United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
CHRISTOPHER C. CONNER, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT
Erika Eberhardinger ("Eberhardinger") commenced
this action against the City of York, York City Police
Officer Benjamin Praster ("Officer Praster"), York
City Police Officer Benjamin Smith ("Officer
Smith"), Matthew Foster ("Foster"), and State
Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 and state law. (See Doc. 1).
Before the court is a motion (Doc. 9) to dismiss filed by
defendants City of York, Officer Praster, and Officer Smith
(collectively, the "York defendants"). For the
reasons that follow, the court will grant the motion in part
and deny the motion in part.
Factual Background & Procedural History
December 19, 2014, Eberhardinger, Foster, and Mason Millen
("Millen") left Banana Max Bar & Grill in York,
Pennsylvania by vehicle at approximately 1:45 a.m. (Doc. 1
¶¶ 19-20). Foster drove, Eberhardinger sat in the
front passenger seat, and Millen sat in the back seat behind
Eberhardinger. (Id. ¶ 20). Shortly thereafter,
Foster failed to stop at a stop sign. (See id.
¶¶ 21-22). Officer Praster witnessed this and
pursued Foster. (Id.) When Foster did not pull over,
Officer Praster continued to follow the vehicle and radioed
for assistance. (Id. ¶¶ 23, 56, 57(b),
Smith responded to Officer Praster's request and joined
the pursuit. (Id. ¶ 24). Foster saw Officer
Smith's vehicle approaching from the west and started to
reverse toward Officer Praster who was following him from the
east. (Id. ¶¶ 24-26). Officer Smith exited
his patrol car and approached Foster's vehicle on foot.
(Id. ¶ 26). Foster crashed the vehicle into a
telephone phone while in reverse and then attempted to drive
past Officer Smith. (Id. ¶¶ 26-28, 56).
Officer Smith fired four shots at the windshield of the
vehicle to stop Foster from driving past him. (Id.
¶¶ 29-30). The shots struck Eberhardinger in the
face, forearm, and hand. (Id. ¶ 30).
commenced the instant action on December 15, 2016. (Doc. 1).
Against the York defendants, Eberhardinger asserts the
following claims: an excessive force claim pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 against Officers Praster and Smith (Count
I), a state law negligence claim against Officers Praster and
Smith (Count II), and Monell claims against the City
of York (Counts III and IV). The York defendants move to
dismiss all claims brought against them under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 9). The motion is fully
briefed and ripe for disposition.
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for
the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When
ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), 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."
Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d
Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings, Ltd.,
292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)).
notice and pleading rules require the complaint to provide
"the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is
and the grounds upon which it rests." Phillips,
515 F.3d at 232 (alteration in original) (quoting Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To
test the sufficiency of the complaint, the court conducts a
three-step inquiry. See Santiago v. Warminster Twp.,
629 F.3d 121, 130-31 (3d Cir. 2010). In the first step,
"the court must 'tak[e] note of the elements a
plaintiff must plead to state a claim.'"
Id. at 130 (alteration in original) (quoting
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 675 (2009)). Next,
the factual and legal elements of a claim must be separated;
well-pleaded facts are accepted as true, while mere legal
conclusions may be disregarded. Id. at 131-32;
see Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11
(3d Cir. 2009). Once the court isolates the well-pleaded
factual allegations, it must determine whether they are
sufficient to show a "plausible claim for relief."
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. A claim is
facially plausible when the plaintiff pleads facts "that
allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
should grant leave to amend before dismissing a curable
pleading in civil rights actions. See Fletcher-Harlee
Corp. v. Pote Concrete Contractors, Inc., 482 F.3d 247,
251 (3d Cir. 2007); Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp,
293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002). Courts need not grant leave
to amend sua sponte in dismissing non-civil rights
claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Fletcher-Harlee
Corp., 482 F.3d at 252-53, but leave is broadly
encouraged "when justice so requires, "
asserts claims against Officers Praster and Smith under
Section 1983 for excessive force in violation of her
constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment.
Eberhardinger also brings Monell claims against the
City of York for failure to train and discipline and for
permitting a widespread persistent pattern of
unconstitutional conduct. Finally, Eberhardinger avers a
state law negligence claim against both officers. The York
defendants challenge the sufficiency of each claim. The court
will address these issues seriatim.
Section 1983 Claims
1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code creates a private
cause of action to redress constitutional wrongs committed by
state officials. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The
statute is not a source of substantive rights, but serves as
a mechanism for vindicating rights otherwise protected by
federal law. Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273,
284-85 (2002); Kneipp v. Tedder, 95 F.3d 1199, 1204
(3d Cir. 1996). To state a claim under Section 1983,
plaintiffs must show a deprivation of a "right secured
by the Constitution and the laws of the United States ... by
a person acting under color of state law."
Kneipp, 95 F.3d at 1204 (quoting Mark v. Borough
of Hatboro, 51 F.3d 1137, 1141 (3d Cir. 1995)). The
defendants do not dispute ...