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Whaumbush v. City of Philadelphia

October 14, 2010


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


Presently before the Court is Defendants the City of Philadelphia, John Green, Leon A. King, II, and Louis Giorla's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.


Plaintiffs Jacque Whaumbush and Detention Management Services, Inc. ("DMS") initiated this suit in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on November 30, 2009. Defendants removed the action to federal court on December 21, 2009, and filed a Motion to Dismiss on December 30, 2009. Plaintiffs then filed a First Amended Complaint (hereinafter "Amended Complaint") on April 9, 2010. Defendants filed a second Motion to Dismiss on April 22, 2010, and Plaintiffs submitted a Response on May 24, 2010.

According to the facts alleged in the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff Jacque Whaumbush served as Chief Deputy Sheriff for the City of Philadelphia ("the City") under Sheriff John Green from 2005 to 2007. (Am. Compl. ¶ 13.) Whaumbush alleges that he was wrongfully and constructively terminated from his position with the City in 2007. (Id. ¶ 14.) Soon after his termination, Whaumbush made an unsuccessful bid to run against Defendant Green in the 2007 Sheriff elections. (Id. ¶ 15.)

Around that time, the City of Philadelphia published a "Request for Contract Opportunity" for the outsourcing of housing, transportation, and other services for Philadelphia County Prison inmates. (Id. ¶ 16.) In response to this request, Plaintiff DMS, a Pennsylvania corporation, drafted and submitted a contract proposal to the City of Philadelphia Prison System with the help of Plaintiff Whambush.*fn1 (Id. ¶¶ 16-18.) Around August of 2007, the City published a Notice of Contract Award naming DMS as the recipient of the contract. (Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiffs allege that the contract was worth more than $10 million in revenue to DMS. (Id.)

Soon after the publication of this notice, Plaintiff Whaumbush attended a meeting with Defendant Leon King, Commissioner of the Philadelphia Prison System at that time. (Id. ¶ 20.) Plaintiffs aver that Defendant King worked closely with Defendant Green on transport and security issues for the Philadelphia Prison System. (Id. ¶ 21, 23.) As a result of his "close associat[ion]" with Defendant Green, Defendant King purportedly knew of Plaintiff Whaumbush's civil rights complaints against Green and his campaign to unseat him as Sheriff. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22.) Plaintiffs further allege that, around the time of this meeting, Defendants Green and King learned of Plaintiff Whaumbush's association with DMS. (Id. ¶ 24.) Soon after, the City of Philadelphia terminated DMS's contractual award with "no reasonable explanation." (Id. ¶ 25.) The City then awarded the contract to a vendor with a more expensive proposal, which the vendor was ultimately unable to implement. (Id. ¶ 29.)

According to Plaintiffs, Defendants Green and King, upon learning of Whaumbush's association with the DMS contract, conspired to cause the termination of the award "to retaliate against Whaumbush and his allies" for Whambush's previous complaints and campaign against Sheriff Green. (Id. ¶ 26.) They aver that Defendants' acts were "intentional, malicious, negligent, reckless, and undertaken in complete disregard of the rights of Plaintiffs." (Id. ¶ 31.) Plaintiffs allege that the rescinding of the alleged contract caused them "substantial loss of revenue and extreme financial damage." (Id. ¶ 26.)

The Amended Complaint sets forth the following claims against the City of Philadelphia and all Defendants in their official capacities, along with Defendants Green and King in their individual capacities: (1) breach of contract (id. ¶¶ 32-38); (2) tortious interference with contractual relationships and/or prospective advantage (id. ¶¶ 39-41); (3) deprivations of Plaintiffs' First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (id. ¶¶ 42-46); (4) violation of Plaintiffs' rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (id. ¶¶ 47-51); and (5) conspiracy to violate Plaintiffs' rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1985. (Id. ¶¶ 52-54.) Defendants seek the dismissal of all of these claims, which the Court now considers in turn.*fn2


Under Rule 12(b)(6), a defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that the plaintiff has not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6); see also Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). In Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the United States Supreme Court recognized that "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 555. The Court emphasized that it would not require a "heightened fact pleading of specifics," but only "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570.

In the subsequent case of Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009), the Court enunciated two fundamental principles applicable to a court's review of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. First, it noted that "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. at 1949. Thus, although "[Federal] Rule [of Civil Procedure] 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era . . . it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions." Id. at 1950. Second, the Supreme Court emphasized that "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id. The task of determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is "context-specific," and "requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. The Supreme Court explained:

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. 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. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-57).

Expanding on the Twombly/Iqbal standards, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit succinctly defined a two-prong analysis to be undertaken by district courts during a Rule 12(b)(6) review:

First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The district court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Second, a district court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief." In other words, a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to show such an entitlement with its facts. As the Supreme Court instructed in Iqbal, where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged--but it has not shown--that the pleader is entitled to relief.

Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (internal citations omitted).

Notwithstanding the foregoing, many of the fundamental underpinnings of Rule 12(b)(6) still stand. Arner v. PGT Trucking, Inc., No. CIV.A.09-565, 2010 WL 1052953, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 22, 2010); Spence v. Brownsville Area Sch. Dist., No. CIV.A.08-626, 2008 WL 2779079, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Jul. 15, 2008). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief and need not contain detailed factual allegations. FED. R. CIV. P. 8; Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). Further, the court must "accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006). Finally, the court must "determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Pinkerton v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002).


A. Whether Plaintiffs Have Stated a Claim for Tortious Interference with Existing or ...

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