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William Anthony Eldridge v. Officer Matthew Diehl

February 1, 2011

WILLIAM ANTHONY ELDRIDGE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
OFFICER MATTHEW DIEHL, CITY OF ALLENTOWN, SGT. JOHN HILL, OFFICER PATRICK BULL, AND JOHN DOE, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM

Currently pending before the Court are: (1) Defendants Officer Matthew Diehl, the City of Allentown, Sergeant John Hill, and Officer Patrick Bull's (collectively "Defendants") Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff William Anthony Eldridge's ("Plaintiff") Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6); and (2) Plaintiff's Motion to Amend the Complaint. For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is granted in part and denied in part, and Plaintiff's Motion to Amend is granted.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff alleges that on November 5, 2008, Defendants Diehl and Hill, along with Officers David Howells and April Kummerer, were conducting a drug interdiction on the 100 block of North 8th St. in Allentown, Pennsylvania. (Compl. ¶ 1.) According to Plaintiff, he and two acquaintances were walking eastbound on Chestnut Street when two police vehicles approached them. (Id. ¶¶ 13-16.) One patrol car, which Plaintiff believes was driven by Defendant Hill, pulled ahead and blocked the path of Plaintiff and his companions. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17.) Defendant Diehl then arrived on the scene and told the three individuals to get on the wall. (Id. ¶ 18.) While Plaintiff was standing against the wall, he allegedly heard Defendant Diehl say on his radio, "he is not the dealer, he is not the dealer, secure the block and check ID's." (Id. ¶19.) Upon hearing Defendant Diehl say, "he is not the dealer," Plaintiff moved away from the wall. (Id. ¶ 20.) Defendant Diehl then attempted to search Plaintiff, but Plaintiff moved out of his reach. (Id. ¶ 21.)

At this point, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Diehl threatened to unleash the police K-9, and Plaintiff ran from the scene. (Id. ¶¶ 22, 24.) Defendant Hill then grabbed Plaintiff by the back of his vest, threw him face-first to the ground, and handcuffed him. (Id. ¶¶ 25-26.) While he was on the ground, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Diehl came over and began to punch and kick him in the face in excess of fifteen times. (Id. ¶ 27.) During this assault, Defendant Diehl, who is white, allegedly made racially insensitive remarks to Plaintiff, who is African American. According to Plaintiff, Defendant Diehl said to him "you and your home boys don't own these streets," and, in a mocking reference to the recent presidential election, "so Obama won?" (Id. ¶29.)

Plaintiff was then taken to the Allentown Police headquarters and placed in a holding cell. (Id. ¶ 30.) He asked Defendant Diehl to take him to the hospital, but his requests were ignored. (Id. ¶ 31.) Thereafter, Plaintiff fell asleep, and when he awoke Defendant Bull was on duty. (Id. ¶ 52.) He reiterated his request to be taken to the hospital when he saw Defendant Bull, and Defendant Bull arranged for the EMS to examine Plaintiff in his cell. (Id.) When Defendant John Doe from the Allentown EMS arrived, Plaintiff once again asked to be taken to the hospital, but Defendant Doe refused after concluding that Plaintiff's injuries were non-life-threatening. (Id. ¶ 55.) Defendant Bull then asked Plaintiff to sign a form indicating that he had been examined by paramedics, (id. ¶ 57), but Plaintiff alleges that after he signed it, Defendant Bull "added extra information without my knowledge indicating that I stated I just wanted to be documented. Furthermore, I learned that what Officer Bull had presented to me as a form indicating that I had been examined by the EMS was actually a patient refusal of services form." (Id. ¶ 61.) In addition, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Doe, at the direction of Defendant Bull, falsified information in his medical evaluation about Plaintiff's request for additional treatment. (Id. ¶¶ 63-64.)

Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this Court on August 24, 2010. He asserts that Defendants Diehl and Hill stopped him without reasonable suspicion, subjected him to excessive force during the course of his arrest, and conspired to fabricate evidence in their arrest reports. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11, 32.) He also claims that Defendants Bull and Doe conspired to conceal evidence of the severity of the injuries inflicted by Defendants Diehl and Hill. (Id. ¶ 51.) Plaintiff further alleges that the City of Allentown and the officials charged with training the Allentown Police on how to use force when apprehending a suspect have demonstrated deliberate indifference to the welfare of Plaintiff and other black citizens. (Id. ¶ 67.) He accuses the City of Allentown of promoting the Allentown police force's "practice, policy and custom of routinely forcibly stopping blacks without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity . . . , of using threats of physical violence or actual physical assault to compel black residents to answer questions, and consent to searches." (Id. ¶ 68.) Finally, Plaintiff states that "Defendants violated my federally protected right against unlaw[ful] search and seizure pursuant to the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution, the 5th, and 14th Amendments rights to Due Process . . . ." (Id.¶ 69.) In addition to monetary damages to compensate him for the harm he suffered, Plaintiff requests that this Court mandate "that audio & video surveillance cameras be placed in all Allentown patrol vehicles, and that they are mandatorily turned on, whenever any stop of a citizen occurs." (Id. at 1.)

Defendants filed the present Motion to Dismiss on October 25, 2010. Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition on November 19, 2010, which included a Motion to Amend the Complaint.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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. It 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, U.S. , 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009), the Supreme 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. "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, nothing in Twombly or Iqbal has altered some of the fundamental underpinnings of the Rule 12(b)(6) standard of review. Arner v. PGT Trucking, Inc., No. CIV.A.09-0565, 2010 WL 1052953, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 22, 2010); Spence v. Brownsville Area Sch. Dist., No. CIV.A.08-0626, 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. Cnty. 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).

III. DISCUSSION

Defendants' Motion requests dismissal of the following: (1) the illegal search and seizure claim; (2) the claim that Defendants conspired to conceal the severity of Plaintiff's injuries; (3) all claims alleging that the City of Allentown has a policy or custom of racial discrimination; (4) Plaintiff's request for injunctive relief; (5) all claims against Defendants in their official capacity; and (6) the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment Due Process claims. (Defs.' Mot. Dismiss ΒΆ 3.) In his Response in Opposition, Plaintiff has included a Motion ...


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