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Vanessa Olarte v. Ryan Cywinski

August 28, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Munley)


Before the court for disposition is defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 11). The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.


On or about November 18, 2011, Vanessa Olarte (hereinafter "plaintiff") was driving home from college on Middle Road, Hanover Township, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 8 (hereinafter "Compl."); Doc. 12, Def. Br. in Supp. at 2). Plaintiff noticed a police car behind her with its lights on and immediately pulled over. (Compl. ¶¶ 9, 10). Defendant Ryan Cywinski (hereinafter "defendant"), a Hanover Township Police Department officer, approached plaintiff's car and told her that he pulled her over for speeding. (Id. ¶¶ 5, 11). Plaintiff provided defendant with her valid driver's license, insurance and registration and defendant went back to his police vehicle. (Id. ¶ 13; Doc. 1, Exs. A, B, C). Approximately five minutes later, defendant returned to plaintiff's car and asked her if she had been to Philadelphia. (Compl. ¶ 14). Plaintiff responded, "No." (Id. ¶ 15). Defendant told her that her car's license plates*fn1 were reported stolen in Philadelphia. (Id. ¶ 16). Plaintiff stated that it was impossible because she has never been there. (Id. ¶ 17).

Defendant went to his police car and minutes later another police car arrived at the scene. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 20). Shortly thereafter, a third police car arrived. (Id. ¶ 21). Appropriately thirty minutes later, three officers approached plaintiff and told her that they had to take her license plates because they were reported stolen and her car would be towed because it was illegal to drive the car without valid plates. (Id. ¶ 22). Plaintiff asked defendant how long her plates were reported stolen. (Id. ¶ 23). Defendant told her "since 2007." (Id. ¶ 24). Plaintiff also asked defendant why she had never previously had a problem when she was pulled over or when renewing her yearly registration. (Id. ¶ 25). The license plate numbers on her car were the same as her registration. (Id. ¶ 18). Defendant refused to answer any of plaintiff's questions and told her to get out of her car. (Id. ¶ 26).

Defendant gave plaintiff an "acknowledgment of seized driver's license/vehicle registration" form and noted that she refused to sign. (Id. ¶ 27; Doc. 1, Ex. D). Plaintiff alleges that defendant never asked her to sign the form. (Compl. ¶ 27). Defendant gave plaintiff a ticket for speeding. (Id. ¶ 28; Doc. 1, Ex. E). He told her that she should be happy he was not arresting her for driving with stolen plates. (Compl. ¶ 29). Plaintiff exited her car and it was towed. (Id. ¶ 30). Defendant asked plaintiff if she needed a ride and she responded that she did, however, the three officers left plaintiff at the scene without providing her with any transportation. (Id. ¶ 31).

Plaintiff immediately contacted her insurance agent. (Id. ¶ 32). The agent then contacted PennDot to inquire whether the license plates were reported stolen. (Id.) A PennDot representative stated that there were no reported incidents regarding the plates and advised plaintiff to go to the police station and ask for a police report and her license plates. (Id. ¶¶ 32, 33; see Doc. 1, Ex. F).

Later that day, plaintiff went to the police station to speak to defendant. (Compl. ¶ 34). Defendant stated that a police report did not exist. (Id.) A few minutes later, defendant said there was a report, but it was "classified" and she could not have access to it without a lawyer. (Id. ¶ 35). Defendant told plaintiff that he had taken care of the stolen registration status, but already sent her plates to PennDot, therefore she would have to buy new license plates. (Id. ¶ 36).

Plaintiff claims that she incurred expenses to have her car towed and secure new license plates. (Id. ¶¶ 37, 38; see Doc. 1, Exs. G, H). Prior to receiving the new plates, she was unable to drive her car, which left her with no transportation to go to school or work. (Comp. ¶ 39). She was also unable to transport her mother to work. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that she lost income and incurred additional expenses for public transportation. (Id.)

Plaintiff filed a three-count complaint against defendant on April 5, 2012. (Doc. 1). Counts I and II allege violations of plaintiff's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Count III asserts a Pennsylvania state law conversion claim. On June 6, 2012, defendant filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 11). The parties have fully briefed the motion, bringing the case to its present posture. Jurisdiction

The court has federal question jurisdiction over this case brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (hereinafter "Section 1983") for violation of plaintiff's constitutional rights. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."); 28 U.S.C. §§ 1343(a)(3), (4) (granting district courts jurisdiction over civil actions brought to redress deprivations of constitutional or statutory rights by way of damages or equitable relief).

The court has supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) ("[I]n any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction, the district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of the United States Constitution."). Legal Standard

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of a complaint's allegations. Granting the motion is appropriate if, accepting as true all the facts alleged in the complaint, the plaintiff has not pleaded "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," or put another way, "nudged [his or her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The Third Circuit interprets Twombly to require the plaintiff to describe "enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" each necessary element of the claims alleged in the complaint. Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Moreover, the plaintiff must allege facts that "justify moving the case beyond the pleadings to the next stage of litigation." Id. at 234-35.

In relation to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), the complaint need only provide "'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 upon which it rests,'" Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted). "[T]he factual detail in a complaint [cannot be] so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232 (citation omitted). "Rule 8(a)(2) requires a 'showing' rather than a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief." Id.

The issue is whether the facts alleged in the complaint, if true, support a claim upon which relief can be granted. In deciding a 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and give the pleader the benefit of all reasonable inferences that can fairly be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). However, "we are not bound to accept as true a ...

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