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Freeman v. Murphy

United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

February 24, 2014

ANTHONY FREEMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER WILLIAM MURPHY, et al., Defendants.

OPINION

JOEL H. SLOMSKY, J.

I. INTRODUCTION

Anthony Freeman (“Plaintiff”) brings this action against Police Officer William Murphy (“Officer Murphy), an unknown police officer (“Unknown Officer”), and the City of Chester, following his arrests on April 2, 2011 and November 21, 2012.

In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts the following claims in five counts: (1) violation of his right to be free from excessive force, false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count I)[1]; (2) failure to train, supervise, and discipline against the City of Chester pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count II); (3) assault and battery under Pennsylvania state law (Count III); (4) malicious prosecution under both 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Pennsylvania state law (Count IV); and (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count V).

Presently before the Court is Defendants’ Motion to Partially Dismiss the Amended Complaint and Plaintiff’s Response in Opposition. (Doc. Nos. 11, 12.) Defendants seek to dismiss Counts II and IV.[2] For reasons that follow, the Court will grant in part Defendants’ Motion to Partially Dismiss the Amended Complaint with respect to Count II. The Court will deny the Motion with respect to the malicious prosecution claim contained in Counts I and IV. The case therefore will proceed to discovery on Counts I, III, IV, and V.

II. BACKGROUND

Viewing the allegations in the Amended Complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, he alleges that on April 2, 2011, he attended his cousin’s birthday party on the 800 block of Hinkson Street in Chester, Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 9 at ¶ 8.) Sometime between 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m., Plaintiff left the party and began walking down the street to his mother’s house. (Id. at ¶ 9.) As he was walking, Officer Murphy assaulted Plaintiff without warning or justification, by grabbing the hood of his sweatshirt, dragging him by his hood, pinning him against a wall, and choking him around his neck. (Id. at ¶¶ 10-11.) Officer Murphy also screamed and cursed at him. (Id. at ¶ 12.) Together with Unknown Officer, Officer Murphy arrested Plaintiff and issued him a citation for Disorderly Conduct of a Hazardous Offensive Nature. (Id. at ¶ 13.)

According to the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff was never issued a summons to appear before a Magisterial Court in the City of Chester in connection with this incident. (Id. at ¶ 14.) On November 21, 2012, however, an arrest warrant was issued for Plaintiff by the Magisterial Court. (Id. at ¶ 15.) Pursuant to the warrant, Plaintiff was arrested and incarcerated in Delaware County Prison from November 21, 2012 to November 22, 2012. (Id. at ¶ 16.) On December 13, 2012, Plaintiff was tried and found not guilty of the charge by Magistrate Judge Vann of the Chester Magisterial Court. (Id. at ¶ 17.) Plaintiff instituted the instant action on March 26, 2013.

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

1.Count II (failure to train, supervise, and discipline against the City of Chester under 42 U.S.C. § 1983) Will Be Dismissed

In Count II of the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts a municipal liability claim against the City of Chester pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. No. 9 at ¶¶ 23-26.) Plaintiff alleges that “the City of Chester, as a matter of policy and practice, failed to discipline, train, supervise, or otherwise sanction police officers who violate the rights of citizens, including the plaintiffs, thus encouraging defendants Officer Murphy and Unknown Officer in this case to engage in the unlawful and actionable conduct described above.” (Id. at ¶ 24.) Plaintiff claims that the City of Chester was on notice that they needed to train Officer Murphy and Unknown Officer prior to this incident, “as other similar incidents have occurred in the past involving defendants Officer Murphy and Unknown Officer.” (Id. at ¶ 26.)

A governmental entity can only be held responsible under § 1983 “when execution of a government’s policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts injury.” Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs. ofCity of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 694-95 (1978). In City of Canton v. Harris, the Supreme Court held that “the inadequacy of police training may serve as the basis for § 1983 liability only where the failure to train amounts to deliberate indifference to the rights of persons with whom the police come into contact.” 489 U.S. 378, 388-89 (1989). The Supreme Court has also noted that “[a] pattern of similar constitutional violations by untrained employees is ‘ordinarily necessary’ to demonstrate deliberate indifference for purposes of failure to train.” Connick v. Thompson, 131 S.Ct. 1350, 1360 (2011). Further, a municipality’s failure to train its employees must amount to “deliberate indifference to the rights of persons which whom the [untrained employees] come into contact.” Connic ...


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