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Mirra v. Fynes

United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

February 26, 2014




Before me is a motion by defendants police officer Daniel Fynes, detective John Lundell and Darby Township. Defendants move to strike Counts I and III of plaintiff Samuel Mirra’s complaint, to dismiss Count IV, to dismiss plaintiff’s claims of due process and equal protection violations in Count III, and to dismiss plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment claims for false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution in Count II. Defendants also move to dismiss plaintiff’s claims against Detective Lundell and any claims made pursuant to the Delaware Constitution or to Delaware State laws. For the following reasons, I will grant defendants’ motion.


On the morning of May 23, 2011, plaintiff nearly collided into officer Fynes’s vehicle as plaintiff was backing out of his driveway. Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 7. Plaintiff continued to operate his vehicle for a number of blocks before officer Fynes stopped him at Ashland and Bartram Avenues in Darby Township. Id. at ¶ 8. Fynes then approached plaintiff’s vehicle, asked to see his license and insurance owner’s card and then told plaintiff that his license was suspended. Id. at ¶¶ 9-10. Fynes asked plaintiff to leave his truck and walk with him towards his police vehicle that was located behind plaintiff’s car. Id. at ¶ 10. Plaintiff was not handcuffed. Id. While Fynes and plaintiff were standing at the rear of plaintiff’s car, plaintiff told officer Fynes that his attorney had filed a motion in the Philadelphia Municipal Court to have his DUI suspension dismissed. Id. at ¶ 12. Plaintiff claims that Fynes then called him a “fucking liar” and said “shut the fuck up, turn around and put your hands on the vehicle.” Id. at ¶ 13. Plaintiff responded, “I don’t know who the fuck you’re talking to, but you can’t talk to me like you talk to your wife.” Id. at ¶ 14. Plaintiff contends that Fynes then struck, punched and repeatedly kicked him in the face, head and body after he fell to the ground. Id. at ¶ 15.

Shortly thereafter, three police officers arrived at the scene and arrested plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 16. At approximately 11:00 a.m. plaintiff was taken to the Darby Township police station where he was charged with Pa. Vehicle Code § 1543 (Driving While Suspended DUI Related) and Pa. Crimes Code § 5104 (Resisting Arrest). Id. at ¶ 17. Plaintiff claims that while in custody at the Darby Township police station he had wounds to his face, arms, shoulders and legs and complained of severe head pain and an inability to stand or walk because of wooziness. Id. at ¶ 18. He was held in custody for five hours. Id.

At 3:00 p.m. Darby Police took plaintiff to Fitzgerald Mercy Hospital where he was seen in the emergency room and admitted immediately. Id. at ¶ 19. Plaintiff claims he was diagnosed with “intracranial bleeding, a left frontoparietal subdural hemorrhage, large abrasions to the left patella and proximal calf, shoulders and hands, multiple cuts and bruises to his legs, abrasions to his head left parietal area, left periorbital swelling, ecchymosis and left eye subconjunctival hemorrhage.” Id. at ¶ 20. Plaintiff remained in the intensive care unit until he was discharged on May 27, 2011. Id. at ¶ 21. On June 5, 2011, plaintiff was admitted to Fitzgerald Mercy Hospital’s emergency room when he complained of dizziness and severe headaches. Id. at ¶ 22. He stayed at the hospital until June 10, 2011 when he was discharged. Id. On June 30, plaintiff was arraigned on the charges of Pa. Vehicle Code § 1543 Driving While Suspended DUI Related and Pa. Crimes Code § 5104 Resisting Arrest. Id. at ¶ 23.

On July 28, 2011, a preliminary hearing on the charges against plaintiff was held before Court of Common Pleas Judge Frank Hazel. Id. at ¶ 24. At the hearing, the Commonwealth amended its complaint against plaintiff and added the charge of aggravated assault, 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2702. Id. Shortly thereafter, a warrant for plaintiff’s arrest was issued by the Court. Id. at ¶ 25. Plaintiff then spent approximately seven months in pre-trial detention before he was tried before the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas. Id. at ¶ 26.

On February 16, 2012, a jury found plaintiff not guilty of the charges of aggravated assault and resisting arrest but the trial court found plaintiff guilty of two summary disorderly conduct charges and driving on a suspended license, DUI related. Commw. v. Mirra, No. 11-3115, 100 Del. Cnty. Rep. 129 (Del. Cnty. Pa. Ct. Comm. Pls. June 20, 2012). Plaintiff’s disorderly conduct convictions were affirmed on appeal by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. Commw. v. Mirra, No. 1262 EDA 2012 (Pa.Super. Ct. Dec. 3, 2012).


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss all or part of an action for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Typically, “a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, ” though plaintiff’s obligation to state the grounds of entitlement to relief “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . on the assumption that all of the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id. (citations omitted). This “simply calls for enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of” the necessary element. Id. at 556. The Court of Appeals has made clear that after Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), “conclusory or ‘bare-bones’ allegations will no longer survive a motion to dismiss: ‘threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.’ To prevent dismissal, all civil complaints must now set out ‘sufficient factual matter’ to show that the claim is facially plausible.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009), quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The Court also set forth a two part-analysis for reviewing motions to dismiss in light of Twombly and Iqbal:

First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The District Court must accept all of the complaint’s well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Second, a District Court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a “plausible claim for relief.” Id. at 210-11, quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The Court explained, “a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff’s entitlement to relief. A complaint has to ‘show’ such an entitlement with its facts.” Id., 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 ‘show[n]’–‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.’” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).


I. Claims against Detective Lundell

Plaintiff brings claims against detective John Lundell in Counts I, II, III, VI, VII, and IX of his complaint but fails to set forth any factual allegations against him other than that he was “at all times a relevant employee of defendant Darby Township” and was “acting under the color of law in his individual capacity as [a] police officer[ ] of the Township.” Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 3. Plaintiff makes no other references to Detective Lundell in his complaint. Bereft of any factual allegations against Detective Lundell of acts that would give rise to plaintiff’s alleged constitutional rights violations, plaintiff’s complaint as against Lundell cannot survive a motion to dismiss. See Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210. I will grant plaintiff leave to amend to the extent that he can assert facts demonstrating that Lundell is properly included in this action as a ...

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