United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
MICHAEL SAUERS, Individually and as Administrator of the ESTATE OF CAROLA R. SAUERS, Deceased, Plaintiff
STEPHEN HOMANKO, BOROUGH OF NESQUEHONING, and SEAN SMITH Defendants
M. MUNLEY United States District Court
Michael Sauers (hereinafter “plaintiff”) avers
that a local police officer violated his and his late
wife's civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
(hereinafter “section 1983”) when he lost control
of his police cruiser and collided with plaintiff's
automobile. Before the court for disposition is Defendants
Borough of Nesquehoning and police chief Sean Smith's
(hereinafter “the Borough defendants”) motion to
dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. (Doc. 19). For the following reasons, the court will
grant in part and deny in part the motion.
12, 2014, Nesquehoning police officer Stephen Homanko
(hereinafter “Defendant Homanko”), on duty in his
2009 Ford Crown Victoria police cruiser, was travelling in
the southbound lane of Route 209 in Nesquehoning,
Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1, Compl. (hereinafter
“Compl.”) ¶ 10). At some point, he observed
a yellow Dodge Neon commit what he believed to be a potential
summary traffic offense in the northbound lane of Route 209.
(Id. ¶ 11). Based on his observation, Defendant
Homanko turned his police cruiser around and pursued the
Neon. (Id. ¶ 12). To catch up to and apprehend
the Neon's driver, Defendant Homanko at times reached
speeds over 100 miles-per-hour. (Id. ¶ 14).
While attempting to negotiate a curve in the road, Defendant
Homanko lost control of his police cruiser and collided with
a 2007 Toyota Yaris traveling southbound on Route 209 and
driven by Plaintiff Michael Sauers. (Id.
¶¶ 15, 9). Plaintiff endured extensive injuries as
a result of the collision, and his wife, who was travelling
in the front passenger seat of the vehicle, died as a result
of her injuries. (Id. ¶¶ 9, 17-18).
6, 2016, plaintiff filed a seven-count complaint against
Defendant Homanko and the Borough defendants. Counts I, II,
and III allege civil rights violations under section 1983
against all defendants. Counts IV, V, VI, and VII assert
respective Pennsylvania state law negligence, wrongful death,
survival, and vicarious liability claims.
28, 2016, the Borough defendants moved to dismiss
plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. (Doc. 19). The parties have briefed
their respective positions and the matter is ripe for
case is brought pursuant to section 1983 for a violation of
plaintiff's constitutional rights, we have jurisdiction
under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (“The district courts shall
have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under
the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United
States.”). We have supplemental jurisdiction over
plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
Borough defendants filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's
complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The
court tests the sufficiency of the complaint's
allegations when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. All
well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be viewed as
true and in the light most favorable to the non-movant to
determine whether, “‘under any reasonable reading
of the pleadings, the plaintiff may be entitled to
relief.'” Colburn v. Upper Darby Twp., 838
F.2d 663, 665-66 (3d Cir. 1988) (quoting Estate of Bailey
by Oare v. Cty. of York, 768 F.2d 503, 506 (3d Cir.
1985)). The plaintiff must describe “‘enough
facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will
reveal evidence of' [each] necessary element” of
the claims alleged in the complaint. Phillips v. Cty. of
Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556
(2007)). Moreover, the plaintiff must allege facts that
“justify moving the case beyond the pleadings to the
next stage of litigation.” Id. at 234-35. In
evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint, the court may also
consider “matters of public record, orders, exhibits
attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record
of the case.” Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran
& Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994)
(citations omitted). The court need not accept legal
conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences. See
Curay-Cramer v. Ursuline Acad. of Wilmington, Del.,
Inc., 450 F.3d 130, 133 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Morse
v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir.
Borough defendants move to dismiss plaintiff's complaint
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
Plaintiff argues, however, that his federal civil rights and
state law claims are sufficiently alleged. We first address
plaintiff's federal civil rights claims, and then, if
necessary, plaintiff's state law claims.
Section 1983 Claims
Borough defendants first seek to dismiss plaintiff's
section 1983 claims stated in Counts I and III of the
complaint. Count I asserts section 1983 supervisory liability
and state-created danger claims against Nesquehoning police
chief Sean Smith (hereinafter “Defendant Smith”).
Count III asserts a section 1983 municipal liability claim
against the Borough of Nesquehoning (hereinafter “the
1983 does not, by its own terms, create substantive rights.
Rather, it provides remedies for deprivations of rights
established elsewhere in the Constitution or federal law.
Kneipp v. Tedder, 95 F.3d 1199, 1204 (3d Cir. 1996).
Section 1983 states, in pertinent part:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or
the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be
subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person
within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any
rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution
and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action
at law, suit in equity or other proper proceeding for redress
. . . .
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Thus, to establish a claim under
section 1983, two criteria must be met. First, the conduct
complained of must have been committed by a person acting
under color of state law. Sameric Corp. ofDel.,
Inc. v. City of Phila., 142 F.3d 582, 590 (3d Cir.1998).
Second, the conduct must deprive the plaintiff of rights
secured under the Constitution or federal law. Id.
Here, the parties do not contest whether the Borough
defendants acted under state law. Rather, the ...