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Ellis v. Regan

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

October 10, 2014

MICHAEL ELLIS, Plaintiff,
v.
DANIEL D. REGAN, ET AL., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ARTHUR J. SCHWAB, District Judge.

This is a Section 1983 case. Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and Brief in Support of same filed pursuant Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Doc. nos. 58-59. Plaintiff, who is representing himself, has filed two separate Responses to the Motion to Dismiss. Doc. nos. 66-67. Defendants filed a Reply to Plaintiff's Response(s). Doc. no. 70. Defendants' Motion and Plaintiff's Responses include additional documents for the Court's consideration in deciding this Motion to Dismiss. For the reasons set forth below, this Court will grant in part and deny in part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

I. Standard of Review

In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, Federal Courts require notice pleading, as opposed to the heightened standard of fact pleading. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds on which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).

Building upon the landmark United States Supreme Court decisions in Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit explained that a District Court must undertake the following three steps to determine the sufficiency of a complaint:

First, the court must take note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim. Second, the court should identify allegations that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Finally, where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.

Connelly v. Steel Valley Sch. Dist., 706 F.3d 209, 212 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation omitted).

The third step of the sequential evaluation requires this Court to consider the specific nature of the claims presented and to determine whether the facts pled to substantiate the claims are sufficient to show a "plausible claim for relief." Covington v. Int'l Ass'n of Approved Basketball Officials, 710 F.3d 114, 118 (3d Cir. 2013). "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a Complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 664.

This Court may not dismiss a Complaint merely because it appears unlikely or improbable that Plaintiff can prove the facts alleged or will ultimately prevail on the merits. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563 n.8. Instead, this Court must ask whether the facts alleged raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary elements. Id. at 556. Generally speaking, a Complaint that provides adequate facts to establish "how, when, and where" will survive a Motion to Dismiss. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 212 (3d Cir. 2009).

In short, a Motion to Dismiss should not be granted if a party alleges facts, which could, if established at trial, entitle him/her to relief. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563, n.8.

Although a Court must accept as true all allegations in the Complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, in addition to the facts alleged on the face of the Complaint, a District Court may consider "documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial notice." Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007. Moreover, a Court need not accept inferences drawn by a plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts as set forth in the Complaint. See California Pub. Employee Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004) (citing Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997)).

II. Background

The Court accepts as true all facts set forth below, as extrapolated from the Amended Complaint, solely for the purpose of deciding this Motion to Dismiss.

The incident which led Plaintiff to file the instant Amended Complaint occurred on December 31, 2011. Doc. no. 56, ¶ 3.

On December 31, 2011, Plaintiff was the subject of a "traffic stop." Id., ¶¶ 34, 35. The conduct of which Plaintiff complains took place "immediately after [he] was involved in an automobile accident around 4am" when a City of Pittsburgh police officer (Labella) "pulled him out [of] the window, and slammed [him] into the ground face first." Id., ¶ 39.

After Labella pulled Plaintiff out of the vehicle and slammed him to the ground, he was beaten, placed in handcuffs, and stomped upon by two police officers (Labella and Vitalbo), while being subjected to "racial slurs" and threats to kill him. Id., ¶ 39. Plaintiff was taken to the hospital, where he was treated for broken ribs and other bones, a punctured lung, and lacerations which required stiches. Id., ¶¶ 35-40.

The hospital's medical records will support Plaintiff's contention that the facial laceration, resulting in permanent disfigurement, was not caused by the automobile accident; but rather, was caused by the police officers' assault on him. Id., ¶ 41.

Plaintiff was treated and released by the hospital on December 31, 2011. Plaintiff was charged and arrested for alleged offenses that took place "immediately before the abuse" as described above. Id., ¶ 38.

Based upon these facts, Plaintiff alleges that all of the individual persons who are named as Defendants[1] are liable for his injuries as individuals, as well as in their official capacities, claiming that each person acted outside of their authority or acted under color of state law. Id., ¶¶ 2-33. In addition, Plaintiff has named three City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police "Units" - unit numbers 341K, 3412, and 3428 - as Defendants. Id., ¶¶ 28-33.

Plaintiff alleges that the City of Pittsburgh, a municipality, is a "person" subject to liability under 28 U.S.C. § 1983. Id., ¶ 42. The Complaint also states that the City of Pittsburgh "has in place a policy, statement, ordinance, regulation or decision officially adopted and promulgated by that body's officer that official policy, custom or acquiesced custom, is responsible for the deprivation of [rights] protected by the U.S. Constitution or U.S. Laws as in Plaintiff[']s tragic situation." Id., ¶ 43.

Plaintiff also alleges that the individual Defendants, upon execution of "the policy, " are liable for the alleged violation of his rights. Id., ¶ 44. In addition, Plaintiff claims that the individual Defendants have "tolerated" the illegal conduct, were deliberately indifferent and/or took no action concerning this illegal conduct, and/or failed to "properly alter or augment their employee training program" to adequately address the illegal conduct. Id., ¶ 44-47.

Defendants in their Brief in Support of their Motion to Dismiss, do not dispute that there was a automobile accident involving Plaintiff on the day in question, or that he was arrested following the automobile accident. Doc. no. 59, p. 1. Defendants proffer additional facts surrounding the circumstances under which the automobile accident took place. Id.

Based largely on the above facts, Plaintiff asserts numerous causes of action - some of which are not cognizable under the law. Doc. no. 56, ¶ 79. The list of claims asserted by Plaintiff includes:

• "[D]eliberate indifference to the unlawful course of corrupt conduct[;]"
• Negligence;
• "[A]dvertent negligence[;]"
• "Hate crimes act[;]"
• Hate speech;
• "[B]eating while coupled with vulgar derogatory racial slurs[;]"
• Racial harassment;
• Ethnic Intimidation;
• Threats of violence;
• Threats of death;
• Assault with a deadly ...

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