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Morlok v. City of Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

April 27, 2018

MORLOK, et al.,


          Baylson, J.

         In this case, Plaintiffs William Morlok, Adam Novick, and Theodore Lewis allege that Defendant City of Philadelphia violated their federal constitutional rights when it amended a statutory scheme under which parking spaces were reserved exclusively for use by electric vehicles by making them available for use by any vehicle for twelve hours per day. Plaintiffs, who seek to represent a putative class of individuals who applied and were granted approval for the designation of these reserved parking spaces next to electric vehicle chargers they had paid to install near their homes, bring due process, equal protection, and unjust enrichment claims against the City. Presently before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss all three Counts of the Complaint for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted, filed by the City. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motion is granted in full.

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         Taking Plaintiffs' allegations as true, the factual background is as follows. Plaintiffs William Morlok, Adam Novick, and Theodore Lewis are all adults who reside within the city limits of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (ECF No. 1, Complaint. ¶¶ 4-6.) On or about November 1, 2007, the City Council of the City of Philadelphia enacted Section 12-1131 of the Philadelphia Code, entitled “Electric Vehicle Parking.” (Id. ¶16.) Section 12-1131 provided for the Philadelphia Parking Authority to designate reserved on-street parking for electric vehicles, upon an investigation confirming such a need. (Id.) It laid out a process for applications for these reserved parking spaces which were to be “for the exclusive use of electric vehicles.” (Id.) It specified that applicants must provide proof that an electric vehicle is owned or leased by an individual who resides at the address where the reserved parking space is sought; proof that the owner of the property, if not the applicant, consents to the application; and proof of approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for the installation of an electric vehicle charger at the curb next to the parking space. (Id.) Approval of applications was left to the discretion of the City. (Id. ¶ 17.) Once an application was granted the Streets Department was required under the legislation to put up signage around the parking space indicating that it was reserved exclusively for electric vehicles. (Id. ¶ 18.)

         Following the enactment of Section 12-1131 Plaintiffs each applied to the Philadelphia Parking Authority for designated electric vehicle parking spaces. (Compl. ¶ 20.) Plaintiffs each took several actions leading up to making those applications, paid all fees associated with the applications, and submitted all required materials for the applications. (Id. ¶¶ 19-20.) Each Plaintiff additionally paid for and arranged the installation of an electric vehicle charger on the curb adjacent to the area he or she had submitted for a reserved electric vehicle parking space. (Id. ¶ 21.) The applications submitted by Plaintiffs and members of the Putative Class were approved by the PPA.[1] (Id. ¶ 23.)

         On or about April 6, 2017, the City Council passed Bill Number 170093-A, which amended Section 12-1131 so that the signs designating the parking spaces would only reserve them for electric vehicles from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. each day, rather than reserving them exclusively for electric vehicles at all hours. (Compl. ¶ 24.) The amendment further added that the signs would indicate that non-electric vehicles were permitted to park in these spaces for up to two hours at a time during the hours from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Id.) The amendment became law on April 20, 2017, despite Mayor James Kenney having expressed his disagreement with it and declining to sign it. (Id. ¶ 25.) Under the amended version of Section 12-1131, from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day non-electric vehicles are permitted to occupy the parking spaces that under the original version of the legislation were reserved exclusively for electric vehicles. (Id. ¶ 26.)

         On September 20, 2017 the Plaintiffs filed a Complaint in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (ECF No. 1.) The Complaint states three claims on behalf of Plaintiffs and the putative class:

1. Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for interfering with Plaintiffs' property interest in the reserved electric vehicle parking spaces and access to the adjacent charging stations, without due process;
2. Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating Plaintiffs' equal protection rights;
3. Plaintiffs assert that they have made substantial improvements on public property that the City has subsequently denied them the full benefit of, and that it would unjustly enrich the City to allow it to retain the benefits conferred on it by Plaintiffs.

         Defendant filed a Motion to dismiss (ECF No. 9), Plaintiffs responded (ECF No. 13) and the City replied (ECF No. 14).

         The Court held oral argument on March 28, 2018 on the Motion to Dismiss and encouraged the parties to discuss a possible resolution to this case for the benefit of both parties. After the parties conferred they informed the Court that there will be no such resolution.

         II. Legal Standard

         In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Sec., Inc., 764 F.2d 939, 944 (3d Cir. 1985). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

         The Court in Iqbal explained that, although a court must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in a complaint, that requirement does not apply to legal conclusions; therefore, pleadings must include factual allegations to support the legal claims asserted. Id. at 678, 684. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555); see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (“We caution that without some factual allegation in the complaint, a claimant cannot satisfy the requirement that he or she provide not only ‘fair notice, ' but also the ‘grounds' on which the claim rests.”) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 n.3). Accordingly, to survive a motion to ...

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