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McGuire v. Borough of Wilkinsburg

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 13, 2015

ERIC McGUIRE, Plaintiff,
v.
THE BOROUGH OF WILKINSBURG, DONALD HAMLIN, in his official and individual capacities, MARK WILSON, in his official and individual capacities, Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

CYNTHIA REED EDDY, Magistrate Judge

I. RECOMMENDATION

This is a civil rights action brought by Plaintiff Eric McGuire pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985(2) and the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as pendent state common law torts against the Borough of Wilkinsburg ("Wilkinsburg" or "The Borough") and two of its police officers, Donald Hamlin ("Officer Hamlin") and Mark Wilson ("Officer Wilson"). (Am. Compl., ECF No. 36). Pending before the Court is the Defendants' partial motion to dismiss all of the claims asserted against Officer Wilson and Wilkinsburg. (Def.s' Mot., ECF No. 26).[1] As to Officer Hamlin, however, the motion only seeks dismissal of the conspiracy claim brought under § 1985(2).

In accordance with the following report, it is respectfully recommended that this motion be granted in part and denied in part, and that Plaintiff be given leave to amend his pleading.

II. REPORT

A. RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On the night of October 1, 2011, Officers Hamlin and Wilson were on duty in Wilkinsburg in separate marked police cars. (Am. Compl. ¶ 11, ECF No. 24). Around 11:00 p.m., Officer Hamlin received a dispatch call reporting that a possible burglary occurred at 913 Ross Avenue. (Id. ). Officer Hamlin was not informed as to the number of suspects, their physical description, their mode of transportation, or their direction of travel. (Id. ). Officer Hamlin began following Plaintiff and his friend, who were walking along the 900 block of Ross Avenue. (Id. at ¶¶ 10, 12). Officer Hamlin called Officer Wilson for back-up. (Id. at ¶ 13). Once Officer Wilson arrived, Officer Hamlin parked his vehicle on the curb near Plaintiff and his friend. (Id. ). Officer Hamlin exited his vehicle and instructed Plaintiff and his friend to put their hands on his vehicle. (Id. at ¶ 14).

As Plaintiff began approaching Officer Hamlin's vehicle in accordance with these directives, Officer Hamlin deployed his Taser gun, striking Plaintiff in the back and causing him to fall face-first onto the street. (Id. ). Officer Hamlin then jumped on Plaintiff, putting his knee in Plaintiff's back, and handcuffed Plaintiff. (Id. ).[2] As a result of this incident, Plaintiff was transported to UPMC Mercy Hospital to have the barbs from the Taser gun removed from his body and to receive treatment for neck and back injuries. (Id. at ¶ 15).

On that same date, Officer Hamlin criminally charged Plaintiff with carrying a firearm without a license and unlawful possession of a firearm. (Id. at ¶ 16). These charges were entirely dismissed on the grounds that Officer Hamlin did not have reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigative detention of Plaintiff, and that the use of the Taser converted the detention into an unlawful arrest, which was done without probable cause. (Id. at ¶ 17). Plaintiff alleges that Officers Hamlin and Wilson conspired to file the above charges against him to "cover-up" their unlawful conduct. (Id. at ¶¶ 26-30).[3]

This action was originally initiated by Plaintiff as a pro se party in September of 2013. (ECF No. 4). Plaintiff retained counsel in this matter and amended his complaint nearly a year later on August 15, 2014. (ECF Nos. 21-24). The amended complaint consists of the following five counts: (I) Excessive Force in violation of § 1983 and the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments against all Defendants; (II) False Arrest in violation of § 1983 and the Fourth Amendment against all Defendants; (III) Conspiracy under § 1985(2) against Officers Hamlin and Wilson; (IV) Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress under Pennsylvania law against Officers Hamlin and Wilson, and (V) Assault and Battery under Pennsylvania law against Officer Hamlin. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 24). On September 2, 2014, the Defendants collectively filed the pending partial motion to dismiss (ECF Nos. 26) and brief in support thereof (ECF No. 27). Plaintiff responded to said motion on October 23, 2014 by filing a brief in opposition (ECF No. 35), to which Defendants replied on November 6, 2014 (ECF No. 36). Accordingly, the matter has bene fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

B. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Recently, our Court of Appeals aptly summarized the appropriate standard of review when considering a defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) as follows:

Under the "notice pleading" standard embodied in Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff must come forward with "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." As explicated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009), a claimant must state a "plausible" claim for relief, and "[a] claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Although "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, " Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), a plaintiff "need only put forth allegations that raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element." Fowler [ v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 213 (3d Cir. 2009)] (quotation marks and citations omitted); see also Covington v. Int'l Ass'n of Approved Basketball Officials, 710 F.3d 114, 117-18 (3d Cir.2013).

Thompson v. Real Estate Mortg. Network, 748 F.3d 142, 147 (3d Cir. 2014). Additionally, while "[t]he District Court must accept the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, [it] may disregard any legal conclusions." Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210. (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663). Consequently, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of ...


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