United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
CALVIN E. BRACKBILL, Plaintiff
STEPHEN J. RUFF, GREGORY A. HILL, IAN L. DAWSON, TYRON E. MEIK, and CITY OF HARRISBURG, PA, Defendants
CHRISTOPHER C. CONNER, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT
Calvin E. Brackbill (“Brackbill”) filed suit
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging multiple constitutional
violations against various police officers and the City of
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Brackbill also asserts related
state law tort claims. Defendants move to dismiss
Brackbill's complaint in part under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 18). The court will grant in part
and deny in part defendants' motion.
Factual Background & Procedural History
3:20 a.m. on June 28, 2015, Brackbill was driving home from
work through Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, when he noticed a
noise coming from the front of his vehicle. (Doc. 16
¶¶ 10, 11, 15). He pulled over to investigate the
sound and discovered that a portion of his decorative front
bumper cover had come loose. (Id. ¶¶ 11,
Harrisburg Bureau of Police officers were nearby
investigating an unrelated incident: Stephen J. Ruff
(“Officer Ruff”), Gregory A. Hill (“Officer
Hill”), and Tyron E. Meik (“Corporal
Meik”). (Id. ¶¶ 17-18). Officer Ruff
and Officer Hill approached Brackbill and questioned him
about how much he had had to drink and what he had hit with
his vehicle. (Id. ¶¶ 18-19).
Brackbill-dressed in his work uniform and wearing a name
tag-responded that he was driving home from work, had not had
anything to drink, and had not hit anything with his vehicle
that night. (Id. ¶¶ 16, 20). He further
explained that he had been involved in a minor accident in
January in which he slid on ice and hit a curb, which may
have precipitated his bumper cover coming loose.
(Id. ¶ 21).
Hill stated twice that he smelled the odor of alcoholic
beverages. (Id. ¶ 22). When Brackbill asked to
speak with a supervisor, the officers directed him to an
approaching SUV driven by Corporal Meik. (Id.
¶¶ 23-24). Brackbill explained the situation to
Corporal Meik, who responded simply that Brackbill “had
been drinking.” (Id. ¶ 25). Officer Ruff
then handcuffed Brackbill and placed him under arrest for
driving under the influence. (Id. ¶¶
breathalyzer or field sobriety tests were performed.
(Id. ¶ 29). When Brackbill asked the officers
to conduct on-site testing to confirm that he had not been
drinking, the officers responded that they “did not
have time.” (Id.) Ian L. Dawson
(“Officer Dawson”) then arrived in a police
transport van and drove Brackbill to the judicial center for
processing. (Id. ¶¶ 31-32).
judicial center, Brackbill was fingerprinted, photographed,
searched, and locked in a cell. (Id. ¶¶
33, 39-40). He also had his blood drawn to be submitted for
toxicology testing. (Id. ¶¶ 36, 38). After
being incarcerated for four hours, Brackbill was released and
learned that his vehicle had been towed. (Id.
¶¶ 40, 45). Shortly thereafter, he complained in
person about the incident to Thomas Carter, Chief of the
Harrisburg Bureau of Police (“Chief Carter”).
(Id. ¶ 46).
toxicology report, dated July 19, 2015, revealed a blood
alcohol content of 0.00% and no unlawful drugs. (Id.
¶ 47). Brackbill attempted multiple times to speak with
Chief Carter after receiving the toxicology results but was
not permitted to meet with him. (Id. ¶¶
48-52). At one point, Brackbill was told that if he returned
to the police department, he would be arrested for trespass.
(Id. ¶ 52).
26, 2015, Officer Ruff filed two summary traffic citations
against Brackbill. (Id. ¶ 53). The first
citation was for “Required Financial
Responsibility” pursuant to 75 Pa. Stat. and Cons.
Stat. § 1786(f), for allegedly operating a motor vehicle
without proper insurance. (See Doc. 16-4 at 1). The
second was for “Operating a Vehicle with Unsafe
Equipment” pursuant to 75 Pa. Stat. and Cons. Stat.
