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Wray v. Painter

March 4, 2010

GERALDINE WRAY, PLAINTIFF
v.
MICHAEL C. PAINTER, DEFENDANT



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is Defendant Michael C. Painter's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 5). This is a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights action*fn1 arising from an encounter between Plaintiff, Geraldine Wray, and Painter, the Chief of Police of the Borough of Hamburg, Pennsylvania, that occurred at Plaintiff's home in February 2009. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion is denied in part and granted in part.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

"To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1951 (2009) (citations and quotations omitted). "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." Id."The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. "Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief." Id.

II. BACKGROUND

In accordance with the applicable standard of review, the following recitation of facts is based upon Plaintiff's averments and only accepted as true for the purposes of reviewing the present Motion.

Plaintiff entered into an agreement with Maurise Payne whereby Plaintiff ageed to take possession of and care for a dog known as "Razzle Dazzle" for the purposes of developing Razzle Dazzle as a show dog. (Compl.*fn2 ¶ 4.) In exchange, Plaintiff was to receive an ownership share in the dog. (Compl. ¶ 4.) In discharging her duties, Plaintiff expended substantial time and approximately twelve thousand dollars. (Compl. ¶ 5.)

At some unidentified juncture, a civil dispute arose between Plaintiff and Payne regarding the dog's training and Payne demanded Plaintiff return the dog. (Compl. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff refused to acquiese to Payne's request, contending that Plaintiff was breaching their contract and attempting to deny Plaintiff her ownership rights. (Compl. ¶ 6.)

In early February 2009, Payne traveled to Pennsylvania with the intent to initiate civil proceedings. See (Compl. ¶¶ 7-8.) However, Payne consulted with Defendant, who chose to intercede on Payne's behalf. (Compl. ¶ 7.) On or about February 7, 2009, Defendant confronted Plaintiff at her place of work and advised her that he possessed a felony arrest warrant for her in connection with the theft of the dog. (Compl. ¶ 8.) Later that day, Defendant arrived at Plaintiff's house with two other officers. (Compl. ¶ 9.) Despite Plaintiff's attempt to explain the nature of her relationship with Payne and show Defendant evidence demonstrating her lawful possession of the dog, Defendant insisted that Plaintiff would either turn the dog over to him or be placed under arrest pursuant to the arrest warrant. (Compl. ¶ 11.) Defendant refused to provide Plaintiff or her husband with a copy of the arrest warrant. (Compl. ¶ 10.) Just prior to leaving with Defendant, Plaintiff, in fear of the repercussions associated with arrest, turned over possession of the dog to Defendant. (Compl. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff later became aware that Defendant never possessed an arrest or search warrant. (Compl. ¶ 17.)

In response to this incident, Plaintiff filed a one-count complaint on December 7, 2009, alleging that Defendant's unlawful deprivation of Plaintiff's freedom and property violated her Fourth Amendment rights. (Compl. ¶¶ 18-21.) Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages in connection with her claims. (Compl. ¶¶ 20-22.)

Defendant, alleging that Plaintiff has not pleaded sufficient facts, now moves this Court to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Fourth Amendment Claims

The Fourth Amendment guarantees citizens the right "to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures . . . ." U.S. Const. amend. IV. To establish a Fourth Amendment violation, Plaintiff must demonstrate that the "defendant's actions (1) constituted a . . . seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and (2) were unreasonable in light of the surrounding circumstances." Open Inns, Ltd. v. Chester County ...


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