United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
H. RAMBO United States District Judge
§ 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.
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.)
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.)
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.)
initiated this action on August 18, 2016, by filing a pro
se complaint. (Doc. 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
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.
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
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 ...