Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Muth v. Woodring

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 17, 2017

RONALD E. MUTH, Plaintiff
v.
DENNIS A. WOODRING, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          Yvette Kane, District Judge

         Before the Court in the above-captioned case are (1) the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit vacating this Court's November 30, 2015 Order to the extent that Order denied Defendant Jeffrey M. Shriver's (“Shriver”) motion to dismiss count 1 of Plaintiff's amended complaint, and remanding the case for further consideration of the issues raised by Defendant Shriver's motion to dismiss count 1 (Doc. Nos. 53, 54, and 54-1), and (2) Defendants Dennis A. Woodring (“Woodring”) and Dauphin County's (the “Dauphin County Defendants”) Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. No. 55). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendant Shriver's motion to dismiss as to count 1 of Plaintiff's amended complaint, and grant the Dauphin County Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings.

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         Plaintiff Ronald E. Muth's amended complaint concerns criminal charges that were allegedly improperly filed against him and were ultimately dropped stemming from a fire that occurred on June 10, 2009 at a property owned by Plaintiff located at 2007 Manada Street, Harrisburg, Dauphin County. (Doc. No. 23 ¶¶ 10, 38-68.) Plaintiff's January 5, 2015 amended complaint contains three counts for relief against five defendants: count 1 asserts a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 malicious prosecution claim against Defendants Woodring, a detective with the Dauphin County Fire, Explosion, and Terrorism Unit, and Shriver, a detective with the Harrisburg Bureau of Police; count 2 asserts a conspiracy claim against Defendants Woodring and Shriver and Defendant State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. (“State Farm”); and count 3 asserts a Monell liability claim against Defendants City of Harrisburg (“Harrisburg”), and Dauphin County. (Doc. No. 23.) Defendants Woodring and Dauphin County answered the amended complaint. (Doc. No. 25.) Defendants State Farm, Harrisburg, and Shriver filed motions to dismiss the amended complaint. (Doc. Nos. 26, 27.) The Court's November 30, 2015 Memorandum and Order addressed those two motions to dismiss and granted the requests to dismiss counts 2 and 3 against Defendants Shriver, State Farm, and Harrisburg, while denying Defendant Shriver's request to dismiss count 1. (Doc. Nos. 47, 48.) In its November 30, 2015 Order, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint within twenty-one days of the date of its Order to address the pleading deficiencies identified in its Memorandum. (Doc. No. 48.) Plaintiff did not file an amended complaint.

         On December 29, 2015, Defendant Shriver filed a Notice of Appeal of the Court's November 30, 2015 Memorandum and Order to the Third Circuit. (Doc. No. 50.) Specifically, Defendant Shriver challenged this Court's denial of his request for dismissal of count 1's malicious prosecution claim against him on the basis that the Court's conclusion that it could not determine at the motion to dismiss stage of the proceedings whether or not the defense of qualified immunity was available to Defendant Shriver was erroneous. On November 15, 2016, the Third Circuit issued its Judgment vacating the Court's November 30, 2015 Order with regard to the Court's disposition of Defendant Shriver's motion to dismiss count 1. (Doc. No. 53.) The Third Circuit's Mandate followed on December 7, 2016. (Doc. No. 54.)

         On December 30, 2016, the Dauphin County Defendants filed their Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. No. 55), with a supporting brief (Doc. No. 56). Plaintiff filed his Brief in Opposition to the Motion on January 12, 2017 (Doc. No. 58), and the Dauphin County Defendants filed their Reply Brief on January 24, 2017 (Doc. No. 59). Accordingly, the Dauphin County Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is ripe for disposition.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         “A motion for judgment on the pleadings based on the defense that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim is analyzed under the same standards that apply to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.” Revell v. Port Auth., 598 F.3d 128, 134 (3d Cir. 2010). When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010). The Court's inquiry is guided by the standards of Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). Under Twombly and Iqbal, pleading requirements have shifted to a “more heightened form of pleading.” See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). To prevent dismissal, all civil complaints must set out “sufficient factual matter” to show that the claim is facially plausible. Id. The plausibility standard requires more than a mere possibility that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. As the Supreme Court instructed in Iqbal, “where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' - ‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         Accordingly, to determine the sufficiency of a complaint under Twombly and Iqbal, the Third Circuit has identified the following steps a district court must take when determining the sufficiency of a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6): (1) identify the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim; (2) identify any conclusory allegations contained in the complaint “not entitled” to the assumption of truth; and (3) determine whether any “well-pleaded factual allegations” contained in the complaint “plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” See Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Defendant Shriver's motion to dismiss count 1

         The Court first addresses the Third Circuit's Opinion and directive regarding Defendant Shriver's motion to dismiss count 1 and his potential entitlement to qualified immunity. In its Opinion, the Third Circuit discussed the two-pronged inquiry a court must engage in when evaluating the defense of qualified immunity to a constitutional claim. The Third Circuit described the inquiry as follows:

The first prong probes whether the allegations, ‘[t]aken in the light most favorable to the party asserting the injury, . . . show the officer's conduct violated a [federal] right[.]' Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001). The second prong asks ‘whether the law was clearly established at the time of the violation.' Kelly v. Borough of Carlisle, 622 F.3d 248, 253 (3d. Cir. 2010). The focus is on whether the law, at the time of the challenged incident, is sufficiently clear to ‘provide[] fair warning to the defendants that their alleged conduct was unconstitutional.' Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (internal quotation marks ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.