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Summers v. Freeman

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 12, 2013

KIT SUMMERS, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER JONATHAN FREEMAN et al., Defendants.

OPINION

JOEL H. SLOMSKY, J.

I. INTRODUCTION

In this case Plaintiff essentially challenges the legality of his arrest on September 20, 2010 and his subsequent prosecution. (Doc. No. 1.) He does so in a Complaint containing various claims made in seven counts. (Id.) At an August 1, 2013 hearing, however, counsel for the parties agreed to dismissal of all claims except for those alleged in Counts II and VI made only against Defendant Police Officer Freeman (“Defendant”). Count II alleges malicious prosecution in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and Count VI alleges malicious prosecution in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Pennsylvania common law. (Id. at 4-7.)

Prior to the August 1, 2013 hearing, Defendant had filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint (Doc. No. 5) and Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition (Doc. No. 6). Following the hearing, the parties submitted supplemental briefs (Doc. Nos. 10, 11), discussing whether the remaining claims in Counts II and VI should be dismissed against Defendant Freeman. For reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Motion to Dismiss the two remaining claims.

II. BACKGROUND

The following facts are set forth in the Complaint and are relevant to the two remaining claims of malicious prosecution against Defendant Freeman, the only remaining Defendant in this case:

On September 10, 2010, Defendant Officer Freeman was met at the Trainer Police Department by Paul Essick and told by Essick that his neighbor Kit Summers [Plaintiff] approached Essick on September 9, 2010 at 8:30 p.m. and threatened to kill Essick with his gun.

(Doc. No. 1 at ¶ 11.) Based on these allegations, Defendant arrested Plaintiff on September 20, 2010. ( Id. ¶ 12.) He was arrested after an arrest warrant was issued on September 10, 2010 by a Magisterial District Justice. The warrant is attached as Exhibit A to Defendant’s Supplemental Memorandum of Law in Support of his Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. No. 11 at 13-15.) Noted in the warrant is that Plaintiff was charged with terroristic threats (18 Pa.C.S. § 2706), harassment (18 Pa.C.S. § 2709), and disorderly conduct (18 Pa.C.S. § 5503). (Doc. No. 1 at ¶ 12.) On October 19, 2010, Plaintiff was released on bail from pretrial detention, and on April 26, 2011, Plaintiff was found not guilty of all charges. (Id. at ¶ 13-14.)

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The motion to dismiss standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is set forth in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). After Iqbal, it is clear that “threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice” to defeat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Id. at 663; see Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ethypharm S.A. France v. Abbott Labs., 707 F.3d 223, n.14 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing Sheridan v. NGK Metals Corp., 609 F.3d 239, n. 27 (3d Cir. 2010)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. “This means that our inquiry is normally broken into three parts: (1) identifying the elements of the claim, (2) reviewing the complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) looking at the well-pleaded components of the complaint and evaluating whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently alleged.” Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011). A complaint must do more than allege a plaintiff’s entitlement to relief, it must “show” such an entitlement with its facts. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (citing Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35 (3d Cir. 2008)). “[W]here 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 ‘shown’ — ‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.’” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The “plausibility” determination is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.

IV. ANALYSIS

Defendant asserts two reasons why the Complaint should be dismissed. First, Defendant submits that the malicious prosecution claims should fail because there was probable cause to arrest Plaintiff. Second, Defendant argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity for his actions.

To establish a claim for malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count II), Plaintiff must satisfy the following five elements:

(1) the defendant initiated a criminal proceeding; (2) the criminal proceeding ending in his favor; (3) the defendant initiated the proceeding without probable cause; (4) the defendant acted maliciously or for a purpose other than bringing the plaintiff to justice; and (5) the plaintiff suffered deprivation of ...

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