United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
WILLIAM S. STICKMAN IV UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
filed a Complaint on March 26, 2019 (ECF No. 1), followed by
an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 26) on August 8, 2019.
Defendant Mag Pitt, L.P. filed its Answer on August 21, 2019
(ECF No. 28), and Defendant Matthew Turko filed his Answer on
September 6, 2019 (ECF No. 35). Defendant City of Pittsburgh
("City") filed a Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 36) on
September 6, 2019. Briefing on the City's motion has
concluded, and the matter is now ripe for disposition.
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint.
Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir.1993).
"[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 that plaintiffs claims lack facial
plausibility." Warren Gen. Hosp. v. Amgen Inc.,
643 F.3d 77, 84 (3d Cir. 2011). The "plausibility"
standard required for a complaint to survive a motion to
dismiss is not akin to a "probability" requirement
but asks for more than sheer "possibility."
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twornbly, 550 U.S. 544, 556
(2007)). In other words, the complaint's factual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level, on the assumption that all the
allegations are true even if doubtful in fact.
Twornbly, 550 U.S. at 555. 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." Baraka v. McGreevey, 481
F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007) (citations omitted).
II of Plaintiffs Amended Complaint, which is directed to the
City, is entitled "Violation of the Fourth Amendment for
Unconstitutional Policy and Custom Pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 (As to Pittsburgh)." Plaintiff contends the
City "has a policy and custom of permitting, promoting
and training its police officers to use excessive force
against citizens." See Plaintiffs Amended
Complaint ("Pl'sAm. CompL") ¶ 30. He
further asserts that he "suffered actual physical
injury, as well as emotional distress, humiliation,
embarrassment and pain and suffering because of
Pittsburgh's policy and custom of using excessive force
against citizens without justification or provocation."
See Pl's Am. Compl. ¶ 44.
Court holds that Plaintiff has pled a cognizable claim under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 sufficient to survive a motion to
dismiss. A municipal entity cannot be held liable pursuant to
§ 1983 under the theory of respondeat superior.
Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New
York, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (2018). Instead, municipal
entities may only be held liable under § 1983 on (1) an
express municipal policy, such as an ordinance, regulation,
or policy statement, see Monell, 436 U.S. at 694,
(2) a "widespread practice, that although not authorized
by written law or express municipal policy, is 'so
permanent and well settled as to constitute a custom or
usage' with the force of law," see City of St
Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 127 (1988) (quoting
Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144,
167-68 (1970)), or (3) the decision of a person with
"final policymaking authority." See
Praprotnik, 485 U.S. at 123; see also Pembaur v.
City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 481-83 (1986). Count
II of Plaintiff s Amended Complaint asserts the second type
of Monell claim-a custom or usage that violated his
constitutional rights. The recent decision of the Third
Circuit in Estate of Roman v. City of Newark, 914
F.3d 789 (3d. Cir. 2019), outlines the basic requirements of
pleading such a claim. In light of the guidance set forth in
Roman, and viewing the allegations in a light most
favorable to the Plaintiff, the Court holds that Count II of
the Complaint has pled sufficient facts to maintain a claim
that the City has an actionable custom of permitting,
promoting and training its police officers to use excessive
force against citizens. Whether Plaintiff will, ultimately,
be able to prevail on his claim against the City is a
question for another day. At this stage, Plaintiffs municipal
liability claim against the City survives dismissal.
NOW, this 23 day of October 2019, Defendant City of
Pittsburgh's Motion ...