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Pugh v. Chester Downs and Marina

July 27, 2009

STANLEY A. PUGH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHESTER DOWNS AND MARINA, LLC, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.

MEMORANDUM

There are two motions pending before the Court. First, Defendants Chester Downs and Marina, LLC ("Chester Downs") and Dennis Dougherty ("Dougherty") filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's second amended complaint (doc. no. 22), arguing that Plaintiff failed to state: (1) federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging constitutional violations [Counts I - IV]; and (2) a state law claim for malicious prosecution [Count VI]. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion to dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part. It will be granted to the extent that Defendants seek to dismiss Plaintiff's Section 1983 claims [Counts I - IV] against Defendant Dougherty. It will be denied to the extent that Defendants seek to dismiss Plaintiff's state law claim for malicious prosecution [Count VI] against Defendant Dougherty.

Second, Defendant Gary Onick ("Onick") filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's second amended complaint (doc. no. 18), arguing that Plaintiff failed to state a Section 1983 conspiracy claim against Defendant Onick. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion to dismiss will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Stanley A. Pugh filed suit against Chester Downs, Dougherty, and Onick, (collectively "Defendants"), alleging the following constitutional violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983: conspiracy, excessive force, malicious prosecution, and false arrest/ imprisonment. In addition, Plaintiff alleges Pennsylvania state law claims for assault and battery, false arrest/ imprisonment, malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress, as applied to Defendant Dougherty. Finally, Plaintiff alleges a claim for respondeat superior, as applied to Defendant Chester Downs.

Plaintiff is an adult citizen of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Defendant Chester Downs is a limited liability corporation, existing under the laws of Pennsylvania. Defendant Chester Downs owns and operates Harrah's Chester Casino and Racetrack. Defendant Dougherty is an adult individual, employed as the security shift manager at Harrah's Chester Casino. Defendant Onick is a Pennsylvania State trooper and pursuant to an agreement between Defendant Chester Downs and Pennsylvania State Police, Defendant Onick was assigned to work at Harrah's Chester Casino.*fn1

According to Plaintiff, the facts supporting these allegations are as follows. On May 10, 2007, Plaintiff and his fiancée, Adrienne Cropp, were playing the slot machines at Harrah's Chester Casino when Defendant Dougherty approached Plaintiff and asked him to leave the casino. (Pl.'s 2d. amd. compl., ¶¶ 7, 12). Plaintiff inquired as to why he was forced to leave; Defendant Dougherty did not provide a response. (Id. at ¶¶ 12, 13). Defendants Dougherty and Onick escorted Plaintiff out of the casino and "began, in concert, to physically assault and batter plaintiff, taking him to the ground and spraying him with mace." (Id. at ¶ 15).

Plaintiff was taken to a holding room where Defendant Onick arrested him and then "severely assaulted and battered plaintiff, without provocation... causing numerous injuries about his face, ears, head, body, shoulder, and limbs." (Id. at ¶ 17). Plaintiff was charged with terroristic threats with intent to terrorize, simple assault and resisting arrest. (Id. at ¶ 17). Plaintiff was released twelve hours later, after bail was posted. (Id. at ¶ 18). Plaintiff was acquitted on all charges at jury trial. (Id. at ¶ 21).

II. MOTIONS TO DISMISS (Doc. nos. 22 and 18)

A. Legal Standard

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." In deciding a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court must "accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." DeBenedictis v. Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., 492 F.3d 209, 216 (3d Cir. 2007) (quotation omitted). The Court need not, however, "credit either bald assertions or legal conclusions in a complaint when deciding a motion to dismiss." Id. (quotation omitted). The "'[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise the right to relief above the speculative level.'" Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 & n.3 (2007)).

The United States Supreme Court recently elaborated on the plausibility standard enunciated in Twombly. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949-52 (2009) (applying Twombly to all civil actions). Iqbal specifically commented on the "[t]wo working principles" from Twobly. 129 S.Ct. at 1949.

First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice. Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hypertechnical, code-pleading regime of a prior era, but it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions. Second, only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. But where the ...


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