United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
the Court is Third-Party Defendant Stephen Shaffer's
Motion to Strike, which this Court construes as a motion to
dismiss. (ECF No. 29.) The motion has been fully
briefed (see ECF Nos. 30, 32, 33, 35) and is ripe
for disposition. For the reasons that follow, Third-Party
Defendant Schaffer's motion will be
Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C.
initiated this civil rights action by filing a complaint in
this Court on November 1, 2016. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff
alleges that Defendant Somerset Area School District
("SASD") acted with deliberate indifference towards
inappropriate sexual conduct by Stephen Shaffer, a former
teacher, causing Plaintiff to be sexually abused while she
was a student. Plaintiff asserts two claims against SASD: (1)
a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim for deliberate indifference to
Plaintiff's constitutional right of bodily integrity, and
(2) a Title IX, 20 U.S.C. § 1681 claim for subjecting
Plaintiff to a hostile educational environment.
filed its answer on December 13, 2016. (ECF No. 9.) On
January 31, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion for Leave to File
Complaint to Join Third-Party Defendant Stephen Shaffer (ECF
No. 14), which this Court granted. (ECF No. 15.) SASD
subsequently filed a Third-Party Complaint against Shaffer.
(ECF No. 23.) Shaffer now asks this Court to dismiss him as a
third-party defendant. (See ECF No. 29).
complaint may be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Rule
12(b)(6) for "failure to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted." Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp.,
809 F.3d 780, 786 (3d Cir. 2016). But detailed pleading is
not generally required. Id. The Rules demand only
"a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief" in order to 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, 555 (2007) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P.
the pleading regime established by Twombly and
Iqbal, a court reviewing the sufficiency of a
complaint must take three steps. First, the court must
"tak[e] note of the elements [the] plaintiff must plead
to state a claim." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 675 (2009). Second, the court should identify
allegations that, "because they are no more than
conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of
truth." Id. at 679; see also Burtch v.
Milberg Factors, Inc., 662 F.3d 212, 224 (3d Cir. 2011)
("Mere restatements of the elements of a claim are not
entitled to the assumption of truth." (citation
omitted)). Finally, "[w]hen there are well-pleaded
factual allegations, [the] court should assume their veracity
and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an
entitlement to relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
"A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged." Id.; see also Connelly,
809 F.3d at 786. Ultimately, the plausibility determination
is "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing
court to draw on its judicial experience and common
sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
asserts four arguments for why this Court should grant his
motion to dismiss SASD's Third-Party Complaint.
(See ECF No. 29.) Shaffer argues that: (1) SASD failed to
state a proper third-party claim (Id. at 6-7); (2)
SASD improperly failed to seek leave of the Court before
filing its Third-Party Complaint (Id. at
(3) SASD untimely filed its Third-Party Complaint
(Id. at 3); and (4) SASD's Third Party Complaint
confuses the issues. (Id. at 4-5.)
explained below, this Court agrees with Shaffer that SASD
failed to state a viable third-party claim. Therefore, this
Court need not address Shaffer's remaining arguments.
SASD Failed to State a Viable Third-Party Claim
argues that this Court should dismiss SASD's third-party
claim for contribution. Shaffer contends that the statues
that Plaintiff sued under-§ 1983 and § 1861 -do not
provide for contribution as a remedy. (See ECF No.
33 at 6.) Shaffer also contends that the federal common law
does not permit a plaintiff to seek contribution on civil
rights claims. (Id.) Shaffer further asserts that
SASD has not brought a proper third-party claim because
SASD's Third-Party Complaint fails to establish that
Shaffer and SASD are joint tortfeasors, as is required for
contribution under Pennsylvania law. (Id. at 8.)
response, SASD argues that it has filed a proper third-party
claim against Shaffer. SASD asserts that that Third Circuit
recognizes a right to contribution in civil rights actions.
(ECF No. 35 at 4.) According to SASD, contribution and/or
indemnification is appropriate here because SASD is only
liable to Plaintiff due to its relationship as Shaffer's
employer; any liability against SASD is secondary because
SASD cannot be held liable absent a finding that Shaffer
engaged in the alleged conduct. (ECF No. 30 at 5.) Overall,
SASD contends that this is the "classic" and
"textbook" example of a situation where
contribution and/or indemnification are appropriate. (ECF No.
30 at 5; ECF No. 35 at 4.)
There is no federal right to contribution in ...