NELSON v. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA et al
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE TIMOTHY J. SAVAGE ON 8/29/17. 8/29/17 ENTERED & E-MAILED. MAILED TO PRO SE PLAINTIFF. (fdc)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, DET. MILES
#8060, and DET. MACCLAIN #8094
August 29, 2017
In his pro se complaint, Wayne Nelson asserts claims for malicious prosecution,
false arrest and imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress arising out
of his arrest, subsequent imprisonment, and prosecution, which ultimately resulted in a
not guilty verdict. Moving to dismiss, the defendants City of Philadelphia, Detective
James Miles, and Detective Glenn MacClain contend that Nelson has failed to state
claims that they deprived him of his civil rights. The City argues that Nelson has not
alleged a policy or custom which resulted in violations of his constitutional rights. The
individual defendants contend Nelson has failed to allege their personal involvement in
The defendants are correct. Therefore, we shall grant the motion to dismiss with
leave to amend the complaint.
As recited in the complaint, in the late morning of April 28, 2015, Detective
Timothy Cliggett and members of the Fugitive Task Force arrested Nelson.
transported him to the Philadelphia Police Department’s 25th District. He was charged
Compl. (Doc. No. 1) at ECF 3. As we must in considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, we accept the
facts recited in Weston’s complaint and view them in the light most favorable to him.
with attempted murder and related offenses in connection with an incident which had
occurred on April 4, 2015.
At his arraignment, Nelson’s bail was set at one million dollars. Unable to post
bail, he remained in jail for over a year until he was released on June 1, 2016 after he
was found not guilty.
On April 28, 2017, two years after his arrest, Nelson filed this action claiming a
violation of his civil rights. He asserts three claims: malicious prosecution (Count I),
false imprisonment and false arrest (Count II), and intentional infliction of emotional
distress (Count III).
Although Nelson alleges that it was Cliggett who arrested him, he does not name
him as a defendant. Instead, he asserts claims against the City of Philadelphia and
Detectives James Miles and Glenn MacClain, two police officers in the Philadelphia
Police Department’s 25th District, to whom he attributes no misconduct.2
Standard of Review
Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a court may dismiss all or part of an action for “failure
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The
complaint must plead “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). The
plaintiff must allege facts that indicate “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant
has acted unlawfully.”
Pleading only “facts that are ‘merely consistent with’ a
defendant’s liability” is insufficient and cannot survive a motion to dismiss. Id. (quoting
Id. at ECF 2.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
A conclusory recitation of the elements of a cause of action is not sufficient. The
plaintiff must allege facts necessary to make out each element. In other words, the
complaint must contain facts which, if proven later, support a conclusion that the cause
of action can be established.
In assessing the sufficiency of a complaint, a court engages in a three-part
sequential analysis. The court must: (1) identify the elements of the causes of action;
(2) disregard conclusory statements, leaving only factual allegations; and (3) assuming
the truth of those factual allegations, determine whether they plausibly give rise to an
entitlement to relief. Burtch v. Millberg Factors, Inc., 662 F.3d 212, 221 (3d Cir. 2011)
(quoting Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010)).
Additionally, the pro se plaintiff’s pleadings are considered deferentially, affording
him the benefit of the doubt where one exists. Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704
F.3d 239, 244 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing Higgs v. Att’y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir.
2011)). With these standards in mind, we shall accept as true the facts as they appear
in Nelson’s complaint and draw all possible inferences from these facts in his favor.
“To prevail on a § 1983 claim against multiple defendants, a plaintiff must show
that each individual defendant violated his constitutional rights.”
Marasco, 430 F.3d 140, 151 (3d Cir. 2005).
Estate of Smith v.
A plaintiff must establish that each
defendant was personally involved in the alleged wrong. Chavarriaga v. N.J. Dep’t of
Corr., 806 F.3d 210, 222 (3d Cir. 2015) (quoting Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195,
1207 (3d Cir. 1988)). He does so “by describing the defendant’s participating in or
actual knowledge of and acquiescence in the wrongful conduct.” Id. (citing Rode, 845
F.2d at 1207).
