YOUNG v. AFUWAPE et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE ROBERT F. KELLY ON 9/5/12. 9/5/12 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE AND E-MAILED TO COUNSEL.(lvj, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
OLESEYI AFYWAPE and
WILLIAM J. PALATUCCI,
ROBERT F. KELLY, Sr. J.
SEPTEMBER 5, 2012
Presently before this Court are Defendants’, Oleseyi Afywape and William J. Palatucci’s
(“Defendants”), Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6), and Plaintiff, Robert Young’s (“Plaintiff”), Response in Opposition. For the
reasons set forth below, this Motion is denied.
This incident took place at Coleman Hall, (“Coleman”), an educational and treatment
center used by the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole located in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. (Compl. at 3.) Plaintiff was a detainee at Coleman, Defendant Afywape a staff
member and Defendant Palatucci was employed as the Vice President of Operations for
Community Education Centers, Inc., which oversees operations at Coleman. (Id.)
On November 7, 2011, Plaintiff, while confined at Coleman in the Tranquility Unit
Secured Section for a sixty day program, was accused of assault by Defendant Afywape. (Id.)
As a result of this accusation, Plaintiff was arrested by the Philadelphia Police Department and
placed in Philadelphia County Prison. (Id.) These charges were later dismissed. (Id.) After the
dismissal, Plaintiff filed a civil complaint under the Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C. § 1983).
(Compl. at 1.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious
prosecution. (Compl. at 3.)
On July 25, 2012, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Plaintiff responded with a Brief in Opposition on August 14, 2012.
We must determine whether Plaintiff has satisfied the pleading requirements and adequately set
forth a claim from which relief may be granted.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency
of a complaint. Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6),
the defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that the plaintiff has failed to set forth a claim
from which relief may be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); see also Lucas v. City of
Philadelphia, No. 11-4376, 2012 WL 1555430, at *2 (E.D. Pa. May 2, 2012) (citing Hedges v.
U.S., 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005)). In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the court must view
any reasonable inferences from the factual allegations in a light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Buck v. Hamilton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2002).
The Supreme Court set forth in Twombly, and further defined in Iqbal, a two-part test to
determine whether to grant or deny a motion to dismiss. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
679 (2009); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The United States Court
of Appeals for the Third Circuit has noted that these cases signify the progression from liberal
pleading requirements to more “exacting scrutiny” of the complaint. Wilson v. City of
Philadelphia, 415 Fed. Appx. 434, 436 (3d Cir. 2011).
Initially, the court must ascertain whether the complaint is supported by well-pleaded
factual allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
Conclusions of law can serve as the foundation of a complaint, but to survive dismissal they must
be supported by factual allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. These factual allegations must be
explicated sufficiently to provide a defendant the type of notice that is contemplated by Rule 8.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) (requiring a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief); see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir.
2008). Where there are well-pleaded facts, courts must assume their truthfulness. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
Upon a finding of a well-pleaded complaint, the court must then determine whether these
allegations “plausibly” give rise to an entitlement to relief. Id. at 679. This is a “context specific
task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.
Plausibility compels the pleadings to contain enough factual content to allow a court to make “a
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 at 570). This is not a probability requirement; rather plausibility
necessitates “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678. “Where a complaint pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with’ a defendant’s
liability, it ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility.’” Id. (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 557). In other words, a complaint must not only allege entitlement to relief, but must
demonstrate such entitlement with sufficient facts to nudge the claim “across the line from
conceivable to plausible.” Id. at 683; see also Holmes v. Gates, 403 Fed. Appx. 670, 673 (3d Cir.
Defendants set forth two main legal arguments in support of the Motion. First,
Defendants assert that the Plaintiff’s claims are barred by the United States Supreme Court’s
(“Supreme Court”) holding in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994). Second,
Defendants claim that Plaintiff’s Complaint must be dismissed because it does not satisfy the
heightened pleading standard announced in Iqbal, fails to allege any personal involvement on
behalf of either Defendant and that allowing Plaintiff to amend the Complaint would be futile.
See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
A. Analysis of the Plaintiff’s Claims in Light of Heck v. Humphrey
Defendants assert that the Supreme Court’s ruling in Heck v. Humphrey prohibits
Plaintiff’s § 1983 claims. However, this argument fails to carry weight as Defendants
misinterpret the Court’s holding.
Heck involved a § 1983 claim by a plaintiff, who was convicted and serving time for
voluntary manslaughter, against the prosecutors and investigators that collaborated in his
conviction.1 Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 478-79 (1994). In the action, Heck sought only
compensatory and punitive monetary relief. Id. Even though Heck did not seek injunctive relief
or release from custody, if Heck’s contentions were validated, his conviction and sentence would
be called into question. Id. The Court expressed apprehension about § 1983 suits that cast doubt
Specifically, Heck alleged that the Defendants engaged in an unlawful, unreasonable and
arbitrary investigation, knowingly destroyed evidence and utilized an illegal voice identification
procedure. Heck, 512 U.S. at 478-79.
upon, even indirectly, the validity of a criminal conviction and sentence. Id. at 487. In this case,
if Heck’s contentions were validated, his conviction and sentence would be called into question.
Id. Thus, § 1983 would become a vehicle for collateral attacks on criminal convictions and
sentences. Id. With this in mind, the Court held that in § 1983 suits, where plaintiff seeks to
recover damages for harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or
sentence invalid, the district court must dismiss the action unless the plaintiff can demonstrate
that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated. Id.
