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Jose Garcia v. Pennsylvania State Police

October 14, 2011

JOSE GARCIA,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE, TROOPER KEVIN P. HIBSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A PENNSYLVANIA STATE TROOPER, DUBLIN STATION AND TROOPER WILLIAM MCDERMOTT, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A PENNSYLVANIA STATE TROOPER, DUBLIN STATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Henry S. Perkin, M.J.

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is the Partial Motion to Dismiss the Complaint filed by the Defendants on July 29, 2011. See Document No. 3. For the following reasons, the Partial Motion to Dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. FACTS. *fn1

On July 6, 2009, Plaintiff Jose Garcia ("Mr. Garcia"), along with several friends and relatives, traveled from his home in Palmerton, Pennsylvania, to Quakertown, Pennsylvania to play in a pick-up soccer game. See Compl., ¶ 10. At approximately 8:00 p.m., Mr. Garcia's cousin received a telephone call that his friend Richard had been stopped nearby by the police and requested that someone come translate for him *fn2 and pick up his vehicle because he did not have his driver's license with him. *fn3

Id. at ¶ 11. Mr. Garcia agreed and a friend drove him to Richard's location. Id. at ¶ 12. Mr. Garcia did not observe any police officers present at that time, and Richard told him that the police officers told Richard to wait by his vehicle until they returned. Id. at ¶¶ 14, 15. Mr. Garcia stood next to Richard and Richard's vehicle and Trooper Kevin P. Hibson ("Trooper Hibson") drove up, stopped nearby, asked Mr. Garcia to identify himself and informed Mr. Garcia that he was going to arrest him. Id. at ¶ 16. Mr. Garcia asked the reason for his arrest and told Trooper Hibson he did not know what was happening. Id. at ¶¶ 16, 17. Within seconds, Trooper Hibson and Trooper William McDermott ("Trooper McDermott") grabbed Mr. Garcia, told him to put his hands behind his back, and pushed him against the side of Richard's vehicle. Id. at ¶ 18.

Mr. Garcia claims that Trooper Hibson, on Mr. Garcia's left, was gentle with him, but Trooper McDermott, on his right, was unnecessarily physical, aggressive and rough and slammed Mr. Garcia's head into the back window of the vehicle, chipping and breaking two of his teeth and causing immediate lacerations and bleeding in Mr. Garcia's mouth and on his lips. Id. at ¶ 19. Trooper McDermott twisted Mr. Garcia's right arm behind him, causing Mr. Garcia extreme pain and causing him to scream. Id. at ¶ 20. Trooper Hibson placed handcuffs on Mr. Garcia and tightened them, causing Mr. Garcia pain. Id. at ¶ 21. Mr. Garcia complained and was told by Trooper Hibson that the handcuffs were brand new. Id. Soon several more police officers and/or state troopers arrived, Mr. Garcia asked to be taken to the hospital, and his request was refused. Id. at ¶ 22. Mr. Garcia claims that neither Trooper McDermott nor Trooper Hibson informed Mr. Garcia that he was being arrested at any point during this interaction. Id. at ¶ 23.

Mr. Garcia informed Trooper McDermott and Trooper Hibson that if they were going to arrest him, they should do so but that he would be contacting his attorney. Id. at ¶ 24. Eventually, the handcuffs were removed from Mr. Garcia at the scene and his request for transport to the hospital was again refused. Id. at ¶ 25. While all of the police officers and/or state troopers were leaving the scene, Mr. Garcia called his sister to pick him up and take him to the hospital. Id. at ¶ 26. When she arrived, Mr. Garcia was experiencing tremendous pain and asked her to call an ambulance. Id. at ¶ 27. Mr. Garcia was taken by ambulance to the Emergency Room at St. Luke's Hospital in Quakertown where he was treated. Id. at ¶ 28.

Mr. Garcia was charged with Resisting Arrest and Disorderly Conduct under criminal complaint number 0305-09 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Id. at ¶ 29. Mr. Garcia applied for and was granted Alternative Rehabilitative Disposition ("ARD") for each crime, completed the ARD program and obtained an order from the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas expunging his criminal record. Id. at ¶ 30.

II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND.

On June 22, 2011, Mr. Garcia filed the instant case against the Pennsylvania State Police ("PSP"), Trooper Hibson and Trooper McDermott pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 1983, *fn4 claiming that the Defendants used excessive force against him (Count I), unlawfully detained him (Count II) and maliciously prosecuted him (Count III) in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. See Document No. 1. Mr. Garcia also asserts an assault and battery claim pursuant to Pennsylvania law against Troopers Hibson and McDermott (Count IV). Id. Defendants filed the instant Motion on July 29, 2011. See Document No. 3. Mr. Garcia filed his Response to the Motion on August 23, 2011. See Document No. 5. On September 2, 2011, the Honorable James Knoll Gardner referred this case to the undersigned for a settlement conference. See Document No. 6. The parties consented to a jury trial before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 on September 7, 2011. See Document No. 8. Judge Gardner approved the consent and transferred the case to my docket on September 16, 2011. See Document No. 9.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW.

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12 (b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure examines the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). The motion to dismiss standard has been the subject of much examination, culminating with the United States Supreme Court opinion Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1927 (2009). Following Iqbal, "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice" to defeat a Rule 12 (b)(6) motion to dismiss. Id. at 1949; see also Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). The Third Circuit Court of Appeals applied the principles of Iqbal in Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009), and articulated a two-part analysis that district courts in this Circuit must conduct in evaluating whether allegations in a complaint survive a 12 (b)(6) motion to dismiss.

First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated, meaning "a District Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard legal conclusions." Id. at 210-11. Second, the Court must determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint demonstrate that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief." Id. at 211. A complaint must do more than allege a plaintiff's entitlement to relief, it must "show" such an entitlement with its facts. Id. (citing Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35 (3d Cir. 2008)). "Where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not 'shown' that the pleader is entitled to relief." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950; Jones v. ABN Amro Mortg. Group, Inc., 606 F.3d 119, 123 (3d Cir. 2010). The Supreme Court explained that deciding whether a "complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id.

When faced with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, courts may consider the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and documents that form the basis of a claim. Lum v. Bank of Am., 361 F.3d 217, 222 n. 3 (3d Cir. 2004). A district court may also consider an undisputedly authentic document that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff's claims ...


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