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Hayward v. Borough of Sharon Hill

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 24, 2013

ANTONIO HAYWARD Plaintiff,
v.
BOROUGH OF SHARON HILL, et al. Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

GENE E.K. PRATTER, United States District Judge.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

This action arises from a series of disputes between the Plaintiff, Antonio Hayward and the Defendants, the Borough of Sharon Hill (“the Borough”) and Stephan and Patricia Nicolai, regarding Mr. Hayward’s property located at 445 Sharon Avenue (the “Property”). Mr. Hayward purchased the Property on September 7, 2009, with the intention of renovating it so that it would be habitable.

The allegations in Mr. Hayward’s Complaint focus on the Borough’s refusal to grant him a permit for renovating the Property and the Borough’s refusal to allow repairs to the Property. Although the allegations are numerous, a general summary suffices without explicit detail of every allegation.

With regard to Mr. Hayward’s claim that the Borough refused to grant him a permit, Mr. Hayward focuses on the Borough’s refusal to grant the permit even after two engineers allegedly reported that the property could be renovated. Mr. Hayward also alleges that the Borough acted on behalf of the Nicolais to prevent the issuance of the permit because the Nicolais did not want Mr. Hayward as their neighbor.

Mr. Hayward claims that in addition to preventing him from receiving a permit, the Borough also refused to allow the renovations to begin by engaging in “numerous activities designed to drive away Mr. Hayward’s contractors.” (Compl. ¶ 34.) Finally, Mr. Hayward alleges that in May 2011, when he was about to begin the renovation, the Nicolais parked a construction truck in front of a shared alleyway, thereby stalling the construction. When Mr. Hayward asked the Borough to remove the truck, the Borough acknowledged awareness of the truck, but refused to help him move it so he could begin construction.

Mr. Hayward states that initially he was unaware of the reasons behind the Borough’s actions, but sources later notified him that the Borough refused to allow him to renovate the Property because of his race. Accordingly, Mr. Hayward alleges that the Borough took the above actions because he is African American.

In his Complaint, Mr. Hayward brought constitutional claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law claims. In his opposition brief, Mr. Hayward consented to withdraw his trespass claim (Count VI) against the Borough. Additionally, at oral argument, Mr. Hayward’s counsel agreed that because Mr. Hayward had not requested just compensation from the Borough, his takings claim (Count V) was not ripe and should be dismissed.[2] Accordingly, Count V will be dismissed without prejudice, and Count VI will be dismissed with prejudice.

Mr. Hayward’s remaining claims are for violations of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (the “PHRA”) and for violations of his procedural due process rights, substantive due process rights, and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a complaint. Although Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), in order to “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, ” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations and quotations omitted) (alteration in original), the Plaintiff must provide “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. (citation omitted).

To survive a motion to dismiss, the Plaintiff must plead “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Specifically, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . .” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). The question is not whether the claimant will ultimately prevail but whether the complaint is “sufficient to cross the federal court’s threshold.” Skinner v. Switzer, 131 S.Ct. 1289, 1296 (2011) (citation omitted). Thus, assessment of the sufficiency of a complaint is “a context-dependent exercise” because “[s]ome claims require more factual explication than others to state a plausible claim for relief.” W. Penn Allegheny Health Sys., Inc. v. UPMC, 627 F.3d 85, 98 (3d Cir. 2010) (citations omitted).

In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint, the Court adheres to certain well-recognized parameters. For one, the Court “must consider only those facts alleged in the complaint and accept all of the allegations as true.” ALA, Inc. v. CCAIR, Inc., 29 F.3d 855, 859 (3d Cir. 1994) (citing Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)); see alsoTwombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (stating that courts must assume that “all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)”); Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 230 (3d Cir. 2010) (“[A] court must consider only the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, as well as undisputedly authentic documents if the complainant's claims are based upon these documents.”). The Court also must accept as true all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the allegations, and view those facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. SeeRocks v. City of Phila., 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir. 1989); see alsoRevell v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 598 F.3d 128, 134 (3d Cir. 2010). That admonition does not demand the Court turn its back on reality. The Court need not accept as true “unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences, ” Doug Grant, Inc. v. Greate Bay Casino Corp., 232 F.3d 173, 183– 84 (3d Cir. 2000) (citations and quotations omitted), or a Plaintiff's “bald assertions” or “legal ...


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