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Davies v. Lackawanna County

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 16, 2017

THOMAS W. DAVIES, NOW DECEASED, BY AND THROUGH HIS WIFE, MAJORIE A. DAVIES, ADMINISTRATOR OF HIS ESTATE, Plaintiff,
v.
LACKAWANNA COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROBERT D. MARIANI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         Presently before the Court is a civil rights action brought by Majorie Davies, on behalf of her now deceased husband, Thomas Davies ("Mr. Davies"). The Fourth Amended Complaint, (Doc, 30), alleges various violations of Mr. Davies constitutional rights stemming from his encounter with a Lackawanna Sheriffs Sergeant, as well as statutory and constitutional violations stemming from Mr. Davies's employment with and termination from the Lackawanna County Sheriff's Department. The three named defendants, Lackawanna County, Lackawanna County Sheriff Mark McAndrew, and Lackawanna County Sheriffs Sergeant John Acculto (collectively "Defendants"), have moved to dismiss part of the Fourth Amended Complaint. (Doc. 32). The Motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for decision. For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss.

         II. Factual Allegations and Procedural History

         The Fourth Amended Complaint alleges the following facts[1]:

         Lackawanna County Sheriffs Sergeant John Acculto is a supervisor for the Lackawanna County Sheriffs Department. (Doc. 30 at ¶ 3). Mr. Davies was employed by the Lackawanna County Sheriffs Department. (Id. at ¶¶ 46-47). On May 15, 2015, Defendant Acculto traveled to Wyoming County where he encountered Mr. Davies. (Id. at ¶¶ 10, 13). During that encounter, Defendant Acculto took Mr. Davies's firearm and made Mr. Davies's "strip out of his uniform while in front of his home and in view of his neighbors." (Id.). Defendant Acculto did not have a warrant to search Mr. Davies or to seize his property. (Id. at ¶10).

         On May 18, 2015, Mr. Davies was informed that a meeting would be held on May 22, 2015, to discuss his attendance. (Id. at ¶ 49). Before the meeting was held, Mr. Davies hired an attorney and requested workplace accommodations due to his diabetes. (Id. at¶¶ 39, 50). A half an hour before the meeting was held, Defendant McAndrew changed the scope of the meeting to include dishonesty. (Id. at ¶ 50). At the meeting, Mr. Davies was unable to ask the witnesses any questions. (Id. at ¶ 51). Further, other evidence was presented after the meeting which Mr. Davies was never afforded an opportunity in which to respond. [Id. at 53). On May 27, 2017, Mr. Davies was terminated for the stated reason of "dishonesty." (Id. at ¶46).

         On June 16, 2015, Mr. Davies led a Complaint with this Court.[2] (Doc. 1). After amending the Complaint several times, Mr. Davies filed a Fourth Amended Complaint on April 12, 2016. (Doc. 30). The Fourth Amended Complaint alleges five claims, three of which are relevant here: Count I, a Section 1983 action against Defendants Acculto and Lackawanna County for unlawful search and seizure; Count II, a Section 1983 action against Defendants Acculto and Lackawanna County for violation of Mr. Davies's right to privacy; and Count V, a Section 1983 action against Defendants McAndrew and Lackawanna County for a due process violation relating to Mr. Davies's termination. Defendants then filed their Partial Motion to Dismiss on April 25, 2016, (Doc. 32), seeking dismissal of Counts I, II, and V.

         III. Standard of Review

         A complaint must be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp, v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). "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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009).

         "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations and alterations omitted). In other words, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. A court "take[s] as true all the factual allegations in the Complaint and the reasonable inferences that can be drawn from those facts, but... disregard[s] legal conclusions and threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Ethypharm S.A. France v. Abbott Laboratories, 707 F.3d 223, 231 n.14 (3d Cir. 2013) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

Twombly and Iqbal require [a court] to take the following three steps to determine the sufficiency of a complaint: First, the court must take note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim. Second, the court should identify allegations that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Finally, where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.

Connelly v. Steel Valley Sen. Dist, 706 F.3d 209, 212 (3d Cir. 2013).

         "[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, 129 S.Ct. at 1950 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). This "plausibility" determination will be a "context-specific task that requires the ...


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