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McIntosh v. Crist

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

February 2, 2015



KIM R. GIBSON, District Judge.

I. Synopsis

This civil rights case stems from the arrests and prosecutions of Plaintiffs Brian and James McIntosh. Pending before the Court are Defendants' motions to dismiss (ECF Nos. 37, 39, and 41) Plaintiffs' amended complaint (ECF No. 33) pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). The amended complaint asserts a number of federal constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 along with several tort claims under Pennsylvania common law. For the reasons explained below, Defendants' motions will be granted in part and denied in part. Specifically, Defendants' motions to dismiss as to the excessive use of force claim, the common law assault and battery claim, and the common law intentional infliction of emotional distress claim will be denied. Defendants' motions to dismiss as to all other claims in the amended complaint, including all claims against the Municipal Defendants, will be granted, with prejudice.

II. Jurisdiction and Venue

The Court has jurisdiction over the federal constitutional claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has supplemental jurisdiction over the state common law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b).

III. Background

A. Allegations in the Amended Complaint

Plaintiffs allege the following facts in their amended complaint, which the Court will accept as true for the sole purpose of deciding the pending Rule 12(b)(6) motions. On May 14, 2011, Plaintiffs Brian and James McIntosh were attending a picnic at 105 Dupont Street in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 33 ¶ 17). Sometime between 8:00 and 8:30 p.m., police officers came to the Dupont Street address after responding to a report concerning a fight that occurred somewhere on Dupont Street. ( Id . ¶¶ 18, 21, 25). The police officers then physically assaulted and arrested Plaintiffs, in the manner described below, and charged them with various criminal offenses. ( Id . ¶ 23).

Arrest of Brian McIntosh

Upon arriving at the Dupont Street address, police officers approached Plaintiff Brian McIntosh, who told the officers that they were on private property and were trespassing. The officers then physically assaulted Brian while placing him under arrest. ( Id . ¶ 39). During the confrontation, police officers tasered Brian at least three times before he was handcuffed and multiple times after he was handcuffed. ( Id . ¶¶ 37, 38). While Brian was handcuffed and lying on the ground, he had liquid "drizzling out of his mouth." ( Id . ¶ 39). A nurse stated that he needed to be in a hospital, and Officer Crist responded, "Fuck him let the scumbag die." ( Id .). Brian was later taken to a hospital, where Officer Crist continued to harass him. ( Id . ¶ 40).

Brian was charged with endangering the welfare of children, aggravated assault, riot with intent to prevent or coerce official act, corruption of minors, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. ( Id . ¶ 41). Brian pled guilty to the resisting arrest charge, and the other charges were dismissed or withdrawn. ( Id . ¶ 43).

Arrest of James McIntosh

James was preparing to leave the picnic when he heard someone say "I am going to shoot the fucking dog, " at which time he looked up and saw a police officer. ( Id . ¶¶ 25, 26). James then observed police officers handcuffing his brother, Brian. ( Id . ¶ 27). Officer Brad Crist directed James to "stay back." ( Id .). James put his arms up and stepped backwards. ( Id .). Officer Crist then ran at James and knocked him to the ground. ( Id .). Officer Crist and Officer William Slisz knelt on James's back and punched him until he was handcuffed. ( Id . ¶¶ 28-30).

After James was handcuffed, a police officer tasered him. ( Id. ¶ 31). Officers Eisenhuth and Slisz then stood James up, after which Detective Scott Haymaker tasered James twice. ( Id . ¶ 32). Officers transported James to the Johnstown Police Department and charged him with various crimes. ( Id . ¶ 33). While James was being questioned at the police station, Officer Stafko slapped James across the back of the head. ( Id . ¶ 34).

James was charged with aggravated assault, resisting arrest, selling or furnishing liquor to minors, and simple assault. ( Id . ¶ 33). James entered the Pennsylvania ARD Program for the resisting arrest charge, and the other charges were dismissed or withdrawn. ( Id . ¶ 42).

After arresting the Plaintiffs, police officers entered a house at "105 Dunlop Street"[1] while searching for another individual and "committed substantial destruction of property to the house and its contents." ( Id . ¶¶ 47, 48). Before leaving the scene, one of the officers said, "clean up all of the tasers and probes, we don't want to leave any evidence, " after which police officers removed all of the evidence. ( Id . ¶¶ 50-51).

