United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
MICHAEL DOWDALL, FREEDOM RANCH FRAMS, LLC, COLEEN DOWDALL and PHOENIX RISING STABLES, LLC, Plaintiffs,
DOWNS RACING, L.P. and ANTHONY MARCHELLI, Defendants.
Richard Caputo, United States District Judge.
before me are motions to dismiss plaintiffs, Michael Dowdall,
Coleen Dowdall, Freedom Ranch Farms, LLC, and Phoenix Rising
Stables, LLC, (collectively “the Plaintiffs”)
complaint against the Defendants, Downs Racing, L.P. and
Anthony Marchelli. (See Docs 2, 13). Marchelli filed
a Motion to Dismiss the third count of the complaint,
wrongful search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment, which
was alleged against him, arguing that the Plaintiffs have
failed to state a cognizable claim. (See Doc. 2).
Because the Plaintiffs have not adequately plead count three,
wrongful search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment,
Marchelli's Motion to Dismiss will be granted. Pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1367, the remaining counts, which came
before me on the basis of supplemental jurisdiction, will be
remanded to state court for further proceedings.
facts from the Plaintiffs' Complaint (Doc. 1-2), taken as
true and viewed in the light most favorable to the
Plaintiffs, are as follows:
Dowdall is a racehorse trainer with over thirty years of
experience in the industry. (Doc. 1-2, at 8 ¶ 8). He has
raced in over 4, 600 races in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New
York. (Doc. 1-2, at 8 ¶ 8). From 2015 through 2017, he
earned over $2, 700, 000 in purse winnings. (Doc. 1-2, at 8
¶ 8). Dowdall has been racing horses at the Mohegan Sun
at Pocono Downs racetrack (“Pocono Downs”) for
five years, which is incorporated as Downs Racing, L.P. (Doc.
1-2, at 8 ¶¶ 5, 9). Dowdall trains and races horses
through his company Freedom Ranch Farms, LLC. (Doc. 1-2 at 8
spring 2018, Dowdall applied to race at Pocono Downs by
filing an application for nine racehorses that he had
trained. (Doc. 1-2, at 8 ¶ 12, 17-20). Pocono Downs
accepted his application. (Doc. 1-2 at 9 ¶ 14). On April
10, 2018, Dowdall was preparing two of his horses,
“Love Forbidden” and “Believe in the
Spirit, ” for a race. (Doc. 1-2 at 9 ¶ 15). While
in the stables at Pocono Downs, Dowdall was approached by
Marchelli, who was acting as an agent of the State Horse
Racing Commission, Bureau of Standardbred Horse Racing (the
“commission”). (Doc. 1-2 at 9 ¶ 16). This
Bureau is situated in the Pennsylvania Department of
Agriculture and is responsible for protecting the integrity
of Standardbred Racing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
(Doc. 1-2 at 9 ¶ 17). Marchelli approached Dowdall when
he was feeding his horses “an all-natural supplement,
” designed to treat their allergies, and demanded
permission to test the supplement. (Doc. 1-2 at 9 ¶ 17).
He also insisted on searching Dowdall's person and the
surrounding area for contraband. (Doc. 1-2 at 10 ¶ 21).
Dowdall largely complied with Marchelli's requests,
allowing Marchelli to confiscate the all-natural herbal
supplement and search the premises, but not his person. (Doc.
