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Aaron Monroe v. Casey Mullooley

February 3, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Donetta W. Ambrose Senior Judge,



In this civil action, which was removed from state court, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants, a Westmoreland County Detention Center, its warden Walton, and its employee Mullooley, violated the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. ' 1983, by subjecting him to unlawful seizure, excessive force, false imprisonment, deprivation of liberty interest, and due process. He also brings state law claims of false imprisonment, abuse of process, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The alleged events stemmed from a series of events occurring during Plaintiff‟s detention at the Westmoreland County Detention Center, in which Mullooley punched Plaintiff in the face, and Plaintiff was mistreated by guards; Plaintiff was eventually charged with assault as a result of the altercation with Mullooley. The status and disposition of the charges are not stated in the Complaint.

Before the Court is Defendants‟ Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the Motion will be granted in part, without prejudice, and denied in part.



In deciding a motion to dismiss, all factual allegations, and all reasonable inferences therefrom, must be accepted as true and viewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Colburn v. Upper Darby Twp., 838 F. 2d 66, 666 (3d Cir. 1988). In ruling a motion for failure to state a claim, I must look to "whether sufficient facts are pleaded to determine that the complaint is not frivolous, and to provide the defendants with adequate notice to frame an answer." Id. at 666. Complaints "need not plead law or match facts to every element of a legal theory." Weston v. Pennsylvania, 251 F. 3d 420, 429 (3d Cir. 2001). A plaintiff must "nudge [her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible" in order to survive a motion to dismiss. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, U.S. , 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1974, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007). Therefore, a complaint must contain "enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest" the elements of the claims asserted. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008). Under Rule 12(b)(6), the movant bears the burden of persuading the court that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim. Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991).


A. Westmoreland County Detention Center

First, I address Defendants‟ argument that the Westmoreland County Detention Center, which Plaintiff alleges is a county correctional facility, is not a proper party to the civil rights claims asserted in this action. Plaintiff‟s argument that the Detention Center lacks Eleventh Amendment immunity is beside the point, as "it is well established that jail facilities are not considered "persons‟ for purposes of § 1983 liability." Williams v. Brown, No. 5-796, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51475, at *6 (D.N.J. July 17, 2007). A County prison is "a sub-unit of defendant Westmoreland County, not an independent legal entity, and as such, is not a proper party to [a Section 1983] lawsuit." Pennavaria v. Walton, 10-415, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 64929, at *9 (W.D. Pa. June 30, 2010). Thus, the Complaint will be dismissed as against the Detention Center.

B. Defendant Walton

Next, I turn to Defendants‟ contention that Plaintiff‟s Complaint fails to state a claim against Defendant Walton, the warden of the facility. As Defendant correctly points out, there is no supervisory or agency liability under Section 1983. Instead, liability under Section 1983 may only be based upon a defendant's personal involvement in a constitutional violation. Mitchell v. Obenski, 134 Fed. Appx. 548, 552 (3d Cir. 2005). Plaintiff‟s Complaint contains no averments regarding Defendant Walton‟s personal involvement in the wrongs allegedly committed. As a result, the Complaint against him must be dismissed.*fn1

C. Count II - Fourth Amendment Unlawful Seizure Count III - Fourth Amendment False Imprisonment Count IV - Due Process Liberty Interest

Next, I address Defendants‟ challenge to Counts II, III, and IV of the Complaint.*fn2 In Count II, Plaintiff contends that Defendants violated the Constitution by arresting and imprisoning him without probable cause, and Mullooley‟s making of a false affidavit of probable cause. Defendants argue, however, that because Mullooley neither filed the charges against Plaintiff nor placed him under arrest, personal involvement is lacking, and the ...

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