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Dahn v. Hart

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 19, 2018



          John R. Padova, J.

         Plaintiff Abel Dahn asserts claims against Defendants Sarah A. Hart and Detective Justin Montgomery for false arrest and malicious prosecution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law arising from his arrest for the indecent assault and harassment of Hart. Defendants have moved to dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint. For the reasons that follow, their Motions are granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The First Amended Complaint alleges the following facts. On May 21, 2016, at approximately 2:00 a.m., Hart requested a ride from Uber, for pick up at 943 S. 49th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and drop off at 1616 Ellsworth Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (1st Am. Compl. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff, an Uber driver, received that request and picked up Hart, who was intoxicated when she got into the rear seat of Plaintiff's minivan. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9, 11-12.) At one point during her ride, Hart yelled to Plaintiff that she was going to vomit and Plaintiff pulled his minivan over and helped Hart get out of the vehicle so that she could vomit. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14.) When she was done, Plaintiff helped Hart get back into the minivan and drove her to her destination without further incident. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.) At some point between 2:30 a.m. on May 21, 2016 and 1:43 a.m. on May 22, 2016, Hart gave Plaintiff a five star Uber driver rating. (Id. ¶ 17.)

         During the afternoon of May 22, 2016, Hart falsely reported to Detective Montgomery that Plaintiff had assaulted her during the Uber ride. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 25.) Detective Montgomery completed an affidavit of probable cause in which he recounted Hart's accusation that Plaintiff repeatedly reached his hand into the back of the minivan and squeezed her leg, and also made random turns and stopped the minivan on four occasions, each time asking to join Hart in the back seat and to kiss her. (Id. Ex. B.) Detective Montgomery also recounted Hart's statement that, during one of the stops, she exited the minivan, but Plaintiff grabbed her arm and forced her back into the vehicle. (Id.)

         The Philadelphia Municipal Court issued a warrant for Plaintiff's arrest based on Detective Montgomery's affidavit of probable cause. (Id. ¶ 26, Ex. C.) The warrant charged Plaintiff with unlawful restraint, indecent assault, simple assault, and harassment. (Id.) Plaintiff was subsequently also charged with “Kidnapping of Minor - Inflict Bodily Injury” and “False Imprisonment of Minor/Not Parent.” (Id. ¶ 27, Ex. D.) Thereafter, the court dismissed the unlawful restraint, simple assault, kidnapping, and false imprisonment charges and Plaintiff was found not guilty of the remaining charges of indecent assault and harassment after a trial on December 20, 2016. (Id. ¶¶ 28-29, Ex. E.)

         At the time of Hart's encounter with Plaintiff, Plaintiff worked for both Uber and Avis Rental Car. (Id. ¶ 30.) Both Uber and Avis Rental Car terminated Plaintiff as a result of Hart's false accusations and Detective Montgomery's affidavit of probable cause. (Id. ¶ 31.) Plaintiff has since been rejected from several job opportunities because of his criminal background, which consists only of the criminal charges arising from Hart's false accusations. (Id. ¶ 32, Ex. F.) For example, on September 21, 2016, the Transportation Security Administration rejected Plaintiff's application for a Transportation Worker Identification Credential because of his criminal background. (Id. ¶ 33, Ex. G.) Plaintiff has spent approximately $16, 000.00 to defend himself against the criminal charges and to have his criminal record expunged. (Id. ¶ 35.)

         The First Amended Complaint asserts two Counts against Hart and Detective Montgomery pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Pennsylvania law: false arrest (Count I) and malicious prosecution (Count II). Hart and Detective Montgomery have both moved to dismiss the First Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).


         When considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), we “consider only the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, [and] matters of public record, as well as undisputedly authentic documents if the complainant's claims are based upon these documents.” Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 230 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993)). We take the factual allegations of the complaint as true and “construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” DelRio-Mocci v. Connolly Props., Inc., 672 F.3d 241, 245 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Warren Gen. Hosp. v. Amgen, Inc., 643 F.3d 77, 84 (3d Cir. 2011)). Legal conclusions, however, receive no deference, as the court is “‘not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'” Wood v. Moss, 134 S.Ct. 2056, 2065 n.5 (2014) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).

         A plaintiff's pleading obligation is to set forth “a short and plain statement of the claim, ” which gives “‘the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). The complaint must contain “‘sufficient factual matter to show that the claim is facially plausible, ' thus enabling ‘the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for [the] misconduct alleged.'” Warren Gen. Hosp., 643 F.3d at 84 (quoting Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009)). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “A complaint that pleads facts ‘merely consistent with a defendant's liability . . . stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'” Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 786 (3d Cir. 2016) (alteration in original) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). In the end, we will grant a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) if the factual allegations in the complaint are not sufficient “‘to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'” W. Run Student Hous. Assocs., LLC v. Huntington Nat'l Bank, 712 F.3d 165, 169 (3d Cir. 2013) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).


         A. Sarah A. Hart

         Plaintiff has brought two claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which ...

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