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Bartol v. Barrowclough

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 3, 2017

PATRICK BARTOL, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER ADAM BARROWCLOUGH, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, J.

         Plaintiff Patrick Bartol (“Plaintiff”) filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and various state laws, bringing thirteen different causes of action against multiple defendants, including three individual police officers, the police chief of Tinicum Township, the Tinicum Township Police Department and its individual members, the Tinicum Township Board of Commissioners and its individual members, and Tinicum Township itself (collectively, “Defendants”). Defendants filed a partial motion to dismiss and strike certain portions of the complaint, and Plaintiff responded in opposition. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the motion, dismiss the complaint in its entirety without prejudice, and grant Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Defendant Officers Adam Barrowclough, Shawn Ryan, and Andrew O'Neill (collectively, “Defendant Officers”) are individual police officers employed by Tinicum Township in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Compl. ¶¶ 5-7, ECF No. 1. Defendant Stephen Edmiston (“Chief Edmiston”) is the Police Chief of Tinicum Township. Id. ¶ 8. Defendant Tinicum Township (“the Township”) is a Township of the First Class in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Id. ¶¶ 10-11. Defendant Board of Township Commissioners of Tinicum Township (“the Board”) comprises Defendants Tom Giancristoforo, Jr., Dennis R. Arthur, Patrick K. McCarthy, Lisa Edmiston and Pat Barr, all of whom are individual members of the Board (collectively, “Individual Board Defendants”). Id. ¶¶ 9, 11. Defendants “John/Jane Doe #1-X” are individual members of the police department in Tinicum Township. Id. ¶ 12.

         On February 26, 2015, Plaintiff checked in to the Red Roof Inn in Essington, Pennsylvania, near the Philadelphia Airport, intending to depart on a morning flight to Florida. Id. ¶ 13. Shortly after midnight on February 27, 2015, the Defendant Officers arrived at Plaintiff's room. Id. ¶ 15. Plaintiff's motel room was dark and quiet at that time, and Plaintiff was in bed. Id. ¶ 16. After the Defendant Officers knocked on the door, Plaintiff opened it, identified himself to the Defendant Officers, and informed them that everything was fine.[1] Id. ¶ 17. Officer Barrowclough requested to enter the room, but Plaintiff verbally denied entry, telling the Defendant Officers that he was fine and he wanted to go back to bed. Id. ¶ 18. The Defendant Officers refused to leave, and Officer Barrowclough stood in the threshold of the doorway, preventing Plaintiff from closing his motel room door. Id. ¶ 19. Plaintiff advised the Defendant Officers that they needed a search warrant to enter his room; nevertheless, the Defendant Officers, led by Officer Barrowclough, forcibly pushed their way into the room. Id. ¶ 20.

         Plaintiff alleges that Officer Barrowclough then threw him against the wall and struck him with a fist “at least two times” before throwing him to the ground and continuing to strike him. Id. ¶¶ 21-22. Plaintiff further alleges that Officer Barrowclough instructed Officer Ryan to tase Plaintiff, and that Officer Ryan complied. Id. ¶ 23. Plaintiff asserts that all of the Defendant Officers knew at the time they entered Plaintiff's room that he had not committed any crime, and also that Plaintiff “had the Constitutional right to deny their entry.” Id. ¶ 24. Plaintiff states that at no point during the alleged assault did he “strike or threaten any officer in any way.” Id. ¶ 25.

         Plaintiff claims that Officer Barrowclough has acknowledged that Plaintiff had committed no criminal offense and was not under arrest when the officers forced their way into his room. Id. ¶ 26. Finally, Plaintiff complains that Officers Ryan and O'Neill failed to intervene to stop Officer Barrowclough's assault on Plaintiff, and, similarly, that Officers Barrowclough and O'Neill failed to intervene to stop Officer Ryan's unwarranted taser assault on Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 27.

         Based on the foregoing facts, Plaintiff brings the following thirteen causes of action:

COUNT

AUTHORITY

CAUSE

DEFENDANTS

I

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Unlawful Seizure

Individual defendants

II

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Excessive Force and Physical Brutality

Individual defendants

III

42 U.S.C. § 1983

False Imprisonment

Individual defendants

IV

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Malicious Prosecution

Barrowclough, Ryan, O'Neill

V

42 U.S.C. § 1983

14th Amendment Due Process Violation

Individual defendants

VI

State law

Malicious Prosecution

Barrowclough, Ryan, O'Neill

VII

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Supervisory/Policymaker Liability

Board of Commissioners; Edmiston and Does

VIII

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Failure to Intervene (Non-supervisory)

Individual defendants

IX

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Civil Conspiracy

Individual defendants

X

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Municipal Liability

Tinicum Township; Board of Commissioners

XI

State constitution

State Constitutional Violations

Individual defendants

XII

State law

Assault and Battery

Barrowclough, Ryan, O'Neill

XIII

State law

Civil Conspiracy

Barrowclough, Ryan, O'Neill, Tinicum Township, Does

See Id. ¶¶ 61-180. Plaintiff demands a jury trial and requests compensatory and punitive damages against Defendants, jointly and severally, in an amount exceeding $150, 000.00, exclusive of interests and costs. See Id. at 52-53. Plaintiff also requests reasonable attorney's fees and costs, and he seeks an order enjoining Defendants from engaging in future conduct like that described in the complaint. See Id. at 53-54.

         Plaintiff filed his complaint on February 8, 2017. ECF No. 1. On March 15, 2017, Defendants collectively filed a partial motion to dismiss.[2] ECF No. 10. On March 29, 2017, Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the partial motion to dismiss. ECF No. 13. The Court held a hearing on Defendants' partial motion to dismiss on April 11, 2017. See ECF Nos. 11, 12, 16.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Defendants have moved, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(f), to dismiss Counts III, V, VII, IX, X, XI, and XIII of Plaintiff's Complaint. Additionally, Defendants have moved to dismiss all “official capacity” claims in Plaintiff's complaint.

         Before undertaking any analysis of Plaintiff's claims under Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(f), the Court finds that Plaintiff's complaint fails to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), which requires “[a] pleading that states a claim for relief” to contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Complaints that violate this rule “are often disparagingly referred ...


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