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Hudson v. District Attorney Ed Marsico Dauphin County

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 30, 2017



          SYLVIA H. RAMBO United States District Judge

         In this § 1983 action, pro se Plaintiff Rondell Hudson asserts claims for excessive force, malicious prosecution, and due process violations against a police officer Mark Laudenslager, the Middletown Police Department, and Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico (“Attorney Marsico”). Presently before the court are two motions to dismiss, one filed by Defendant Marsico and the other by Defendants Laudenslager and Middletown Police Department. For the reasons stated herein, the motions will be granted.

         I. Background

         A. Facts

         On or about April 18, 2014, Plaintiff Rondell Hudson (“Plaintiff), an individual residing within the Middle District of Pennsylvania, was involved in a domestic dispute. (Doc. 1-1, p. 1.) According to the complaint, Plaintiffs ex-wife arrived at his home to drop off their children pursuant to a custody arrangement. (Id.) Plaintiffs ex-wife also brought along a male counterpart, referred to in the complaint as her “paramour.” (Id.) An argument between Plaintiff and the paramour escalated into a physical confrontation wherein the paramour struck Plaintiff repeatedly and knocked him to the ground, causing bleeding from Plaintiffs face. (Id.) Plaintiff called the Middletown Police Department to explain that he had just been assaulted and threatened to “use lethal force if necessary to protect [him]self/home, ” and the police urged him to avoid such action. (Id.)

         Once he verified that his ex-wife and her paramour had left the area, Plaintiff went outside and waited in his vehicle for police to arrive. (Id.) Officer Mark Laudenslager (“Officer Laudenslager”) of the Middletown Police Department was the first to arrive on the scene, and, upon seeing Plaintiff approach him, drew his service weapon and ordered Plaintiff to get on the ground. (Id. at pp. 1-2.) Plaintiff tried to explain to Officer Laudenslager that he was the one who had requested police assistance and asked the officer to stop pointing the gun at him, but to no avail. (Id. at p. 2.) As Plaintiff was turning around and lowering himself to the ground, he saw Middletown Police Officer Joshua Reager (“Officer Reager”) speeding toward him. (Id.) Officer Reager exited his vehicle and rapidly approached Plaintiff with his Taser drawn. (Id.) As Plaintiff said, “I'm getting down, don't shoot, ” Officer Reager shot Plaintiff in the chest with the Taser. (Id.) Plaintiff was then pushed to the ground and placed in handcuffs. (Id.) Once the officers realized that Plaintiff was the person who had called for help, and not the assailant, they removed his handcuffs and had emergency medical personnel examine him. (Id.)

         Approximately one year later, in August or September 2015, Plaintiff was charged in Dauphin County with two counts of making terroristic threats, and Attorney Marsico prosecuted the case. (Id.) One count was dismissed at a preliminary hearing, but probable cause was found for the other count, which, after failed plea negotiations, proceeded to a trial. (Id.) Plaintiff was found not guilty at a jury trial in October of 2015. (Id.)

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiff initiated this action on August 18, 2016, by filing a pro se complaint. (Doc. 1.)[1] On June 17, 2016, Defendants Officer Laudenslager and Middletown Police Department (the “Middletown Defendants”) filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim (Doc. 13), and Attorney Marsico submitted a similar motion to dismiss on June 24, 2016 (Doc. 14). Defendants filed their briefs in support of each motion on June 30, 2016 (Doc. 15) and July 6, 2016 (Doc. 17), respectively. After Plaintiff failed to timely respond to either motion, on July 19, 2016, the court ordered him to show cause as to why the matter should not be dismissed. (See Doc. 19.) Plaintiff responded to the court's order on July 27, 2016, stating that he had not received either motion and seeking leave to respond. (See Doc. 20.) The court granted Plaintiffs request to respond, despite the untimeliness (Doc. 21), and Plaintiff filed his brief in opposition to the motions to dismiss on August 29, 2016 (Doc. 22). Defendant Ed Marsico submitted a reply brief on September 12, 2016 (Doc. 24), but the Middletown Defendants did not file a reply. The time for briefing has now passed and the motions to dismiss are ripe for disposition.

         II. Legal Standard

         Defendants have moved, in the two instant motions, to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint against the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a), which requires that a complaint set forth “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). For a complaint to survive dismissal it “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Thus, the court must “accept all factual allegations 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 may be entitled to relief.” United States v. Pennsylvania, 110 F.Supp.3d 544, 548 (M.D. Pa. 2015) (quoting Fleisher v. Standard Ins. Co., 679 F.3d 116, 120 (3d Cir. 2012)); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).

         In considering a motion to dismiss a pro se complaint, a court must bear in mind that pro se complaints are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972) (stating that the court must view a pro se litigant's complaint under a lenient standard). Accordingly, the court should construe the complaint liberally, drawing all fair inferences and applying the applicable law, irrespective of whether the pro se plaintiff has mentioned it by name. Dluhos v. Strasberg, 321 F.3d 365, 369 (3d Cir. 2003). However, even a pro se plaintiff must be able to prove a “set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Haines, 404 U.S. at 520-21 (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)).

         III. Discussion

         A liberal reading of Plaintiffs complaint reveals that he has brought four claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983: 1) malicious prosecution; 2) excessive force during the April 18, 2014 incident by the Middletown Defendants; 3) a violation of Plaintiffs procedural due process rights; and 4) a violation of Plaintiffs substantive due process rights. As part of his prayer for relief, Plaintiff also includes a request for an award of punitive damages. As to the first claim, Defendant Marsico argues that the claim should be dismissed both because he has prosecutorial immunity, and because, as all Defendants argue, Plaintiff has failed to establish that the criminal charge against him lacked probable cause. (See Doc. 17, pp. 6-9; Doc. 15, pp. 12-16.) With regard to Plaintiffs excessive force claim, the Middletown Defendants argue that the claim should be dismissed because Plaintiff has not alleged that Officer Laudenslager used any force ...

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