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Sauers v. Lower Southampton Township

January 19, 2010


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


Pro se Plaintiff Peter Sauers sued Lower Southampton Township, the Galaman Group, Nico Landscaping, Inc., and Village Style Commercial for alleged violations of his federal and Pennsylvania constitutional rights stemming from a zoning decision made by the Township. Southampton Township, the only Defendant to have responded to the Complaint, has filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. For the reasons below, the Court will deny the motion without prejudice so as to afford Sauers one more opportunity to assert valid claims.


Plaintiff's pro se Complaint and his response to Lower Southampton's motion to dismiss fail to describe a logical chain of events. As best as the Court can discern, Sauers alleges the following:

1. On October 2, 2008, the Lower Southampton Planning Commission approved a zoning change for a piece of land from residential to controlled commercial. (Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss at 2.)

2. On or about April 7, 2009, the Lower Southampton Board of Supervisors approved this zoning change. (Id.)

According to the Complaint, the Board of Supervisors overlooked his rights and the law when they made their zoning decision.*fn1 (Compl. at 6.) For example, the Board of Supervisors refused to answer a question Sauers posed to it. (Id. at 7.) He further claims that "[t]he actions of the zoning office . . . were making me anxious and fearful about my truck and other things by sending me notices." (Id.) According to the Complaint, the Township's zoning decision "sold out" those living in the township. (Id.) He also claims that he would not have purchased his property had he known that the zoning nearby could be altered. (Id. at 8.) Furthermore, the re-zoning reduces his quality of life and prevents him from living in peace. (Id.)

Sauers also refers to the Americans with Disability Act and asserts that he was diagnosed with an inner ear disorder over forty years ago that caused dyslexia and limits his ability to read, write, spell, and focus. (Id. at 4.) He also suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. (Id.)


In reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a district court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See Bd. of Trs. of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsman Local 6 of N.J. Welfare Fund v. Wettlin Assocs., 237 F.3d 270, 272 (3d Cir. 2001). A court need not, however, credit "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions" when deciding a motion to dismiss. Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

"Factual allegations [in a complaint] must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must include "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1974. Although the federal rules impose no probability requirement at the pleading stage, a plaintiff must present "enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element[s]" of a cause of action. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. Simply reciting the elements will not suffice. Id. (concluding that pleading that offers labels and conclusions without further factual enhancement will not survive motion to dismiss); see also Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has recently directed district courts to conduct a two-part analysis when faced with a 12(b)(6) motion. First, the legal elements and factual allegations of the claim should be separated, with the well-pleaded facts accepted as true but the legal conclusions disregarded. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, Inc., 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). Second, the court must make a common sense determination of whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 211. If the court can only infer the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint must be dismissed because it has alleged -- but has failed to show -- that the pleader is entitled to relief. Id.

Because Sauers is acting pro se, this Court must construe his Complaint liberally and apply the applicable law, even if he failed to mention it by name. See Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 234 (3d Cir. 2004); ...

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