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Kline v. Hall

United States District Court, Third Circuit

September 24, 2013

GARRY RAY KLINE, Plaintiff,
v.
KENNETH HALL, TERRY DEWITT, and PRESTON STRAYER, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

WILLIAM W. CALDWELL, District Judge.

I. Introduction and Procedural History

We are considering three motions to dismiss the amended complaint, filed by each of the three defendants. Plaintiff, Garry Ray Kline, filed this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He named as defendants Kenneth Hall, Terry DeWitt, and Preston Strayer, Franklin County police officers. Plaintiff alleged that defendants DeWitt and Hall arrested him at a DUI checkpoint, allegedly suspecting him of driving under the influence of alcohol, but that they did so knowing that they lacked probable cause for the arrest. Defendant Strayer subsequently charged Plaintiff with driving under the influence, also without probable cause.

Plaintiff was acquitted at the criminal trial. In the instant case, he made two federal civil-rights claims, one for malicious prosecution against all three defendants and the other for false arrest against DeWitt and Hall. Defendants Hall and Strayer filed separate motions to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) against the malicious prosecution claim, asserting that it failed to state claim. As a result of those motions, we dismissed without leave to amend the malicious prosecution claim as against all three defendants, not just Hall and Strayer. Kline v. Hall, 2012 WL 6137620, at *3-4 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 11, 2012).

Our ruling left in place the false arrest claim against DeWitt and Hall. They each filed an answer, and then each filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). Both defendants made the following three arguments against the false arrest claim: (1) Plaintiff's allegations on the lack of probable cause, an element of the claim, were conclusory and failed to meet Plaintiff's burden to plead sufficient facts in support of the claim; (2) Plaintiff was collaterally estopped from relitigating the issue of probable cause by the decision of the trial judge in the criminal trial to deny Plaintiff's motion for judgment of acquittal at the end of the Commonwealth's case against him; and (3) the finding by a Pennsylvania magisterial district judge that there was probable cause to bind Plaintiff over for trial showed that Defendants did have probable cause to arrest Plaintiff.[1]

We rejected the second and third arguments, but we agreed with Defendants that Plaintiff had not sufficiently pled a lack of probable cause. Kline v. Hall, 2013 WL 1775061, at *3-5 (M.D. Pa. April 25, 2013). We therefore dismissed the false arrest claim, but granted Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint so that he could allege the claim with sufficient factual allegations. Id. at *6.

Plaintiff filed an amended complaint. In an attempt to cure the factual insufficiency of his original complaint, Plaintiff alleges he has incorporated by reference "the entire proceeding in his criminal trial, " (Doc. 45, Am. Compl. ¶ 1), more specifically, the transcript of the criminal trial, which he says is attached to defendant DeWitt's brief in support of DeWitt's motion for judgment on the pleadings. ( Id. ). Plaintiff identifies paragraphs 14a through 14i as the additional averments which rely on the criminal transcript.

II. Standard of Review

As noted, we are considering the motions to dismiss the amended complaint. In considering a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), "[w]e accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.'" Byers v. Intuit, Inc., 600 F.3d 286, 291 (3d Cir. 2010)(quoted case omitted).

A complaint need only contain "a short and plain statement of the claim, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and detailed factual allegations are not required, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). Nonetheless, a complaint has to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955 at 1974. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965). "[L]abels and conclusions" are not enough, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65, and a court "is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'" Id., 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (quoted case omitted).

The Third Circuit has described the Rule 12(b)(6) inquiry as a three-part process:

First, the court must take 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. Finally, where 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.

Connelly v. Steel Valley Sch. Dist., 706 F.3d 209, 212 (3d Cir. 2013)(quoted cases omitted).

With this standard in mind, we set forth the background to this litigation, as the ...


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