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Meadows v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

January 31, 2017



          O'NEILL, J.

         Plaintiff James Meadows sues the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) and SEPTA Police Officers Edward Kaiser and Troy Parham setting forth claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Pennsylvania state law. Dkt. No. 23 (Sec. Am. Compl.). On November 2, 2016, I granted in part and denied in part defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's first amended complaint. Dkt. No. 17. In his second amended complaint, plaintiff alleges facts very similar to those in his first amended complaint and states the same claims. Dkt. No. 23. Defendants again filed a partial motion to dismiss, Dkt. No. 27, and plaintiff responded, Dkt. No. 29. I will again grant defendants' motion in part, dismissing plaintiff's claims against SEPTA in Count I, and deny it in part, declining to dismiss Counts IV and V against the officers.


         According to the second amended complaint, plaintiff was sitting on a bench at Suburban Station in Philadelphia on June 3, 2014, at about 7:30 am, charging his phone and note pad, when defendants Officers Kaiser and Parham confronted him. Dkt. No. 23 (Sec. Am. Compl.) ¶¶ 10-11. Plaintiff told Officer Kaiser that he was waiting for a train and proceeded to the platform area. Id. at ¶ 12. As he was walking, Officer Kaiser twice pushed him from behind, at one point nearly causing him to fall down the steps. Id. ¶ 13. He also threatened to put plaintiff in the hospital. Id.

         When plaintiff got to the platform, Officer Kaiser ordered him to sit down. Id. at ¶ 14. Plaintiff refused, responding that he preferred to stand. Id. at ¶ 14. Then Officer Kaiser attempted to push plaintiff in his face and plaintiff “tried to block Officer Kaiser and pushed back.” Id. at ¶ 14. Officer Parham then grabbed plaintiff by his neck from behind and threw him to the ground. Id. at ¶ 14. Officer Kaiser punched him while Officer Parham held him down. Id. at ¶ 14. Plaintiff felt severe pain in his right shoulder. Id. at ¶ 14. Officer Parham handcuffed plaintiff and slammed him against a steel bench, further injuring his shoulder. Id. at ¶ 14.

         Plaintiff told the officers he needed to go to a hospital emergency room for a broken shoulder. Id. at ¶ 15. Instead, the officers took plaintiff to Hall-Mercer Psychiatric Hospital for the purposes of an involuntary commitment pursuant to Section 302 of Pennsylvania's Mental Health Procedures Act, 50 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 7301-7503. Id. at ¶ 15. A doctor at the hospital determined that plaintiff's shoulder needed immediate medical treatment and told the officers to take plaintiff to the emergency room. Id. at ¶ 15. They did so, and plaintiff was told he had a dislocated shoulder, among other injuries. Id. at ¶ 16.

         Plaintiff was operated on and then taken back to Hall-Mercer Psychiatric Ward. Id. at ¶ 16. There, the doctor told plaintiff the officers' account of what had happened: that plaintiff had tried to kill himself in front of a train and got injured when the officers had tried to help him. Id. at ¶ 17. The doctor examined plaintiff, “apparently concluded he was not a threat to himself or others” and let him leave. Id. at ¶ 18.

         Subsequently, plaintiff filed a complaint with the SEPTA Transit Police Department of Internal Affairs, describing this incident to Lieutenant Dougherty and Captain Wiki. Id. at ¶ 19. The officers told plaintiff they would look into the incident. Id. at ¶ 19. On September 16, 2014, Lieutenant Dougherty called plaintiff and asked him to come to SEPTA Police headquarters so he could make copies of plaintiff's medical records. Id. at ¶ 20. When plaintiff arrived with his records, Lieutenant Dougherty copied the records and then plaintiff was arrested. Id. at ¶ 20. Plaintiff was charged with aggravated assault, terroristic threats, resisting arrest, recklessly endangering another and disorderly conduct. Id. at ¶ 21. He was held in jail until December 29, 2014, when all charges were either withdrawn or dismissed. Id. at ¶¶ 22. As a result of the officers' conduct, plaintiff has suffered physical and emotional injuries, scarring, surgery and several hospital visits, among other harms. Id. at ¶¶ 23-27.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss all or part of an action for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Typically, “a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, ” though plaintiff's obligation to state the grounds of entitlement to relief “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . on the assumption that all of the allegations in the complaint are true.” Id. (citations omitted). This “simply calls for enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of” the necessary element. Id. at 556. “To prevent dismissal, all civil complaints must set out ‘sufficient factual matter' to show that the claim is facially plausible.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009), quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The Court explained, “a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to ‘show' such an entitlement with its facts.” Fowler, 578 F.3d at 211, citing Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35 (3d Cir. 2008). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).


         Plaintiff brings five claims: Count I is a 28 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against SEPTA, a government agency that is treated as a municipality for purposes of such claims. Sec. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 33-38; Searles v. SEPTA, 990 F.2d 789, 790 (3d Cir. 1993); Feingold v. SEPTA, 517 A.2d 1270, 1275-76 (Pa. 1986). Counts II and III are § 1983 claims against each defendant officer for violating plaintiff's Eighth, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Id. ¶¶ 39-48. Counts IV and V are state tort law claims against each defendant officer for assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and malicious prosecution. Id. ¶¶ 49-54. Defendants move to dismiss Counts I, IV and V. I will grant their motion with respect to Count I and deny it with respect to Counts IV and V.

         I. Claims Against SEPTA

         In order for plaintiff's claims in Count I against SEPTA to survive a motion to dismiss, plaintiff must allege SEPTA had a policy or custom that resulted in a violation of his rights. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). Plaintiff alleges largely the same facts that he alleged to support Count I of his first amended complaint, which I dismissed for failure to allege facts showing the existence of a custom or policy under Monell. Dkt. No. 17, 5-12. Because the ...

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