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Simonson v. Borough of Taylor

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 10, 2019

BOROUGH OF TAYLOR and WILLIAM ROCHE, Defendants and Third Party Plaintiffs,
LORETTA SIMONSON, Third Party Defendant



         Pending before the court is the motion to strike filed by plaintiff Charles Simonson, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 14(a)(4), (Doc. 19), as to the third-party complaint (“TPC”) filed against his estranged wife, Loretta Simonson, by original defendants/third-party plaintiffs Borough of Taylor and William Roche (collectively “defendants”), (Doc. 17). Plaintiff basically claims that defendants falsely arrested and imprisoned him and, maliciously prosecuted him without probable cause in violation of his 4th and 14th Amendment rights. In their TPC, defendants claim that plaintiff's wife Loretta, i.e., third party defendant, is liable for any damages that are awarded against them caused by plaintiff's arrest and prosecution since they relied upon her allegations that plaintiff tried to shoot her, which later were found to be false. In his motion to strike, plaintiff argues that the TPC is untimely since it was filed more than 14 days after the original answer was served and, that it is legally defective since there is no claim for indemnity or contribution with respect to his constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. §1983. Plaintiff also contends that defendants' claims for contribution and indemnification against Loretta with respect to his state law claims are legally deficient. The court will GRANT the plaintiff's motion to strike the TPC and it will be DISMISSED IN ITS ENTIRETY. As such, the third-party defendant Loretta Simonson will be DISMISSED from this case.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         The underlying case arises out of the November 7, 2018 arrest of plaintiff by Sergeant William Roche of the Borough of Taylor Police Department. Roche handcuffed and shackled plaintiff, interrogated him, and then charged him with Criminal Attempt -Aggravated Assault, Aggravated Assault, Discharge of a Firearm into Occupied Structure, Possession of Weapon, Make Repairs/Sell/Etc Offensive Weapon, Terroristic Threats with Intent to Terrorize Another, Recklessly Endangering Another Person, and Simple Assault. See Commonwealth v. Charles Simonson, MJ-45101-Cr-0000426-2018.[2]

         Also, on November 7, 2018, plaintiff alleges that his vehicle was illegally impounded and searched due to Roche's false accusations.

         The charges Roche filed against plaintiff stemmed from an alleged shooting incident in which Loretta told police that plaintiff intentionally shot his firearm at her. Plaintiff alleges that Roche failed to conduct a proper and thorough investigation before filing the charges against him, and that the Borough of Taylor failed to properly train and supervise Roche.

         After plaintiff was charged, Roche handcuffed plaintiff and drove him to Lackawanna County Processing Center and his bail was set at $850, 000. Since plaintiff could not post bail, he was then transported to Lackawanna County Prison and incarcerated. Defendants then allegedly informed various news outlets about plaintiff's arrest.

         After further investigation, including subsequent statements given by Loretta, it was discovered that the information which Loretta provided to defendants and which served as the probable cause for plaintiff's arrest was false and that Loretta discharged the firearm herself. Consequently, on November 8, 2018, all of the charges filed against plaintiff were withdrawn.

         Based on the false information Loretta provided to defendants about the shooting incident with plaintiff, she was arrested and charges with: 1) discharge of a firearm into occupied structure; 2) recklessly endangering another person; 3) unsworn falsification to authorities; 4) false identification to law enforcement officer; and 5) false report- falsely incriminate another. See Commonwealth v. Loretta M. Simonson, CP-35-CR-0002450-2018.

         On April 25, 2019, Loretta pled guilty to Recklessly Endangering Another Person (second degree misdemeanor) and False Identification to Law Enforcement Officer (third degree misdemeanor). The remaining three charges against Loretta were nolle prossed.

         On August 28, 2019, Loretta was sentenced to imprisonment for a minimum of 23 days to a maximum of 18 months followed by a 6-month period of probation.

         In his amended complaint filed on May 30, 2019, (Doc. 15), plaintiff raises the following constitutional claims under §1983 against Roche: unlawful seizure and search of his person in violation of his 4th and 14th Amendment rights; Count I; malicious prosecution, Count II[3]; and false arrest and false imprisonment, Count III. In Count IV, plaintiff raises a 14th Amendment stigma-plus due process claim against Roche and the Borough of Taylor. Plaintiff also raises state law claims against both defendants in Count V for false light and defamation. In Count VI, plaintiff asserts a state law claim for assault and battery against Roche. In Count VII, plaintiff raises a municipal liability claim against the Borough of Taylor under Monell v. Dep't. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978) for failure to adequately train and supervise Roche. Finally, in Count VIII, plaintiff raises an unlawful seizure and search claim against both defendants regarding his vehicle in violation of his 4th and 14thAmendment rights.

         As relief in his amended complaint, plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well and injunctive relief.

         In their TPC filed on May 30, 2019, (Doc. 17), defendants allege that but for the actions of Loretta, they would not have had probable cause to arrest and charge plaintiff, and that Loretta knowingly provided them with false statements about plaintiff's actions intending to mislead them for the purpose of arresting plaintiff. Defendants raise claims for indemnification and contribution against Loretta in their TPC. As such, they allege that “[i]f Plaintiff sustained any damages as alleged in his [amended] Complaint, ..., then these damages resulted from the actions; intentional, willful, or wonton misconduct; negligence and/or breach of duties of [Loretta].” On June 4, 2019, plaintiff filed his motion to strike the TPC, (Doc. 19), and his brief in support, (Doc. 20). Defendants filed their brief in opposition to plaintiff's motion on June 18, 2019. (Doc. 23). Plaintiff filed his reply brief on June 20, 2019.[4] (Doc. 24).

         The court has jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331 and 28 U.S.C. §1343(a) because plaintiff avers violations of his constitutional rights under the 4th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The court can exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claims under 28 U.S.C. §1367. Venue is appropriate in this court since the alleged constitutional violations occurred in this district and all parties are located here. See 28 U.S.C. §1391.


         Plaintiff argues that defendants did not timely file their TPC in violation of Fed.R.Civ.P. 14(a)(1) since it was not filed within 14 days after the original answer was served. Thus, plaintiff states that defendants were required to file a motion seeking leave of court to file their TPC alleging a count of common law indemnification and contribution under Rule 14(a)(1). He also contends that the TPC cannot assert any claim for indemnification and contribution against Loretta since she is not a state actor and, since courts have not permitted claims for indemnity and contribution with respect to the constitutional claims he asserts against defendants in his amended complaint under 42 U.S.C. §1983. Further, plaintiff challenges the legal sufficiency of defendants' claims for indemnification and contribution from Loretta regarding his state law claims against them.

         Initially, as to timeliness, plaintiff explains that on February 22, 2019, defendants filed their answer to his original complaint, (Doc. 10), and that since defendants filed their TPC on May 30, 2019, it is untimely as it ...

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