O'NEAL v. ROGERS et al
MEMORANDUM. AN APPROPRIATE ORDER FOLLOWS.. SIGNED BY HONORABLE LAWRENCE F. STENGEL ON 8/27/15. 8/27/15 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED PRO SE PLFF., E-MAILED TO COUNSEL, 1 COPY TO LEGAL BIN.(pr, ) Modified on 8/27/2015 (pr, ).
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
JAMISON ROGERS, et al.,
August 27, 2015
This § 1983 action alleges civil rights violations related to an arrest involving
several police officers. The plaintiff claims that the officers are liable for either using
excessive force and/or failing to intervene. Defendant Edward Murphy moves to dismiss.
For the reasons stated below, I will deny his motion.
On June 16, 2012, Plaintiff Dehaven O’Neal was visiting the gravesite of a
recently deceased friend when he was approached by Officer Rogers of the Chester City
Police Department. He “attempted to flee and a car chase ensued.” During the course of
the car chase, the plaintiff crashed his vehicle and fled on foot. The police pursued him
Allegedly, Officer John a-Stiles of the Upland Police Department approached the
plaintiff with a Taser drawn. Seeing this, the plaintiff allegedly “stretched out his arms
Information contained in this section is taken from the complaint, unless otherwise noted. See Compl., Doc. No. 1.
and laid on the ground [on his stomach] with his hands out to the side and surrendered.”
Several officers then approached the plaintiff with guns drawn, cursed at him, and made
threats of physical harm. Allegedly, one officer jumped on the plaintiff’s back and tased
the plaintiff profusely in his neck. The plaintiff allegedly screamed, “You got me, You
got me,” “Stop, Stop,” and “Help!” Allegedly the officers continued to punch and kick
the plaintiff even after he was handcuffed.
According to the complaint, the plaintiff became unconscious, vomited, and was
bleeding from his face and head. The plaintiff was taken to Crozer Hospital where he was
X-rayed. An abnormality was found in his brain. He was transported to the Hospital of
the University of Pennsylvania the next day. Another X-ray and MRI showed that there
was an anomaly in his brain the size of a tangerine behind his eye.
The plaintiff filed this complaint pro se on June 13, 2014. The plaintiff claims that
he continues to suffer from double vision and headaches. He claims the officers’
excessive use of force caused his injuries. The plaintiff brings claims against Officer
Jamison Rogers of the Chester City Police Department, Constable Edward Murphy of
Delaware County, Officer John Doe One of the City of Chester Police, and Officer Johna-Stiles of the Upland Police Department. He claims that the officers were either directly
involved in his arrest or were in the area when he was being beaten but failed to stop the
use of excessive force. The plaintiff asserts a failure to protect claim, bystander liability
claim, and excessive force claim. Defendant Murphy moved to dismiss under Rule
A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted examines the legal
sufficiency of the complaint.3 Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). The factual
allegations must be sufficient to make the claim for relief more than just speculative. Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). In determining whether to grant a
motion to dismiss, a federal court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as
true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Id.; see also D.P. Enters.
v. Bucks County Cmty. Coll., 725 F.2d 943, 944 (3d Cir. 1984).
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a plaintiff to plead in detail all
of the facts upon which he bases his claims. Conley, 355 U.S. at 47. Rather, the Rules
require a “short and plain statement” of the claim that will give the defendant fair notice
of the plaintiff’s claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Id. The “complaint must
allege facts suggestive of [the proscribed] conduct.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 564. Neither
“bald assertions” nor “vague and conclusory allegations” are accepted as true. See Morse
v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997); Sterling v. Se. Pa.
The plaintiff did not file a response to this motion. He later alerted the court to the fact that he did not receive the
motion. I ordered the defendant to re-serve the motion and gave the plaintiff additional time to file a response. He
did not respond.
In deciding a motion to dismiss, the court should consider the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the
complaint, and matters of public record. See Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d
1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). The court may also consider “undisputedly authentic” documents when the plaintiff's
claims are based on the documents and the defendant has attached copies of the documents to the motion to dismiss.
Transp. Auth., 897 F. Supp. 893 (E.D. Pa. 1995). The claim must contain enough factual
matters to suggest the required elements of the claim or to “raise a reasonable expectation
that discovery will reveal evidence of” those elements. Phillips v. County of Allegheny,
515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
A court “may dismiss a complaint only if it is clear that no relief could be granted
under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations.” Brown v.
Card Serv. Ctr., 464 F.3d 450, 456 (3d Cir. 2006)(quoting Hishon v. King & Spalding,
467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)). In resolving motions pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), courts must
liberally construe pro se pleadings. See, e.g., Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520–521
(1972); United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir.1992).
The defendant argues that he could not possibly have been liable for the claims
asserted against him because he himself was a victim of the plaintiff’s misconduct. He
offers three documents to support his argument: 1) the police incident report, 2) the
plaintiff’s application to proceed in forma pauperis in this case, and 3) the state court
docket regarding the plaintiff’s arrest. See Doc. No. 9, Ex. B, C, D. The defendant asks
me to take judicial notice of these documents.
