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Jamison v. City of York

September 30, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane


Pending before the Court are two separate motions to dismiss filed by Defendant Trooper Keppel (Doc. No. 25) and the "York City Defendants" Corporal Seelig and the City of York (Doc. No. 15). The motions are fully briefed and ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the York City Defendants' motion will be granted in part and denied in part, and Defendant Keppel's motion will be denied.

I. Background*fn1

On July 6, 2009, Plaintiff filed her original complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of York, John Doe I, John Doe II, and Jane Doe (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff averred that on July 5, 2007, Plaintiff was walking towards her brother's house when she was approached by two John Does, handcuffed, and put in the back of a police cruiser for over two hours. (Doc. No. 1 ¶¶ 10-13.) As such, Plaintiff claimed that Defendant Doe I unlawfully seized and unlawfully arrested Plaintiff without probable cause, in violation of her Fourth Amendment rights. (Id. ¶ 20.) Plaintiff also claimed that John Doe I and John Doe II's conduct violated her "right to be free from unlawful seizures and unlawful imprisonment."

According to Plaintiff, the John Does did not respond to her requests to identify themselves and ignored her requests to use a restroom. (Id. ¶¶ 10-13.) Plaintiff was told to turn over her car keys, at which point the John Does searched her car. (Id. ¶ 14.) John Doe I and John Doe II then took Plaintiff to the City of York police station, where she was strip searched by Jane Doe and then told she was free to go. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 17.) Plaintiff claimed that Defendant Jane Doe violated Plaintiffs "right to be free of unlawful searches and unlawful invasions of privacy when she strip-searched plaintiff without warrant and without probable cause." (Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiff's mother drove her to her vehicle and Plaintiff discovered that her keys were locked inside. (Id. ¶ 17-18.) Plaintiff seeks punitive damages, damages for emotional distress, pain and suffering, and humiliation, and costs of suit and attorneys fees. (Id. at 4, 5.)

On July 10, 2009, Assistant City Solicitor Donald B. Hoyt entered his appearance on behalf of all Defendants. (Doc. No. 3.) On September 17, 2009, Attorneys Frank J. Lavery, Jr. and Devon M. Jacob entered notices of appearance on behalf of Defendant City of York. (Doc. Nos. 4, 5.) On September 17, 2009, Attorney Jacob filed an unopposed motion for extension of time to respond to the complaint on behalf of City of York (Doc. No. 7), which the Court granted (Doc. No. 8).

Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on October 18, 2009, substituting Defendants Keppel and Seelig for the original complaint's John Doe I and John Doe II. (Doc. No. 11.) In her amended complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Defendants Keppel and Seelig violated her Fourth Amendment rights when they unlawfully seized and unlawfully arrested her without probable cause. (Id. ¶ 20.) Plaintiff also claimed that Defendants Keppel and Seelig, along with Defendant Jane Doe, violated Plaintiff's "right to be free of unlawful searches and seizures and unlawful imprisonment." (Id. ¶ 21.) Plaintiff's amended complaint sought the same relief as that of her original complaint. (Id. at 5.)

On November 4, 2009, Plaintiff filed an affidavit of service evidencing that the complaint, amended complaint, and summons were served on Trooper Mitchell for Defendant Keppel on November 2, 2009. (Doc. No. 12.) On November 9, 2009, Attorneys Lavery and Jacob filed notices of appearance on behalf of Defendant Seelig. (Doc. Nos. 13, 14.) Also on November 9, 2009, the York City Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint and a brief in support. (Doc. Nos. 15, 16.) Plaintiff filed her brief in opposition to this motion to dismiss on November 24, 2009. (Doc. No. 19.)

During a telephone conference on December 2, 2010, Defendant Seelig waived service of process. (Doc. No. 21.) Following the telephone conference, the Court ordered limited discovery and supplemental briefing on the issue of whether the substitution of the named Defendants for John Doe defendants related back under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c). (Doc. No. 22.) On December 8, 2009, Senior Deputy Attorney General Timothy Keating filed a notice of appearance and a motion to dismiss on behalf of Defendant Keppel. (Doc. Nos. 24, 25.) Defendant Keppel's motion to dismiss was stayed until discovery and briefing on the Rule 15(c) relation back issue took place. (Doc. No. 29.)

II. Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint, Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993), and is properly granted when, taking all factual allegations and inferences as true, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to show that no claim has been stated. Johnsrud v. Carter, 620 F.2d 29, 33 (3d Cir. 1980). Thus, the moving party must show that Plaintiff has failed to "set forth sufficient information to outline the elements of his claim or to permit inferences to be drawn that those elements exist." Kost, 1 F.3d at 183 (citations omitted). A court, however, "need not credit a complaint's 'bald assertions' or 'legal conclusions' when deciding a motion to dismiss." Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906, 908 (3d Cir. 1997). Indeed, the Supreme Court has recently held that while the 12(b)(6) standard does not require "detailed factual allegations," there must be a "'showing,' rather than a blanket assertion of entitlement to relief.... '[F]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231-32 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).Put otherwise, a civil complaint must "set out 'sufficient factual matter' to show that the claim is facially plausible." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1955 (2009)).

III. Discussion

Defendants Keppel and Seelig filed their motions to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing that Plaintiff's claims are time-barred. Specifically, Defendants argue that Plaintiff fails to meet the relation back standard of Rule 15(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. Nos. 26, 45.) Although Rule 12(b) does not explicitly permit the assertion of a statute of limitations defense by a motion to dismiss, the so-called "Third Circuit Rule" "permits a limitations defense to be raised by a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), but only if 'the time alleged in the statement of a claim shows that the cause of action has not been brought within the statute of limitations.'" Robinson v. Johnson, 313 F.3d 128, 135 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting Hanna v. U.S. Veterans' Admin. Hosp., 514 F.2d 1092, 1094 (3d Cir. 1974)). Defendant City of York ...

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