United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
R. Hornak, United States District Judge
the Court is Plaintiff Angelica Davila's Motion for
Reconsideration in No. 14-cv-70, ECF No. 16. Ms. Davila filed
this suit against the United States under the Federal Tort
Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346, 2671, et
seq., following a traffic stop, which she asserts was
predicated upon her Hispanic heritage and which led to her
warrantless arrest. Davila raised claims of false arrest and
false imprisonment based on the role of a Federal Immigration
and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer, Special Agent Brianna
Tetrault, in that arrest.
Court previously granted the United States' Motion to
Dismiss Davila's false arrest and false
imprisonment claims under the FTCA, concluding that Agent
Tetrault had probable cause to request that local law
enforcement detain Davila without a warrant under the
authority of 8 U.S.C. § 1304(e) and Davila's actions
therefore could not give rise to liability on the part of the
United States. ECF No. 14 at 9-12. Davila subsequently filed
the instant Motion for Reconsideration, arguing that the
Court's dismissal of her claims against the United States
was in error.
reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Davila's
Motion for Reconsideration of the Court's dismissal of
her claims against the United States, ECF No. 16. Upon such
reconsideration, the Court concludes that questions of fact
preclude the dismissal of Davila's false arrest and false
imprisonment claims against the United States. The
Court's dismissal Order, ECF No. 15, will therefore be
vacated to the extent it granted the United States'
Motion to Dismiss Davila's false arrest and false
imprisonment claims. The United States will remain a
defendant in No. 14-cv-70 as to those claims.
Court has set forth previously the extensively pled facts of
this case, including those relevant as to claims against
other Defendants in No. 13-cv-70. The Court repeats here
those facts relevant to the determination of the instant
Motion, accepting as true those factual allegations in the
Complaint and drawing all reasonable inferences therefrom in
Davila's favor. Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560,
563 (3d Cir. 2011).
parties agree that Davila is a United States citizen who was
born in Mexico. Davila legally immigrated to the United
States with her parents when she was two years old, and she
became a lawful permanent resident of the United States when
she was sixteen. She moved to the Pittsburgh (PA) area in
2007. Davila previously sought derivative citizenship status
under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, 8 U.S.C. §
1431, et seq., under which a child automatically
becomes a citizen on the date she satisfies certain
requirements. Davila became a citizen by operation of
law in 2001, and the United States does not dispute that
January 22, 2011, Davila drove to a grocery store in
Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Joel Garrete was her
passenger. Around 5:45 p.m., Davila drove out of the grocery
store parking lot onto Perry Highway. She drove approximately
250 feet on the highway before Officer Andrew Bienermann, a
local patrolman, pulled her over. Bienermann informed Davila
that he stopped her because her headlights were off.
Bienermann asked Davila for her driver's license, proof
of vehicle registration, and proof of vehicle insurance.
Davila provided all three. Bienermann then questioned Mr. Garrete.
Since Garrete did not speak English, Bienermann asked Davila
to act as a translator, and she obliged. Bienermann asked for
Garrete's identification. In response, Garrete provided
Bienermann with a pay stub showing his address. Bienermann
asked Garrete whether Garrete was legally present in the
United States, and Garrete responded that he was not.
Bienermann returned to his patrol car, contacted the police
dispatcher, and asked the dispatcher to check the immigration
status of both Davila and Garrete with ICE. As a result of
Bienermann's request, ICE Law Enforcement Specialist
Hayhurst conducted an immigration alien query (IAQ) on both
Davila and Garrete. For Davila, this initial IAQ was based on
her name, date of birth, place of birth (Mexico), and sex.
ECF No. 1 at 8. Certain ICE records from the initial IAQ show
that Davila was listed as "out of status." There
was "no match found" for Garrete. ECF No. 1 at 6;
see also No. 13-cv-70, ECF No. 112-5 at 7.
Davila was stopped on the side of the road, Special Agent
Brianna Tetrault, an ICE officer, contacted Officer
Bienermann on his cell phone. Bienermann relayed Davila's
name and date of birth to Tetrault. Bienermann also informed
Tetrault that Davila had a Pennsylvania driver's license
that listed her residence as West Mifflin, a suburb of
Pittsburgh (PA). Tetrault then asked to speak to Davila, and
Bienermann handed Davila his phone.