§ 4107(b)(2), for allegedly violating a regulation
codified at 67 Pa. Code § 175.78(e)(i), which requires
that “[a] bumper shall be of at least equivalent
strength and mounting as the original equipment.”
(See Doc. 16-1 at 2).
hired counsel and contested the citations before a
magisterial district judge. (Doc. 16 ¶ 59; see
generally Doc. 16-5). After a hearing, the magisterial
district judge dismissed the Section 1786(f) insurance
citation but found Brackbill guilty of the Section 4107(b)(2)
citation regarding the bumper issue. (Doc. 16 ¶ 63; Doc.
16-5 at 29). Brackbill appealed the decision to the Court of
Common Pleas of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 16 ¶
64; see generally Doc. 16-6). The court found him
not guilty of the Section 4107(b)(2) offense and dismissed
that citation as well. (Doc. 16 ¶ 64; Doc. 16-6 at 2).
both citations were dismissed, Brackbill filed this suit
against the officers and the City of Harrisburg
(collectively, “defendants”). He alleges the
following: false arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment
against Officer Ruff (Count I); excessive force in violation
of the Fourth Amendment against Officer Ruff (Count II);
failure to intervene in violation of the Fourth Amendment
against Officer Hill, Officer Dawson, and Corporal Meik
(Count III); a Fourteenth Amendment Due Process claim against
Officer Ruff for fabricated evidence (Count IV); Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendment violations against Corporal Meik under a
supervisory liability theory (Count V); Fourth and Fourteenth
Amendment violations against the City of Harrisburg under
municipal liability theory (Count VI); a state law tort claim
of battery against Officer Ruff (Count VII); a state law tort
claim of malicious prosecution against Officer Ruff (Count
VIII); a state law tort claim of abuse of process against
Officer Ruff (Count IX); and state law tort claims of
intentional infliction of emotional distress against Officer
Ruff, Officer Hill, Officer Dawson, and Corporal Meik (Count
X). Defendants move to dismiss many of Brackbill's claims
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The
motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for
the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When
ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court
must “accept all factual allegations as true, construe
the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff,
and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the
complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.”
Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233
(3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings,
Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)). In addition
to reviewing the facts contained in the complaint, the court
may also consider “exhibits attached to the complaint,
matters of public record, as well as undisputedly authentic
documents” attached to a defendant's motion to
dismiss if the plaintiff'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.
notice and pleading rules require the complaint to provide
“the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is
and the grounds upon which it rests.”
Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232 (alteration in original)
(quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
555 (2007)). To test the sufficiency of the complaint, the
court conducts a three-step inquiry. See Santiago v.
Warminster Township, 629 F.3d 121, 130-31 (3d Cir.
2010). In the first step, “the court must ‘tak[e]
note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a
claim.'” Id. at 130 (alteration in
original) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
675 (2009)). Next, the factual and legal elements of a claim
must be separated; well-pleaded facts are accepted as true,
while mere legal conclusions may be disregarded. Id.
at 131-32; see Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d
203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). Once the court isolates the
well-pleaded factual allegations, it must determine whether
they are sufficient to show a “plausible claim for
relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556. A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff
pleads facts “that allow the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
should grant leave to amend before dismissing a curable
pleading in civil-rights actions. See Fletcher-Harlee
Corp. v. Pote Concrete Contractors, Inc., 482 F.3d 247,
251 (3d Cir. 2007); Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp.,
293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002). Courts need not grant leave
to amend sua sponte in dismissing non-civil rights
claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Fletcher-Harlee
Corp., 482 F.3d at 252-53, but leave is broadly
encouraged “when justice so requires.”
attack the sufficiency of Counts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, and X
of Brackbill's amended complaint. They also assert
qualified immunity as a defense to Counts I through IV. We
begin our analysis with Brackbill's various
constitutional claims against the individual defendants.