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Tollhouse Investments, LLC v. Lau

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 12, 2017

TOLLHOUSE INVESTMENTS, LLC in its own right and derivatively on behalf of Ferry Street Holdings, LLC and Ferry Street Hospitality, LLC Plaintiff
v.
STEVEN E. LAU, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION INTRODUCTION

          NITZA I. QUIÑONES ALEJANDRO, J.

         Before this Court are the motions to dismiss filed by Defendants Steven E. Lau (“Lau”), [ECF 23], and Frank DeLuca (“DeLuca”), [ECF 21], (collectively “Defendants”) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 12(b)(6), which seek the dismissal of the civil rights claims asserted in Plaintiff Tollhouse Investments, LLC's (“Plaintiff”) amended complaint. Plaintiff has opposed both motions. [ECF 27, 29]. The issues raised in the motions to dismiss have been fully briefed and are ripe for disposition. For the reasons stated herein, Defendants' motions to dismiss are granted.[1]

         BACKGROUND

         On December 15, 2016, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint in its own right and derivatively on behalf of Ferry Street Holdings, LLC (“Holdings”), and Ferry Street Hospitality, LLC (“Hospitality”), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“§1983”) against Defendants, asserting that Defendants violated their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by unlawfully seizing certain property. [ECF 19]. In their motions to dismiss, Defendants argue, inter alia, that Plaintiff lacks standing to bring this action, and that Plaintiff has failed to allege facts sufficient to show the requisite constitutionally protected interest for Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims. [ECF 21, 23].

         When ruling on Defendants' motions to dismiss, this Court must accept as true all factual allegations in the amended complaint and construe them in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Fowler v UMPC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). The relevant facts averred in Plaintiffs amended complaint are summarized as follows:

Plaintiff is a limited liability company organized and existing under the laws of Pennsylvania. (Am. Compl. ¶5). Defendant Lau is an individual who resides in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶6). Defendant DeLuca is a resident of Pennsylvania and is employed as a Pennsylvania State Constable. (Id. ¶7)
Plaintiff and Defendant Lau are the sole members of two limited liability companies, Holdings and Hospitality, both of which are organized under the laws of Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶¶11-13). Holdings owns “the real estate and all improvements that situate on what is known as” the Ferry Street Premises (the “Premises”), and Hospitality leases the Premises to operate a bar/restaurant. (Id. ¶¶14-15).
Previous to this action, Plaintiff filed a declaratory judgment action in state court, currently pending, to resolve a legal dispute between Plaintiff and Defendant Lau over the percentage of ownership interest each holds in Holdings and Hospitality. (Id. ¶¶16, 37-39).
On October 13, 2016, two Hospitality employees, John Ramirez (“Ramirez”) and Jake Brogan (“Brogan”) (collectively the “Hospitality Employees”), and Michelle Churchill (“Churchill”), Plaintiffs duly authorized agent, were at the Premises to conduct interviews of potential employees for Hospitality's bar/restaurant. (Id. ¶23). Plaintiff alleges that Churchill was reasonably and rightfully permitted to be on the Premises to conduct the business dealings of Holdings and Hospitality. (Id. ¶¶17-27).
On that same day, Defendant DeLuca, wearing his Pennsylvania State Constable uniform and badge, hand-delivered “cease and desist” letters (the “Cease and Desist Letters”) at the Premises, (Id.¶ ¶55-57). The Cease and Desist Letters were personally addressed to Brogan, Ramirez, and Churchill, but utilized the street address of the Premises. (Id. ¶¶30-36). The three letters were drafted by Defendant Lau's attorney, Edward Kang (“Kang”), on his official letterhead, and were captioned, “Legal Notice, Cease and Desist - No Trespass” in bold font. (See Am. Compl. Ex. A). The letters were identical and contained the following language:
I represent Steven Lau, who, as you know, is the owner and manager of the above-referenced property, including the building located thereon (the “Premises”); as well as the owner, operator, and manager of Ferry Street Holdings LLC and Ferry Street Hospitality LLC.
By receipt of this letter, you are hereby placed on notice that you have no right, expressed or implied, to enter upon, or to remain, in any place upon which this notice of trespass is given (namely, the Premises), at any time whatsoever, or for any purpose.
Any attempt by you to access the Premises will be regarded as trespass, and my client will pursue any and all legal ...

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