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James Dickerson v. Desimone

August 1, 2011


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


This case involves a failed transaction between the plaintiff and the defendants for the sale of a truck. The plaintiff alleges that after a truck was sold to him, the defendants failed to obtain financing as promised. As a result, the plaintiff returned the truck to the defendants, but without the original rims.

The plaintiff's claims arise from the actions taken by the defendants, DeSimone Auto Group ("DeSimone"), the general manager Randy Foreman ("Foreman"), and sales representative Anthony Weiss ("Weiss"), in an effort to secure the return of the original rims. The defendants filed a complaint with the Philadelphia Police Department. Criminal charges for theft were ultimately nolle prossed. The plaintiff alleges a violation of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and state law claims for abuse of process and malicious prosecution. The defendants have moved to dismiss all claims for failure to state a claim. The Court will dismiss the plaintiff's civil rights claim with prejudice; but will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiff's remaining state law claims, and, therefore, will dismiss them without prejudice.

I. Facts Alleged in Complaint

The plaintiff alleges that on January 12, 2008, he received a call from the defendant, DeSimone, informing him that he was pre-approved for financing for a new vehicle. The plaintiff subsequently went to DeSimone and purchased a 2004 Chevy Silverado for $16,383.03, with no money down. The plaintiff took the vehicle home and installed a toolbox in the bed of the truck, and removed and replaced the tires and spinning rims that were originally on the truck. Compl. ¶¶ 10-15.

On or around January 17, 2007, defendant Weiss called the plaintiff at home and asked for a $1,500.00 payment for the truck. The plaintiff told Weiss that he could not make the payment, and Weiss told him to contact his credit union for a cash advance. Around that time, the plaintiff began receiving notices of rejection for various loans applied for in his name by DeSimone, due to the fact that the loans were requested for a greater amount than the value of the truck. Compl. ¶¶ 16-21.

The plaintiff alleges that on January 21, 2008, he believed that DeSimone failed to secure financing on his behalf. On January 22, 2008, the plaintiff voluntarily returned the truck to DeSimone. The plaintiff had removed the toolbox, but the plaintiff forgot to replace the original rims. That day, defendant Foreman called the plaintiff and demanded the return of the rims and accused the plaintiff of vandalism. Compl. ¶¶ 22-26.

On January 24, 2008, the plaintiff was arrested by the Philadelphia Police Department, and was charged with theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property. After spending a night in jail, he was released on his own recognizance. On April 24, 2007, the plaintiff appeared for a preliminary hearing at which defendant Foreman testified that he turned over the truck to the plaintiff so that he could obtain his own financing. The judge ordered the plaintiff to be tried on both charges. After the trial was delayed several times, the District Attorney's office decided to nolle prosse the charges against the plaintiff. Compl. ¶¶ 27-42.

II. Procedural History

The plaintiff filed a complaint on April 13, 2009, alleging that defendants DeSimone, Foreman, and Weiss violated the plaintiff's rights in the sale of the truck and initiation of criminal proceedings against him. The plaintiff brought claims with respect to the sale of the truck under the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Sales Finance Act, and the Federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act. The plaintiff also brought claims of fraud and fraudulent misrepresentation, abuse of process, malicious prosecution and the violation of the plaintiff's civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The defendants moved to dismiss the case based on an arbitration agreement between the parties.

After oral argument, the Court dismissed most of the claims based on the arbitration agreement. The Court also dismissed with prejudice the abuse of process, malicious prosecution, and civil rights claim for failure to state a claim. The plaintiff moved for reconsideration, which was denied. Although discussed at oral argument, the parties had not briefed the issue of whether the plaintiff failed to state a claim under § 1983. The plaintiff appealed and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit remanded the § 1983 civil rights claim to allow the parties the opportunity to brief the issue of whether the complaint fails to state a claim. See Dickerson v. DeSimone, 400 Fed. Appx. 636, 638 (3d Cir. 2010). The Third Circuit also remanded the abuse of process and malicious prosecution claims for the Court to consider whether to retain supplemental jurisdiction over these claims if the federal civil rights claim is dismissed. Id.

III. Analysis

The defendants have filed a Supplemental Motion to Dismiss plaintiff's claims that were remanded by the Court of Appeals pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).*fn1 The defendants argue that the plaintiff fails to state a claim for civil rights violations under ยง 1983 because the defendants were not state actors. The defendants also argue that the Court should retain jurisdiction over the abuse of process and malicious prosecution claims, in the interest of ...

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