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Frederick Schuster and Sonja M. Blair v. Township of North Sewickley

June 11, 2012

FREDERICK SCHUSTER AND SONJA M. BLAIR, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF NORTH SEWICKLEY, BRYAN LANDMAN, JEFFERY BECZE, SCOTT BLAIR, AND REBECCA BLAIR, DEFENDANTS.



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

ELECTRONICALLY FILED MEMORANDUM OPINION RE: DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS

(DOC. NOS. 12 AND 14)

I. Introduction

Pending before this Court are two Motions to Dismiss. Defendants Scott and Rebecca Blair ("Blair Defendants") filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Frederick Schuster and Sonja M. Blair's ("Plaintiffs") Amended Complaint. Doc. No. 12. In addition, the Township of North Sewickley and two of its police officers, Bryan Landman and Jeffery Becze ("Township Defendants") filed a separate Motion to Dismiss. Doc. No. 14. The parties' dispute stems from the institution of criminal proceedings by Defendants Bryan Landman and Jeffery Becze against Plaintiff Frederick Schuster.

Plaintiffs pursue this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking damages for malicious prosecution in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution (Count I), conspiracy to violate their civil rights (Count II), and intentional infliction of emotional distress under Pennsylvania law (Count III). Doc. No. 5, ¶¶ 52-80. After careful consideration of the Blair Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 12) and Brief in Support (Doc. No. 13), the Township Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 14) and Brief in Support (Doc. No. 13), Plaintiffs' Responses (Doc. No. 21, Doc. No 24) and Brief in Support (Doc. No. 25), and Defendants' Reply brief (Doc. No. 27), and for the reasons that follow, the Blair Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 12) and the Township Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 14) will be GRANTED.

II. Factual Background

When reviewing a Motion to Dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court accepts all factual allegations in the Complaint as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of Plaintiffs. See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). Taking Plaintiffs' factual allegations as true for the purposes of this Memorandum Opinion, the facts of this case are as follows:

Plaintiff Sonja Blair, the former sister-in-law of Defendant Scott Blair, contracted with her boyfriend, Plaintiff Frederick Schuster ("Schuster") to fix and maintain her rental properties, specifically those recently vacated by Scott Blair. Doc. No. 5, ¶¶ 15-19. While Schuster was performing his duties under the contract, numerous confrontations and verbal altercations ensued between the parties, some of which were initiated by Defendant Rebecca Blair, Scott Blair's wife. Id., ¶¶ 20-40.

On March 17, 2010, Schuster was attempting to leave Sonja Blair's residence by car when his exit was blocked by Scott Blair. Id., ¶ 22. After a stalemate, Scott Blair called the police, and Defendant Bryan Landman ("Landman"), an officer of the North Sewickley Police Department, arrived. Id., ¶¶ 23-24. Landman is also a social associate of Scott and Rebecca Blair. Id., ¶ 54. Two weeks later, Schuster received a citation in the mail for the charge of harassment, which was dismissed by the Beaver County Court of Common Pleas on June 21, 2011. Id., ¶¶ 26.

On several occasions, Schuster witnessed Scott and Rebecca Blair filming him driving. Id., ¶¶ 28-33. On July 30, 2010, Schuster, after delivering gravel to one of Sonja Blair's properties, was pulled over by an unnamed, non-party police officer, accused of not having a driver's license, and cited for driving under suspension. Id., ¶¶ 30-32. This citation was dismissed on August 12, 2010, by the New Brighton District Court. Id., ¶ 32. Approximately one year passed without incident. Then, on September 6, 2011, Schuster was walking with a cup of coffee by a road when an approaching car, driven by Scott Blair, caused him to jump out of the car's path and spill his coffee. Id., ¶¶ 43-45.

On September 22, 2011, Schuster received two citations from the North Sewickley Township Police Department, written by Defendant Officer Jeffery Becze ("Becze"). Id., ¶ 49. Becze is both a member of the North Sewickley Township Police Department and a social and business associate of Scott and Rebecca Blair. Id., ¶¶ 6-54. One citation was issued for harassment and the other for disorderly conduct. Id., ¶ 49. Both citations alleged that Schuster had deliberately thrown his coffee at Scott Blair's car. Id. While Scott Blair's harassment charge was dismissed, he was found guilty of disorderly conduct. Id., ¶ 50, Doc. No. 15.

Plaintiffs allege that Scott and Rebecca Blair, acting in concert with their social and business associates, Defendant Officers Landman and Becze, knowingly caused the institution of false and baseless criminal proceedings against Schuster. Id., ¶ 54. Plaintiffs further allege that Defendants instituted these proceedings solely for a malicious purpose, intentionally conspiring to interfere with Schuster's First Amendment Right to associate with whom he chooses. Id., ¶¶ 56-71. As a result, Plaintiffs claim to have suffered severe emotional and psychological distress and humiliation. Id., ¶ 79.

III. 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. Fed. R. Civ. P. 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 ...


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