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Keller v. City of Scranton

May 24, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge



Presently before the Court is Defendants the City of Scranton ("Scranton"), Mark Seitzinger ("Seitzinger"), and Michael Mitchell's ("Mitchell") Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 13.) For the reasons discussed below, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part. This Court has jurisdiction over the federal causes of action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question).


The facts alleged in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint are as follows: Plaintiff David Keller was at all relevant times the owner of the real property situated at 605-607 Cedar Avenue, Scranton, Pennsylvania. (Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 9, Doc. 10.) Defendant Scranton is a duly organized municipality of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 2.) Defendant Seitzinger was at all relevant times the "Director of the Department of Licensing, Inspections and Permits/Building Code Official for the City of Scranton." (Amend. Compl. ¶ 3.) Defendant Mitchell was at all relevant times the "Deputy Director of Public Safety and Conservation for the City of Scranton." (Amend. Compl. ¶ 4.)

On or about August 2008, Seitzinger and Mitchell scheduled the demolition of the improvements on Plaintiff's property. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 11.) Defendants also arbitrarily entered Plaintiff's property without a search warrant and without probable cause. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 13.) Defendants demolished Plaintiff's premises without providing him notice or an opportunity to exercise his due process rights. (Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 13, 24.) Defendants acted "pursuant to a specific design, plan, and policy to substitute the criteria of the Ordinances of Defendant, City of Scranton, and The Code with the criteria, discretion, and will, of the individual Defendants." (Amend. Compl. ¶ 17.) Defendants decision was based upon their own personal criteria and animosity. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 25.)

Plaintiff filed a complaint on December 24, 2009, bringing claims against Scranton and Seitzinger. (Doc. 1.) After Defendants Scranton and Seitzinger moved to dismiss the complaint, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on February 17, 2010, adding claims against Defendant Mitchell. (Doc. 10.) All Defendants filed the present motion to dismiss on February 23, 2010. (Doc. 13.) This motion has been fully briefed by both parties, and is now ripe for disposition.


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. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). 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)). "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009).

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 fails to state a claim. See Gould Elecs. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).


Plaintiff's Amended Complaint contains one count with multiple theories of liability. Plaintiff alleges a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights. Section 1983 provides redress for individuals whose constitutional rights are violated by governmental actors.*fn1 "To establish a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege (1) a deprivation of a federally protected right, and (2) commission of the deprivation by one acting under color of state law." Lake v. Arnold, 112 F.3d 682, 689 (3d Cir.1997).Plaintiff alleges that each of the individual Defendants acted as an agent of Scranton, a governmental entity, and therefore, he has ...

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