United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
OPINION RE: ECF NO. 6
Maureen P. Kelly Chief United States Magistrate Judge
Chris Pierson (“Plaintiff”), has presented a
Complaint raising civil rights violations against Defendants
Jason Stenger and Zachary Webb (collectively,
“Defendants”) and an assault and battery claim
against Defendant Stenger. ECF No. 1. Presently before this
Court is a partial Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants. ECF
No. 6. For the following reasons, the Motion to Dismiss will
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
filed his Complaint on March 14, 2017. ECF No. 1. Therein, he
makes the following relevant allegations. On June 21, 2015,
at approximately 3:30 a.m., Plaintiff received a phone call
from Destinee Knox (“Knox”), who informed
Plaintiff that she and Calvin Shultz (“Shultz”)
were in a GetGo parking lot and that Shultz was being
investigated for DUI by the Pennsylvania State Police.
Id. ¶ 8. Knox asked Plaintiff to come to pick
them up. Id. Plaintiff agreed and arrived at the
GetGo parking lot at approximately 3:39 a.m. Id.
¶ 10. Plaintiff approached Defendants, Pennsylvania
State Police officers, who were speaking with Shultz.
Id. ¶¶ 11-12. Plaintiff introduced himself
to Defendants, peaceably inquired as to Shultz's
situation and informed Defendants that he was able to take
Shultz and Knox home. Id. ¶ 13. In a hostile
manner, Defendant Stenger ordered Plaintiff to “get
back.” Id. ¶ 14. Plaintiff complied with
the order, stepping backwards. Id. ¶ 15.
Plaintiff then calmly repeated his offer to take Shultz and
Knox home. Id. ¶ 16. Without provocation,
Defendant Stenger punched Plaintiff in the mouth.
Id. ¶ 17. Plaintiff fell to the ground.
Id. ¶ 18. Defendant Stenger then forcefully
pressed his knee into the back of Plaintiff's neck,
forcing Plaintiff's face and body into the pavement.
Id. ¶ 19. Defendant Webb observed Defendant
Stenger's actions, but did not intervene. Id.
¶ 20. Defendant Stenger then handcuffed Plaintiff.
Id. ¶ 21. As a result of Defendant
Stenger's actions, Plaintiff suffered pain, lacerations
to his face, bruises on his arms and severe dental injuries
requiring surgery and extensive post-operative care.
Id. ¶ 22.
raises two claims in the Complaint: (1) Count I: a claim
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section
1983”) against Defendants for violation of
Plaintiff's constitutional rights under the Fourth
Amendment; and (2) Count II: assault and battery against
Defendant Stenger. Id. at 5-8.
filed the instant partial Motion to Dismiss and Brief in
support on May 30, 2017. ECF Nos. 6-7. On June 19, 2017,
Plaintiff filed a Brief in opposition to the Motion to
Dismiss. ECF No. 11.
Motion to Dismiss is now ripe for review.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
United States Supreme Court explained in Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), a complaint may
properly be dismissed pursuant to 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.” Id. at 570. In assessing the merits of
a claim subject to a motion to dismiss, a court must accept
all alleged facts as true and draw all inferences gleaned
therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d
224, 228 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing Worldcom, Inc. v.
Graphnet, Inc., 343 F.3d 651, 653 (3d Cir. 2003)). A
pleading party need not establish the elements of a prima
facie case at this stage; the party must only “put
forth allegations that ‘raise a reasonable expectation
that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary
element[s].'” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside,
578 F.3d 203, 213 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Graff v.
Subbiah Cardiology Associates, Ltd., 2008 WL 2312671
(W.D. Pa. June 4, 2008)).
Count I: Official capacity Defendants' partial
Motion to Dismiss has multiple bases. First, Defendants argue
that “the Court should dismiss all of Plaintiff's
Section 1983 claims against [Defendants] in their official
capacities.” ECF No. 7 at 5. As the caption of this
action makes clear and as Plaintiff asserts in his Response
in opposition to the Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 11 at 3-4,
Plaintiff has brought this action against Defendants in their
individual capacities. Accordingly, the Motion to Dismiss on this
basis will be denied.
Count I: Qualified immunity
further argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity as
to the Section 1983 claim. Id. at 8.
immunity protects government officials “from liability
for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate
clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of
which a reasonable person would have known.” Harlow
v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). The United
States Supreme Court has set forth a two-step objective
reasonableness test to determine whether qualified immunity
should be granted. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194,
200-01 (2001); see also Kopec v. Tate, 361 F.3d 772,
776 (3d Cir. 2004). “First, the court must consider
whether the facts alleged, taken in the light most favorable
to the plaintiff, show that the officer's conduct
violated a constitutional right.” Kopec, 361
F.3d at 776 (citing Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201). If
“‘a violation could be made out on a favorable
view of the parties' submissions, ” the court must
determine “‘whether the right was clearly
established.'” Id. (quoting
Saucier, 533 U.S. ...