WESTON v. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION SIGNED BY HONORABLE TIMOTHY J. SAVAGE ON 8/29/17. 8/29/17 ENTERED AND COPIES E-MAILED. (va, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
RAYMOND L. WESTON
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, COMMISSIONER :
CHARLES H. RAMSEY, SERGEANT
DIDONATO, SERGEANT GUILIAN,
LIEUTENANT JOHN DOE, CAPTAIN JOHN :
DOE, CAPTAIN DETECTIVE JOHN DOE,
POLICE OFFICER HULMES, POLICE
OFFICER BANNING, POLICE OFFICER
QUINN, POLICE OFFICER LYNCH, POLICE :
OFFICER JONES, and POLICE OFFICERS :
JOHN DOE 1–2
August 29, 2017
In his complaint, Raymond Weston asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
unlawful search and seizure (First Count), excessive bail (Second Count), and malicious
prosecution (Third Count) against seven defendant police officers (defendant officers),
and failure-to-train (Fourth Count) and failure-to-discipline (Fifth Count) against the City
of Philadelphia and then-Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey. He also asserts
state-law claims for false arrest and false imprisonment (Sixth Count), malicious
prosecution (Seventh Count), and intentional infliction of emotional distress (Eighth
Count) against the defendant officers. The defendants, except Hulmes,1 have moved to
dismiss the complaint.
We shall grant the motion to dismiss in part and deny it in part. Weston’s § 1983
claims for unlawful search and seizure, excessive bail, and false arrest and
The docket does not reflect that Officer Hulmes was served.
imprisonment claims are barred by the statute of limitations.
His claims based on
malicious prosecution are not time-barred. Although he has not stated a Monell claim
against the City, he has sufficiently alleged individual liability of each of defendant
Weston’s ordeal began on December 20, 2013, when police officers from the
Narcotics Strike Force stopped him on the street.3 They searched him, taking two cell
phones and a set of keys.4 They then placed him under arrest.5 While Weston was
detained, Jones gave the keys to Hulmes.6 Without a search warrant, Hulmes and
other officers entered Weston’s residence.7
Inside, they detained his girlfriend,
searched the premises, and removed cash.8
Although he had not committed a crime, Weston was charged with intentionally
possessing a controlled substance, intent to deliver a controlled substance, conspiracy,
possession of a prohibited firearm, and possession of an instrument of crime with intent
to employ it criminally.9
Unable to post bail, Weston remained in jail for eighteen
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.
Compl. ¶¶ 25–26.
Id. ¶ 27.
Id. ¶ 28.
Id. ¶ 29.
Id. ¶ 32. Weston does not allege when he was charged and when his bail was set. We infer
they occurred on December 20, 2013, the date he was stopped, searched, and arrested.
In June 2015, all charges against him were dismissed and he was
According to the complaint, he was released “when it became known that
Defendant Officer Hulmes and other members of the Narcotic Strike Force may have
planted evidence, falsified documents/affidavits, lied in court, and assaulted and robbed
By the time he was released, Weston had lost his job, home, and belongings.13
He claims the officers “caused severe physical and psychological harm.”14 After his
release, he started seeing a psychotherapist.15 He filed this action on May 30, 2017,
three and a half years after his arrest.
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. ¶ 34. Weston alleges that his bail was set at either $50,000 or $500,000. Id. ¶¶ 33, 34.
Id. ¶ 35.
Id. ¶ 39.
Id. ¶ 37.
Id. ¶ 41.
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
It 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)).
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations in a § 1983 action is governed by the limitations period
applicable to personal injury actions of the state where the cause of action arose. Kach
v. Hose, 589 F.3d 626, 634 (3d Cir. 2009). The Pennsylvania statute of limitations for a
personal injury action is two years. Id. (citing 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5524(2)). Thus, the
statute of limitations for § 1983 claims arising in Pennsylvania is two years.
Weston argues that the statute of limitations did not begin to run until June 2015,
when the charges against him were dismissed and he learned that the defendant
officers “may have planted evidence, falsified documents/affidavits, lied in court, and
assaulted and robbed suspects.”16 Contrary to his argument, Weston’s claims based on
false arrest and false imprisonment, unlawful search and seizure, and excessive bail
Id. ¶ 35.
accrued on December 20, 2013, the date he was stopped, searched, arrested, charged,
and bail was set. His malicious prosecution claim, however, did not accrue until June
2015, when the charges were dismissed.
Citing Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384 (2007), Weston argues that the statute of
limitations does not bar his false arrest and false imprisonment claims because the
“[l]imitations begin to run against an action for false imprisonment when the alleged
false imprisonment ends.” Id. at 389 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting 2 H.
Wood, Limitation of Actions § 187d(4), at 878 (rev. 4th ed. 1916)).
asserts that his false arrest and false imprisonment ended in June 2015, when the
charges were dismissed and he was released from prison.
