United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
KAROLINE MEHALCHICK, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Background and Procedural History
a pro se civil rights action, initiated upon the
filing of the original, fee-paid complaint in this matter by
Plaintiff Robert John Altavilla (hereinafter referred to as
“Altavilla”) on September 7, 2017, asserting
claims against Defendants Larksville Borough Police, Officer
Shawn Reilly, Officer Nicholas Riebel (collectively referred
to as the “Police Defendants”) and Matt
Evans. The events giving rise to the complaint
stem from Altavilla's March 9, 2017 involuntary
commitment (“302”), pursuant to section 7302 of
the Pennsylvania Mental Health Procedures Act
(“MHPA”). (Doc. 1 at 6, 10). Leading up to his
302 commitment, Altavilla contacted the United States
Department of Defense (“DoD”) on December 18,
2016 and claimed that government lasers were burning him from
a satellite. (Doc. 1 at 9-10). Altavilla then provided the
DoD with a photograph of his head to demonstrate where the
lasers had purportedly burned him. (Doc. 1 at 9). Nearly
three months later, on March 9, 2017, the DoD contacted the
Larksville Police Department and informed Officer Andrew
LaBar (“Officer LaBar”) of the exchange with
Altavilla. (Doc. 1 at 9). After obtaining a copy of the
telephone conversation and photograph, Officer LaBar issued a
302 mental health warrant for Altavilla in accordance with
the MHPA. (Doc. 1 at 9). Officers LaBar, Riebel, and Reilly
then took Altavilla into custody for an emergency mental
health evaluation, and transported Altavilla from his home to
Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. (Doc. 1 at 9).
complaint, Altavilla alleges that the Police Defendants
violated his civil rights when they came to his home and
executed the 302 order. (Doc. 1 at 6). Altavilla contends
that the Police Defendants unlawfully imprisoned him without
a warrant in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the
Constitution. (Doc. 1 at 6-7; Doc. 14). Altavilla seeks
money damages in the amount of $20, 000 from Larksville
Borough and the indefinite suspension of the Officers
involved in implementing the 302 order. (Doc. 1 at 7, 11).
The Police Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on the basis
of improper service as well as failure to state a claim,
along with a brief in support, on November 27, 2017. (Doc. 8;
Doc. 9). The undersigned issued a Report and Recommendation,
allowing Altavilla thirty days to effect proper service.
(Doc. 23 at 12 ¶ 3). The Court adopted the Report and
Recommendation in part, denying the motion to dismiss as
moot. (Doc. 34 at 1 ¶ 2).
Police Defendants renewed their motion to dismiss pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) after Altavilla effected proper
service. (Doc. 28 at 1; 2 ¶ 5-7). The Police Defendants
submit that Altavilla's claim must be dismissed as
probable cause existed to take Altavilla into custody,
Officers Reilly and Reibel are entitled to Qualified
Immunity, and the Larksville Borough Police is not a proper
defendant in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“1983”)
suit. (Doc. 28 at 3-4). In response, Altavilla submits that
the warrants were frivolous, and that there was no harm to
the household or the general public that would have provided
the basis for the warrants. This matter is now ripe for
review. (Doc. 29); (Doc. 30); (Doc. 31); (Doc. 33); (Doc.
Standard of Review
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes a
defendant to move to dismiss for “failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). “Under Rule 12(b)(6), a motion to dismiss may
be granted only if, accepting all well-pleaded allegations in
the complaint as true and viewing them in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff, a court finds the plaintiff's
claims lack facial plausibility.” Warren Gen. Hosp.
v. Amgen Inc., 643 F.3d 77, 84 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56
(2007)). Although the Court must accept the allegations in
the complaint as true, it is not compelled to accept
“unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences, or
a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.”
Morrow v. Balaski, 719 F.3d 160, 165 (3d Cir. 2013)
(quoting Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d
deciding a motion to dismiss, a court is generally limited to
the allegations set forth in the pleadings, although it may
also consider documents attached to the complaint and matters
of public record. Opposition briefs to a motion to dismiss
may not be used to amend a complaint. Pennsylvania ex rel.
Zimmerman v. PepsiCo, Inc., 836 F.2d 173, 181 (3d
Cir.1988). To determine the sufficiency of a complaint a
court must take three steps. Santiago v. Warminster
Tp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d. Cir. 2010). First, the court
must take note of the elements required to state a claim.
Id. Second, the court should identify allegations
that, “because they are no more than conclusions, are
not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). And finally,
“where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a
court should assume their veracity and then determine whether
they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.”
to Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure:
A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain: (1) a
short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's
jurisdiction, unless the court already has jurisdiction and
the claim needs no new jurisdictional support; [and] (2) a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a).
“the statement required by Rule 8(a)(2) must give the
defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is
and of the grounds upon which it rests.” Bayer v.
Pocono Med. Ctr., No. CIV.A. 3:13-1900, 2014 WL 3670499,
at *4 (M.D. Pa. July 23, 2014) (citing Erickson v.
Pardus,551 U.S. 89, 93, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d
1081 (2007)). It is not the responsibility of the defendant
to translate the claims of the plaintiff for the Court. Nor
is it the ...