1-2 at 10 ¶ 23). Marchelli refused to allow
Dowdall's horses to compete, because he believed Dowdall
had administered a Schedule 1 or Schedule 2 narcotic to them
and proceeded to initiate a proceeding before the Bureau of
Standard Bred Horses. (Doc. 1-2 at 10 ¶ 25, 28). The
proceeding resulted in Dowdall receiving a penalty. (Doc. 1-2
at 11 ¶ 29). Dowdall ultimately settled with the
Bureau's Director and Marchelli by agreeing not to pursue
an appeal in exchange for a $2, 000 fine and a fifteen day
suspension among other stipulations. (Doc. 1-2 at 11 ¶
29). Notwithstanding this agreement, Pocono Downs has (1)
indefinitely barred Dowdall from racing any horses at its
racetrack and (2) banned any of the horses previously entered
by Dowdall from being entered and raced by a different
trainer. (Doc. 1-2 at 11 ¶ 30-31).
summer 2018, Dowdall's wife Coleen Dowdall, the owner and
operator of Phoenix Rising Stables, LLC, attempted to race a
horse, which she owns and a non-party trains, at Pocono Downs
. (Doc. 1-2 at 12 ¶ 34). The Director of Pocono Downs,
however, refused the horse, explaining that any horse either
trained by her husband or trained at a farm where her husband
also trains other horses is banned from Pocono Downs. (Doc.
1-2 at 12 ¶ 35). Due to Pocono Downs's treatment of
the Plaintiffs, specifically the ban imposed on their horses
and/or horses that they have trained, the Plaintiffs claim
that they have experienced significant financial detriment.
(Doc. 1-2 at 12 ¶ 36).
Plaintiffs originally filed this action in the Court of
Common Pleas of Luzerne County, and it was timely removed.
(Doc. 1). Marchelli's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 2) has been
fully briefed and is ripe for review.
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal
of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 12(b)(6). “A pleading that states a claim for
relief must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). The statement required by Rule 8(a)(2)
must give the defendant fair notice of the grounds for the
claim. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007)
(per curiam). While detailed factual allegations are
not required, conclusory statements that allege the
complainant is entitled to relief are inadequate. Fowler
v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009).
Legal conclusions that provide the framework for a complaint
must be supported by factual allegations. Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).
considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court is limited to
determining if a plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in
support of his or her claims. See Semerenko v. Cendant
Corp., 223 F.3d 165, 173 (3d Cir. 2000). A court does
not consider whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail.
Id. The inquiry at the motion to dismiss stage is
“normally broken into three parts: (1) identifying the
elements of the claim, (2) reviewing the complaint to strike
conclusory allegations, and then (3) looking at the
well-pleaded components of the complaint and evaluating
whether all of the elements identified in part one of the
inquiry are sufficiently alleged.” Malleus v.
George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011). If there are
well-pleaded factual allegations, then a court must assume
their truthfulness in deciding whether they raise an
entitlement to relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 679 (2007). Dismissal is only appropriate when,
accepting as true all the facts alleged in the complaint,
Plaintiff has not plead enough factual allegations to provide
a reasonable expectation that discovery will lead to evidence
of each necessary element. Phillips v. County of
Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008).
deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court considers the
allegations in the complaint and exhibits attached to the
complaint. Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 230 (3d
Cir. 2010). In addition to the complaint and any exhibits
attached, a court may examine “legal arguments
presented in memorandums or briefs and arguments of
counsel.” Pryor v. NCAA, 288 F.3d 548, 560 (3d
Cir. 2002) (quotation omitted). A court may also consider a
“document integral or explicitly relied upon in the
complaint.” In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec.
Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997). At bottom,
documents may be examined by a court when ruling on a motion
to dismiss when the plaintiff had proper notice of the
existence of the documents. Id. A court need not
assume the plaintiff can prove facts that were not alleged in
the complaint, see City of Pittsburgh v. W. Penn Power
Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 & n.13 (3d Cir. 1998), or
credit a complaint's “‘bald
assertions'” or “‘legal
conclusions.'” Morse v. Lower Merion Sch.
Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting In
re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410,
1429-30 (3d Cir. 1997)).
Plaintiffs allege three claims, counts one and two, breach of
contract and promissory estoppel respectively, against Downs
Racing, L.P. and count three, wrongful search and seizure
under the Fourth Amendment, against Marchelli. (See
Doc. 1-2, at 12-15). Marchelli moves separately to dismiss