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Janet Watson and William Watson v. Haverford Township Police Department

June 6, 2011

JANET WATSON AND WILLIAM WATSON, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
HAVERFORD TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPARTMENT, THE TOWNSHIP OF HAVERFORD, CARMEN D. PETTINE, HARVEY PIKE, STEVEN GILL, AND JOHN PILI, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendant John Pili's Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint of Plaintiffs Janet and William Watson pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the Motion is denied in its entirety.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This action concerns the alleged unlawful arrest and imprisonment of Plaintiff Janet Watson by members of the Haverford Township Police Department. On November 17, 2008, Ms. Watson was cleaning leaves from her property in Havertown, Pennsylvania, when her neighbor, Defendant Pili, allegedly contacted Haverford Township and the Haverford Township Police Department to direct Defendant John Doe 1 send police officers to her home for the purpose of harassing her. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 20, 22.) Ms. Watson alleges that she and her husband, co-Plaintiff William Watson, had a long-standing history with Defendant Pili, who was purportedly employed or formerly employed by Haverford Township. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.) Plaintiffs aver that Defendant Pili used his influence and position with the Township and Police Department to "harass Plaintiffs with official state action and physical threats," culminating in the events described herein. (Id. ¶21.)

According to the facts set forth in the Amended Complaint, at approximately 4:30 p.m. on November 17, Defendant Harvey Pike, a Haverford Township police officer, approached Ms. Watson on her property and stated, "I guess you know I am here because of the problem you are having with your neighbor." (Id. ¶¶ 23-24.) Ms. Watson replied, "Perhaps you mean my neighbor is having a problem with me." (Id. ¶ 25.) Defendant Pike then "became aggressive" and asked Plaintiff for her driver's license. (Id. ¶ 26.) When Ms. Watson inquired several times as to why Defendant Pike asked for her license, he responded by shouting, "Because I'm asking you for it." (Id. ¶ 28.) Ms. Watson informed Defendant Pike that she would retrieve her license from her home. (Id. ¶ 29.)

While inside her home, Plaintiff Watson, fearful and alarmed by Defendant Pike's conduct, dialed 911 and requested help because she was being harassed by a Haverford Township police officer. (Id. ¶¶ 30-31.) While she was speaking with the 911 operator, Defendant Pike entered Plaintiffs' home. (Id. ¶ 32.) According to Ms. Watson, he had no probable cause to do so, nor did he have a search or arrest warrant. (Id. ¶¶ 33-36.) Defendant Pike allegedly approached Ms. Watson, "forcefully ripped the phone from her hand," and said, "I told you I would arrest you if you didn't give me your driver's license." (Id. ¶ 38.) Defendant Pike then began screaming and threw Ms. Watson down to the kitchen table. (Id. ¶ 39.) He "forcefully began pulling[,] bending and striking [Ms. Watson's] arms and upper extremities," and then restrained her arms behind her back with handcuffs, cutting off circulation to her hands. (Id. ¶¶ 40-41.) Ms. Watson's 85-year-old mother was present in the kitchen during the attack. (Id. ¶ 42.) When she asked Defendant Pike why he wanted Ms. Watson's driver's license, he purportedly stated, "Shut up or I will arrest you too." (Id. ¶ 44.)

At some point during the altercation, Defendant Steven Gill, another Haverford Township police officer, entered Plaintiffs' home. (Id. ¶ 45.) Together, Defendants Pike and Gill dragged Ms. Watson to the police car, refusing her request to put on her shoes and coat. (Id. ¶¶ 46-48.) Ms. Watson then became hysterical. (Id. ¶ 49.) She alleges Defendant Pike began screaming only inches from her ear to get in the car, and together with Defendant Gill, forcefully pushed her into the car. (Id. ¶¶ 50-51.) Plaintiffs' neighbors purportedly watched these events transpire. (Id. ¶ 52.)

Ms. Watson was then transported to the Haverford Township Police Department and placed in a jail cell under the control of Defendants John Doe 2 and 3. (Id. ¶ 53.) According to Ms. Watson, she was chained to a bench, not permitted to call her attorney, not given sustenance, not given medical attention for the injuries she sustained at the hands of Defendants Pike and Gill, was forced to beg for toilet paper, and was forced to go to the bathroom "in an area visible to male officers." (Id. ¶¶ 54-58.) At approximately 6:00 p.m. that evening, Plaintiff William Watson arrived at the Police Department to bring his wife shoes and a coat. (Id. ¶ 59.) Defendant John Doe 2 allegedly refused to allow Mr. Watson to see his wife, and did not give the shoes or coat to her. (Id. ¶ 60.) When Mr. Watson inquired as to whether his wife was permitted to make a phone call, Defendant John Doe 2 responded, "That only happens in the movies." (Id. ¶ 62.) Mr. Watson returned to the police station at 10:00 p.m. that evening in hopes of speaking with someone else. (Id. ¶ 63.) His request to see his wife was again denied, this time by Defendant John Doe 3. (Id. ¶ 64.)

Ms. Watson remained incarcerated until the following morning, November 18. (Id. ¶ 65.) She was arraigned by a Magisterial District Judge on charges of resisting arrest, obstructing administration of law or other government functions, and disorderly conduct. (Id. ¶ 67.) During her arraignment, Ms. Watson became ill and began to lose consciousness. (Id. ¶ 68.) She was transported by ambulance to the hospital, where she was treated for injuries sustained during her arrest, including injuries to her back and arms resulting from being "forcibly shoved to the kitchen table, restrained, [and] dragged and thrown into the police car" by Defendants. (Id. ¶¶ 70-71.) Ms. Watson alleges that, in addition to these physical injuries, she suffered severe emotional damages, humiliation, embarrassment, and damage to her reputation as a result of these incidents. (Id. ¶ 72.) The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania later withdrew the criminal charges against Plaintiff prior to her preliminary hearing, but a public record of her arrest remains. (Id. ¶¶ 73-74.)

Plaintiffs commenced this action on November 17, 2010 against the Haverford Township Police Department, the Township of Haverford, Chief of Police Carmen Pettine,*fn1 Harvey Pike, Steven Gill, John Pili, and John Does 1, 2, and 3. In Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint, filed on January 10, 2011, Plaintiff Janet Watson asserts (1) violations of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1988, and her First, Fourth, Fifth, Eight, and Fourteenth Amendment rights against all Defendants (id. ¶¶ 75-83); (2) assault and battery against Defendants Pike and Gill (id. ¶¶ 84-87);

(3) false imprisonment and arrest against Defendants Pike, Gill, and Does 2 and 3 (id. ¶¶ 88-90);

(4) intentional infliction of emotional distress against Defendants Pike, Gill, Does 2 and 3, and Pili (id. ¶¶ 91-94); and (5) negligence against Defendants Pike, Gill, and Does 1 through 3. (Id. ¶¶ 95-100.) Plaintiff William Watson asserts a claim for loss of loss of assistance, companionship, consortium, and society of his wife. (Id. ¶¶ 101-02.) Defendant Pili filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint against him on January 13, 2011. Plaintiffs filed a Response in Opposition on February 3, 2011. The Court now considers Defendant Pili's Motion.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under Rule 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 alsoHedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 does not call for detailed factual allegations; rather, it requires a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. 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 ...


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