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Shumate v. Maturo

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

October 15, 2014



C. DARNELL JONES, II, District Judge.


Plaintiff Gary Shumante brings the above-captioned action, alleging that Defendants violated state and federal laws by utilizing excessive force while arresting him. His wife, Alisa Shumante, brings a state law claim for loss of consortium. Now pending before this Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint. For the reasons set forth below, said Motion shall be granted.[1]


On November 19, 2011, at approximately 12:45 A.M., Plaintiff Gary Shumate was stopped by Troopers Brian Maturo and Michael Voetelink, while operating his vehicle on Route 202 in Chadds Ford Township, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. (Compl. ¶ 10.) Troopers Maturo and Voetelink are employed by the Pennsylvania State Police. (Compl. ¶¶ 5-6.)

The Troopers asked Mr. Shumate to exit his vehicle and to perform a series of field sobriety tests. (Compl. ¶¶ 11-12.) They subsequently arrested Mr. Shumate for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. (Compl. ¶ 13.) At the time of his arrest, Troopers Maturo and Voetelink placed metal handcuffs on Mr. Shumate's wrists. (Compl. ¶ 14.) Mr. Shumate alleges that the handcuffs were fastened too tightly behind his back and he immediately experienced extreme pain. (Compl. ¶¶ 14-15.) He further alleges that he expressed his discomfort to the Troopers, but they refused to aid him. (Compl. ¶¶ 16-17.) Mr. Shumate was then placed in the rear seat of the Troopers' patrol car and was allegedly forced to sit on top of his handcuffed wrists. (Compl. ¶ 17.) He claims that he notified the Troopers a second time of his discomfort. (Compl. ¶ 18.)

Troopers Maturo and Voetelink transported Mr. Shumate to a hospital for blood work and then processed him at the Pennsylvania State Police barracks in Media, Pennsylvania. (Compl. ¶ 19.) Mr. Shumate was released from custody at 3:30 A.M., that same day. (Compl. ¶ 20.)

Mr. Shumate further alleges that later the same day, he complained to his friends, Mr. Christopher Cabott and Mr. Donald Terry Moore, Jr., that his left wrist was in extreme pain, caused by the metal handcuffs used during his arrest. (Compl. ¶¶ 23, 25.) Mr. Shumate did not seek medical treatment for his wrist immediately, but instead claims he "took great care to avoid using his left wrist and arm so as to allow it to heal." (Compl. ¶ 26.)

Seven months after the handcuffs were placed on his wrists, Mr. Shumate sought the advice of a friend who was a physician's assistant, about his alleged wrist pain. (Compl. ¶ 27.) The friend advised Mr. Shumate to seek medical treatment. (Compl. ¶ 29.) Mr. Shumate did so on an unspecified date, at which time he was diagnosed with a bone fracture and torn ligament in his left wrist, which he attributes to the alleged excessive force used by Troopers Maturo and Voetelink during the course of his arrest in November 2011. (Compl. ¶ 30.) More than one year after the incident, Plaintiff underwent surgery on his left wrist, followed by physical therapy. (Compl. ¶¶ 31-32.) Mr. Shumate claims he still experiences pain in his wrist from floating bone chips and permanent swelling, thereby prompting initiation of this suit nearly two years later, on November 13, 2013. (Compl. ¶ 33.) In particular, Mr. Shumate alleges the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania State Police, and Troopers Maturo and Voetelink, violated his Fourth Amendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by utilizing excessive force. He raises state law claims for assault and battery, as well as negligence. (Compl. ¶¶ 34-48, 52-54.) Mrs. Shumate is suing for loss of consortium. (Compl. ¶¶ 55-57.) Defendants herein have moved to dismiss these claims on the bases of sovereign immunity and failure to state a claim. (Doc. No. 4.)


In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), courts must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation and citation omitted). After the Supreme Court's decision in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "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. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). This standard, which applies to all civil cases, "asks for more than a sheer possibility that a Defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. at 678; accord Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) ("All civil complaints must contain more than an unadorned, the-Defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.") (internal quotation omitted).

In addition to seeking dismissal on the basis of failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), Defendants have also moved to dismiss the Plaintiffs' 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim under Rule 12(b)(1), asserting Eleventh Amendment immunity. "[T]he Eleventh Amendment is a jurisdictional bar which deprives federal courts of subject matter jurisdiction." Blanciak v. Allegheny Ludlum Corp., 77 F.3d 690, 693 n. 2 (3d Cir. 1996) (citing Pennhurst State School & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98-100 (1984)). A plaintiff may properly raise Eleventh Amendment immunity in a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1). Id. This Rule 12(b)(1) motion constitutes a facial challenge, as it concerns an alleged pleading deficiency. When assessing a facial challenge, the court is restricted to a review of the allegations of the Complaint and any documents referenced therein. CNA v. United States, 535 F.3d 132, 139 (3d Cir. 2008); Gould Elec. Inc. v. U.S., 220 F.3d 169, 177 (3d Cir. 2000). As is the case with a 12(b)(6) motion, "the trial court must consider the allegations of the complaint as true." Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977).


A. Section 1983 ...

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