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Bergdoll v. City of York

November 3, 2009

CHARLOTTE BERGDOLL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE CITY OF YORK, MARK L. WHITMAN, INDIVIDUALLY, WESLEY KAHLEY, INDIVIDUALLY, POLICE OFFICER A. BAEZ, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A POLICE OFFICER FOR THE CITY OF YORK, THE COUNTY OF YORK DEFENDANTS,



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is the Motion of Defendant County of York ("the County") to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. (Doc. 38.) This Court will deny County of York's Motion to Dismiss Count IV of the Amended Complaint. It will also grant the Motion to Dismiss Counts VIII and IX of the Amended Complaint.

BACKGROUND

On January 5, 2009, this Court issued a Memorandum and Order that granted the Motions to Dismiss of Defendants County of York, H. Stanley Rebert, City of York, The Honorable John S. Brenner, Mark L. Whitman, and Wesley Kahley. (Doc. 21.) On May 19, 2009, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, leaving out Defendants Rebert and Brenner (Doc. 35).

Plaintiff states in her Amended Complaint that she is the owner, operator, and manager of Cherry Lane Realty, Inc., a business operating in the city of York, Pennsylvania.*fn1 (Am. Compl., Doc. 35 ¶ 4.) She alleges that on October 12, 2006, she was called to a property managed by Cherry Lane Realty located at 745 West Poplar Street in York. (Id. ¶ 12.) At the time she was called, Plaintiff avers that Officer A. Baez, a police officer for the City of York, was at the property performing an inspection of the house that was not authorized by either the tenant or the Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14.) The Plaintiff claims that upon her arrival at the property officer Baez unreasonably approached, seized and physically attacked and forced the Plaintiff face down on the porch. (Id. ¶ 16-17.) While she was lying face down on the porch, the Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant officer restrained Plaintiff by putting his knee in her back and abusively placed her in handcuffs even though she did not resist the officer or exhibit any signs of violence. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18.) Plaintiff alleges that she was subsequently transported to the City of York Police Department where she was detained. (Id. ¶ 19.) She also claims that Officer Baez had no warrant for her arrest, no probable cause for her arrest, and no other legal basis, cause or excuse to seize, strike or detain the Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 22.)

On October, 12, 2006, the day of the incident, Plaintiff alleges that she filed a complaint with the Department of Public Safety for the City of York, and alleges that this complaint was not addressed or investigated and was ultimately used by the Defendants in an attempt to prosecute Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 28.) On October 13, 2008 the Plaintiff was charged with disorderly conduct pursuant to 18 Pa. C.S. § 5503. (Id. ¶ 29.) On May 2, 2007 a summary trial was held before Magisterial District Judge Daniel B. Garber who dismissed the disorderly conduct charges against Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 30-31.)

Plaintiff states that due to Defendants' actions she has suffered a violation of her rights guaranteed by the First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. (Id. ¶ 32a.) She also states that she suffered a loss of liberty, physical pain and suffering, financial loss, and violations of "Other Freedoms and Rights Under the United States Constitution and under the Constitution of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennslvania." (Id. ¶ 32b-e.)

Based on these averments, the Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 35) on May 19, 2009. The Amended Complaint brings nine (9) counts against Defendants, including violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the alleged infringement of Plaintiff's constitutional rights by Officer Baez (Count I), the City of York (Count V), Police Commissioner Mark Whitman (Count VI), Police Captain Wesley Kahley (Count VII), and the County of York (Count IV). The Complaint also includes individual counts against Officer Baez for Assault and Battery (Count II) and False Arrest and Illegal Detention against Officer Baez (Count III). Plaintiff also brings claims for Malicious Prosecution against all Defendants (Count VIII), and claims pursuant to the Pennsylvania state law brought against all Defendants (Count IX).

Of particular relevance to the instant motions, Plaintiff specifically alleges that the District Attorney and the District Attorney's Office directed, controlled, and supervised all criminal prosecutions in the County of York and had telephone conversations with the City of York Police Department on investigating and responding to Plaintiff's police complaint and "what criminal charges would be filed in this particular incident and administrative function of processing criminal citations filed against the Plaintiff." (Am. Compl., Doc. 35 ¶ 26-27.) Count IV of the Amended Complaint alleges that it was the widespread practice, administrative policy and custom of the County and the District Attorney to advise, instruct, and train prosecutors and police officers and police departments to inadequately and improperly investigate complaints of police misconduct. (Id. ¶ 45.) The Amended Complaint also alleges that there were a large number of complaints against the police force that should have alerted the County and the District Attorney and the District Attorney's office to the need for "policies and procedures requiring proper training, supervision, discipline and other procedures to avoid further violation of citizens' rights" and lists several examples of such incidents. (Id. ¶ 46.) According to Plaintiff, the County and the District Attorney's office had a duty to advise and train Police Departments, but failed to respond to citizen complaints, including the Plaintiff's police complaint, and specifically directed the City of York Police Department to fail to provide in-service training of officers. (Id. ¶¶ 48, 51, 56.) The District Attorney and District Attorney's office allegedly maintained policies exhibiting deliberate indifference to constitutional rights through its specific direction to maintain an administrative policy to improperly investigate citizen complaints of police misconduct. (Id. ¶¶ 54-55.)

Defendant County of York filed its motion to dismiss (Doc. 38) on May 28, 2009, along with an accompanying brief in support (Doc. 41). Plaintiff filed her brief in opposition (Doc. 43) to this motion on June 18, 2009. Defendants did not file briefs in reply. Accordingly, Defendant's motion has been thoroughly briefed and is currently ripe for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) 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, a plaintiff has not pleaded "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (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. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); see also Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993) (requiring a 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, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "[T]he factual detail in a complaint [must not be] so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant [with] 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. 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. 1993). The Court may also consider "undisputedly authentic" documents when the plaintiff's claims are based on the documents and the defendant has attached copies of the documents to the motion to dismiss. Id. The Court need not assume the plaintiff can prove facts that were not alleged in the complaint, see City of Pittsburgh v. W. Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 & n.13 (3d Cir. 1998), or credit a complaint's "'bald assertions'" or "'legal conclusions,'" Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1429-30 (3d Cir. 1997)).

When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court's role is limited to determining whether a plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of her claims. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The Court does not consider whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See id. A defendant bears the burden of establishing that a plaintiff's complaint ...


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