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

July 11, 2012


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


I. Introduction

Presently before this Court are two Motions to Dismiss. Defendants Scott and Rebecca Blair ("Blair Defendants") filed a Renewed Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Frederick Schuster and Sonja M. Blair's ("Plaintiffs'") Second Amended Complaint. Doc. No. 36. In addition, the Township of North Sewickley and two of its police officers, Bryan Landman and Jeffery Becze ("Township Defendants") filed a separate Renewed Motion to Dismiss. Doc. No. 34.

Previously, on June 11, 2012, this Court entered a Memorandum Opinion addressing both the Blair Defendants' and the Township Defendants' prior Motions to Dismiss all three counts of Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint.*fn1 Doc. No. 28. In that Opinion, this Court granted Defendants' Motions and dismissed Plaintiffs' claims without prejudice. With leave of Court, Plaintiffs subsequently filed a Second Amended Complaint on June 22, 2012, asserting the following two claims, in addition to those set forth in the Amended Complaint: malicious prosecution under Pennsylvania State Common Law (Count II), and violation of First Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count III).*fn2 Doc. No. 33. The Defendants have since moved to dismiss all five counts of Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint.*fn3 For the reasons that follow, the Blair Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 36) and the Township Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 34) will be GRANTED.

II. Statement of Facts

As in the first Memorandum Opinion on the Blair Defendants' and the Township Defendants' Motions to Dismiss, Plaintiffs' allegations are taken as true and all reasonable inferences are drawn in their favor. See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). Although Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint asserts two additional claims, the substance of Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint generally remains the same as the Amended Complaint.*fn4

The only substantive factual additions in Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint that differ from allegations in Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint are as follows: (1) Defendants conspired to deprive Plaintiffs of their civil rights, motivated by both racial animus, stemming from Plaintiffs' German ancestry, and class animus, because Plaintiffs "are not originally from the Township of North Sewickley, and are viewed as outsiders by the Defendants to the point that there is animus . . ." (Doc. No. 33 ¶ 73); and (2) as a result of Defendants' alleged malicious prosecution, Plaintiff Frederick Schuster ("Schuster") incurred $26,280.00 in legal expenses and costs, and is unable to freely associate with whom he wishes. Id., ¶ 66-97.

Additionally, Plaintiffs attempt to support their malicious prosecution claim by providing more background information regarding the events that transpired between the parties. Id., ¶¶ 19-78. Plaintiffs aver that Defendant Bryan Landman ("Landman") repeatedly told Plaintiff Schuster to stay away from Plaintiff Sonja Blair's business property, and that if he did so, all charges against Schuster would be dropped. Id., ¶¶ 77-78. Furthermore, Plaintiffs aver that they "were not able to move about the Blair Nursing Home properties without fear of Schuster being falsely charged with a crime." Id., ¶ 70. Plaintiffs allege that Plaintiff Schuster was afraid to associate with Plaintiff Blair because he did not want to be falsely charged with additional crimes (Id., ¶ 48); however, the following paragraphs outline the numerous ways in which Plaintiffs, in fact, continue to associate. Id., ¶¶ 49-84.

Plaintiffs attempt to strengthen their conspiracy claims by stating that it is their belief that Defendants met to conspire against Plaintiffs for the purpose of depriving their civil rights because they observed Defendant Becze visiting Defendant Scott Blair's property, where he remained for hours. Id., ¶¶ 71-72. Plaintiffs also assert that the Blair Defendants and their families, and Defendant Landman and his family, are involved in the municipal activities of the Township of North Sewickley. Id., ¶ 118.

In order to support the intentional infliction of emotional distress claims, Schuster alleges unbearable stress and reoccurring panic attacks, requiring him to meet with a counselor on a weekly basis. Id., ¶ 134 Further, both Plaintiffs experienced instances of insomnia. Id., ¶ 135. Defendants' harassment of Plaintiffs continues to date. Id., ¶¶ 80-84.

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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957).

Building upon the landmark United States Supreme Court decisions in Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit explained that a District Court must undertake the following three steps to determine the sufficiency of a complaint:

First, the court must "tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim." Second, the court should identify allegations that, "because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Third, "whe[n] there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief." This means that our inquiry is normally broken into three parts: (1) identifying the elements of the claim, (2) reviewing the Complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) looking ...

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