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Jacqueline Sheare and Trevor R. v. Borough of Olyphant and Officer Lewis Kline

June 29, 2012

JACQUELINE SHEARE AND TREVOR R. SHEARE, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
BOROUGH OF OLYPHANT AND OFFICER LEWIS KLINE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint (Doc. 15) filed by Defendants Borough of Olyphant ("Olyphant") and Officer Lewis Kline. Jacqueline Sheare ("Mrs. Sheare") alleges that she was falsely arrested for criminal trespass after money went missing from her sister's home. According to Mrs. Sheare, Officer Kline commenced criminal proceedings against her based on numerous known falsehoods that were necessary to establishing probable cause. As such, Mrs. Sheare and her husband commenced this action asserting a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 false arrest claim against Officer Kline and a Monell claim against Olyphant. Plaintiffs also assert state law claims for abuse of process, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and loss of consortium. Defendants have moved to dismiss the action in its entirety. Because Plaintiffs have adequately stated claims for false arrest, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and loss of consortium, Defendants' motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

The facts as alleged in the Amended Complaint (Doc. 14) are as follows: The Sheares are residents of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. (Am. Compl., ¶ 1) Olyphant is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (Id. at ¶ 2.) Olyphant manages law enforcement in the borough through the Olyphant Police Department, and Lewis Kline is an officer with the department. (Id. at ¶¶ 3-7.)

In early November 2010, Mrs. Sheare made plans with her sister Kathleen Zinskie, to travel together to Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania to visit their sister Colleen. (Id. at ¶ 12.) They were all then to travel together to Maryland for a family gathering at their sister Mary's home. (Id.) Around noon on November 7, 2010, Mrs. Sheare arrived at Kathleen's home in Olyphant. (Id. at ¶ 20.) She saw both of the family's trucks in the driveway and assumed they were home. (Id. at ¶ 21.) She then went in the unlocked garage and knocked on the interior door. (Id. at ¶ 22.) Finding no one home, she assumed they were running errands. (Id. at ¶ 23.) She used the bathroom and then sat on a couch and read a magazine, waiting for their return. (Id. at ¶ 24.) Prior to November 7, 2010, Kathleen's sister would routinely welcome Mrs. Sheare into her home. (Id. at ¶ 13.) And, on November 7, 2010, Mrs. Sheare had express permision to enter the Zinskie home. (Id.)

About thirty minutes later, Mrs. Sheare's nephew, Nicholas Zinskie, came home and told her that Kathleen and her husband had already left for Elizabethtown and had left a note for her on the garage door. (Id. at ¶ 25.) They went out to the garage and Mrs. Sheare then read the note and left. (Id. at ¶ 26.) She met up with Kathleen, Colleen, and their husbands in Elizabethtown. (Id. at ¶ 28.) They all left for Maryland that evening. (Id. at ¶ 31.)

A few days later, Kathleen called Mrs. Sheare to ask her if she had been in the upstairs of the Zinskie home or seen any money lying around. (Id. at ¶ 35.). Mrs. Sheare told her she had not. (Id.) Kathleen then told her $1,000 was missing from an envelope in her husband Harry's office. (Id.)

About a week later, Officer Kline called Mrs. Sheare and asked her some questions about the missing money. (Id. at ¶¶ 38-39) He then asked her to come to the police station for an interview. (Id. at ¶ 40.) When she arrived, she was taken into an interview room and was advised she could leave at any time. (Id. at ¶ 41.) Officer Kline immediately confronted Mrs. Sheare, accusing her of lying repeatedly about her relationship with her sister, how frequently she was at the Zinskie home, and even what magazine she had read while waiting for them to return home. (Id. at ¶¶ 44-45.) He told Mrs. Sheare he was good friends with Harry Zinskie and that he knew she had taken the money. (Id. at ¶ 46.) He also said that Nicholas Zinskie had stated that he first saw Mrs. Sheare as she was exiting the garage, and that she seemed to be in a hurry. (Id. at ¶ 53.) Officer Kline said that if she did not return the money, she would be charged with a felony that would hurt her employment with the United States Postal Service. (Id. at ¶ 47.) Mrs. Sheare continually denied taking anything from the Zinskie home. (Id. at ¶ 49.)

Due to Officer Kline's threatening and abusive manner, Mrs. Sheare was extremely shaken up by the interview. (Id. at ¶¶ 57-58.) The next day, she was taken to the hospital and underwent a cardiac catherization after experiencing chest pain. (Id. at ¶ 58.) Several days later, she was charged with criminal trespass under 18 Pa.C.S. § 3503(A)(1)(i). (Id. at ¶ 62.) The charge was later dismissed by an Assistant Lackawanna County District Attorney prior to a preliminary hearing. (Id.)

In the Affidavit of Probable Cause completed by Officer Kline, he states that he was called to the Zinskie home on November 15, 2010 on a reported theft of money and that both Mr. and Mrs. Zinskie suspected Mrs. Sheare of the theft. (Doc. 17, Br. Supp. Mot.

Dismiss Am. Compl., Ex. 1.) The Affidavit also states that Nicholas Zinskie arrived home on November 7, 2010 to find Mrs. Sheare walking out of the garage. (Id.) After being asked where his parents were, Nicholas pointed to a "rather prominent note" on the garage door. (Id.) Officer Kline further states in the Affidavit that the Zinskies both told him repeatedly that Mrs. Sheare "did not have their permission to enter the residence on Sunday, 11/7/10." (Id.)

The Sheares initiated this action in August of 2011. (Doc. 1.) In the complaint, Mrs. Sheare alleged a false arrest claim against Officer Kline and a Monell claim against Olyphant, both under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Counts One and Two). She also alleged abuse of process and intentional infliction of emotional distress under state law (Counts Three and Four). Finally, her husband alleged loss of consortium against Officer Kline and Olyphant (Count Five). Olyphant and Officer Kline then filed a motion to dismiss. (Doc. 7.) The Court granted the motion to dismiss the federal claims and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims. (Doc. 13.) Subsequently, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint asserting the same five causes of action. On February 27, 2012, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint. (Doc. 15.) The motion has been briefed and is ripe for review.

LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court's role is limited to determining if a plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of their claims. See Semerenko v. Cendant Corp., 223 F.3d 165, 173 (3d Cir. 2000). The Court does not consider whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See id. A defendant bears the burden of establishing that a plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim. See Gould Elecs. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).

"A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). The statement required by Rule 8(a)(2) must give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93, 127 S. Ct. 2197, 167 L. Ed. 2d 1081 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007)). Detailed factual allegations are not required. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. However, mere conclusory statements will not do; "a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009). Instead, a complaint must "show" this entitlement by alleging ...


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