A court “must take judicial notice if a party requests it and the court is supplied
with the necessary information.” FED. R. EVID. 201(c). Judicial notice can be taken at any
stage of a case. FED. R. EVID. 201(d). Matters of public record or facts that can be
accurately and readily determined to be accurate may be judicially noticed. See FED. R.
EVID. 201(b); City of Pittsburgh v. West Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 259 (3d Cir.
1998); Oran v. Stafford, 226 F.3d 275, 289 (3d Cir. 2000). “[A] court may consider an
undisputedly authentic document that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to
dismiss if the plaintiff's claims are based on the document.” Pension Ben. Guar. Corp. v.
White Consol. Industries, Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). Matters of public
records may be judicially noticed. See Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38
F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994). Since all three documents are matters of public
record, I will take judicial notice of them.4
According to the police incident report, prepared by Officer Rogers, the plaintiff’s
vehicle hit the unmarked Constable vehicle that Constable Murphy was driving.
Constable Murphy, however, was not a part of the police chase of the plaintiff. He just
happened to be in the same area as the chase.5 Constable Murphy was reported as being
taken to the hospital “for an evaluation of possible injuries.” His injuries were listed a
“non-capacitating.” Four other civilians were listed as victims from the police pursuit
and were taken to the hospital for “non-incapacitating injuries.” Mr. O’Neal was also
taken to the hospital for “apparent minor injuries;” he was the only person listed as
having been injured during the incident. According to the report, these “possible injuries”
were the result of the vehicle pursuit.
See Lawson v. City of Coasteville, No. 12–6100, 2013 WL 4596129, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 29, 2013)(“Information
contained in police incident reports are considered matters of public record.”)(citing Gallis v. Borough of Dickson
City, 3:05 CV 551, 2006 WL 2850633, at *7 (M.D. Pa. Oct.3, 2006)); In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114
F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir.1997)(“As a general matter, a district court ruling on a motion to dismiss may not consider
matters extraneous to the pleadings. However, an exception to the general rule is that a document integral to or
explicitly relied upon in the complaint may be considered ....”)(emphasis omitted)(citations omitted)(internal
quotation marks omitted).
From the report, it appears that he was on duty, being listed in the “victims” section as “law enforcement in the line
The report offers a similar rendering of events to those in the complaint—a police
pursuit by car, followed by a foot pursuit. The report offers little details about the actual
arrest of the plaintiff and simply states: “I gave chase after the actor on foot into the front
yard of [a residence] where he was taken into custody by myself along with assisting
officers.” From what the report outlines, it appears that the chase took place within a 4 to
5 block radius in the City of Chester.
The criminal docket from the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County shows
that the plaintiff was charged with reckless endangerment of another person, fleeing or
attempting to elude officer, and driving with a suspended license. He pled guilty to these
charges and was ordered to pay $650 in restitution to Defendant Murphy.6 All other
charges were dropped. The plaintiff’s IFP petition, filed in this court on July 21, 2014,
indicates that he is owes restitution to Defendant Murphy. See Doc. No. 3.
The defendant provides all this information to show that he “was a victim of the
plaintiff’s criminal conduct” and “was not involved in the apprehension of plaintiff.”
Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss, Doc. No. 9 at 1. The defendant claims that the plaintiff
named Defendant Murphy because he was either confused by the police reports or wants
to get back at the defendant. Either way, the defendant argues that the plaintiff
erroneously sued him.
Dismissal is warranted “only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any
set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations.” Brown v. Card Serv.
Ctr., 464 F.3d 450, 456 (3d Cir. 2006)(quoting Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69,
He was also ordered to pay restitution to two other victims, totaling over $3000 in additional monies owed.
73 (1984)). At this stage of litigation, I am required to “accept all factual allegations as
true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine
whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to
relief.” Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). I also must
liberally construe the complaint because the plaintiff is pro se and not trained in the law.
See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520–521 (1972).
Reviewing both the facts provides in the complaint and those offered in the
judicially noticed documents under these standards, I cannot say that they provide no
basis for relief. While Defendant Murphy has provided evidence that he was a victim of a
vehicular crash involving the plaintiff, he has not shown that he was not involved in the
plaintiff’s arrest. As the report states, several officers were involved in this arrest. The
report does not identify these officers. Defendant Murphy was in the vicinity of the arrest.
The plaintiff claims that he was on his stomach when the arresting officers began
to tase and beat him. At one point, he was allegedly unconscious. Viewing these facts in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff, it is likely that he did not know which officers
were involved in his arrest. The plaintiff brings both claims of excessive force and failure
to protect against Defendant Murphy. It is plausible that Defendant Murphy could be
liable for one or both of those claims. The fact that he was a victim with “noncapacitating injuries” who was owed restitution does not establish that he was not
involved in the arrest of the plaintiff nor failed to prevent excessive force to be used on
the plaintiff during his arrest.
For the reasons states above, I will deny Defendant Murphy’s motion to dismiss.
An appropriate Order follows.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?