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Harris v. City of Pittsburgh

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

September 10, 2019




         On January 23, 2019, Plaintiff Shanda Harris filed a Complaint against Defendants, the City of Pittsburgh, the City of Pittsburgh Police Department, and Detectives George Satler and William Mudron. (ECF Nos. 1, 3). On March 29, 2019, Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 4). The parties briefed the issues, (ECF Nos. 6, 8, 9), and the Court heard oral argument on the Motion to Dismiss on July 18, 2019.

         Based on the following, the Motion to Dismiss will be granted.

         I. Background

         On or about December 29, 2017, a non-fatal shooting occurred in the City of Pittsburgh near 2407 Wylie Avenue, the address of a building owned by Plaintiff Shanda Harris. (ECF No. 3, at ¶¶ 13, 17). According to the affidavit attached to the search warrant application, [1] upon arriving at the scene of the shooting, Pittsburgh Police Officer Bigley spoke with the victim, Geraldine Williams, before she was transported to a local hospital. (ECF No. 4-1, at 2). Ms. Williams told Officer Bigley that she and her boyfriend, Phillip Harrison, were walking down Upfold Way, toward Mr. Harrison's apartment building at 2407 Wylie Avenue, when she heard two bangs, after which she and Mr. Harrison continued toward the rear door of Harrison's apartment. Id. After speaking with Ms. Williams, Officer Bigley noticed four small puddles of blood leading from the intersection of Chauncey Street and Upfold Way toward the rear door of 2407 Wylie Avenue, and an additional drop of blood directly in front of the rear door of 2407 Wylie Avenue. Id.

         At approximately 4:00 p.m. on December 29, 2017, Detectives Brandon Nee and William Mudron arrived at the scene and observed a camera on the rear wall of 2407 Wylie Avenue, along with black cable lines running into a retail space on the first floor of the building. Id. Detectives Nee and Mudron observed similar cameras at the front of 2407 and 2409 Wylie Avenue. Id. The detectives concluded that all of the cameras ran directly into Ms. Harris's business. Id. Detective Mudron attested in the affidavit of probable cause that he believed surveillance footage of the events leading up to the shooting could help his investigation of the shooting. Id. Consequently, on December 30, 2017, he requested a search warrant for "video surveillance to include, but not limited to, the interior and exterior of the property listed at 2407 and 2409 Wylie Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15219," as well as "[a]ny computer devices, hard drives or taping devices used to capture video surveillance between 12/28/2017 and 12/29/2017." Id. at 3. The magistrate issued the search warrant at 3:47 pm on December 30, 2017, and required that the warrant "be served as soon as practicable" and "in no event later than ... 3:47 pm" on January 1, 2018. Id. at 1.

         Later that same day, on December 30, 2017, Detective Mudron went to Ms. Harris's building to execute the search warrant and knocked on the door to announce his presence. (ECF No. 3, at ¶ 23). After no one answered the door, Detective Mudron called Ms. Harris to inform her of the search warrant. Id. at ¶ 24. Ms. Harris told Detective Mudron that she was out of town but would allow him to enter the premises when she returned two days later, on Monday, January 1, 2018. Id. at ¶ 25. Detective Mudron asked Ms. Harris whether someone else could allow him to enter the premises. Id. at ¶ 26. Ms. Harris said no and explained that she was the only person with a key. Id. Detective Mudron then told Ms. Harris that if she was not able to allow him to enter the premises, he would break the door down and enter the building. Id. at ¶ 27.

         Upon returning home, Ms. Harris observed that the back door of her business was open and damaged, and that doors leading to the kitchen and office were broken and damaged. Id. at ¶¶ 29-30. Additionally, Ms. Harris's video surveillance system was missing from the desk in her office and a copy of the search warrant and inventory receipt were left behind. Id. at ¶ 31. The receipt stated that the items taken included a black remote, black power cord, and the surveillance system. Id. at ¶ 32. Two and a half weeks later, police officers from the Police Department returned the video surveillance system, which Ms. Harris alleges was damaged beyond repair. Id. at ¶ 33.

         Ms. Harris subsequently filed the present Complaint against Detectives Mudron and Satler, the City of Pittsburgh, and the City of Pittsburgh Police Department. Id. at ¶¶ 7-10. Specifically, Ms. Harris brings four claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging various violations of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In Counts I, II, and III, Ms. Harris alleges Unlawful Seizure of Property, Unlawful Search of Property, and Unreasonable Entry of Property, respectively, against Detectives Mudron and Satler.[2] Id. at ¶¶ 37-54. In Count IV, Ms. Harris alleges that Defendants City of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Police Department violated her right to be protected from unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution by way of Monell liability. Id. at ¶¶ 55-58. Additionally, Ms. Harris brings two state law negligence claims against the City of Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Police Department. In Count V, Ms. Harris brings a claim of Negligent Damage to Personal Property, and in Count VI, Ms. Harris brings a claim of Negligent Damage to Real Property. Id. at ¶¶ 59-69. Defendants seek dismissal of the Complaint on various grounds in their Motion to Dismiss and supporting briefs, namely that Ms. Harris fails to state a claim and that Detectives Mudron and Satler are entitled to qualified immunity. (ECF Nos. 4, 6, 9).

         II. Legal Standard

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) 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.5" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads fact[s] that allow[] the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (citation omitted). A complaint pleading legal conclusions devoid of factual allegations will not survive a motion to dismiss. Id.

         The Third Circuit has held the district courts should perform a two-part analysis when presented with Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir, 2009). First, the court should consider only factual allegations, not legal conclusions. Id. at 210-11. Second, accepting all factual allegations as true, the court "must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a 'plausible claim for relief." Id. at 211 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). The court need not "accept unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences." Morrow v. Balaski, 719 F.3d 160, 165 (3d Cir. 2013).

         Finally, "in evaluating a motion to dismiss, courts are not limited to the four corners of the complaint, but may also consider evidence integral to or explicitly relied upon therein." Tanksley v. Daniels, 902 F.3d 165, 172 (3d Cir. 2018) (internal quotations omitted). This means that "the Court may also review matters of public record, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case, as well as indisputably authentic document[s] that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiffs claims are based on the document." Wilson v. Borough, 2017 WL 467974, at *3 n.2 (W.D, Pa. Feb. 3, 2017).

         III. ...

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