Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Martin v. City of Reading

United States District Court, Third Circuit

September 30, 2013

ERNEST MARTIN, Plaintiff
v.
CITY OF READING; READING POLICE DEPARTMENT; WILLIAM HEIM, CHIEF OF POLICE OF THE READING POLICE, individually and in his official capacity; OFFICER BRIAN ERRINGTON, individually and in his official capacity, CAPTAIN DAMON KLOC, individually and in his official capacity, JOHN DOE 1 through JOHN DOE 7; PENNSYLVANIA STATE TROOPER MICHAEL PAVELKO, individually; and JOHN DOE 8 and JOHN DOE 9, Defendants

EDITH A. PEARCE, ESQUIRE WILLIAM J. RINGLAND, ESQUIRE On Behalf of Plaintiff.

DAVID J. MacMAIN, ESQUIRE On Behalf of Defendants City of Reading; Reading Police Department; William Heim, Chief of Police of the Reading Police; Officer Brian Erring- ton; and Captain Damon Kloc.

ANTHONY P VENDITTI, ESQUIRE On Behalf of Defendant Pennsylvania State Trooper Michael Pavelko.

OPINION

JAMES KNOLL GARDNER United States District Judge

This matter is before the court on [Defendant] Michael Pavelko’s Motion to Dismiss (“Motion to Dismiss of Trooper Pavelko”);[1] and Defendants City of Reading, Chief William Heim, Officer Brian Errington, and Captain Damon Kloc’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), which motions were filed January 28, 2013 (“Motion to Dismiss of Reading Defendants”).[2]

SUMMARY OF DECISION

In the within action, plaintiff Ernest Martin asserts federal civil rights and state tort claims against defendants City of Reading; Reading Police Department; William Heim, Chief of Police of the Reading Police (“Chief Heim”); Officer Brian Errington (“Officer Errington”); Captain Damon Kloc (“Captain Kloc”); and Pennsylvania State Trooper Michael Pavelko (“Trooper Pavelko”), as well as nine John Doe defendants.

Plaintiff’s claims arise from an incident on April 19, 2012. Plaintiff alleges that while he was on a highway bypass, defendant Officer Errington fired a Taser stun gun at him, as a result of which he fell off the highway bridge and sustained catastrophic injuries. Plaintiff contends that the use of force by defendant Officer Errington was illegal and excessive. Plaintiff further alleges that after the incident, defendants conspired to cover up that misconduct through an improper investigation and criminal prosecution of plaintiff.[3]

The within motions to dismiss each seek to dismiss plaintiff’s Amended Complaint in its entirety. For the reasons expressed below, the Motion to Dismiss of the Reading Defendants and the Motion to Dismiss of Trooper Pavelko are each granted in part and denied in part.

Specifically, the Motion to Dismiss of the Reading Defendants is granted as unopposed to the extent that it seeks to dismiss plaintiff’s claims for violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and, accordingly, I dismiss Count II from the Amended Complaint in its entirety, and I dismiss Count III to the extent that it asserts a claim based upon the Eighth Amendment.

Moreover, the Motion to Dismiss of Trooper Pavelko is granted to the extent that it seeks to dismiss plaintiff’s Pennsylvania state-law claims against Trooper Pavelko for defamation, false-light invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress based upon sovereign immunity. Accordingly, I dismiss only those claims against defendant Trooper Pavelko from Count VI of the Amended Complaint.[4]

However, the Motion to Dismiss of the Reading Defendants and the Motion to Dismiss of Trooper Pavelko are denied in all other respects.

JURISDICTION

This court has federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 concerning plaintiff’s federal causes of action. This court has supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) concerning plaintiff’s pendent state-law claims.

VENUE

Venue is proper for all defendants pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2) because a substantial part of the events giving rise to plaintiff’s claims occurred in West Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania, which is located within this judicial district.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff initiated this action on June 28, 2012 by filing a Civil Action Complaint (“Complaint”) in this court against the following defendants: City of Reading; Reading Police Department; William Heim, Chief of Police of the Reading Police (“Chief Heim”); The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania State Police; Captain Dante Orlandi (“Captain Orlandi”), Commanding Officer of Pennsylvania State Police Troop L; and twelve John Doe defendants (ten of them from the Reading Police Department, and two of them from the Pennsylvania State Police).[5]

On August 28, 2012 defendants City of Reading, Reading Police Department answered plaintiff’s Complaint and asserted affirmative defenses to plaintiff’s claims.[6]

On September 7, 2012 defendants The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State Police, and Captain Orlandi filed a motion seeking to dismiss plaintiff’s Complaint.