We find Heck inapposite to the case before this Court. Here, the Plaintiff is not alleging
civil rights abuses stemming from a conviction. Quite to the contrary, Plaintiff is seeking judicial
remedy for violations of his civil rights from a non-conviction. Plaintiff’s Complaint adequately
demonstrates that he was acquitted of the assault claim, and therefore, the judicial concerns
apparent in Heck are absent in this case. Id. (asserting the action must be dismissed unless the
plaintiff demonstrates that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated). Thus, Heck
has no bearing on the Plaintiff’s action. Consequently, Defendants’ argument for dismissal on
this ground is denied.
B. Adequacy of the Complaint
We must now determine whether Plaintiff’s Complaint satisfies the pleading
requirements necessary to proceed with the litigation. Defendants assert that Plaintiff’s
Complaint is content deficient. Specifically, Defendants contend that Plaintiff has failed to set
forth any factual allegation implicating the personal involvement of either Defendant.
Defendants cite to case law positing that liability under § 1983 requires a showing of personal
involvement by the defendant in the alleged action. See Johnson v. Miller, 925 F.Supp. 334, 337
(E.D. Pa. 1996). Defendants’ argue that these deficiencies warrant dismissal with prejudice.
After careful scrutiny of the Plaintiff’s Complaint, we agree with the Defendants’ arguments and
find that the Complaint is inadequate. However, this finding does not end the analysis. Next, we
must determine whether Plaintiff should be given an opportunity to amend the deficient
Decades of clear judicial precedent mandate that “in civil rights cases district courts must
offer amendment – irrespective of whether it is requested – when dismissing a case for failure to
state a claim unless doing so would be inequitable or futile.” Fletcher-Harlee Corp. v. Pote
Concrete Contractors, Inc., 482 F.3d 247, 251 (3d Cir. 2007); Darr v. Wolfe, 767 F.2d 79, 80-81
(3d Cir. 1985); Kauffman v. Moss, 420 F.2d 1270, 1276 (3d Cir. 1970); I-Keim Smith v. Lt. J.
Price, No. 11-1581, 2012 WL 1068159, at *5 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 5, 2012). Historically, in civil
rights cases, which compelled a heightened level of pleading, courts utilized an “amendment
rule” in an effort to shelter colorable claims from premature dismissal. Fletcher-Harlee Corp.,
482 F.3d at 251. However, the 1990's saw the heightened pleading requirements give way to the
more lenient notice pleading standards. See Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence
& Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 168 (1993); Abbott v. Latshaw, 164 F.3d 141, 148 (3d Cir.
1998). In spite of this change, this Circuit has continued to apply the “amendment rule” in civil
rights cases going so far as to find that leave to amend must be granted sua sponte before
dismissing these actions. Fletcher-Harlee Corp., 482 F.3d at 252. Additionally, courts have
consistently asserted that claims by pro se plaintiffs are especially vulnerable, and merit
significant consideration into allowing amendment of the complaint. See Id.; see also Darr, 767
F.2d at 80-81; Kauffman, 420 F.2d at 1276. This is particularly necessary now that the pleading
standards have returned to their heightened state in light of Twombly and Iqbal. See Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 679; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Here, taking into consideration the ample precedent and
Plaintiff’s pro se status, we deny Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss in order to allow Plaintiff an
opportunity to amend the Complaint.
Finally, Defendants contend that Plaintiff should not be afforded an opportunity to amend
because doing so would be futile. However, Defendants’ futility argument is premised on their
incorrect interpretation of Heck v. Humphrey. Accordingly, we find no legal support for this
argument. Additionally, our decision rests on decades of judicial precedent allowing plaintiffs in
§ 1983 actions an opportunity to amend its Complaint.
With due regard for Plaintiff’s pro se status and our previous denial of the appointment of
counsel, we believe it prudent to provide clear guidelines for the Plaintiff to follow in amending
the Complaint. As an initial matter, it is important to note that if Plaintiff files an Amended
Complaint, it invalidates the original Complaint. Therefore, Plaintiff must include all the
necessary information from the original Complaint in the Amended Complaint. He cannot rely
on any information solely found in his original Complaint.
The Amended Complaint should begin by naming the defendants. Specifically, Plaintiff
must answer the question, “who is he suing?” Next, Plaintiff must clearly specify the offensive
activities that each Defendant allegedly undertook which give rise to this lawsuit. Simply,
Plaintiff must state “why and for what actions is he suing each Defendant?” It is important that
Plaintiff state specific facts here so his claim rises above mere speculation. Simply naming
Defendants and alleging that they acted wrongfully will not suffice. Conclusions of law can
serve as the foundation of a complaint, but to survive dismissal they must be supported by factual
allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. These factual allegations must be sufficient to allow the
court to make a reasonable inference that the Defendants are liable for the misconduct alleged.
Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 at 570). Additionally, Plaintiff should set forth his allegations
against each Defendant individually. Civil rights actions under § 1983 require allegations of
personal involvement by each of the defendants. Johnson v. Miller, 925 F. Supp. At 337.
Finally, Plaintiff must indicate the relief sought. Here, it appears the Plaintiff is seeking
monetary compensation, so he must state the amount requested. We note that the amount sought
in compensatory and punitive damages differs between Plaintiff’s Complaint and his Response in
Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss. In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff should specify
exactly what type and the amount of damages he seeks.
In conclusion, we find Plaintiff’s Complaint unsatisfactory and allow him thirty days to
file an amended complaint if he so chooses. However, we counsel Plaintiff that if he fails to file
an Amended Complaint within the thirty days that we will dismiss the case for failing to state a
claim from which relief can be granted. If Plaintiff files an Amended Complaint that neglects to
follow the requirements set forth in this Memorandum, his case could be dismissed.
For the aforementioned reasons, we deny Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss and allow the
Plaintiff thirty days to properly amend his Complaint. We caution Plaintiff to carefully follow
the guidelines set forth in this opinion or his claim may be dismissed without leave to amend.
An appropriate Order follows.
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