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Craig Langweiler v. the Borough of Newtown

May 12, 2011



This action arises out of a former Borough of Newtown police officer's alleged false arrest and subsequent alleged harassment of Plaintiff Craig Langweiler ("Langweiler"). Langweiler brings various claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Borough of Newtown (the "Borough"), its Police Chief Anthony Wojciechowski ("Wojciechowski"), the offending officer, Lee Matthews ("Matthews"), and John Does 1-10 (collectively referred to herein as "Defendants"). Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Partially Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint. (Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 21.) For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Factual and Procedural History

According to the Amended Complaint, the underlying facts are as follows. On or about July 1, 2008, Matthews pulled over Langweiler and arrested him for driving under the influence and assaulting a police officer. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 19 ¶ 10.) Matthews "parad[ed Langweiler] down the street in handcuffs for the purpose of taking him to a county jail." (Id. ¶ 11.) The arrest was reported on the front page of a local paper the next day. (Id. ¶ 12.) As a consequence of the arrest and charges, Langweiler was terminated from his job as a stock broker and could not find employment for six months. (Id. ¶ 13.) Both New Jersey and Florida also suspended his stock broker's licenses, and they remain suspended. (Id. ¶ 18.)

Langweiler also alleges that on the night of his arrest, Matthews impounded his car and intentionally rolled down the windows to allow in rain, destroying 150 harmonicas. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 20.) Although the charges were ultimately dismissed, Langweiler remained in jail for three days after his arrest and "expended tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees" to fight the charges. (Id.

¶¶ 15, 21-22.) He also claims that Matthews pulled him over on at least four other occasions to harass him, and persuaded a police officer in another township to pull him over for allegedly carrying contraband. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16). The unidentified officer pulled over Langweiler outside the officer's jurisdiction (Id. ¶ 16.) Langweiler alleges the unidentified officer knew no probable cause existed but still agreed to pull him over. (Id. ¶ 17.)

With regard to the Borough and Wojciechowski, Langweiler alleges that they "made no attempt at a background check" of Matthews when they initially hired him, which would have disclosed that he had been terminated from another township for "misconduct." (Id. ¶¶ 24, 27.) Langweiler alleges Matthews was terminated from his prior position for "improper[ly] stopping vehicles, without probable cause and solely for the purpose of earning overtime." (Id. ¶ 25.) Moreover, nine other police departments rejected Matthews's applications for employment before the Borough hired him. (Id. ¶ 26.) Langweiler contends the other departments rejected Matthews's applications because of the nature of his termination. (Id.)

According to Langweiler, the Borough and Wojciechowski did not attempt a background check because they knew Matthews's prior history. (Id. ¶ 28.) Nevertheless, they hired him as a non-civil service part time police officer subject to Wojciechowski's day-to-day supervision and pending completion of an education and training program. (Id. ¶ 30.) Langweiler contends the Borough and Wojciechowski did not enforce these conditions. (Id. ¶ 31.) Langweiler also alleges that John Does 1-10 conspired with Wojciechowski to hire Matthews. (Id. ¶ 29.)

On December 29, 2010, the Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' first motion to dismiss. See Langweiler v. Borough of Newtown, No. 10-3210, 2010 WL 5393529, at *9 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 29, 2010). The Court granted Langweiler leave to file an amended complaint to cure the deficiencies identified. Defendants' present Motion to Dismiss seeks to partially dismiss that Amended Complaint. After having been granted an extension of time, Langweiler timely responded. (Opp'n, ECF No. 26.)

II. Jurisdiction and Legal Standards

A. Jurisdiction

The Court has jurisdiction over Langweiler's § 1983 claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b).

B. Legal Standards

In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and must construe them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 228 (3d Cir. 2008). The Third Circuit has addressed the effect of the Supreme Court's most recent pleading-standard decisions, Twombly v. Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009). See Phillips, 515 F.3d at 233-34. Twombly established a three- pronged approach for all civil actions: first, the court must identify the elements Langweiler must plead to state a claim; second, the court asks whether the complaint sets forth factual allegations or conclusory statements; third, if the complaint sets forth factual allegations, the court must assume their veracity and draw reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party, but then must determine whether the factual allegations plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 & n.7 (3d Cir. 2010); see Iqbal 129 S. Ct. at 1950, 1953. For the second step, the court should separate the factual and legal elements of the claims, accepting the well-pleaded facts as true and disregarding any legal conclusions. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009).

To state a claim, a plaintiff must allege circumstances with enough factual matter to suggest the required claim exists. Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234. This does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary elements of the claims. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949; Phillips, ...

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