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Pennsylvania Care, L.L.C. D/B/A Miners Medical Center v. Ashley Borough and Mike Collins

March 25, 2011

PENNSYLVANIA CARE, L.L.C. D/B/A MINERS MEDICAL CENTER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ASHLEY BOROUGH AND MIKE COLLINS, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is the defendants' motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 6.)

The plaintiff in this matter is a limited liability company which operates a methadone treatment facility in Ashley Borough, Pennsylvania. In its complaint, the treatment facility alleges that the borough and its zoning officer engaged in various actions, including ordering the facility to shut down, in violation of its rights. The facility brings due process and equal protection claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and discrimination claims under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The borough and its zoning officer jointly move to dismiss. For the reasons explained below, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background*fn1

Miners Medical Center is a limited liability company which provides mental health and substance abuse treatment, including methadone treatment. Miners Medical determined that an office location on Main Street in Ashley Borough would be a good location for a treatment center, and entered into a lease for office space in a shopping center at 43 S. Main Street in November 2008. The office space that was leased is zoned to permit medical offices. In February of 2009, Miners Medical submitted a construction permit application to the borough, and was issued a construction permit in February 2009. Miners Medical explained to the borough's zoning office that it intended to operate a treatment center, and was informed that it did not need to submit a zoning permit application because its proposed use as a medical center was permitted as of right. In May 2009, the construction was completed, and the borough's zoning officer completed its final inspection of the medical office. The borough issued a certificate of occupancy to the medical office.

In October 2009, Joe Kordek, the borough's zoning officer, asked a representative of Miners Medical, in a denigrating tone, if the center would be treating drug addicts. In April 2010 , the borough's solicitor (who represents a competing methadone treatment facility) stated that the borough was upset because the treatment center "snuck into" the borough. Later that month, a member of the zoning hearing board entered the medical office and angrily asked if methadone was used.

On April 25, 2010, Mike Collins, a zoning officer, informed the treatment center that he was going to shut it down. The next day, the center opened for business.

On April 28, 2010, a brick was thrown through a closed window of the office. Additionally, individuals massed outside the office and screamed insults at staff and patients. That same day, Mike Collins sent a letter to the center ordering it to stop using the medical office. On April 30, 2010, the borough and Mike Collins contacted Family Dollar's corporate office (the shopping center that housed Miners Medical also housed a Family Dollar store) and made derogatory statements about the presence of the treatment center.

Miners Medical filed the present action on May 4, 2010 against the borough and Mike Collins. It alleges that by falsely informing the public that the center was violating the law, the borough incited the public to engage in violent and intimidating conduct toward the treatment center, its employees, and patients. Patients cancelled appointment and the treatment center lost money.

Miners Medical brings constitutional claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. It alleges that the defendants violated its Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection. Additionally, the plaintiff brings claims under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The defendants move to dismiss. The Court requested supplemental briefing on whether the plaintiff had exhausted its administrative remedies. The zoning appeal has resolved the dispute in the plaintiff's favor and the plaintiff's constitutional and statutory claims are now ripe for review.

The defendants move for dismissal on four grounds: first, they argue that the plaintiff's request for declaratory and injunctive relief is barred by the doctrine of Younger abstention; second, they argue that the plaintiff's claims are barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; third, they argue that the disability discrimination claims fail as a matter of law; and finally, they argue that Michael Collins is entitled to qualified immunity.

II. Discussion

A. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In deciding a 12(b)(6) motion, courts "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). Dismissal is appropriate only if a plaintiff has failed to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), which is to say "enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of illegal[ity]." In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 319 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Arista Records, LLC v. Doe 3, 604 F.3d 110, 120 (2d Cir. 2010) (alteration in Arista Records)).

"A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. "Where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere ...


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