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Randall v. City of Philadelphia Law Department

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 18, 2018

JAMES RANDALL, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA LAW DEPARTMENT, JOHN MOUZON AND LEON MCKNIGHT, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Wendy Beetlestone, J.

         Plaintiff James Randall sues the City of Philadelphia (“City”), and Police Officers John Mouzon and Leon McKnight for civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and other state-law claims. Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant Police Officers falsely arrested him, which resulted in a malicious prosecution against him. The purported malicious prosecution, in turn, caused Plaintiff's extradition to New Jersey for parole violations - all of which culminated in Plaintiff's detainer in another locality outside of Philadelphia. Defendants have moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion shall be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are taken from Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) and are taken as true. On December 6, 2013, Plaintiff pled guilty to identity theft in New Jersey Superior Court and was sentenced to one year of probation. Plaintiff resided in Philadelphia and was informed that his probation would be transferred to Pennsylvania.

         On December 20, 2013, Plaintiff reported to a parole office in Philadelphia. Plaintiff had in his possession a borrowed cellphone, which was confiscated and inspected by staff there. Upon inspection, the cellphone contained pictures of contraband, so Plaintiff was taken into custody. Parole agents then went to Plaintiff's place of residence in Philadelphia and saw illegal narcotics and a firearm in plain view.

         On the same day, the Defendant Police Officers arrived at the Plaintiff's Philadelphia residence to meet with the parole agents. After discussion with the parole agents, the Defendant Police Officers obtained a search-and-seizure warrant and entered Plaintiff's residence at nighttime. Among other things, they recovered illegal narcotics and a firearm. Defendant Police Officers subsequently detained and arrested Plaintiff. Plaintiff avers that the search-and-seizure warrant was obtained “without probable cause and/or by making false statements” without further details.

         The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office prosecuted Plaintiff based on statements provided by the Defendant Police Officers. Plaintiff was ultimately arrested and charged for various crimes, including, inter alia, possession of a controlled substance. Plaintiff was also charged in New Jersey as a Fugitive of Justice because he was on probation there. Plaintiff was ordered to be extradited to New Jersey once the criminal matter initiated by the Philadelphia DA concluded. When the charges brought by the Philadelphia DA were finally dismissed on August 24, 2015, Plaintiff was transported to New Jersey, where he remained in custody until December 24, 2015. As a result of Plaintiff's arrest in Philadelphia, Plaintiff further avers that additional criminal proceedings were instituted against him in New Jersey and in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. In response to this chain of events, Plaintiff sued the City and Defendant Police Officers.

         Count I asserts a Monell claim against the City for allegedly developing and maintaining a policy and custom “exhibiting deliberate indifference to the constitutional rights of citizens in the City of Philadelphia.” Count II asserts a Section 1983 claim against the Defendant Police Officers for false arrest and malicious prosecution. Count III asserts a welter of state-law claims against the Defendant Police Officers based on their arrest of Plaintiff, including, inter alia, false arrest, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Finally, Plaintiff asserts state-law claims against Philadelphia for negligent hiring, retention, and supervision of the Defendant Police Officers. Defendants have moved to dismiss all of Plaintiff's Counts under Rule 12(b)(6).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “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) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A complaint may not contain just “labels and conclusions, ” for “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. In determining the adequacy of a complaint, a court must “accept all factual allegations as true [and] construe the complaint in the light most favorable to plaintiff.” Warren. Gen. Hosp. v. Amgen, Inc., 643 F.3d 77, 84 (3d Cir. 2011).

         III. DISCUSSION

         To state a claim under Section 1983, “a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” Abraham v. Raso, 183 F.3d 279, 287 (3d Cir. 1999) (quoting West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988)). Under Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Svcs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978), a municipality can be sued as a “person” under Section 1983 if it unconstitutionally implements or executes “a policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision officially adopted and promulgated” by its governing bodies. However, a municipality cannot be held liable solely on a theory of respondeat superior. Id. at 691.

         Defendants contend that all Counts should be dismissed as untimely under the relevant statute of limitations. A statute of limitations defense may be raised at the Rule 12(b)(6) stage only if the time alleged in the claim “shows that the cause of action has not been brought within the statute of limitations.” Schmidt v. Skolas, 770 F.3d 241, 249 (3d Cir. 2014). Plaintiff's Complaint identifies two important dates in support of his various Section 1983 claims against both the City and Defendant Police Officers: the date of his alleged false arrest and the date when the criminal charges brought by the Philadelphia DA were dismissed. Because Plaintiff has pleaded such specific dates, Defendants' statute of limitations defense may be considered at this juncture.

         The applicable statute of limitations for a Section 1983 claim turns on the “state's statute of limitations for personal injury.” Sameric Corp. of Del., Inc. v. City of Phila., 142 F.3d 582, 599 (3d Cir. 1998). As Pennsylvania's statute of limitations for personal injury is two years, 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5524, Plaintiff's Section 1983 claims are subject to a two-year statute of limitations. Id. Plaintiff filed his Complaint on December 26, 2017, so any viable Section 1983 claims would arise only from events that took place on or after December 26, 2015. As to when Plaintiff's Section 1983 claims began to accrue, that occurred when he had “a complete and present cause of action” - that is, when ...


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