United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
OPINION RE: ECF NO. 8
Maureen P. Kelly, Chief Magistrate Judge.
before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state
a claim filed by Defendants Brian Shaffer and Christopher
Robbins (collectively, "Defendants"). ECF No. 8.
For the reasons that follow, the Motion to Dismiss is grant
is part and denied in part
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Christina Atherton filed a Complaint on July 21, 2017. ECF
No. 1. In the Complaint, Plaintiff makes the following
allegations. On June 7, 2016, Plaintiff was leaving the
grocery store where she was employed and, in doing so, made a
left turn out of the parking lot towards the intersection of
SR 66 and SR 128 ("the intersection"). Id.
¶ 8. The intersection is equipped with a preemptive
emergency signal that is activated by the siren of an
emergency vehicle. Id. ¶ 9. Plaintiff, who had
a green light, proceeded through the intersection and turned
left from SR 128 onto SR 66. Id. ¶ 10. As she
crossed the intersection, Defendant Shaffer, a Pennsylvania
State Police officer travelling in a marked cruiser,
proceeded through a red light at the intersection at a high
rate of speed and without activating his siren. Id.
¶¶ 6, 12, 15, 18. Plaintiff had no warning or
advance indication of any kind that Defendant Shaffer was
proceeding through the intersection at a high rate of speed.
Id. ¶ 15. Defendant Shaffer collided with the
rear passenger-side quarter panel of Plaintiff s vehicle,
propelling her vehicle forward and causing it to strike
another motorist. Id. ¶¶ 12, 13. As a
result of the accident, Plaintiff sustained a concussion and
other injuries and her vehicle was damaged beyond repair.
Id. ¶ 14. Due to her injuries, Plaintiff was
forced to substantially reduce her working hours for
approximately two months. Id. ¶ 26.
Robbins, also a Pennsylvania State Police officer,
investigated the accident scene shortly after it occurred.
Id., ¶¶ 7, 16. Defendant Robbins tested the
preemptive emergency signal by activating his own
cruiser's siren. Id. ¶ 17. The signal
responded properly, changing the light from red to green as
the cruiser approached the intersection. Id.
Defendant Robbins concluded that the signal was in proper
working order. Id.
Robbins charged Plaintiff with a violation of 75 Pa. Cons.
Stat. Ann. § 3325(a), for failing to yield to an
emergency vehicle. Id. ¶ 19. At some point
after his investigation was complete, Defendant Robbins
indicated to Plaintiff and/or Plaintiffs mother that he
"had to" charge Plaintiff because his job was to
protect the Commonwealth. Id. ¶ 21. Following a
non-jury trial, Plaintiff was found not guilty of failure to
yield to an emergency vehicle. Id.¶25.
Plaintiffs Complaint, she raised five counts. ECF No. 1. On
September 28, 2017, Defendants filed the instant Motion to
Dismiss and Brief in Support. ECF Nos. 8-9. On October 27,
2017, Plaintiff filed a Brief in Opposition to the Motion to
Dismiss. ECF No. 15. In her Brief in Opposition, Plaintiff
withdrew Counts I and IV (relating to malicious prosecution)
of her Complaint. Id. at 1. Accordingly, the Court
need only address the instant Motion to Dismiss as it
concerns Counts II, III and V. Count II is a claim of
reckless investigation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
both Defendants; Count III is a claim for conspiracy under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 against both Defendants; and Count V is a
state law claim of negligence against Defendant Shaffer.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
United States Supreme Court explained in Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), a complaint may
properly be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) if it does not allege "enough facts
to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face." Id. at 570. In assessing the merits of a
claim subject to a motion to dismiss, a court must accept all
alleged facts as true and draw all inferences gleaned
therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d
224, 228 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing Worldcom, Inc. v.
Graphnet, Inc.. 343 F.3d 651, 653 (3d Cir. 2003)). A
pleading party need not establish the elements of a.
prima facie case at this stage; the party must only
"put forth allegations that 'raise a reasonable
expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the
necessary element[s]."' Fowler v. UPMC
Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 213 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting
Graff v. Subbiah Cardiology Associates, Ltd., 2008
WL 2312671 (W.D. Pa. June 4, 2008)).
Count II: Reckless investigation
support of their Motion to Dismiss, Defendants argue that:
(1) reckless investigation is not a recognized claim; and (2)
assuming this claim is cognizable, Plaintiff has failed to
plead sufficient facts to establish such a claim. ECF No. 9
the first argument, this Court has recently explained:
It is generally understood that the Third Circuit Court of
Appeals has not explicitly recognized a claim for reckless
investigation. K.L.Q. v. Plum Borough Sch. Dist,
2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 64908, 2016 WL 2892174, at *6 (W.D. Pa.
May, 17, 2016) (Lenihan, M.J.). Further, the
'"contours of a stand-alone claim for failure to
investigate are not well-defined within this
Circuit.'" Kelly v. Jones, 148 F.Supp.3d
395, 400 (E.D. Pa. 2015) (quoting Briscoe v.
Jackson, 2 F.Supp.3d 635, 645 n. 5 (E.D. Pa. 2014)).
Nonetheless, some courts have allowed such claims when a
plaintiff shows that "'a police officer acted
intentionally or recklessly, in a manner that shocks the
conscience, in failing to investigate.'" Id.,
(quoting Thomas v. Stanek, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
21276, 2015 WL 757574, at *7 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 23, 2015)
(McVerry, J.)). These claims are typically asserted under
circumstances in which a police officer arrested the
plaintiff without conducting an adequate investigation
beforehand. '"Failure to investigate is considered
in tandem with ...