United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
OPINION AND ORDER RE: ECF NO. 73
MAUREEN P. KELLY, MAGISTRATE JUDGE
before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss filed by the Borough
of Wilkinsburg ("the Borough"), moving to dismiss
Plaintiffs Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure, for failure to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted. ECF No. 73. For the reasons that
follow, the Motion to Dismiss will be denied.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
action, commenced in relevant part pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, arises out of the attempted wrongful
repossession of Plaintiffs vehicle by agents employed by a
commercial lending company. Claims against the lending
company and its agents were resolved through arbitration, and
any non-arbitrable claims against the Borough and two of its
police officers were stayed. ECF Nos. 47, 59. Plaintiff has
filed her Second Amended Complaint and now alleges claims
against the Borough only, for its alleged participation in
the misconduct of its police officers in the seizure of
Plaintiff s vehicle, and the denial of her rights to due
alleges that the attempted repossession occurred on November
22, 2016, when two of the Borough's police officers,
Officer Yuhouse and Lt. Krempasky, arrived at Plaintiffs home
in uniform and intervened in a confrontation between
Plaintiffs husband, Blossie Long, and at least one of the
repossession agents. ECF No. 72 ¶ 23. Long explained to
the officers that the agents were attempting to wrongfully
seize Plaintiffs car and that in the process of doing so, one
of the agents assaulted Plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff
alleges that in the course of investigating Long's
allegations, one of the officers falsely accused Plaintiff of
assaulting the agent, and that the officer lodged this
allegation to "intimidate her so that she would permit
the repossession." Id. ¶ 29. Plaintiff
contacted the lender by telephone and through its
representative, attempted to explain to Officer Yuhouse that
the repossession was cancelled. Officer Yuhouse stated that
he was not in a position to confirm the identity of the
individual on the telephone, and instructed Plaintiff to
permit the agents to complete the repossession. Id.
¶1 30, 32. Officer Yuhouse requested the agents'
business card and attempted to give it to Long, and
instructed Long to call the towing company to retrieve the
vehicle after repossession. Thereafter, the lender's
representative contacted the repossession agents and directed
them to cease repossession. Id. ¶ 33.
following week, Plaintiff and Long met with Ophelia Coleman,
the Borough's Chief of Police, to lodge a complaint
against Yuhouse and Krempasky. Id. ¶ 38.
Coleman asked Plaintiff and Long to file a formal complaint
against the officers, and to work with Detective Mike Adams
to bring charges against the repossession agents.
Id. ¶¶ 40-41. Plaintiff shared home
security video footage of the altercation, but after viewing
the footage, and despite corroborating evidence, Detective
Adams suggested that Plaintiff and her husband assaulted the
agents. Detective Adams failed to pursue any charges.
Plaintiff alleges that Detective Adams acted pursuant to a
departmental policy or custom to support or endorse the
wrongful conduct of its police officers and the repossession
agents. Id. ¶¶ 42-44. Plaintiff further
alleges that the Borough's Police Department "had a
working relationship" with the repossession agent
"for over 20 years as he handled towing for the
department." Id. ¶ 45.
alleges that the Borough, through its policy or custom,
enabled and/or assisted in the wrongful seizure of her
vehicle without due process, in violation of her
constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. In
addition, Plaintiff alleges that throughout the duration of
the episode, the Borough, also through its officers,
wrongfully seized her property in violation of the Fourth
Amendment. As a result, Plaintiff alleges she suffered
property damage and emotional distress and mental anguish.
Borough has filed a Motion to Dismiss, contending that based
upon the facts alleged, Plaintiff fails to allege a
cognizable claim for municipal liability.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
assessing the sufficiency of the complaint pursuant to a
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6), the Court must accept as true all material
allegations in the complaint and all reasonable factual
inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff Odd v. Malone. 538 F.3d 202, 205 (3d Cir.
2008). While a complaint does not need detailed factual
allegations to survive the motion to dismiss, a complaint
must provide more than labels and conclusions. Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A
"formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action will not do." Id. (citing Papasan v.
Allain. 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). "Factual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level" and sufficient "to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face."
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570.
plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability
requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.... Where a
complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent
with' a defendant's liability, it 'stops short of
the line between possibility and plausibility of
'entitlement to relief" Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S.
other words, at the motion to dismiss stage, a plaintiff is
required to make "a showing' rather than a blanket
assertion of an entitlement to relief." Phillips v.
County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008).
"This 'does not impose a probability requirement at
the pleading stage,' but instead 'simply calls for
enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery
will reveal evidence of the necessary element.'"
Id. at 234, quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at
556 n. 3.
determine the sufficiency of a complaint, "a court...
must take three steps," that include (1) taking note of
the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim; (2)
identifying allegations that are merely legal conclusions
"because they ... are not entitled to the assumption of
truth;" and (3) assuming the veracity of all
well-pleaded factual allegations and determining
"whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to
relief." Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809
F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016) (quoting Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 675, 679). If the court finds, even after construing
the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff,
that the plaintiff is not entitled to relief, the court can
dismiss the claim. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside. 578
F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009).