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Jayson Powell v. Paul Decarlo

July 31, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schiller, J.


Jayson Powell asserts claims against the City of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Police Department ("PPD"), Sergeant Paul DeCarlo, and Officers Paul Guercio, James Godfrey, and Frederick Girardo arising from an arrest that occurred beginning on February 28, 2010. He alleges that the officers violated his constitutional rights and committed various state law torts. The City of Philadelphia and PPD also have policies, according to Powell, that encourage their employees to commit constitutional violations. Defendants have filed a partial motion to dismiss, which the Court will grant in part and deny in part for the reasons that follow.


On February 27, 2010, Powell was in Philadelphia with friends celebrating his birthday. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 6, 15.) On February 28, around 2 a.m., Powell and his friends left Table 31 at the Comcast Center, where they were "partying," to go to a nearby hotel. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.) While walking to the hotel, they were approached from behind by Sergeant DeCarlo and Officer Guercio, who began pushing and yelling at the group. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18.) Powell and his friends were surprised by the officers' actions because they were not causing any commotion or being unruly. (Id. ¶¶ 18-20.)

Powell and his friends explained to the officers that they were just walking down the street, but an officer suddenly pushed Powell forward, slammed him to the ground, and arrested him. (Id. ¶¶ 20-21.) Powell tried to ask what he had done, but the officer cursed at him to be quiet. (Id. ¶ 22.) Powell was thrown into a police van and taken to a holding cell with the assistance of Officers Girardo, Frederick, and Godfrey. (Id. ¶ 23.) He remained in the holding cell overnight. (Id. ¶ 25.) By video conference, a judge informed Powell that he was charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and failure to disperse, and Powell was subsequently released. (Id. ¶¶ 26-27.)

Powell later had a hearing on the charges, in which the officers testified, as did one of Powell's friends. (Id. ¶¶ 35-36, 38-39, 41.) The arresting officer testified that Powell was in front of a club running around, yelling, and fighting, and that Powell jumped on top of another officer, putting the officer in a headlock. (Id. ¶ 38.) Powell was ultimately found not guilty of all charges. (Id. ¶ 42; Phila. Cnty. Ct. of Common Pleas Docket No. MC-51-CR-0008457-2010.)*fn1

Powell began feeling pain in his left knee upon arriving in the holding cell following his arrest, and the pain continued after he was released. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 24, 28.) An MRI revealed that Powell had suffered a meniscus tear, which would require surgery to repair. (Id. ¶¶ 47-49.)

In May 2010, Powell completed his academic studies and began pursuing post-graduate employment. (Id. ¶ 33.) Prior to his criminal trial, Powell sought to have the charges cleared to improve his chances at securing employment. (Id. ¶¶ 33-34.) Powell's job options were further limited due to increasing pain in his knee, which prevented him from standing for long periods at a time. (Id. ¶¶ 43-44.) The pain also forced him to reduce his hours at his part-time job at Best Buy. (Id. ¶ 44.)

Powell's Amended Complaint asserts a litany of claims, including violations of his civil rights and due process rights. (Id. ¶¶ 57-123.) He also claims Defendants violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (Count II), falsely arrested him under federal law (Count V), falsely arrested him and falsely imprisoned him under federal law (Count XIV), falsely arrested him under Pennsylvania law (Count VI), falsely imprisoned him under Pennsylvania law (Count X), and defamed him. (Count XIII). (Id.) Defendants' partial motion to dismiss seeks to dismiss these claims.


In reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a district court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See Bd. of Trs. of Bricklayers & Allied Craftsman Local 6 of N.J. Welfare Fund v. Wettlin Assocs., 237 F.3d 270, 272 (3d Cir. 2001). A court need not, however, credit "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions" when deciding a motion to dismiss. Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

"Factual allegations [in a complaint] must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must include "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. Although the federal rules impose no probability requirement at the pleading stage, a plaintiff must present "enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element[s]" of a cause of action. Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Simply reciting the elements will not suffice. Id. (concluding that pleading that offers labels and conclusions without further factual enhancement will not survive motion to dismiss); see also Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has directed district courts to conduct a two-part analysis when faced with a 12(b)(6) motion. First, the legal elements and factual allegations of the claim should be separated, with the well-pleaded facts accepted as true but the legal conclusions disregarded. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). Second, the court must make a commonsense determination of whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 211. If the court can only infer the mere ...

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