Tetrault told Davila that the reason she was asking questions
about Davila's immigration status was because Tetrault,
like Bienermann, wanted to use Davila as an interpreter to
speak with Garrete. Davila agreed to this arrangement. In
response to Tetrault's questions, Davila provided
Tetrault with her name, date of birth, address, and cell
phone number. Davila also told Tetrault her country of
origin. ECF No. 1 at 6; No. 13-cv-70, ECF No. 138 at 7.
Tetrault asked Davila if she had a visa. Davila told
Tetrault-mistakenly-that she was a lawful permanent resident
of the United States rather than a citizen. Davila said that
she had lived in the United States for many years. Tetrault
asked Davila whether Davila had her lawful permanent resident
card with her, and Davila responded that she did
not. ECF No. 1 at 7. When Tetrault was done
questioning Davila, Davila interpreted for Tetrault while
Tetrault questioned Garrete.
point during all of this, the results of Specialist
Hayhurst's IAQ-that Davila was "out of status"
and that there was "no match found" for
Garrete-were relayed to both Officer Bienermann and to Agent
Tetrault. ECF No. 1 at 6. The police dispatcher relayed the
results to Bienermann, and Special Agent Jason Kenwood,
another ICE agent, relayed them to Tetrault. Id.
Tetrault then requested that Officer Bienermann detain both
Davila and Garrete and take them to the Allegheny County Jail
for holding. This occurred approximately two (2) hours after
Bienermann pulled Davila's car over. Tetrault advised
Bienermann that she would execute immigration detainers for
Davila and Garrete and fax them to Bienermann's local
police station. Davila and Garrete were handcuffed, placed in
Bienermann's vehicle, and taken to the local police
station. ECF No. 1 at 9. Tetrault signed federal immigration
detainers for Davila and Garrete and faxed them to
Bienermann. Davila's detainer misspelled her last name as
Devila-Garcoa. The detainer also described Davila as an
"alien" and listed her nationality as
"Mexican." ECF No. 1 at 10. Within about an hour of
her arrival at the local police station, Davila was taken to
the Allegheny County Jail.
records located after Davila's imprisonment show that
Davila had multiple Alien Registration Numbers, or
"A-numbers"-numbers issued by the Department of
Homeland Security to an individual when she becomes a lawful
permanent resident of the United States or attains other
lawful, non-citizen status. In all, the search turned up
three A-numbers: one listing Davila as "family fairness
granted, " a status which provides for relief from
removal and authorizes a legal permanent resident's
spouse or unmarried child to be employed; a second listing
Davila as "family fairness denied"; and a third
listing Davila as status IR-7, a classification used for
legal permanent residents who are children of a U.S. citizen.
See No. 13-cv-70, ECF No. 112-5 at 7.
later-discovered records led to Davila's release.
Id. After completing a review of the immigration
detainer, Agent Kenwood told Officer Bienermann that a
mistake had been made regarding Davila's identity.
Kenwood informed Bienermann that Davila may have been
incorrectly detained and that she should be released. This
was at or around 9:50 p.m.-about four hours after the stop,
about two hours after Agent Tetrault issued the immigration
detainer, and about one hour after Davila's arrival at
local the police station. In addition to Kenwood telling
Bienermann that Davila should be released at or around 9:50
p.m., ICE sent a fax at 11:05 p.m.to the Allegheny County
Jail ordering Davila's release. ICE provided the
Allegheny County Jail with a copy of Davila's lawful
permanent resident card and other proof of her legal
all this, Davila was not released from the Allegheny County
Jail until 7:30 a.m. the following morning. In all, Davila
was detained for about fourteen hours: two full hours at the
side of the road, approximately another hour during travel to
and at the local police station, and then overnight in the
Allegheny County Jail.
should grant reconsideration of a prior order if the moving
party demonstrates (1) an intervening change in the
controlling law, (2) the existence of new evidence that was
unavailable when the court issued its order, or (3) the need
to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent a
manifest injustice. Max's Seafood Cafe ex rel
Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir.
asks the Court to reconsider its Order dismissing the United
States from the case based upon the Court's conclusion
that Agent Tetrault had probable cause to request that local
law enforcement detain Davila without a warrant under the
authority of 8 U.S.C. § 1304(e) and Davila's actions
therefore could not give rise to liability on the part of the
United States for false arrest or false imprisonment. ECF No.
