United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
GENE C. BENCKINI t/a Benckini Nurseries, et al., Plaintiffs
UPPER SAUCON TOWNSHIP MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY SEWAGE TREATMENT PLANT, et al., Defendants
matter arises from a string of litigation brought in this and
other courts by pro se plaintiff Gene
Benckini. The claims in this action are the result
of nearly forty years of friction between Mr. Benckini and
the Upper Saucon Township Municipal Authority Sewage
Treatment Plant and Upper Saucon Township Police Department.
Viewing the complaint generously, Mr. Benckini alleges
several civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
The defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the complaint.
In response, Mr. Benckini filed Objections to the
defendants' motion, and motioned the court for leave to
amend the complaint. For the following reasons, I will deny
the plaintiff's motion to amend, grant the
defendants' motion to dismiss, and dismiss the case in
its entirety with prejudice.
tension between the parties in this case began in 1978 when
“raw sewage sludge” began to spill onto Mr.
Benckini's property from the Township's neighboring
sewage treatment plant. Mr. Benckini alleges in his complaint
that each time a spill occurred, the Township refused to
clean the raw sewage off of his property. The sewage
contaminated the Saucon Creek, which runs adjacent to Mr.
Benckini's property, killing trout and turtles and
turning the stream black “for over a mile and a
half.” Mr. Benckini reported the sewage sludge spills
to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in
July 1979. Following Mr. Benckini's complaint to the DEP,
the sewage treatment plant was closed down.
Benckini alleges that these spills also contaminated the well
on his property. At the time of these spills, Mr. Benckini
lived with his dear friend Edwin Moyer, his elderly mother,
and his five children on the property. Mr. Benckini asserts
that exposure to the “sewage sludge” by way of
airborne dust and contamination of the well over the course
of approximately ten years caused health problems for himself
and Mr. Moyer. Mr. Moyer suffered from liver cancer and
passed away in 1995. Mr. Benckini was diagnosed with leukemia
in 1993 and prostate cancer in 2003.
Benckini believes that the township and police department
began conspiring against him almost immediately after he
reported the sewage spills to the DEP. He alleges this
conspiracy has resulted in the defendants creating an
“all-out war” against him and a “hostile
environment.” Mr. Benckini alleges that as a result of
this conspiracy, the Upper Saucon Township police spread
malicious lies about him, constantly badgered him, and
charged him with “bogus claims.” Mr. Benckini
additionally avers that Police Chief Coyle and Officer Amy
Hawk aided and abetted Charles Grant of Grant's Auto
Salvage in the theft of his truck and nursery equipment.
complaint must set forth “a short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This statement must
“give the defendant fair notice of what the . . claim
is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) (quoting
Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). A
complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, but
a plaintiff must provide “more than labels and
conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action” to show entitlement to
relief as prescribed by Rule 8(a)(2). Id. at 1965;
Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005).
A defendant may attack a complaint by a motion under Rule
12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can
deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), I may
consider “the allegations contained in the complaint,
exhibits attached to the complaint and matters of public
record.” Pension Ben. Guar. Corp. v. White Consol.
Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). The
court is required to accept as true all of the factual
allegations in the complaint, Erickson v. Pardus,
551 U.S. 89 (2007), and all reasonable inferences permitted
by the factual allegations, Watson v. Abington Twp.,
478 F.3d 144, 150 (3d Cir. 2007), viewing them in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff. Kanter v. Barella,
489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007). The court is not, however,
“compelled to accept unsupported conclusions and
unwarranted inferences or a legal conclusion couched as a
factual allegation.” Baraka v. McGreevey, 481
F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007) (quotations and citations
omitted). If the facts alleged are sufficient to “raise
a right to relief above the speculative level” such
that the plaintiffs' claim is “plausible on its
face, ” a complaint will survive a motion to dismiss.
Bell Atlantic Corp., 127 S.Ct. at 1965, 1974;
Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 234-35 (3d
presented with a pro se complaint, the court should
construe the complaint liberally and draw fair inferences
from what is not alleged as well as from what is alleged.
Dluhos v. Strasberg, 321 F.3d 365, 369 (3d Cir.
2003). Such a complaint “must be held to less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.”
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976).
“[A] district court should not dismiss a pro
se complaint without allowing the plaintiff leave to
amend unless amendment would be inequitable or futile.
Hill v. Rozum, 447 Fed.Appx. 289, 290 (3d Cir. 2011)
(citing Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 235 (3d
Cir.2004); Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d
103, 108 (3d Cir.2002)).
Application of Res Judicata
Judicata, or claim preclusion, is designed to avoid
piecemeal litigation of claims arising from the same events.
GE v. Deutz AG, 270 F.3d 144, 158-59 (3d Cir. 2001).
Whether two suits are based on the same cause of action turns
on the essential similarity of the underlying events giving
rise to the various legal claims. Id. In order to
successfully invoke res judicata, a party must show
that “there has been: (1) a final judgment on the
merits in a prior suit involving (2) the same parties or
their privies and (3) a subsequent suit based on the same
causes of action.” United States v. Athlone
Industries, Inc., 746 F.2d 977, 983 (3d Cir. 1984).
“The law is clear that summary judgment is a final
judgment on the merits sufficient to raise the defense of
res judicata in a subsequent action between the
parties.” Hubicki v. ACF Industries, Inc., 484
F.2d 519, 524 (3d Cir. 1973).
Claims Arising from ...