B. Procedural History

Plaintiffs initiated this action by filing a complaint on May 14, 2013, which Defendants then moved to dismiss. ( See ECF Nos. 1, 11, 14). This Court dismissed the original complaint, finding that Plaintiffs had failed to provide the Defendants and the Court with a clear explanation of the claims asserted or the facts supporting those claims in compliance with the federal pleading standards. ( See ECF No. 32). Thereafter, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint (ECF No. 33) alleging that Defendants violated their constitutional rights under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth amendments, and that Defendants engaged in tortious conduct in violation of Pennsylvania common law. Defendants then filed the pending motions to dismiss (ECF Nos. 37, 39, 41) pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), along with briefs in support (ECF Nos. 38, 40, 42). Plaintiffs have not filed any response to any of the three Rule 12(b)(6) motions. The motions are now ripe for disposition.

IV. Standard of Review

Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiffs' amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 12(b)(6) allows a party to seek dismissal of a complaint or any portion of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Although the federal pleading standard has been "in the forefront of jurisprudence in recent years, " the standard of review for a Rule 12(b)(6) challenge is now well established. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 209 (3d Cir. 2009).

In determining the sufficiency of a complaint, a district court must conduct a two-part analysis. First, the court must separate the factual matters averred from the legal conclusions asserted. See Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210. Second, the court must determine whether the factual matters averred are sufficient to show that a plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief." Id . at 211 (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009)). The complaint need not include "detailed factual allegations." Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

Moreover, the court must construe the alleged facts, and draw all inferences gleaned therefrom, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See id . at 228 (citing Worldcom, Inc. v. Graphnet, Inc., 343 F.3d 651, 653 (3d Cir. 2003)). However, "legal conclusions" and "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action... do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Rather, the complaint must present sufficient "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Sheridan v. NGK Metals Corp., 609 F.3d 239, 263 n.27 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

Ultimately, whether a plaintiff has shown a "plausible claim for relief" is a "context specific" inquiry that requires the district court to "draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The relevant record under consideration includes the complaint and any "document integral or explicitly relied on in the complaint." U.S. Express Lines, Ltd. v. Higgins, 281 F.3d 383, 388 (3d Cir. 2002) (citing In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997). If a complaint is vulnerable to dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the district court must permit a curative amendment, irrespective of whether a plaintiff seeks leave to amend, unless such amendment would be inequitable or futile. Phillips, 515 F.3d at 236; see also Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 115 (3d Cir. 2000).

V. Discussion

A. Pleading Deficiencies in the Amended Complaint

Defendants first argue that Plaintiffs' amended complaint fails to correct the pleading deficiencies of the original complaint. ( See ECF No. 38 at 1-3). The Court dismissed the original complaint because Plaintiffs failed to comply with the applicable rules of civil procedure[2] and rules of court. However, Plaintiffs were granted leave to amend the complaint and correct its deficiencies. Specifically, the Court instructed Plaintiffs to state their claims in separately numbered paragraphs and identify which claims were asserted against each Defendant. (ECF No. 32 at 3). Defendants contend that the amended complaint fails to address those deficiencies, and should thus be dismissed for that reason.

Having carefully reviewed the amended complaint, the Court agrees that Plaintiffs have again confusingly asserted their claims in a manner that makes it difficult for the Court and the Defendants to clearly understand the claims asserted and the facts supporting those claims. Nevertheless, while Plaintiffs' amended complaint is poorly drafted, the revised structure of the amended complaint, along with the additional allegations, are at least minimally sufficient to permit the Court to evaluate the asserted claims in the amended complaint under the Rule 12(b)(6) standard.

Paragraph 54 of the amended complaint asserts the following constitutional claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all of the Defendants:

The Defendants' conduct as hereinbefore described violated the Plaintiffs' constitutional rights under the first, fourth and fourteenth amendments to the United Constitution [sic].

(ECF No. 33 ¶ 54). Paragraph 55 of the amended complaint asserts the following tort claims against all of the Defendants:

The Defendants' conduct as hereinbefore described constituted the intentional infliction of emotional distress, false arrest, assault and battery, and delay or ...

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