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Antonio Frank Pettinato v. Allegheny County and Matt Mullen

July 8, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge



Plaintiff, Antonio Frank Pettinato, filed this civil rights lawsuit against Defendants, Allegheny County and his probation officer, Matt Mullen. See Complaint at doc. no. 1 and Amended Complaint at doc. no. 16. Plaintiff was arrested and charged with four counts of driving under the influence and one count of exceeding the speed limit in 2006. Id. As a result of these charges, Plaintiff was placed on probation and admitted into Allegheny County‟s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition ("ARD") program. Id. Plaintiff complains that after successfully completing the ARD program and paying all fines associated with his criminal violations, Defendants filed a Motion to Revoke Plaintiff from the ARD program. Id. A bench warrant was issued, Plaintiff was arrested on April 5, 2007, and he remained in jail until April 9, 2007. Id. Plaintiff‟s Complaint avers that Defendants wrongfully incarcerated him during this period of time and thereby violated his civil rights. Id.

After Plaintiff filed his Complaint (doc. no. 1), Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss to the Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), primarily arguing that Plaintiff‟s lawsuit was barred by the statute of limitations. See doc. no. 7. In response, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Amend the Complaint (doc. no. 14) which this Court granted. See doc. no. 17. Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on June 20, 2011. Doc. no. 16. Defendant timely filed a renewed Motion to Dismiss and Brief in Support on June 23, 2011, and again, primarily asserted a statute of limitations defense. Doc. nos. 17 and 18. Plaintiff filed his Response to the Motion to Dismiss and Brief in Opposition to the renewed Motion to Dismiss on June 23, 2011. See doc. nos. 19 and 20. This matter is now ripe for adjudication.

I. Standard of Review

In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, federal courts require notice pleading, as opposed to the heightened standard of fact pleading. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only ""a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,‟ in order to "give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds on which it rests.‟" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).

Building upon the landmark United States Supreme Court decisions in Twombly, 550 U.S. 54 and Aschroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1947 (2009), the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, recently explained that a District Court must take three steps to determine the sufficiency of a complaint:

First, the court must "tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1947 (2009). Second, the court should identify allegations that, "because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.‟ Id. at 1950. Third, "whe[n] there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.‟ Id. This means that our inquiry is normally broken into three parts: (1) identifying the elements of the claim, (2) reviewing the complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) looking at the well-pleaded components of the complaint and evaluating whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently alleged.

Malleus v. George, No. 10-3539, 2011 F.3d WL 2044166, at *6 (3d Cir. May 26, 2011).

The third step of the sequential evaluation requires this Court to consider the specific nature of the claim(s) presented and to determine whether the facts pled to substantiate the claim(s) are sufficient to show a "plausible claim for relief." "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a Complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Id.; See also Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11.

The Court may not dismiss a Complaint (or Counterclaim) merely because it appears unlikely or improbable that plaintiff can prove the facts alleged or will ultimately prevail on the merits. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 563 n.8. Instead, the Court must ask whether the facts alleged raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary elements. Id. at 556. Generally speaking, a Complaint (or Counterclaim) that provides adequate facts to establish "how, when, and where" will survive a Motion to Dismiss. Fowler, 578 F.3d at 212; See also Guirguis v. Movers Specialty Services, Inc., 346 Fed.Appx. 774, 776 (3d Cir. 2009).

In short, the Motion to Dismiss should not be granted if a party alleges facts which could, if established at trial, entitle him to relief. Fowler, 578 F.3d at 563 n.8.

II. Factual Background

Many of the underlying facts set forth in Plaintiff‟s Amended Complaint are undisputed unless otherwise noted. The allegations set forth below in this Court‟s Opinion are accepted as true solely for the purposes of deciding Defendants‟ Motion to Dismiss.

On January 8, 2006, Plaintiff was stopped for exceeding the speed limit, and was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. See Amended Complaint at doc. no. 16, ¶ 10. On January 18, 2006, Plaintiff was charged with four counts of driving under influence of alcohol in violation of 75 Pa.C.S. § 3802, and one count of exceeding the maximum speed limit in violation of 75 Pa.C.S. § 3362. Id. at ¶ 12.

At the preliminary hearing, on March 8, 2006, Plaintiff was released on his own recognizance. Id. at ¶13. On May 26, 2006, Plaintiff was admitted into the ARD Program. Id. at ¶ 14. Plaintiff‟s probation, which was a part of the ARD program, ended on November 26, 2006, but as of that date, Plaintiff had an outstanding balance of ...

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