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Klatch-Maynard v. Sugarloaf Township

August 7, 2009

CHARMAINE KLATCH-MAYNARD AND WILLIAM MAYNARD H/W, PLAINTIFFS
v.
SUGARLOAF TOWNSHIP, ROBERT STANZIOLA, EARL MILLER, JOYCE P. STEVENS AND SUGARLOAF TOWNSHIP SOLICITOR JAMES SCHNEIDER, IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley

MEMORANDUM

Before the court for disposition is the plaintiffs' motion for leave to file an amended complaint. The matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

Background

Plaintiff Charmaine Klatch-Maynard is disabled, suffering from many physical ailments including relfex sympathetic dystrophy. (Doc. 1, Complaint, (hereinafter "Compl."), ¶ 13). Plaintiff uses a trained and certified "service dog" to help her in her day to day activities. (Compl. ¶ 14). She claims that she was denied access with her dog to Sugarloaf Township Public Meetings, such as meetings of the township zoning hearing board, recreation board and planning board, at least forty-eight times between December 2004 and November 2005. (Compl. ¶ ¶ 11, 15). Evidently, the police chief, Defendant John Hudson, told her that she could not attend the meetings with her dog, and that he was acting on the orders of the Township supervisors in telling her this. Plaintiff went to Hudson with paperwork to establish to him that the dog was a "service" dog. He threw the papers back at her and threatened to put the dog down.

Plaintiff also alleges defamation against the defendants for publishing statements declaring Charmaine Maynard a tax cheat and tax thief. She asserts that the defendants wrote a letter to Sugarloaf Township's taxing oversight authority members and intentionally and fraudulently represented that plaintiffs refused to pay their taxes. ( Compl. ¶ 191). The defendants also announced at a public meeting that plaintiffs refused to pay their taxes. (Compl. ¶ 201).

Based on these assertions plaintiffs filed a nineteen count complaint raising the following issues: Count 1-Procedural Due Process, U.S. Constitution against all defendants; Count 2-Equal Protection, U.S. Constitution against all defendants; Count 3- Substantive Due Process, U.S. Constitution against all defendants; Count 4- Denial of federal, constitutionally and statutorily protected right to liberty under color of Pennsylvania law against all defendants; Count 5-Pennsylvania Constitutional rights against all defendants; Count 6- Pennsylvania Constitutional rights against all defendants; Count 7- Denial of Procedural due process against the individual defendants; Count 8-Equal Protection, individual defendants; Count 9-Substantive Due process, individual defendants; Count 10-Conspiracy to interfere with civil rights, 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) individual defendants; Count 11- Negligence, individual defendants; Count 13*fn1 -Negligence against township, board of supervisors, police chief and township solicitor; Count 14-Negligence per se, all defendants; Count 15-Negligence per se, individual defendants; Count 16-Conspiracy to interfere with civil rights, all defendants 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3); Count 17-Negligence per se, deprivation of federal and state civil rights, all defendants; Count 18-Defamation; Count 19-Defamation.

At the close of discovery defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which this court granted in part and denied in part. We granted it with regard to: the official capacity claims against the individual defendants; the negligence claims; the claims against the Township Board of Supervisors; the punitive damages claims against the municipal defendants; and the defamation claims except for those against Defendants Stanziola and Schneider. We denied the motion in all other respects. The court then scheduled a pretrial conference. Several days before the pretrial conference was to be held, the plaintiffs filed a motion to file an amended complaint, and the court cancelled the pretrial conference. The motion to amend was denied on procedural grounds without prejudice to the plaintiffs filing a motion without the defects of the original one. (Doc. 49). The plaintiffs then filed a second motion to file an amended complaint bringing the case to its present posture.

Plaintiffs seek to allege the following facts in their amended complaint:

Plaintiff Charmaine Klatchmore-Maynard sought a reassessment of her real property value before the Luzerne County Board of Assessment Appeals. (Doc. 50-3, Proposed Amended Complaint, ¶ 21). At a public hearing in the fall of 2005, the Assessment Appeals Board found in her favor and reduced the assessed value of the property. (Id.). In October 2005, Plaintiff sent the Hazleton Area School District a letter advising it of her assessment appeal and requesting that the district forgive her past taxes. (Id.). Proposed Additional Defendant McNelis sent plaintiff a letter denying her request for tax forgiveness. (Id. at ¶ 31). Proposed Additional Defendant Schneider, solicitor of Sugarloaf Township, compiled an accounting of the amount of back taxes owed by the plaintiff from 1998 through 2004. (Id. at ¶ ¶ 13, 35). He passed this information on to McNelis. (Id.). McNelis passed the information on to "members of the Hazleton Area School District[.]" (Id. at ¶ 38). Once again, the complaint is not explicit, but it is evident that the school district appealed Plaintiff Charmaine Klatch-Maynard's reduction in assessment. (See id. at ¶ ¶ 42, 48). Plaintiff further alleges that Schneider provided information to McNelis regarding the amount of rent she was receiving for an apartment on the premises and the amount she received in an insurance claim ($50,000.00). (Id. at ¶ ¶ 43 - 44). He provided this information to ensure that the school district would continue its appeal of the real property assessment. (Id. at ¶ ¶ 45, 51). Plaintiff asserts that Schneider only knew of the $50,000 in insurance proceeds due to a breach of confidentiality by Defendant Attorney Hludzik. (Id. ¶ 46).

Based upon these facts, plaintiffs seek to add several more defendants and counts to their complaint. The proposed amended complaint seeks to add the following defendants: the Hazleton Area School District; Hludzik Law Offices, P.C., George R. Hludzik, McNelis Law Offices, and Edward P. McNelis. (Doc. 50-3, Proposed Amended Complaint, ¶ ¶ 17, 17[sic],18, 19, 20). The amended complaint seeks to add causes of action relating to the school district's appeal of her property value assessment: denial of civil rights; denial of the plaintiffs' right to Equal Protection; conspiracy to violate the plaintiffs' civil rights; civil racketeering; and wrongful use of civil proceedings in violation of 42 PENN. CONS. STAT. ANN. § 8351. The defendants oppose the proposed amendments.

Jurisdiction

As this case is brought pursuant the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 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.

Standard of Review

Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure provides that after a responsive pleading has been filed, "a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave. The court should freely ...


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