14 at 9-12.
U.S.C. § 1304(e) provides that:
Every alien, eighteen years of age and over, shall at all
times carry with him and have in his personal possession any
certificate of alien registration or alien registration
receipt card issued to him pursuant to subsection (d) of this
section. Any alien who fails to comply with the provisions of
this subsection shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall
upon conviction for each offense be fined not to exceed $100
or be imprisoned not more than thirty days, or both.
8 U.S.C. § 1304.
Davila and the United States tell the Court that its
conclusion that Agent Tetrault had probable cause to request
Davila's detention without a warrant under the authority
of 8 U.S.C. § 1304(e) was in error. ECF No. 17 at 2-3;
ECF No. 20 at 1-3; ECF No. 21 at 1. This, according to
Davila, was because the Court failed to consider the
limitations on Tetrault's authority to conduct a
warrantless arrest, certain of which are set forth in another
provision of federal law: 8 U.S.C. § 1357(a)(2).
See ECF No. 16 at 1-2; ECF No. 21 at 1. The United
States agrees that the limitations of 8 U.S.C. §
1357(a)(2) constrain Tetrault's authority in this case.
ECF No. 20 at 1-3. But, the United States says, the
Court's error was "harmless" because §
1357(a)(2)-rather than § 1304(e)-provided Tetrault with
probable cause to request Davila's detention. ECF No. 20
the parties agree that 8 U.S.C. § 1357(a)(2) limits
Agent Tetrault's authority, the Court concludes that an
evaluation of the extent of Tetrault's authority under
that provision is necessary to render a determination of
whether Davila sufficiently stated a claim for false arrest
and false imprisonment such that the United States can be
liable under the FTCA. The Court will therefore assume for
the purposes of resolving the instant Motion to Reconsider,
without deciding, that its conclusion that Tetrault had
probable cause to request Davila's detention under 8
U.S.C. § 1304(e) was in error. Davila's Motion for
Reconsideration, ECF No. 16, will therefore be granted, and
the Court will reconsider its July 28, 2014 Opinion and Order
dismissing the false arrest and false imprisonment claims
against the United States, ECF Nos. 14-15, in order to
address the limitations 8 U.S.C. § 1357(a)(2) places on
Court now considers for a second time whether the United
States' Motion to Dismiss Davila's false arrest and
false imprisonment claims under the FTCA should be granted.
Under the plausibility standard governing motions to dismiss
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), courts
must "accept all factual allegations [in the complaint]
as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable
to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable
reading of the complaint, the plaintiff . . . has a
'plausible claim for relief.'" Fowler v.
UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d. Cir. 2009).
FTCA waives the United States' sovereign immunity for
torts committed by its employees acting within the scope of
their employment. 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1). Under the
FTCA, the United States must answer for the acts of its
employees "in the same manner and to the same extent as
a private individual under like circumstances."
Lomando, 667 F.3d at 373 (citing 28 U.S.C. §
2674; United States v. Olson, 546 U.S. 43, 46
(2005)). The scope of FTCA liability is determined by
reference to state law. Id. at 372-73. Although the
FTCA contains an exception to its waiver of sovereign
immunity for false arrest and false imprisonment claims, that
exception does not apply where such claims arise out of the
acts or omissions of investigative or law enforcement
officers of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2680(h).
events giving rise to Davila's claims occurred in
Pennsylvania. Under Pennsylvania law, false arrest and false
imprisonment are nearly identical actions. Watson v.
Witmer,183 F.Supp.3d 607, 617 (M.D. Pa. 2016). Courts
applying Pennsylvania law generally analyze such claims
together when they are factually intertwined. See
Brockington v. City of Philadelphia,354 F.Supp.2d 563,
571, n.8 (E.D. Pa. 2005). The elements of the claims are
essentially the same: (1) the defendant intended to confine
the plaintiff; (2) the defendant performed an action that
directly or indirectly produced such confinement; and (3) the
plaintiff was either conscious of or harmed by the conduct.
Witmer, 183 F.Supp.3d at 617. In the context of a
seizure by a state officer, the plaintiff must additionally
show that such detainment was unlawful. Id. (citing
Renk v. City of Pittsburgh,641 A.2d 289, 293 (Pa.
1994)). "[C]ases involving false arrest claims against
police officers turn on the existence or nonexistence ...