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McClure v. City of Harrisburg

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 29, 2014

THE CITY OF HARRISBURG, et al., Defendants


SYLVIA H. RAMBO, District Judge.

In this civil action, Plaintiff has sued Officers Rider and Fleagle in their individual and official capacities as well as the City of Harrisburg and the Harrisburg Police Department, asserting various civil rights violations and state tort claims. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Officer Rider maliciously prosecuted him (Count I) and that Officers Rider and Fleagle: falsely arrested and imprisoned him (Count II); violated his equal protection rights (Count III); violated his due process rights (Count IV); invaded his property (Count V); and used excessive force against him (Count VI). Plaintiff further alleges that Officer Fleagle wrongfully used civil proceedings against him (Count VII). Finally, Plaintiff alleges that the Harrisburg Police Department and Officers Rider and Fleagle engaged in police misconduct (Count VIII) and that the City of Harrisburg failed to properly train its police officers (Count IX).

Before the court are Defendants' two motions to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint. (Docs. 15 & 17.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motions will be granted.

I. Background

A. Parties

Plaintiff, Fontaine K. McClure, Sr., ("Plaintiff") is a citizen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1.) Defendants, Officers Edward Rider and Robert Fleagle ("Defendants Rider and Fleagle"), are police officers employed by the Harrisburg Police Department. ( See id. ) The Harrisburg Police Department and the City of Harrisburg, both of which are located within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, are also Defendants to this action. ( See id. )

B. Facts

Two incidents are primarily at issue.[1] On May 12, 2013, Natasha McArthur ("McArthur"), Plaintiff's then-fiance and the mother of his three-year-old son, had called the police after she and Plaintiff argued. ( See Doc. 17-1, p. 8 of 9.) Once Defendant Rider responded to the call, McArthur informed Defendant Rider that Plaintiff had struck her, forcibly removed the keys to her vehicle from her hand, taken her gun, and driven away in her vehicle. ( Id. ) After Plaintiff returned to McArthur's residence, Defendant Rider arrested Plaintiff for robbery, theft, carrying a firearm in a vehicle without a license, and unlawful possession of a firearm, [2] despite McArthur's desire to not press charges. ( Id. at 2-8 of 9; Doc. 1, p. 10 of 12.) During the arrest, Defendant Rider asked Plaintiff if he had any weapons, and Plaintiff admitted to carrying a knife. (Doc. 2, p. 3 of 13.) Defendant Rider then "man handled [sic]" Plaintiff while searching for additional weapons. ( See Doc. 1, p. 4 of 12.) During this search, Defendant Rider found McArthur's car keys on Plaintiff's person, and Plaintiff confessed to taking McArthur's gun and vehicle. (Doc. 17-1, p. 8 of 9.) Plaintiff consented to a search of his home, and McArthur's gun was found inside Plaintiff's residence. ( Id. at pp. 8-9 of 9.) Although Plaintiff "spent approximately 16 hours in jail, " the charges against Plaintiff were dismissed when Defendant Rider failed to show at the criminal hearing. (Doc. 2, p. 4 of 13.; Doc. 1, p. 2 of 12.)

The second incident occurred on or about September 6, 2012, [3] when Defendant Fleagle arrested Plaintiff for public drunkenness. (Doc. 17-4, p. 2 of 2.) On this occasion, McArthur had also called the police after she and Plaintiff argued. ( See Doc. 2, p. 5 of 13.) Defendant Fleagle responded to the call and, upon arriving at the scene, interviewed Plaintiff. ( See id. ) Defendant Fleagle noted that Plaintiff was stumbling when attempting to walk on the sidewalk. (Doc. 17-4, p. 2 of 2.) Although Plaintiff denies that he was intoxicated at the time, Plaintiff admits to having consumed "one shot of vodka" and "a 22 ounce Budweiser to go." ( See Doc. 2, p. 6 of 13.) This charge, however, was also dismissed after Defendant Fleagle failed to appear at the criminal hearing. ( Id. )

C. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed his complaint on May 19, 2014. (Doc. 1.) On June 12, 2014, Defendants filed the two instant motions to dismiss. (Docs. 15 & 17.) One motion to dismiss was filed by Defendants Rider and Fleagle in their individual capacities (Doc. 17) and the second was filed by the City of Harrisburg, the Harrisburg Police Department, and Defendants Rider and Fleagle in their official capacities (Doc 15). Each motion requests that Plaintiff's complaint be dismissed in its entirety and is accompanied by a supporting brief. (Docs. 16 & 18.) On June 25, 2014, Plaintiff, acting pro se , filed a brief in opposition to each motion to dismiss. (Docs. 19 & 20.) Defendants filed two corresponding reply briefs on June 27, 2014. (Docs. 23 & 24.) Finally, on July 8, 2014, Plaintiff filed a surreply opposing Defendants' motions to dismiss (Doc. 31).[4] Thus, Defendants' motions to dismiss are ripe for disposition.

II. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a plaintiff's complaint may be dismissed if the complaint "fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To state a claim upon which relief can be granted, a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement... showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" and provide the "defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a); Edwards v. Borough of Dickson City , 994 F.Supp.2d 616, 618 (M.D. Pa. 2014). Additionally, the claim must allege sufficient facts that amount to a claim of relief that is "plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Any legal conclusions not supported by facts or "formulaic recitation[s] of the elements of a cause of action will not [suffice]." Id. at 555. The burden is on the defendant to establish that the plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Edwards , 994 F.Supp.2d at 618.

When considering a motion to dismiss, a court engages in a three-part inquiry:

(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 evaluat[ing] whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently alleged.

Id. at 619. In performing these tasks, the court must view all allegations contained in the complaint as true and "construe all inferences in the light most favorable to [the] plaintiff." Musila v. Lock Haven Univ. , 970 F.Supp.2d 384, 388 (M.D. Pa. 2013). In addition to the complaint, the court may also consider exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and "undisputably authentic" documents that the "plaintiff's claims are based on... and [that] the defendant has attached... to the motion to dismiss." Edwards , 994 F.Supp.2d at 619. If, after performing the three-part inquiry, the plaintiff has not asserted a claim that is plausible on its face, the motion to dismiss will be sustained. See id. When sustaining a motion to dismiss, a court has discretion as to whether the complaint should be amendable or dismissed with prejudice, Brautigam v. Fraley , 684 F.Supp.2d 589, ...

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