, liberty, due process, and equal protection. Plaintiff has also brought state law claims for reckless misconduct, negligence and gross negligence.

It appears that only Defendant Eric M. Anibaldi has been sued in both his individual capacity and official capacity as a detective with the Bethel Park Police Department; the remaining Individual Defendants, Clifford Mortin and John W. Mackey, appear to have been sued only in their official capacities as Mayor of the Municipality of Bethel Park and Chief of Police of the Bethel Park Police Department, respectively.*fn1

Defendants have filed the instant Motion for More Definite Statement Pursuant to Rule 12(e) and, in the alternative, Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Defendants contend that the Complaint lacks the factual specificity required under the United States Supreme Court's decision in Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007).

The issues have been fully briefed and are ripe for disposition. After careful review of the filings, the Motion for More Definite Statement will be denied and the Motion to Dismiss will granted in part and denied in part.

Standard of Review

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e), the Court may require a party to cure defects in a vague or ambiguous pleading so as to allow the opposing party to frame a responsive pleading. Rule 12(e) reads, in pertinent part: "A party may move for a more definite statement of a pleading to which a responsive pleading is allowed but which is so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a response. . . . Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e). Generally speaking, "Rule 12(e) motions are disfavored in light of the liberal pleading standards established by Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)." Snyder v. Brownlow, No. 93-5228, 1993 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17569, at *3 (E. D. Pa. Dec. 13, 1993).

Rule 8 sets out the general rule for pleadings. A pleading that states a claim for relief 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). Rule 8 requires a showing, rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief, and " 'contemplates the statement of circumstances, occurrences, and events in support of the claim presented' and does not authorize a pleader's 'bare averment that he wants relief and is entitled to it.' " Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 n. 3 (2007) (quoting 5 Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1202, pp. 94, 95 (3d ed. 2004)). Each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(d). "Pleadings must be construed so as to do justice." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(e).

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the legal sufficiency of the Complaint. "[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Papasan v. Allian, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).

The Court must accept as true all well-pleaded facts and allegations, and must draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in favor of the plaintiff. However, as the Supreme Court made clear in Twombly, the "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. Thus, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. (citations omitted).

However, nothing in Twombly has changed other pleading standards for a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. That is, that the Supreme Court did not impose a new heightened pleading requirement, but reaffirmed that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, not "detailed factual allegations." See Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1964). Second, the Supreme Court did not abolish the Rule 12(b)(6) requirement that "the facts alleged must be taken as true and a complaint may not be dismissed merely because it appears unlikely that the plaintiff can prove those facts or will ultimately prevail on the merits." Phillips, id., (citing Twombly, id. at 1964-65 and 1969 n.8.)

The Court has discretion to treat vague pleadings under either Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e). See 5C C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1376 (3d ed. 2004) ("If the pleading is impermissibly vague, the court may act under Rule 12(b)(6) or Rule 12(e), whichever is appropriate, without regard to how the motion is denominated.").

With these principles in mind, the Court will address the motions filed by Defendants.

Discussion

A. Federal Claims Against Bethel Park ...


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