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Valerie Myers v. Police Officer Demoss Jones

November 5, 2012

VALERIE MYERS
INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF ANDRE MORALES, DECEASED
v.
POLICE OFFICER DEMOSS JONES, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'neill, J.

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Valerie Myers individually and as administratrix of the estate of Andre Morales filed this action seeking damages for claims arising out of the decedent's death. Now before me are a motion to dismiss her amended complaint filed by defendants Upland Borough and Police Chief John R. Easton*fn1 and plaintiff's response thereto. For the reasons that follow I will grant the motion in part and deny the motion in part.

BACKGROUND

Most of the circumstances surrounding this action are in dispute, but for purposes of deciding this motion I will view the facts in favor of plaintiff who is the nonmoving party. On June 29, 2010, police officers employed by the City of Chester, Delaware County, and Upland Borough responded to an armed robbery in progress. Dkt. No. 18 at ¶¶ 18, 20, 22. Subsequently, the decedent attempted to flee the area before being shot and killed by the officers in pursuit. Id. at ¶¶ 23-24. The decedent was unarmed and not posing a threat to anyone while trying to evade arrest. Id. at ¶ 24. Immediately prior to this incident, a police officer at the scene suffered a non-lethal gunshot wound, the origins of which are presently unclear. Id. at ¶ 26.

On June 28, 2012, plaintiff filed her initial complaint alleging a claim for wrongful death under state law as well as various violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, including a claim pursuant to Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). Dkt. No. 1 at 7-22. Her complaint listed Officer Michael Curran as a defendant but incorrectly described him as a member of the Chester Police Department. Id. at ¶ 8. In reality, Officer Curran is a member of the Upland Borough Police Department. Dkt. No. 18 at ¶ 16. Consequently, when plaintiff recognized her error she filed an amended complaint on July 30, 2012, correctly describing Officer Curran's employer. Id. at ¶ 11. The amended complaint also added Upland and Chief Easton as new defendants in her Monell claim. Id. at ¶¶ 7, 10.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss all or part of an action for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Typically, "a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations," though plaintiff's obligation to state the grounds of entitlement to relief "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . on the assumption that all of the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Id. (citations omitted). The complaint must state "'enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element." Wilkerson v. New Media Tech. Charter Sch. Inc., 522 F.3d 315, 321 (3d Cir. 2008), quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. The Court of Appeals has made clear that after Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), "conclusory or 'bare-bones' allegations will no longer survive a motion to dismiss: 'threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.' To prevent dismissal, all civil complaints must now set out 'sufficient factual matter' to show that the claim is facially plausible." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009), quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The Court also set forth a two part-analysis for reviewing motions to dismiss in light of Twombly and Iqbal:

First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The District Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Second, a District Court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief."

Id. at 210-11, quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The Court explained, "a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to 'show' such an entitlement with its facts." Id., citing Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35 (3d Cir. 2008). "Where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged--but it has not 'show[n]'--'that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

DISCUSSION

Upland and Chief Easton seek to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint on three grounds. First, they argue that the statute of limitations has expired for plaintiff's Monell claims and that the amended complaint does not relate back to the filing date of her original complaint. Dkt. No. 33 at 4. In the alternative, moving defendants assert that plaintiff does not allege enough facts to sustain her Monell claims. Id. Chief Easton also seeks to dismiss plaintiff's Monell claim against him in his individual capacity. Id. at 18. I will address these issues separately.

I. Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations for plaintiff's Monell claims is two years. Garvin v. City of Phila., 354 F.3d 215, 220 (3d Cir. 2003). Plaintiff concedes that she did not file her amended complaint within the two year statute of limitations but argues that the claims set forth in her amended complaint relate back to the filing date of her initial complaint ...


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