An arrest lacking probable cause, as is the case here, can support a cause of
action not only for false arrest, but also for false imprisonment.
A § 1983 Fourth
Amendment claim for false imprisonment is “based on a detention pursuant to that
arrest.” Groman v. Twp. of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 636 (3d Cir. 1995). Where a
person is imprisoned after having been arrested without probable cause, the
imprisonment is deemed false because it was based upon an illegal arrest. Once the
person is held on the charges by a judicial authority, the detention is no longer
dependent on the false arrest, but rather on a judicial determination. In other words, at
the time the plaintiff is held by a judicial authority, his claim transforms from false
imprisonment to malicious prosecution—the false imprisonment ends and the malicious
prosecution begins at that point.
Because “[t]he sort of unlawful detention remediable by the tort of false
imprisonment is detention without legal process . . . . a false imprisonment ends once
the victim becomes held pursuant to such process—when, for example, he is bound
over by a magistrate or arraigned on charges.” Wallace, 549 U.S. at 389; see also Hunt
v. City of Scranton, 236 F. App’x 740, 743 (3d Cir. 2007). Accordingly, “‘[l]imitations
begin to run against an action for false imprisonment when the alleged false
imprisonment ends.’” Id. at 387 (quoting 2 H. Wood, supra, § 187d(4), at 878). Thus,
the statute of limitations for claims based on false arrest and false imprisonment begins
to run when the plaintiff is detained pursuant to legal process. Wallace, 549 U.S. at
Weston was charged on December 20, 2013, the same day he was falsely
arrested. He did not file this action until May 30, 2017. Thus, his false arrest and false
imprisonment claims, having accrued more than two years before he filed this action,
are barred by the statute of limitations.
Although Weston’s false arrest and false imprisonment claims are barred by the
statute of limitations, his malicious prosecution claims are not. “[P]retrial detention can
violate the Fourth Amendment not only when it precedes, but also when it follows, the
start of legal process in a criminal case.” Manuel v. City of Joliet, 137 S. Ct. 911, 918
Although the tort of false imprisonment ends when legal process begins,
“unlawful detention forms part of the damages for the ‘entirely distinct’ tort of malicious
prosecution, which remedies detention accompanied, not by absence of legal process,
but by wrongful institution of legal process.” Wallace, 549 U.S. at 390.
In other words, Weston states a claim for the continuing violation of his Fourth
Amendment rights after legal process began—detention pursuant to legal process
based on falsified statements and unlawful search and seizure.
That claim is for
malicious prosecution. See Manuel, 137 S. Ct. at 921 & n.4 (citing McKenna v. City of
Phila., 582 F.3d 447, 461 (3d Cir. 2009)) (including the Third Circuit among the majority
of circuits that have recognized a Fourth Amendment malicious prosecution claim for
Manuel’s claim for unlawful detention).
Unlike a claim for false imprisonment, a claim for malicious prosecution accrues
upon the favorable termination of criminal proceedings. Curry v. Yachera, 835 F.3d
373, 379 (3d Cir. 2016) (quoting Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 489 (1994)).
Weston’s malicious prosecution claims did not accrue until the charges were dismissed
and he was released in June 2015. He filed his complaint in May 2017. Therefore, the
two-year statute of limitations does not bar his malicious prosecution claims and his
failure-to-train, failure-to-supervise, and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims
to the extent they are based on malicious prosecution.
To establish a Fourth Amendment claim of malicious prosecution under § 1983, a
plaintiff must show that: (1) the defendant initiated a criminal proceeding; (2) the
criminal proceeding ended in his favor; (3) the proceeding was initiated without probable
cause; (4) the defendant acted maliciously or for a purpose other than bringing him to
justice; and (5) he suffered deprivation of liberty consistent with the concept of seizure
as a consequence of a legal proceeding. Kossler v. Crisanti, 564 F.3d 181, 186 (3d Cir.
2009) (citing Estate of Smith v. Marasco, 318 F.3d 497, 521 (3d Cir. 2003)).
establish a claim of common-law malicious prosecution resulting in a criminal
proceeding under Pennsylvania law, a plaintiff need not show the fifth element, a
seizure consistent with the Fourth Amendment. Id. at 186 n.2 (citing Merkle v. Upper
Dublin Sch. Dist., 211 F.3d 782, 791 (3d Cir. 2000)).
There is no question that Weston has alleged each of the essential elements of a
malicious prosecution cause of action. Whether he has sufficiently alleged what each
defendant did or did not do to be held responsible is the question.
“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).
Weston alleges Hulmes and Jones actually participated in illegal conduct. He
alleges that Jones arrested him and seized his keys in the search and gave them to
Hulmes, who used them to enter his home with other officers without a search warrant.
He further alleges that Hulmes and the other officers “fabricated affidavits” and “planted
evidence, falsified documents/affidavits, lied in court, and assaulted and robbed
suspects.”17 He does not provide any specific allegations about the other individual
Although his complaint is not precise in identifying what each defendant allegedly
did, Weston states, albeit barely, enough to implicate all defendant officers in the illegal
arrest, search, detention, and prosecution.