In his complaint, Nelson recites the elements of each cause of action. But, he
makes no factual allegations showing what role Miles and MacClain played in the
deprivation of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
Nelson claims that the arresting officers did not have probable cause to arrest
him. He alleges that “the arresting officers did not have facts and circumstances within
their knowledge, or reliable information which would cause a reasonable [sic] prudent
person to believe that the Petitioner had committed or was committing a crime nor did
they have a reasonable suspicion that the petitioner was armed and dangerous and
involved in criminal activity.”3
The arresting officers identified in the complaint are
Cliggett and members of the Fugitive Task Force. He identifies Miles and MacClain as
police officers in the Philadelphia Police Department’s 25th District.
There is no
allegation that they were members of the Fugitive Task Force or otherwise involved in
his arrest, detention, and prosecution.
Nelson does, however, make the conclusory statement that “the detectives did
not do a proper investigation” and exhibited “reckless disregard to proper police
procedure which led to the arrest and detainment of the Petitioner.” 4 He does allege
how Miles or MacClain disregarded procedure, what the procedure was, or how they did
not properly investigate. In sum, Nelson has not sufficiently alleged Miles or MacClain’s
personal involvement in wrongful conduct.
Id. at ECF 4.
Id. at ECF 5.
With respect to Nelson’s claims against the City of Philadelphia, a municipality
may be held liable under § 1983 for injuries inflicted by its agents or employees only if
the injuries were the result of a governmental policy or custom. Bd. of Cty. Comm’rs v.
Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403 (1997) (citing Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S.
658, 694 (1978)); Santiago, 629 F.3d at 135. A governmental policy or custom can be
established by showing either that the decisionmaker possessing final authority to
establish a municipal policy did so by issuing an official statement of policy or that a
governmental custom developed when the official acquiesced to a course of conduct
such that it operated as law. Jiminez v. All Am. Rathskeller, Inc., 503 F.3d 247, 250 (3d
For municipal liability to attach, a plaintiff must demonstrate a “direct causal link
between a municipal policy or custom and the alleged constitutional deprivation.” City
of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385 (1989). The necessary causal link is shown
where (1) the municipality promulgates a policy statement and the injurious act occurs
as a result of an implementation of that policy; (2) the policymaker himself violates
federal law; or (3) the policymaker is deliberately indifferent to the need for action to
correct an inadequate practice that is likely to result in a constitutional violation and fails
to act. Jiminez, 503 F.3d at 249–50.
Nowhere in his complaint does Nelson allege a policy or custom. Nor does he
identify or allege conduct by a municipal decisionmaker. See McTernan v. City of York,
564 F.3d 636, 658–59 (3d Cir. 2009). The complaint references the City of Philadelphia
only in his description of the parties and in the request for relief.
Because he has not alleged a policy or custom or conduct by a municipal
decisionmaker, he has not stated a claim against the City. Thus, we shall dismiss his
claims against the City.
When the complaint does not withstand a 12(b)(6) motion, a curative amendment
must be allowed unless amendment would be inequitable or futile. Estate of Lagano v.
Bergen Cty. Prosecutor’s Office, 769 F.3d 850, 861 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Phillips v.
Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 245 (3d Cir. 2008)); see also Alston v. Parker, 363
F.3d 229, 235 (3d Cir. 2004). Because it appears the pro se plaintiff may be able to
cure the deficiencies we have identified, we shall give him leave to amend. If he files an
amended complaint, he must articulate the factual bases for the claims he intends to
pursue. For Miles and MacClain, he must describe their specific acts which resulted in
the deprivation of his constitutional rights.
As to the City of Philadelphia, he must
identify a municipal decisionmaker and his or her role in a city policy or custom which
led to the deprivation of his constitutional rights.
Nelson has not alleged sufficient facts to state claims against the defendants.
Therefore, we shall grant the motion to dismiss with leave to amend his complaint within
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