On November 2, 2012 plaintiff filed an amended Civil Action Complaint (“Amended Complaint”).[7] In his Amended Complaint, plaintiff did not include the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania State Police as defendants, [8] nor did the Amended Complaint include Captain Dante Orlandi, or the Commanding Officer of Pennsylvania State Police Troop L as defendants.

The Amended Complaint added defendant Officer Brian Errington (“Officer Errington”), defendant Captain Damom Kloc (“Captain Kloc”), and defendant Pennsylvania State Trooper Michael Pavelko (“Trooper Pavelko”). The Amended Complaint also names nine John Doe defendants instead of twelve (seven of them from the Reading Police Department, and two of them from the Pennsylvania State Police).[9]

On November 15, 2012 Captain Orlandi filed Dante Orlandi’s Motion to Dismiss plaintiff’s claims against him from the Amended Complaint.[10]

As noted above, the Motion to Dismiss of Trooper Pavelko and the Motion to Dismiss of Reading Defendants were each filed on January 28, 2013.

By Order dated January 29, 2013 and filed January 30, 2013, I approved a stipulation withdrawing all of plaintiff’s claims against Captain Orlandi and dismissed Captain Orlandi from this action as a defendant.[11]

On February 11, 2013 plaintiff responded in opposition to the Motion to Dismiss of Trooper Pavelko and the Motion to Dismiss of Reading Defendants.

By Order dated August 21, 2013 and filed August 22, 2013, I provided the parties with an opportunity provide supplemental briefs concerning the status of plaintiff’s state-court criminal proceedings because the Motion to Dismiss of Trooper Pavelko and the Motion to Dismiss of Reading Defendants each contend that plaintiff’s Amended Complaint should be dismissed based upon Younger abstention[12] in light of plaintiffs’ state-court criminal proceedings.[13] The parties each filed supplemental briefing in response to the August 21, 2013 Order.[14]

Hence this Opinion.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A claim may be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." A Rule 12(b)(6) motion requires the court to examine the sufficiency of the complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45, 78 S.Ct. 99, 102, 2 L.Ed.2d 80, 84 (1957) (abrogated in other respects by Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)).

Generally, in ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court relies on the complaint, attached exhibits, and matters of public record, including other judicial proceedings. Sands v. McCormick, 502 F.3d 263, 268 (3d Cir. 2008).

Except as provided in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9, a complaint is sufficient if it complies with Rule 8(a)(2), which requires "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief". Rule 8(a)(2) does not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, but only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. at 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d at 949.[15]

In determining whether a complaint is sufficient, the court must accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief. Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210 (citing Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008)).

Although “conclusory” or “bare-bones allegations” will not survive a motion to dismiss, Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210, a complaint may not be dismissed merely because it appears unlikely that the plaintiff can prove those facts or will ultimately prevail on the merits. Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231.

Nonetheless, to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must provide "enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element." Id. at 234 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965, 167 L.Ed.2d at 940) (internal quotations omitted).

The court is required to conduct a two-part analysis when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. First, the factual matters averred in the complaint, and any attached exhibits, should be separated from legal conclusions asserted. Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210. Any facts pled must be taken as true, and any legal conclusions asserted may be disregarded. Id. at 210-211.

Second, the court must determine whether those factual matters averred are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a “plausible claim for relief.” Id. at 211 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. at 1950, 178 L.Ed.2d at 884).

Ultimately, this two-part analysis is “context-specific” and requires the court to draw on “its judicial experience and common sense” to determine if the facts pled in the complaint have “nudged [plaintiff’s] claims” over the line from “[merely] conceivable [or possible] to plausible.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679-680, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-1951, 178 L.Ed.2d at 884-885.

A well-pled complaint may not be dismissed simply because “it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.