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Hill v. The Borough of Doylestown

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

April 23, 2015

JASON HILL, Plaintiff,
v.
THE BOROUGH OF DOYLESTOWN, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

GENE E.K. PRATTER, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Invoking Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code, Jason Hill sues the Borough of Doylestown, the Central Bucks Regional Police Department and its Chief of Police James Donnelly, Plumstead Township, the Plumstead Township Police Department and its Chief of Police Duane Hasenauer, Sergeant Paul Kreuter, and Officer Hotham, [1] and six unidentified members of the Central Bucks Regional and Plumstead Township Police Departments ("John Does 1-6") for alleged violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as the commission of various torts under Pennsylvania law.[2]

Defendants move to dismiss (a) certain claims in Counts I and V, (b) the entirety of Counts III, IV, VI, and VII, and (c) all claims against the Central Bucks Regional Police Department, the Plumstead Police Department, Chief Donnelly, and Chief Hasenauer. Despite the Court's repeated extension of the deadline for Mr. Hill to respond to the Partial Motion to Dismiss (Docket No. 6), Mr. Hill has neither secured legal representation nor responded to the Motion. Pursuant to the Court's Order of February 12, 2015, (Docket No. 17), the Court considers the Motion unopposed. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant in part and deny in part Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss.

II. ALLEGATIONS IN THE COMPLAINT[3]

According to the Complaint, on or about May 28, 2012, Mr. Hill was at the Farmhouse Tavern in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Sergeant Kreuter, Officer Hotham, and one or more of the John Does shot Mr. Hill with a taser multiple times. They then handcuffed him, dragged him outside into the Tavern's parking lot, and began to beat him with their hands and feet. At that point, they took Mr. Hill into custody. Mr. Hill alleges that as a result of this incident, he suffered serious and potentially permanent injuries, including but not limited to head and neck trauma with concussion and post-concussion syndrome, right carpal tunnel syndrome, cervical sprain, puncture wounds to his back and abdomen resulting in scarring, pain from electrocution, and severe, pervasive psychological injuries that exacerbated underlying anxiety, sleeplessness, nightmares, night terrors, paranoia, and emotional distress.

Mr. Hill alleges that Defendants "had in place, and/or should have had in place, " policies (a) barring the use of excessive force and/or the inappropriate use of tasers, (b) requiring that the use of excessive force and/or the use of tasers be reported and documented, (c) barring individuals from covering up the use of excessive force or the use of tasers, and (d) requiring that all persons participating in arrests on behalf of the Borough of Doylestown or Plumstead Township be trained in and abide by the policies of those municipalities. (Compl. ¶ 30). Mr. Hill further alleges that the Defendants "maintained a policy and practice of ignoring, disregarding, and/or violating, intentionally and/or negligently and/or with deliberate indifference for the rights of Plaintiff, the policies in place for the protection of persons being investigated and/or pursued and/or arrested and/or detained and/or those similarly situated to Plaintiff, which resulted in harm to Plaintiff." (Compl. ¶ 32).

III. LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint. Although Rule 8 requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), in order to "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, " Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted) (alteration in original), the plaintiff must provide "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. (citation omitted).

To survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). When deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court generally looks to the facts alleged in the complaint and its attachments. See Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1251, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). The Court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint, and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from them, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Rocks v. City of Phila., 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir. 1989); Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Sec., Inc., 764 F.2d 939, 944 (3d Cir. 1985). The Court "may disregard any legal conclusions" contained in the complaint. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009).

Indeed, the Court must disregard "naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement" and "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal alterations omitted). In Iqbal, the Supreme Court disregarded allegations that "petitioners knew of, condoned, and willfully and maliciously agreed to subject [respondent] to harsh conditions of confinement as a matter of policy, solely on account of [his] religion, race, and/or national origin" and that "[one defendant] was the principal architect of this invidious policy, and that [another defendant] was instrumental in adopting and executing it." Id. at 680-81 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). The Supreme Court called those allegations "nothing more than a formulaic recitation of the elements of a constitutional discrimination claim, " and dismissed those claims because they were conclusory. Id. at 681 (internal quotation marks omitted).

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Claims Against the Central Bucks Regional Police Department and the Plumstead Township Police Department

Mr. Hill names the Central Bucks Regional Police Department and the Plumstead Township Police Department as defendants. However, "[i]n Section 1983 actions, police departments cannot be sued in conjunction with municipalities, because the police department is merely an administrative arm of the local municipality, and is not a separate judicial entity." Padilla v. Twp. of Cherry Hill, 110 F.Appx. 272, 278 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting DeBellis v. Kulp, 166 F.Supp.2d 255, 264 (E.D. Pa. 2001)); see also Bonenberger v. Plymouth Twp., 132 F.3d 20, 25 n.4 (treating a municipality and its police department "as a single entity for purposes of section 1983 liability"). Mr. Hill also has named the Borough of Doylestown ...


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