United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS - DENIED
JOSEPH F. LEESON, Jr., District Judge.
Defendant School District of the City of Allentown ("Allentown School District") filed a Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 42, seeking to dismiss Count Eight of the Second Amended Complaint. Plaintiff, Onesimus Gayemen, alleges he was attacked by four fellow students at William Allen High School. He claims that the School District knew about past violent assaults by the four fellow students, but concealed and did not report the earlier assaults to the police. The Court concludes that Plaintiff has alleged a violation of his Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process right pursuant to the "state-created danger" theory of liability, therefore the Motion to Dismiss is denied.
II. Factual Background and Procedural History
Plaintiff Onesimus Gayemen filed an Amended Complaint and Jury Demand in the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County against Defendants Shawndell Cannon, Gregory Goodin, Jacob Fernandez, Jahmeen Quick, and Allentown School District, ECF No. 1. The Amended Complaint was removed to this Court by Defendant Allentown School District. See id.
Plaintiff alleges that on March 21, 2011, he was attacked by four fellow students on William Allen High School property and that he suffered a broken jaw as a result. See Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 8-16, ECF No. 41. In Count Eight, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, he alleges that Allentown School District violated his constitutional right to bodily integrity because the School District knew about past violent assaults committed by individual students, including the other four Defendants, and concealed these past assaults in order to avoid public scrutiny, which directly led to the attack against Plaintiff. See id. at ¶¶ 77-90.
Allentown School District filed a motion to dismiss all claims against it pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), ECF No. 5, which was granted by the Court by an Order dated October 24, 2014, ECF No. 33. The Court considered Plaintiff's Section 1983 claim under the "state-created danger" theory of liability and concluded that Plaintiff had failed to satisfy the third and fourth elements of this doctrine, but that with further factual averments Plaintiff might be able to satisfy both. Accordingly, the Court ordered that the Section 1983 claim be dismissed "without prejudice for [P]laintiff to file a second amended complaint which clearly avers the factual and legal basis" for those claims. Id.
Plaintiff subsequently filed a Second Amended Complaint containing additional allegations concerning his Section 1983 claim, ECF No. 41, and Defendant Allentown School District filed the present Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 42, arguing that Plaintiff failed to state a cause of action under Section 1983.
III. Legal Standard - Motion to Dismiss
"To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim for relief is plausible if supported by "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id . Thus, "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id . (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Instead, the plaintiff must make a "showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3. For "without some factual allegation in the complaint, a claimant cannot satisfy the requirement that he or she provide not only fair notice, ' but also the grounds' on which the claim rests." Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing id.).
IV. Analysis of Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint
The "state-created danger" theory of liability provides a way to establish a constitutional violation in suits brought under Section 1983. See Morrow v. Balaski, 719 F.3d 160, 166 (3d Cir. 2013), cert. denied, 134 S.Ct. 824 (2013). Under this doctrine, "liability may attach where the state acts to create or enhance a danger that deprives the plaintiff of his or her Fourteenth Amendment right to substantive due process." Id. at 177 (citing Kneipp v. Tedder, 95 F.3d 1199, 1201 (3d Cir. 1996)).
In the Third Circuit, to prevail on a state-created danger theory a plaintiff must prove each of ...