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Walter M. Shaud v. Sugarloaf Township Supervisors; John Hudson; Tommy Brown

March 11, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley


Before the court are defendants' motions to dismiss (Docs. 98, 100, 107) plaintiff's complaint. Having been fully briefed, the matter is ripe for disposition. Background

This complaint grows out of a series of disputes between the plaintiff and Sugarloaf Township, as well as between the plaintiff and his neighbor, Sharon Slusser. Plaintiff contends that he received an out-of-court settlement after a Township police officer assaulted his wife in 1997, and that the township has retaliated against him since that settlement by failing to enforce the laws fairly or properly investigate complaints raised by the plaintiff about his neighbor's behavior and violations of Township ordinances. In addition, he has faced continual harassment from his neighbor and her children, much of it related to his disability of post-traumatic stress disorder. Schlusser's children have allegedly shot plaintiff with a pellet gun, thrown and hit rocks onto plaintiff's property, had illegal bonfires, trespassed, pointed guns at plaintiff's home, brought illegal weapons onto plaintiff's property and made obscene and rude comments to plaintiff. Their mother, Mrs. Schlusser, also allegedly made inappropriate comments about plaintiff's disability, suggesting that he take an overdose of medication that would kill him.

Plaintiff's pro se complaint, filed on July 3, 2007, alleged that the defendants have violated a variety of plaintiff's rights. (See Doc. 1). The complaint did not make specific allegations against particular parties, but contends that all defendants were involved in "at least one" of a series of improper acts.*fn1 Those alleged acts included: aiding and abetting unlawful discrimination; malicious prosecution; retaliation; harassment; public stalking; interference with plaintiff's right to enjoy his family home; threats of physical harm; due process violations; equal protection violations; causing physical harm; and conspiracy. Plaintiff also filed simultaneously with the complaint a motion to proceed in forma pauperis, a motion to have an attorney appointed, and several exhibits related to the events that gave rise to the case and to complaints plaintiff filed with state agencies and courts.

After the court rendered a decision on plaintiff's initial IFP complaint, which dismissed several of the defendants and allowed service on others (See Doc. 13), plaintiff filed an amended complaint. (See Docs. 71-73 (hereinafter "Amended Complt.")). This complaint raised allegations against many of the defendants the court had previously dismissed with prejudice, and the court therefore provided that second in forma pauperis complaint with another initial screening. On February 2, 2010, the court issued a decision authorizing service of the complaint on the above-named defendants. (See Doc. 76). After plaintiff served the complaint the defendants filed the instant motions to dismiss. (Docs. 93, 98, 100). The parties then briefed the issues, bringing the case to its present posture.


Because plaintiff brings his complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq., the court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."). The court has jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) ("In any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction, the district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article II of the United States Constitution.").

Legal Standard

Defendants seek dismissal of the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). When a defendant files a motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), all well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be viewed as true and in the light most favorable to the non-movant to determine whether "under any reasonable reading of the pleadings, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Colburn v. Upper Darby Township, 838 F.2d 663, 665-66 (3d Cir. 1988) (citing Estate of Bailey by Oare v. County of York, 768 F.3d 503, 506 (3d Cir. 1985), (quoting Helstoski v. Goldstein, 552 F.2d 564, 565 (3d Cir. 1977) (per curiam)). The court may also consider "matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case." Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). The court does not have to accept legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences. See CurayCramer v. Ursuline Acad. of Wilmington, Del., Inc., 450 F.3d 130, 133 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997)).

The federal rules require only that plaintiff provide "'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,'" a standard which "does not require 'detailed factual allegations,'" but a plaintiff must make "'a showing, rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief' that rises 'above the speculative level.'" McTernan v. City of York, 564 F.3d 636, 646 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)). The "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Such "facial plausibility" exists "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the conduct alleged." Id.


The motions to dismiss contain somewhat different grounds. The court will address each motion in turn.

A. Motion of Sugarloaf Township, Sugarloaf Township Supervisors, Robert Stanziola, Earl Miller, Joyce P. Stevens and Tyler Frederick Plaintiff's final amended complaint names the Township Board of Supervisors and the individual supervisors on a variety of counts. The defendants raise various grounds for dismissing the claims against them, which the court will address as appropriate.

i. Statute of Limitations

Defendants argue that plaintiff's claims against the Township Supervisors are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. State law applies to §1983 claims when determining the appropriate statute of limitations "if it is not inconsistent with federal law or policy to do so." Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 265 (1985).

Pennsylvania law requires that the plaintiff commence his action within two years of his injury. See 42 Pa. CONS. STAT .ANN. §5524(7) (establishing a two-year statute of limitations for "any . . . action or proceeding to recover damages for injury to person or property which is founded on negligent, intentional, or otherwise tortious conduct"). Moreover, Pennsylvania courts have ruled that the statute of limitations begins to run in cases where an injury is ongoing "when the plaintiff knows, or reasonably should know: (1) that he has been injured, and (2) that his injury has been caused by another party's misconduct." Cathcart v. Keene Indus. Insulation, 471 A.2d 493, 500 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1984).

The Defendant Board of Supervisors and the individual supervisors allege that the only claims plaintiff brings specifically against the board are claims based on the Supervisor's actions an August 13, 2002 board meeting. Since plaintiff alleges that he was present at this meeting but did not file his initial complaint until 2007, defendants argue that the statue of limitations had run on plaintiff's claims against the Supervisors.

The Court will grant the Supervisors' motions, though for slightly different reasons. Plaintiff's amended complaint raises 58 counts. Plaintiff filed his original complaint on July 3, 2007. As a general matter, then, any claims which accrued before July 5, 2005 are barred by the statute of limitations. Plaintiff's first thirty-three counts all accrued before July 5, 2005 and are barred by the statute of limitations.*fn2

All of those complaints involve conduct by public officials or private individuals of which plaintiff was aware, and caused injuries of which he was immediately aware as well. Of plaintiff's remaining twenty-five claims, none allege conduct by members of the Board of Supervisors in any specific way, but merely name the Board and the individual supervisors, as every claim does.*fn3 Many of these claims focus on the actions of court officials or police ...

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