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Mrlack v. California University of Pennsylvania

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 27, 2018

CHARLES MRLACK, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
CALIFORNIA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, CALIFORNIA BOROUGH, DONALD GETTIG, TOM MCCARTHY, ALYSSA BROWN, DANIEL STURM, STEVEN ORBIN, RICK ENCAPERA, EDWARD MCSHEFERY Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION ON PARTIAL MOTION TO DISMISS ECF NO. 23

          Lisa Pupo Lenihan, United States Magistrate Judge

         Currently pending before this Court is Defendants Rick Encapera (“Encapera”), Tom McCarthy (“McCarthy”), and the Borough of California's (“Borough”), Partial Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 23) various Counts included in the Plaintiff, Charles Mrlack, Jr.'s (“Plaintiff”) Complaint (ECF No. 1), as well as the responses in favor and in opposition thereto. (ECF No. 24, 32; ECF No. 28, 29.) Encapera seeks to dismiss Count VI pertaining to fabrication of evidence. (ECF No. 23 ¶¶ 4-7.) McCarthy seeks to dismiss Count IV, pertaining to deprivation of medical care, Count V, pertaining to conspiracy to deprive Plaintiff of his constitutional rights, and Count IX pertaining to false imprisonment. (Id. ¶¶ 8-11, 12-15, 23-26.) The Borough seeks to dismiss Count VII, pertaining to failure to train, and Plaintiff's claim for punitive damages. (Id. ¶¶ 16-18, 21-22.) This Court will only respond to the allegations and claims that are relevant to this Partial Motion.[1]

         The following allegations are contained in Plaintiff's Complaint. (ECF No. 1.) On the evening of September 15, 2015, Plaintiff attended a boxing match held at the California University of Pennsylvania (“Cal. U.”) in a venue known as the Convocation Center (“Arena”). (Id. ¶ 16.) Shortly after he arrived, Plaintiff located several friends at the Arena's concessions stand; they called him to the front of the line and asked him to pay for their concessions. (Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff was then approached by Cal. U. Campus Police Officer, and named defendant, Donald Gettig (“Gettig”), who told him to leave the concessions stand. (Id. ¶¶ 20-21.) Plaintiff stated that he was paying for his friend's concessions, at which point, and allegedly without further provocation, Gettig forced him out of line. (Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiff then alleges that Gettig, along with California Borough Officer Tom McCarthy, drove him into a wall causing him to strike his head and tackled him to the floor where he was placed in a “choke hold” and arrested. (Id. ¶¶ 23-24.) As he lay on the ground, a group of several other officers -which included McCarthy - began taunting him. (Id. ¶ 25.)

         The Plaintiff was handcuffed and taken to an office inside the Arena where he was placed in a holding cell. (Id. ¶¶ 27-28.) While in the cell, Plaintiff complained that the injuries he sustained during arrest, and his tight handcuffs, were causing him pain. (Id. ¶ 28.) The officers assembled nearby - including McCarthy - mocked him and refused to summon medical attention, despite his injuries. (Id. ¶ 29.) The Plaintiff then became dizzy and fell from a bench in his cell down to the floor, lacerating his head and losing consciousness. (Id. ¶ 32.) At some point thereafter, a medical attendant was summoned to treat his wounds. (Id. ¶ 34.) The Plaintiff was then ambulanced to Mon Valley Hospital for further treatment of his injuries which consisted of a concussion, a laceration to his scalp, and “various tissue wounds.” (Id. ¶ 37.)

         On November 16, 2015, Gettig filed a criminal complaint charging Plaintiff with the summary offenses of disorderly conduct and public drunkenness, as well as an additional misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest. (Id. ¶ 40; at Exhibit C.) Plaintiff alleges that the charge of resisting arrest is factually unsupported and was fabricated in furtherance of a conspiracy to justify the Officer's use of excessive force. (Id. ¶¶ 40, 82-85.) Plaintiff further asserts that the facts above support a claim of failure to train police officers against both Cal. U. and the Borough. (Id. ¶ 98-99.)

         I. Standard of Review

         In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the courts apply the following standard, as recently reiterated by the Third Circuit:

A complaint may be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” But detailed pleading is not generally required. 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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). “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 Sheridan v. NGK Metals Corp., 609 F.3d 239, 262 n. 27 (3d Cir. 2010). Although the plausibility standard “does not impose a probability requirement, ” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, it does require a pleading to show “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully, ” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. 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.” Id.(citation and internal quotation marks omitted). The plausibility determination is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679.

Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 786-87 (3d Cir. 2016).

         Building upon the landmark Supreme Court decisions in Twombly and Iqbal, the court of appeals in Connelly reiterated the three-step process that district courts must undertake to determine the sufficiency of a complaint:

First, it must “tak[e] note of the elements [the] plaintiff must plead to state a claim.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675. Second, it 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 and editorial marks 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.

Id. at 787. “This means that [the court's] inquiry is normally broken into three parts: (1) identifying the elements of the claim, (2) reviewing the complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) looking at the well-pleaded components of the complaint and evaluating whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently alleged.” Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011).

         The third step of this evaluation requires the court to consider the specific nature of the claims presented and to determine whether the facts pled to substantiate the claims are sufficient to show a “plausible claim for relief.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). “Although a plaintiff may use legal conclusions to provide the structure for the complaint, the pleading's factual content must independently ‘permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct.'” Guirguis v. Movers Specialty Servs., Inc., 346 F. App'x 774, 776 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 at 679)) (other citation omitted).

         In short, a Motion to Dismiss should not be granted if a party alleges facts, which could, if established at trial, entitle him ...


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