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Raven v. City of Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 9, 2017

MONICA RAVEN
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, et al.

          MEMORANDUM

          John R. Padova, J.

         Plaintiff Monica Raven has filed a Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) against the City of Philadelphia, Francis Bielli, and Gwendolyn Bell, alleging claims for violation of her Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as claims under Pennsylvania state law. Defendants have moved to dismiss the SAC for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, we dismiss Counts I and II for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Counts III-V pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3).

         I. BACKGROUND

         The SAC alleges the following facts. Monica Raven is an African-American woman who was hired as a police officer by the Philadelphia Police Department in June 1998. (SAC ¶¶ 5, 10.) While on duty on December 30, 2003, Raven injured her foot by stepping on a nail, which went through her work boot and into her foot. (Id. ¶ 13.) As a result of this injury, Raven developed Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome, a degenerative nerve disorder which rendered her unable to walk or stand. (Id.) Although there is no cure for Raven's disorder, she did undergo numerous surgeries, including one to implant a spinal cord stimulator that delivers electric impulses to the affected nerves. (Id. ¶¶ 14-15.)

         In May 2006, Raven was seen by the Medical Director for the City of Philadelphia, who determined that she was “disabled from the further performance of the duties of . . . her position and that such disability is likely to be [p]ermanent.” (Id. ¶ 16, Ex. A.)[1] Soon after she was declared permanently disabled, Raven was notified by an “Administrator from Law Enforcement Health Benefits, Inc., that she had been granted a Service Connected Disability” and was informed that “the City of Philadelphia [is] responsible for all medical services related to [her] ‘on the job injury' for the rest of [her] life.” (Id. ¶ 17, Ex. B (second and third alterations in original).)

         Raven officially retired from her position as a Philadelphia Police Officer on November 18, 2006, one day after her pay status as a police officer was terminated. (Id. ¶ 19, Ex. D.) Raven subsequently applied for, and was awarded, a Service Connected Disability Pension, which she was told would be retroactive to her retirement date. (Id. ¶ 20, Ex. E.) On August 29, 2007, she completed forms indicating how she wished her untaxed contributions to the municipal retirement system should be distributed. (Id. ¶ 21, Ex. F.) Despite being approved for a Service Connected Disability Pension, Raven has never received any pension payments. (Id. ¶ 23.) She contacted the City of Philadelphia and the Board of Pensions and Retirement to inquire about her benefits, but her inquiries were unsuccessful. (Id. ¶ 24.) She retained counsel on February 24, 2015. (Id. ¶ 25.) Her attorney attempted to discover the status of her benefits by sending a letter to Bielli on February 27, 2015, but never received a response. (Id. ¶¶ 25-26, Ex. H.)

         On July 30, 2015, Raven filed a Complaint against the City of Philadelphia, Francis Bielli, the current Executive Director of the City of Philadelphia Board of Pensions and Retirement, and Gwendolyn Bell, the former Executive Director of the Board. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss, which we granted in part and denied in part. See Raven v. City of Phila., Civ. A. No. 15-4146, 2016 WL 320574 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 26, 2016). We subsequently permitted Raven to file the instant SAC.

         Count I of the SAC asserts a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Bielli and Bell for violation of Raven's Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection.[2] Count II asserts a § 1983 claim against the City of Philadelphia for violation of Raven's Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection pursuant to Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978).[3] The SAC also asserts claims for promissory estoppel (Count III), conversion (Count IV), and fraud (Count V) pursuant to state law.[4]

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         When considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), we “consider only the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, [and] matters of public record, as well as undisputedly authentic documents if the complainant's claims are based upon these documents.” Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 230 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993)). We take the factual allegations of the complaint as true and “construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” DelRio-Mocci v. Connolly Props., Inc., 672 F.3d 241, 245 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Warren Gen. Hosp. v. Amgen, Inc., 643 F.3d 77, 84 (3d Cir. 2011)). Legal conclusions, however, receive no deference, as the court is “‘not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'” Wood v. Moss, 134 S.Ct. 2056, 2065 n.5 (2014) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).

         A plaintiff's pleading obligation is to set forth “‘a short and plain statement of the claim, '” which gives 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) (alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) and Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). The complaint must contain “‘sufficient factual matter to show that the claim is facially plausible, ' thus enabling ‘the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for [the] misconduct alleged.'” Warren Gen. Hosp., 643 F.3d at 84 (quoting Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009)). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556), but it “‘requires showing more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.'” Shahid v. Borough of Darby, Civ. A. No. 16-2542, 2016 WL 7413521, at *1 n.1 (3d Cir. Dec. 22, 2016) (quoting Burtch v. Milberg Factors, Inc., 662 F.3d 212, 221 (3d Cir. 2011)). In the end, we will grant a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) if the factual allegations in the complaint are not sufficient “‘to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'” W. Run Student Hous. Assocs., LLC v. Huntington Nat'l Bank, 712 F.3d 165, 169 (3d Cir. 2013) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. The § 1983 Claims

         Count I asserts a claim for violation of Raven's Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection against Defendants Bielli and Bell in their personal capacities. Count II asserts a claim for violation of Raven's Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection against the City of Philadelphia, pursuant to Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). Raven ...


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