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Lewis v. City of Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 3, 2017

TANYA LEWIS & TIMOTHY MAYHEW, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          Schiller, J.

         While looking for a burglary suspect, officers of the Philadelphia Police Department allegedly barged illegally into the home of Tanya Lewis, and battered and detained her son Timothy Mayhew. When Lewis protested, Officer Alexander Branch arrested her for disorderly conduct. After a witness cleared Mayhew of any connection with the burglary, Mayhew also protested his treatment and Sergeant Aaron Farmbry arrested him for disorderly conduct. At trial, both Lewis and Mayhew were acquitted.

         Lewis and Mayhew (together, “Plaintiffs”) sued Officer Branch, Sergeant Farmbry, twelve unnamed police officers, and the City of Philadelphia for violating their First and Fourth Amendment rights and for committing various state torts. The City now moves to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims against it for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Because Plaintiffs' Complaint does not satisfy the basic requirements of municipal liability established in Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of N.Y. City, 436 U.S. 658 (1978) and its progeny, the Court will grant the motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In December 2014, Lewis was living in her Philadelphia home with her son Mayhew. (Compl. ¶ 18.) Plaintiffs allege that on December 9, officers of the Philadelphia Police Department arrived outside Lewis's home while investigating a burglary that had taken place several blocks away. (Id. ¶ 19.) Lewis opened her front door to discover numerous police officers on her street. (Id. ¶¶ 20-22.) An officer stated that they were looking for a black man in a hoodie who they believed had entered her home. (Id. ¶ 23.) Lewis told the officers that her daughter's boyfriend had just returned from getting pizza. (Id. ¶ 24.) Lewis's daughter and her daughter's boyfriend then went outside to speak with the officers, apparently without incident. (Id. ¶ 25.)

         Plaintiffs allege that suddenly and without justification, several police officers ran into Lewis's home and pointed their guns at Mayhew, who was standing in the living room. (Id. ¶¶ 27-29.) Fearing for his life, Mayhew ran into the cinder-block fenced backyard, where Plaintiffs allege that several police officers battered him. (Id. ¶¶ 30-33.) The officers then carried Mayhew to the street, placed him in a police car, and drove him to an in-person identification related to the burglary. (Id. ¶¶ 35, 41.) After the eyewitness cleared Mayhew of any connection to the burglary, Mayhew told Sergeant Farmbry that he was upset about his detention and treatment by the police. (Id. ¶¶ 42-43.) Sergeant Farmbry told Mayhew to stop speaking. (Id. ¶ 44.) When he refused, Sergeant Farmbry arrested Mayhew. (Id. ¶ 45.)

         Meanwhile, Lewis had become upset about the officers' behavior and, after briefly fainting, questioned the officers about what they were doing to Mayhew. (Id. ¶¶ 34, 36-37.) Officer Branch told Lewis that she would be arrested if she did not stop speaking. (Id. ¶ 38.) When she continued to speak, he arrested her. (Id. ¶¶ 39-40.)

         Lewis and Mayhew were separately taken to the seventeenth district police station, where they were both charged with disorderly conduct and issued citations. (Id. ¶¶ 40, 45-47.) Lewis and Mayhew then allegedly went to a hospital emergency room, where Mayhew was treated for his injuries. (Id. ¶¶ 48-49.) Soon after, Lewis filed a complaint about the incident with the Philadelphia Police Department's Internal Affairs Bureau. (Id. ¶ 50.) At trial two months later, Judge T. Francis Shields granted a motion for judgment of acquittal for both Lewis and Mayhew. (Id. ¶¶ 51-56.)

         Two years later, Lewis and Mayhew sued Officer Branch, Sergeant Farmbry, twelve unnamed police officers, and the City of Philadelphia. They allege that the defendant police officers violated Plaintiffs' First and Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unlawful search, unlawful arrest, retaliatory arrest, malicious prosecution, assault, and the use of excessive force. (Id. ¶¶ 66-70.) They also assert that the officers committed the state law torts of false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, trespass, conversion, assault, and battery. (Id. ¶¶ 72- 73.) In addition, Plaintiffs allege that the City of Philadelphia proximately caused Plaintiffs' injuries through customs that encouraged Philadelphia Police Department officers to engage in unconstitutional conduct. (Id. ¶ 71; Pls.' Resp. Mot. Dismiss 7-9.) The City of Philadelphia now moves to dismiss the claims against it for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         In reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a district court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. See Powell v. Weiss, 757 F.3d 338, 341 (3d Cir. 2014). A court need not, however, credit “bald assertions” or “legal conclusions” when deciding a motion to dismiss. Anspach ex rel. Anspach v. City of Phila., Dep't of Pub. Health, 503 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         The “[f]actual allegations [in a complaint] must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. Although the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure impose no probability requirement at the pleading stage, a plaintiff must present “enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element[s]” of a cause of action. Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Simply reciting the elements will not suffice. Id. (holding that pleading labels and conclusions without further factual enhancement will not survive motion to dismiss); see also Phillips, 515 F.3d at 233. In deciding a motion to dismiss, the court may consider “allegations contained in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint and matters of public record.” Schmidt v. Skolas, 770 F.3d 241, 249 (3d Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         The Third Circuit has established a two-part analysis for a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. First, the legal conclusions and factual allegations of the claim should be separated, with the well-pleaded facts accepted as true but the legal conclusions disregarded. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). Second, the court must make a common sense determination of whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 211. If the court can only infer the possibility of misconduct, the complaint must be dismissed because it has alleged-but failed to show-that the pleader is entitled to relief. Id.

         III. ...


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