United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
CICELY J. TURNER, Plaintiff,
ROBERT NUNEZ, Defendant.
Cicely J. Turner, a self-represented litigant, brings this
civil action, apparently raising state law claims pursuant to
a residential lease agreement. Turner seeks to proceed in
forma pauperis. For the following reasons, the Court
will grant Turner leave to proceed in forma pauperis
and dismiss her Complaint without prejudice to her filing an
Complaint is somewhat unclear. In the caption of her
Complaint she lists Robert Nunez as the only Defendant and
later refers to him as a "landlord." However, in the
body of the Complaint, Turner refers to another Defendant,
Quality Reality, Inc. Turner indicates that she brings this
case pursuant to the Court's diversity jurisdiction.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. She identifies herself as
a California citizen, alleges that Nunez is a Pennsylvania
citizen, and alleges that Quality Reality, Inc. is a
Pennsylvania citizen because it is incorporated in
Pennsylvania and has a principal place of business in
Court understands Turner to be raising breach of contract
claims stemming from a residential lease agreement, although
she does not say as much. She alleges that on February 28,
2019, she submitted a "discrepancy list with 43
items" within thirty days of her "move in."
Turner alleges that only four items were repaired within six
months. Turner contends that another individual was illegally
residing on the property, which caused "noise
disturbances, violent behavior, street fight & gun
shooting in front of [her] unit." She also alleges that
her unit was infested with mice and cockroaches, that the
Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections shut down
the entire building due to zoning issues, and that the
Philadelphia Health Department found lead at the property.
indicates that she intends to assert breach of contract
claims. She claims that the situation with the property
caused her to be homeless, caused psychological distress, and
ruined her business. Turner seeks damages in the amount of
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court will grant Turner leave to proceed in forma
pauperis because it appears that he is incapable of
prepaying the fees to commence this civil action. However, 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) requires the Court to dismiss
the Complaint if it fails to state a claim. To state a claim,
a pleading must contain "sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotations omitted). Conclusory
statements and naked assertions will not suffice.
Id. As Turner is proceeding pro se, the
Court construes her allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att
`y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).
a complaint may be dismissed for failing to comply with
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. Garrett v. Wexford
Health, 938 F.3d 69, 91 (3d Cir. 2019). To conform to
Rule 8, a pleading must contain a short and plain statement
showing that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. See
Travaline v. U.S. Supreme Court, 424 Fed.Appx. 78, 79
(3d Cir. 2011). The Third Circuit recently explained that in
determining whether a pleading meets Rule 8's
"plain" statement requirement, the Court should
"ask whether, liberally construed, a pleading
'identifies discrete defendants and the actions taken by
these defendants' in regard to the plaintiffs
claims." Garrett, 938 F.3d at 93 (citation
omitted). A pleading may still satisfy the "plain"
statement requirement "even if it is vague, repetitious,
or contains extraneous information" and "even if it
does not include every name, date, and location of the
incidents at issue." Id. at 93-94. The
important consideration for the Court is whether, "a pro
se complaint's language ... presents cognizable legal
claims to which a defendant can respond on the merits."
Id. at 94.
Complaint, as pled, fails to make clear who the Defendants
are in this matter, which makes it difficult to assess
Turner's claims. "In Pennsylvania, as elsewhere, it
is well-established that the first of three elements needed
to prevail on a breach of contract action is the existence of
a contract." Landan v. Wal-Mart Real Estate Bus.
Tr., 775 Fed.Appx. 39, 43 (3d Cir. 2019) (citing
McShea v. City o/Phila., 995 A.2d 334, 340 (Pa.
2010)). The two remaining elements are "a breach of a
duty imposed by the contract" and "resulting
damages." Lackner v. Glosser, 892 A.2d 21, 30
(Pa. Super. Ct. 2006).
Turner's desire to bring a breach of contract claim
suggests that she held a lease on the property, she does not
allege as much. In other words, she has failed to allege
the existence of a contract under which she would be entitled
to recover. See Triple T Const., LLC v. Twp. of W.
Milford, 2014 WL 2624764, at *4 (D.N.J. June 11, 2014)
(dismissing claims under Rule 8 where "the Complaint
fail[ed] to allege any facts supporting the plausible
inference that a contract existed between the parties ...
.") Assuming Turner's claims are based on a
residential lease, it is not clear with whom she entered into
that lease and what property it concerned. As noted above,
the Complaint identifies Nunez and Quality Reality, Inc. as
Defendants, but Turner does not allege that either of those
Defendants were parties to a lease with her or otherwise
raise allegations against them that would make clear what
role they played in the events giving rise to her claims.
Accordingly, Turner's Complaint does not comply with Rule
8 or state a claim as pled. See Transp. Int`l Pool, Inc.
v. Ross Stores, Inc., 2009 WL 1033601, at *3 (E.D. Pa.
Apr. 15, 2009) ("When a plaintiff pleads a contract
according to its legal effect, the complaint does not need to
resort to formulaic recitation of the elements of the alleged
contract; rather, the complaint must allege facts sufficient
to place the defendant on notice of the contract claim in
such a way that the defendant can reasonably respond.").
construing the Complaint, Turner may also have intended to
bring a claim for breach of the implied warranty of
habitability or negligence claims based on the failure to
correct the problems in her unit. See Matthews v.
Wince, 2017 WL 1372750, at *2 (Pa. Super. Ct. Apr. 13,
2017) (explaining that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has
"adopted an implied warranty of habitability in
residential leases"); Echeverria v. Holley, 142
A.3d 29, 34 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2016) ("A tenant seeking to
recover damages stemming from the condition of a rental
property may pursue claims sounding in ordinary negligence or
a breach of the implied warranty of habitability.").
"[T]o assert a breach of the implied warranty of
habitability, a tenant must prove he or she gave notice to
the landlord of the defect or condition, that he (the
landlord) had a reasonable opportunity to make the necessary
repairs, and that he failed to do so." Pugh v.
Holmes, 405 A.2d 897, 906 (Pa. 1979). "Under a
theory of conventional negligence, the injured tenant must
prove that his or her injuries were proximately caused by the
landlord's failure to exercise reasonable care to make
the premises safe." Matthews, 2017 WL 1372750,
at *4. As with Turner's breach of contract claim, it is
difficult for the Court to evaluate these claims because it
is not exactly clear who her landlord was or what role either
of the Defendants played in the events giving rise to
Turner's claims. In sum, these claims fail for the same
reason Turner's breach of contract claims fail.