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Alfredo Montanez v. York City

December 17, 2012

ALFREDO MONTANEZ, PLAINTIFF
v.
YORK CITY, PENNSYLVANIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Now pending before the Court is defendants City of York and the York City Police Department's motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint. (Doc. 10.) For the following reasons, the motion will be granted, and this action will be dismissed with respect to the moving defendants without prejudice to plaintiff moving for leave to file an amended complaint within 30 days to address the deficiencies identified in this memorandum.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a complaint on August 7, 2012.*fn1 (Doc. 1.) In the complaint, plaintiff, a resident of the City of York, claims that he was arrested by unidentified York City Police Officers on August 6, 2010. (Id. at ¶ 14.) Plaintiff alleges that after he was handcuffed, he was struck in the chest by an unnamed individual officer. (Id. at ¶ 16.) Plaintiff claims that when he was struck by the officer, he was not resisting arrest, or otherwise failing to comply with the officer's instructions. (Id. at ¶ 17.) Plaintiff alleges that the assaulting officer was an officer with the York City Police Department, and that this officer had "received extensive training in the proper arrest of an individual who appears to have committed a crime." (Id. at ¶ 13.) In addition to these allegations, plaintiff claims that the York City Police Department is the police department for the City of York, and that the department employed the officer alleged to have assaulted plaintiff during the course of his arrest. (Id. at ¶¶ 9-11.)

Plaintiff claims that following his assault and arrest, he was charged with a number of crimes, including multiple firearms and drug offenses, and receiving stolen property.*fn2 Plaintiff alleges that he has experienced physical and psychological injuries as a direct and proximate cause of the assault -- an assault that plaintiff claims was "video recorded by a citizen of York City, Pennsylvania and placed on You-Tube." (Id. at ¶¶ 22-25.)

Plaintiff brings claims against the unnamed officers, the City of York, and the York City Police Department under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of the United States Constitution; a claim for money damages for unspecified violations of the Pennsylvania Constitution, and a claim for assault and battery under Pennsylvania common law. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages from all defendants.

On November 2, 2012, the City of York and the York City Police Department moved to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing that plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Specifically, the moving defendants argue that plaintiff's claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations; that the York City Police Department is not a legal entity capable of being sued; that plaintiff has failed to make sufficient allegations to support a claim for municipal liability; and that plaintiff's claim for damages under the Pennsylvania Constitution fail as a matter of law.

Plaintiff has filed a brief opposing the motion, arguing generally that his claim was timely filed and sufficiently pleaded, and arguing alternatively that he should be given an opportunity to amend the complaint if the Court concludes that it fails to state a claim as a currently drafted.

For the reasons that follow, we will grant the motion to dismiss, but do so without prejudice to plaintiff filing a motion for leave to amend the complaint in a final effort to set forth factual allegations sufficient to state a claim against the City of York.*fn3

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes a court to dismiss a complaint that fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). When ruling upon a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must "accept as true all [factual] allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005)). Although the court is generally constrained in its review to the facts alleged in the complaint, it "may also consider matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case." Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994); see also In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997).

Federal notice and pleading rules require that a complaint provide "the defendant notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The plaintiff must allege facts that, if true, demonstrate a plausible right to relief. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) (providing that a complaint must include a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief:); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (holding that plaintiffs are required to allege facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level").

In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Supreme Court held that, when considering a motion to dismiss, a court should "begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. at 678. According to the Supreme Court, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. at 679. Rather, in conducting a review of the adequacy of complaint, the Supreme Court has advised trial courts that they must:

[B]egin by identifying pleadings that because they are no more than conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.

Id. at 678.

Thus, following Twombly and Iqbal a well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere legal labels and conclusions. Rather, a complaint must recite factual allegations sufficient to raise the plaintiff's claimed right to relief beyond the level of mere speculation. As ...


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