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Dombrosky v. Banach

September 21, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo


Presently before the Court are Motions to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint brought on behalf of Defendants James Muir, Chad Stewart, Westfall Township, Raymond Banach, Lester Buchanan, Robert Ewbank, and Paul Fischer (Doc. 37), and Defendants Richard Gassman, Robert Stevens, Eastern Pike Regional Police Commission, and Robert Brown. (Doc. 36.) For the reasons discussed more fully below, both Motions to Dismiss will be denied.


On May 5, 2009 Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint against Defendants Raymond Banach, Robert Brown, Lester Buchanan, Robert Ewbank, Paul Fischer, Richard Gassman, James Muir, Robert Stevens, Chad Stewart, Eastman Pike Regional Police Commission, and Westfall Township alleging violations of Plaintiff's federal constitutional rights and state law. (Doc. 31.) These allegations stem from Plaintiff's failure to be reinstated as a police officer with the Westfall Police Department after a voluntary leave of absence. Plaintiff took the leave following his being charged with criminal violations in New York on July 16, 2007. (Am. Compl. ¶ 28.) According to the terms of the leave of absence, Plaintiff would not receive pay pending resolution of the criminal charges, but if, acquitted, he would be reinstated and receive backpay. (Id.) After being acquitted of the charges, Plaintiff sought reinstatement with the Eastman Pike Regional Police Commission, which had absorbed Westfall Township's police department under a Regionalization Agreement. On March 26, 2008, Plaintiff received a certified letter that there was no full-time police officer position available. (Am. Compl. ¶ 31.) Plaintiff then retained counsel and sent certified letters to Westfall Township's solicitor and then to each member of the Eastman Pike Regional Police Commission demanding reinstatement.

On April 10,2009, Westfall Township filed for bankruptcy in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. On its first amended list of creditors and claims, filed on July 14, 2009, Westfall Township stated that it owed Plaintiff backpay in the amount of sixteen-thousand six-hundred and twelve dollars ($16,612) unsecured. After receiving relief from the automatic stay, Plaintiff received sixteen-thousand seven-hundred and seven dollars and thirty cents ($16,707) from Westfall Township on April 27, 2010. (Am. Compl. ¶ 37.)

After making numerous demands to be reinstated, Plaintiff brought the instant suit, which was amended on May 24, 2010. (Doc. 31.) Plaintiff's Amended Complaint brings claims for violation of his due process rights under the 14th Amendment (Count I), violation of the Police Tenure Act (Count II), and breach of contract (Count III), or, in the alternative, impairment of contract (Count IV). Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, and restoration to active duty with backpay and interest.

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint on June 11, 2010 (Doc. 36) and a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint on June 14, 2010. (Doc. 37.) Defendants argue in their Brief in Support of their Motion to Dismiss that the Police Tenure Act doesn't apply to the Plaintiff; that the Defendants have qualified immunity; and that the Plaintiff fails to state a claim against the township. They also ask that certain portions of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint be stricken as irrelevant and impertinent. Since the issues raised in Defendants' Brief in Support of their Motion to Dismiss don't completely align with the issues raised in the Motion itself, only those issues analyzed in their Brief will be evaluated by this Court. Rife v. Borough of Dauphin, 647 F.Supp. 2d 431, 442 (MDPA 2009) (quoting Amtrak v. Pa. Pub. Util. Comm'n, 342 F.3d 242, 259 n.14 (3d Cir. 2003).


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)). "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).


A. Violation of the Police Tenure Act

Defendants argue that Police Tenure Act does not apply to Plaintiff, as he was not a full-time police officer when he was informed on March 26, 2008 that he would not be reinstated. (Br. 5.) This Act, in pertinent part, reads:

No person employed as a regular full-time police officer in any police department of any township of the second class, or any borough or township of the first class within the scope of this Act...shall be suspended, removed or reduced in ...

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