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Lucarelli v. Beltz

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 31, 2014

THOMAS BELTZ, et al., Defendants.


MARTIN C. CARLSON, District Judge.

I. Statement of Facts and of The Case

This is a pro se civil rights case filed by the plaintiff, Charles Lucarelli, on September 19, 2013. (Doc. 1) Lucarelli is a familiar, if often unsuccessful, litigant in federal court, who has had some 16 prior lawsuits dismissed by the Court. In the instant complaint, Lucarelli alleges in a colloquial and conversational fashion that he received a citation from a state trooper on or about March 14, 2013. (Doc. 1, ¶ 1) According to Lucarelli, later that same day, a state trooper removed the license plate from his vehicle. ( Id., ¶ 5). Lucarelli then rented a room at the Hampton Inn, a motel managed by defendant Lori Belletieri. ( Id., ¶ 7). This assertion that Belletieri managed the Hampton Inn seems to be the only well-pleaded allegation made by Lucarelli against this defendant.

Lucarelli alleges that a short time after renting this room, officers from the Franklin Township Police Department came to his motel room, ( Id., ¶ 8), stating that they had been told by "the Hampton Inn" that Lucarelli was drunk and disorderly. ( Id., ¶ 8) Lucarelli then claims that these unnamed officers forced him to take an alcohol test in his room. ( Id., ¶ 8) Specifically Lucarelli explained that: "Mr. Lucarelli alleges both police and Hampton Inn were in complicity in a reuse [sic]. Plaintiff under false imprisonment, defamed Plaintiff and harassed Plaintiff." ( Id., ¶ 11) Lucarelli then averred that: "Cops saying if I come out of hotel room Ill. [sic] be arrested. The hotel is watching me Defendant cops said. On top of that wanted to take me to hospital for blood." ( Id., ¶ 12). Indeed, according to Lucarelli: "The Defendant cops came at me in my hotel like a SWAT team. One cop was in civilian clothes, built like Hernandez of Boston Patriots, the other, the mouthy one, was middle aged, average build in a cop jacket. Allegedly to cover his name tag." ( Id., ¶ 14)

After making these factual assertions, Lucarelli then addressed the alleged conduct of the police in a more rhetorical fashion stating: "Cops said I had alcohol in the bathroom. I think Franklin Township should change uniforms and put brown shirts on. In my domicile what right do the Franklin Township cops have to say what plaintiff has in his room. Now look. Plaintiff has just paid over $140. At the Hampton Inn, managed by Lori Belletieri. Plaintiff had no alcohol in room. What if I did hypothetically? Is the Hampton Inn a part of Franklin Township Police Department? What right does defendant Franklin Police have to force a U.S. citizen to take an alcohol test in plaintiff's hotel room? Harassing me of am I on pills? Saying where are the pills in my room? Allegedly Hampton Inn is in complicity with the cops to act this way." ( Id., ¶ 17). On the basis of this recital Lucarelli then sought damages totaling $2, 000, 000 from the defendants. (Id.) While reciting these facts relating to alleged conduct of these unidentified police officers, Lucarelli's complaint was devoid of any well-pleaded facts relating to the involvement of defendant Belletieri beyond a general assertion that: "Defendant Hampton Inn, Lori Belletieri and Franklin Township Police under Chief Thomas Beltz allegedly were together to violate plaintiff's Civil Rights to roam free and be silent and violate his domicile rights to privacy. Harassing plaintiff threatening to arrest if I left my Hampton Inn room. False imprisonment violations with intent to violate my Civil Rights." ( Id., ¶ 16)

Defendant Belletieri, has now moved to dismiss this complaint, arguing that Lucarelli has failed to state well-pleaded facts giving rise to supervisory liability against a private person for federal civil rights violations. (Docs. 18 and 21) The deadline for responding to this motion has now passed, and while Lucarelli has filed a document we will construe as a response to the motion, (Doc. 22), much of his responsive pleading seems unresponsive to the defendant's legal arguments. Instead, the thrust of Lucarelli's claim seems to be that the Court has erred in failing to grant him a default judgment. Having received this submission from the plaintiff, we will deem this motion to dismiss to be ripe for resolution. For the reasons set forth below, we recommend that the Court dismiss the claims lodged against defendant Belletieri for failure to presently state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

II. Discussion

A. Motion to Dismiss-Standard of Review

Defendant Belletieri has moved to dismiss this complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that a complaint should be dismissed for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). With respect to this benchmark standard for legal sufficiency of a complaint, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has aptly noted the evolving standards governing pleading practice in federal court, stating that:

Standards of pleading have been in the forefront of jurisprudence in recent years. Beginning with the Supreme Court's opinion in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544 (2007) continuing with our opinion in Phillips [v. County of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 230 (3d Cir. 2008)]and culminating recently with the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal ___ U.S. ___ , 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009) pleading standards have seemingly shifted from simple notice pleading to a more heightened form of pleading, requiring a plaintiff to plead more than the possibility of relief to survive a motion to dismiss.

Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside , 578 F.3d 203, 209-10 (3d Cir. 2009).

In considering whether a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the court must accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the complaint are to be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Jordan v. Fox Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, Inc. , 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). However, a court "need not credit a complaint's bald assertions or legal conclusions when deciding a motion to dismiss." Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist. , 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Additionally a court need not "assume that a... plaintiff can prove facts that the... plaintiff has not alleged." Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal. v. California State Council of Carpenters , 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). As the Supreme Court held in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544 (2007), in order to state a valid cause of action a plaintiff must provide some factual grounds for relief which "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of actions will not do." Id. at 555. "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id.

In keeping with the principles of Twombly, the Supreme Court has underscored that a trial court must assess whether a complaint states facts upon which relief can be granted when ruling on a motion to dismiss. 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 679. 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 678. 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 ...

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