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Augustus Allen, Iii v. Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority

December 30, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLAUGHLIN, Sean J., District J.,


Plaintiff Augustus Allen, III, a former employee of the Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority ("EMTA"), filed this civil rights action after he was arrested and tried for allegedly making terroristic threats. The named Defendants arethe EMTA and two of its employees, Aura Torres and Michael Will (collectively, the "EMTA Defendants"), the City of Erie and Erie Police Officer Thomas Borrelli (collectively, the "City Defendants"), and the County of Erie, Bradley H. Foulk (the now deceased former District Attorney of Erie County), and the Estate of Bradley H. Foulk (collectively, the "County Defendants").*fn1

This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over Allen‟s federal claims by virtue of 28 U.S.C. §1331 and 1343(c). Supplemental jurisdiction over Allen‟s related state law claims exists pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1367(a).

Presently pending before this Court are motions by all of the named Defendants to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Because all of the claims are time-barred, the motions will be granted and the claims will be dismissed with prejudice.


When considering amotion under Rule 12(b)(6) to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim, we accept as true all allegations in the complaint and reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them after construing them in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Pocono Mountain Charter School v. Pocono Mountain School Dist., No. 10-4478, 2011 WL 3737443 at *2 (3d Cir. Aug. 25, 2011) (slip copy) (citing Rocks v. City of Philadelphia, 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir.1989)). On the other hand, "a court need not credit a plaintiff's "bald assertions' or "legal conclusions' when deciding a motion to dismiss." Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir.1997) (citing In re: Burlington Coat Factory Securities Litigation, 114 F.3d 1410, 1429-30 (3d Cir.1997))."To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.‟" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ------ U.S. --------, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).


Allen is a resident of Erie County and former employee of EMTA. On April 26, 2007, while present in the lunchroom of the EMTA premises, Allen was overheard by Defendant Aura Torres stating to another fellow worker, "I‟ll come back to this place with my AK-47 and shoot this fucking place up." (Amended Complaint ¶13.) At the time he made this statement, Allen was referring to the fact that EMTA had installed cameras within the workplace including in the private areas of the lunchroom near employee restrooms. (Id. at ¶18.)

On April 26, 2007, Allen was arrested at his church by a team of Erie police officers, including Defendant Borrelli, who entered the church and took Allen into custody in handcuffs within view of other church attendees and members of the public. (Amended Compl. at ¶ 12.) Allen was arrested and charged based solely upon the allegations of Torres and her interpretation of Allen‟s statement as a bona fide threat. (Id. at ¶ 14.) Prior to arresting Allen, Borrelli did not interview Gary Laughner, the individual to whom Allen had been speaking at the time of the alleged threat, nor did Borrelli conduct any type of investigation to ascertain whether, in fact, Allen owned or possessed a firearm. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-16.)

According to the amended complaint, EMTA had "expressly targeted" Allen for termination and it utilized Allen‟s purported workplace threat as a pretext for terminating his employment. (Amended Compl. at ¶ 22.)In addition, it is averred that "EMTA proceeded to purposely suppress and destroy the material evidence contained in the videotaping system by sending the tapes to an outside contractor for destruction without notice to the Plaintiff when EMTA knew or should have known this evidence was of material import to the pending criminal case against the Plaintiff." (Id. at ¶ 19.)

Allen contends that both the police and the District Attorney‟s office were aware of, and did nothing to prevent, the destruction of the evidence and thereby implicitly consented to its destruction. (Amended Compl. at ¶ 20.) Allen further claims that he was not informed of the destruction of the evidence until the time of his trial. (Id. at ¶21.)

In May of 2008, Allen‟s criminal case proceeded to a jury trial in the Erie County Court of Common Pleas. (Amended Compl. at ¶ 28.) At the conclusion of the Commonwealth‟s case-in-chief, the trial judge granted Allen‟s motion for a judgment of acquittal. (Id.)

Allen later commenced this action on May 21, 2010. In response to the original complaint, the Defendants moved for dismissal on several grounds, including their claim that Allen‟s claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations.

This Court held argument on March 21, 2011, at which time Allen contended that the period of limitations had been tolled by his own incapacitation. Based on this development, this Court denied the Defendants‟ motions to dismiss without prejudice to be reasserted later and allowed Allen an opportunity to replead his complaint. The Court directed that the amended complaint should include, among other things, averments detailing the nature, extent, and onset date of Allen‟s alleged mental incapacity, as well as any treatment(s) received.

Allen filed his amended complaint [33] on April 6, 2011. In it, he alleges that he: was medically incapacitated commencing November 2009 due to a stroke. Upon the onset of Plaintiff‟s disability, he was placed under [a] physician‟s care and was prescribed antidepressants which caused him to be suicidal. Plaintiff‟s disabling condition lasted at least a month. The statute of limitations as applied [to] this lawsuit was tolled or suspended for the duration of this period of disability, if not longer. (Amended Compl. at ¶ 32.) The amended complaint sets forth six causes of action, including a claim for the alleged violation of Allen‟s federal constitutional rights (Count 1) as well as claims under Pennsylvania law for alleged false arrest (Count 2), malicious prosecution (Count 3), false imprisonment (Count 4), and intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count 5). Count 6 involves a claimfor punitive damages (Count 6).

All of the Defendants have moved to dismiss the amended complaint in part or in whole. The issues have been briefed and are now ripe for consideration.


A. Allen‟s Federal Claims

Plaintiffs‟ federal claims are asserted pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which affords a private right as against:

[e]very person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws.

This statute does not create substantive rights but instead "provides only remedies for deprivations of rights established elsewhere in the Constitution or federal laws." Kneipp v. Tedder, 95 F.3d 1199, 1204 (3d Cir. 1996).

To prevail under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must prove that s/he suffered the deprivation of a constitutional or federal rights by a person acting under color of state law. Mark v. Borough of Hatboro, 51 F.3d 1137, 1141 (3d Cir.1995). Here, Allen is alleging violations of his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution -- specifically, his right to be free from "unlawful arrest, detention and imprisonment," which we construe as asserting federal claims premised upon false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. (Amended Compl. at ΒΆ 42.) Although it is not directly stated ...

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