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Caldwell v. Beky

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

October 1, 2019

JEROME CALDWELL, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER ANDREW J. BEKY and SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS, Defendants.

          OPINION DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM-GRANTED.

          Joseph F. Leeson, Jr. United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Pro se Plaintiff Jerome Caldwell commenced this putative civil rights action on or about January 15, 2019, alleging that his constitutional rights were violated during a physical altercation with an Allentown Police Officer. Specifically, Caldwell states that on August 31, 2018, Defendant Police Officer Andrew J. Beky[1] physically assaulted him after a Domino's pizza delivery driver called the police claiming that Caldwell had failed to pay for an order of pizza. See generally Compl., ECF No. 2. Officer Beky and another individual identified as Supervisor Williams now move to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a viable claim. See generally Defs.' Mem., ECF No. 13. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion to dismiss is granted, however, Caldwell is granted leave to re-plead one of his potential claims.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Facts Alleged in the Complaint

         The following facts are drawn from Caldwell's Complaint and are accepted as true, with all inferences drawn in Caldwell's favor. See Lundy v. Monroe Cty. Dist. Attorney's Office, No. 3:17-CV-2255, 2017 WL 9362911, at *1 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 11, 2017) (“In considering whether a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the court must accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom are to be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.”), report and recommendation adopted, 2018 WL 2219033 (M.D. Pa. May 15, 2018).

         Caldwell avers that on August 31, 2018, Officer Beky “slam[med] [Caldwell's] face on the hood of the [police] car causing injuries to [his] face[, ] for[e]head[, ] and eyes.” Compl. at 6.[2]Although his allegations are difficult to make out, the alleged altercation between Beky and Caldwell appears to have arisen after a Domino's pizza delivery driver called the police claiming that Caldwell failed to pay for his pizza. Id. Caldwell claims that he had already paid for the pizza with a credit card over the telephone, however, when Officer Beky arrived at the scene he did not believe Caldwell's explanation. Id. According to the Complaint, Caldwell's injuries are visible in his Lehigh County Jail ID photograph. Id. At the bottom of his narrative statement, Caldwell states that he “reserve[s] all right [sic] to amend this Complaint.” Id.

         With respect to the legal authority upon which his claims are brought, the Complaint states that Caldwell's treatment at the hands of Officer Beky and his resulting injuries constitute a “violation of the 8th Amendment of [sic] cruel a[nd] unusual punishment.” Compl. at 6. Caldwell also claims that Officer Beky “willfully knowingly intentionally abuse[d] his authority, ” “torture[d]” him, and used “excessive force.” Id.

         B. Procedural Background

         Caldwell commenced this action on January 15, 2019, with the filing of the Complaint and a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. See ECF Nos. 1, 2. The Complaint initially named four Domino's Pizza employees as Defendants. In an Order dated January 23, 2019, the Court granted Caldwell's motion to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissed his claims as to the four Domino's employees.[3] See ECF No. 5. Also on January 23, 2019, the Clerk of the Court sent Officer Beky and Supervisor Williams requests to waive service of the summonses. See ECF No. 6. On February 8, 2019, counsel for Officer Beky and Supervisor Williams noticed his appearance and formally waived service of the summonses. See ECF Nos. 8-10.

         Defendants filed their motion to dismiss on April 2, 2019. See ECF No. 13. Having observed no docket activity for over two months thereafter, the Court issued an Order dated June 6, 2019, directing Caldwell to “mail to the Clerk of the Court a brief in opposition to the Motion to Dismiss within fourteen days after he receives this order, ” and advising him that “his failure to respond to the Motion to Dismiss may result in the motion being granted as uncontested and this case being dismissed without further notice.” ECF No. 14 (emphasis in original). The Court never received any filing from Caldwell in opposition to the motion to dismiss.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW: RULE 12(b)(6)

         In rendering a decision on a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), this Court must “accept all factual allegations as true [and] construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.”[4] Phillips v. Cnty. 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)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Of course, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); see Thourot v. Monroe Career & Tech. Inst., No. CV 3:14-1779, 2016 WL 6082238, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 17, 2016) (explaining that “[a] formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” alone will not survive a motion to dismiss). The court's task then in deciding a motion to dismiss is to determine whether, based upon the facts as alleged and taken as true, and disregarding legal conclusions and conclusory assertions, the complaint states a plausible claim for relief.[5] Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009) (“[O]nly a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.”); Ashford v. Francisco, No. 1:19-CV-1365, 2019 WL 4318818, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 12, 2019) (“To avoid dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), a civil complaint must set out sufficient factual matter to show that its claims are facially plausible.”). It is only where “the ‘[f]actual allegations . . . raise a right to relief above the speculative level'” that has the plaintiff stated a plausible claim.[6] Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 540, 555 (2007)). Put differently, “[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         IV. ...


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