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Klein v. Met Ed

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 8, 2020

MET ED, et al., Defendants


          Martin C. Carlson United States Magistrate Judge [1]

         I. Statement of Facts and of the Case

         This case comes before us for consideration of two motions to dismiss filed by the defendants. (Docs. 21 and 26). The plaintiff, Dennis Klein, who is proceeding pro se, commenced this action by filing a complaint on April 29, 2019 which named Met Ed, a Met Ed employee, and the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) as defendants. (Doc. 1).

         Mr. Klein's complaint demands a great deal of the reader. The complaint is 275 pages in length and lacks any formal structure as mandated by Rule 10, setting forth allegations in sequentially numbered paragraphs. Instead, the complaint begins with a brief two-page recitation of grievances that is largely unaccompanied by any specific, well-pleaded facts. (Id.) Thus, Mr. Klein cryptically cites to two federal criminal statutes dealing with wiretapping and assaults on members of Congress, 18 U.S.C. §§ 351, 2511; alleges a “voilation [sic] of U.S. Constitution, BOA 4thamendment”; and complains of an illegal termination of his electrical service by Met Ed. (Id. at 1-2). Mr. Klein then attaches to this spare narrative some 273 pages of correspondence, documents, and excerpts from various reports, opinions, and polemics, all of which address the perceived dangers of SmartMeter electric meter technology, which Mr. Klein believes causes cancer as well as other ailments and may allow for unlawful surveillance of him and his home. Because of these perceived dangers, it appears that Mr. Klein attempted to cover or conceal his electric meter, actions which inspired Met Ed to write to the plaintiff advising him that obstructing the electric meter could lead to termination of his electric service. (Id.) This exchange with Met Ed, in turn, appears to have inspired Mr. Klein to file the instant lawsuit.

         Like the factual averments in his complaint, Mr. Klein's prayer for relief is somewhat difficult to understand. We gather, however, that Mr. Klein would like to have Met Ed criminally prosecuted. (Id. at 2) (“I iWANT [sic] THEM CHARGED WITH THE CRIMES AS STATED.”). Mr. Klein also seems to seek wide-ranging injunctive relief prescribing what sort of electric meter may be placed on his home, a guarantee that his electric service will not be interrupted, and damages in the amount of “$500, 000 dollars give or take.” (Doc. 31 at 3).

         At the time of the filing of this complaint, Mr. Klein paid the filing fee prescribed by law, and after some halting efforts, service was effected upon the defendants. These defendants have now moved to dismiss Mr. Klein's complaint, citing alleged legal defects in this pleading. (Docs. 21 and 26). At our direction, Mr. Klein has responded to these motions, albeit in a somewhat opaque fashion. (Doc. 31). Therefore, these motions are ripe for resolution.

         For the reasons set forth below, the defendants' motions to dismiss will be granted without prejudice to Mr. Klein endeavoring to file a complaint which complies with federal pleadings standards.

         II. Discussion

         A. Rule 12(b)(6)-Standard of Review

         The defendants have moved to dismiss this complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that a complaint should be dismissed for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). With respect to this benchmark standard for legal sufficiency of a complaint, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has aptly noted the evolving standards governing pleading practice in federal court, stating that:

Standards of pleading have been in the forefront of jurisprudence in recent years. Beginning with the Supreme Court's opinion in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), continuing with our opinion in Phillips [v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 230 (3d Cir. 2008)], and culminating recently with the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __U.S.__, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009), pleading standards have seemingly shifted from simple notice pleading to a more heightened form of pleading, requiring a plaintiff to plead more than the possibility of relief to survive a motion to dismiss.

Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 209-10 (3d Cir. 2009).

         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. Jordan v. Fox Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, Inc., 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). However, a court “need not credit a complaint's bald assertions or legal conclusions when deciding a motion to dismiss.” Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Additionally, a court need not “assume that a . . . plaintiff can prove facts that the . . . plaintiff has not alleged.” Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal. v. California State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). As the Supreme Court held in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), in order to state a valid cause of action a plaintiff must provide some factual grounds for relief which “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of actions will not do.” Id. at 555. “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id.

         In keeping with the principles of Twombly, the Supreme Court has underscored that a trial court must assess whether a complaint states facts upon which relief can be granted when ruling on a motion to dismiss. In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Supreme Court held that, when considering a motion to dismiss, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. at 678. Rather, in conducting a review of the adequacy of complaint, the Supreme Court has advised trial courts that they must:

[B]egin by identifying pleadings that because they are no more than conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.

Id. at 679.

         Thus, following Twombly and Iqbal a well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere legal labels and conclusions. Instead, a complaint must recite factual allegations sufficient to raise the plaintiff's claimed right to relief beyond the level of mere speculation. As the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has stated:

[A]fter Iqbal, when presented with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, district courts should conduct a two-part analysis. First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The District Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Second, a District Court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a “plausible claim for relief.” In other words, a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to “show” such an entitlement with its facts.

Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210-11.

         As the court of ...

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