Id. ¶¶ 32, 33, 35.
He alleges, after naming the individual
police officers, that the “Defendant Officers stopped, detained, and searched
Plaintiff. . . . Officer Hulmes and other officers entered [his home] without a search
He also claims the “Defendant Officers,” by fabricating and falsifying
affidavits, have been “unlawfully arresting and prosecuting individuals.”19 Throughout
the complaint, Weston attributes the illegal conduct resulting in the violation of his
constitutional rights to Hulmes, Jones, and the “other Defendant Officers.”
Drawing all reasonable inferences in Weston’s favor, as we must, we conclude
he has sufficiently alleged the personal involvement or acquiescence of each of the
He has alleged that each one participated in, knew of, and/or
acquiesced in the constitutional violations. That is enough to overcome a motion to
Because Weston’s malicious prosecution claim survives dismissal, we must
consider whether he has sufficiently stated claims for failure-to-train and failure-tosupervise related to the alleged malicious prosecution. 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
Id. ¶¶ 26, 28.
Id. ¶ 30.
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
A § 1983 claim against a municipality may not be predicated on respondeat
superior. Monell, 436 U.S. at 694. Although a municipality may be liable for failure to
train its employees, such a failure results in liability only if it amounts to “deliberate
indifference” to the rights of those with whom the employees come into contact. City of
Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 388 (1989); Thomas v. Cumberland Cty., 749 F.3d 217,
222 (3d Cir. 2014).
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, 489 U.S. at 385. The necessary causal link is shown where the municipality
promulgates a policy statement and the injurious act occurs as a result of an
implementation of that policy; the policymaker himself violates a federal law; or 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.
Viewing the complaint in the light most favorable to Weston, we conclude that he
has not stated a cause of action for municipal liability.
He has named the
decisionmaker, former Commissioner Ramsey. 20 But, he has not alleged any facts that
show what Ramsey did or did not do. Instead, he makes the conclusory statement that
the City and Commissioner Ramsey “exhibited a deliberate indifference to the
Id. ¶¶ 63, 69.
supervision and training of Defendant Officers.”21
The fatal flaw is his allegation that the practice did not become known until June
2015. He alleges that “[a]fter being incarcerated for 18 months, Plaintiff was released in
June 2015, when all charges against him were dismissed when it became known that
Defendant Officer Hulmes and other members of the Narcotic Strike Force may have
planted evidence, falsified documents/affidavits, lied in court, and assaulted and robbed
suspects,” presumably including suspects other than Weston himself.22 By Weston’s
own allegation, Ramsey could not have known of “the practice” or custom of fabricating
evidence and falsifying affidavits until after the charges against Weston had been
“Proof of a single incident of unconstitutional activity is not sufficient to impose
liability under Monell, unless proof of the incident includes proof that it was caused by
an existing, unconstitutional [government] policy, which policy can be attributed to a . . .
policymaker.” City of Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 823–24 (1985). Weston’s
allegations, if proven, fall far short of this threshold.
He makes only conclusory
statements which, viewed in the light most favorable to him, fail to show any link
between a failure-to-train or a failure-to-supervise and the constitutional injury he
Weston has alleged that the City and Ramsey inadequately trained and
supervised the “narcotics unit on proper searches, seizures, documentation preparation
Id. ¶ 65.
Id. ¶ 35.
He claims there was a “pattern, practice, and custom of not
Id. ¶ 64.
properly disciplining Defendant Officers in the Philadelphia Police Department,
specifically officers in the Narcotics Strike Force, who violated individuals’ rights by
engaging in improper search and seizures, arrests, and prosecutions of individuals.” 24
Weston alleges that the failure to properly train and supervise the officers resulted in his
Weston has not alleged how the City failed to train or supervise the Narcotics
Strike Force. He only sets out the consequences of the alleged failure-to-train and
failure-to-supervise. See Thomas, 749 F.3d at 226 (“Liability cannot rest only on a
showing that the employees could have been better trained or that additional training
was available that would have reduced the overall risk of constitutional injury. [T]he
causation inquiry focuses on whether the injury [could] have been avoided had the
employee been trained under a program that was not deficient in the identified respect.”
(quotations omitted)). Nor has he alleged any affirmative decisions taken by the City or
a decisionmaker. See Brown v. Muhlenberg Twp., 269 F.3d 205, 215 (3d Cir. 2001)
(internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting City of Canton, 489 U.S. at 388) (“A
municipality’s failure to train its police officers can subject it to liability, however, only
where [it] reflects a deliberate or conscious choice by [the] municipality—a policy as
defined in Supreme Court cases.”).
Weston’s statements are short on details. Even the most expansive and liberal
reading of the complaint does not permit one to find that he was harmed by a continuing
custom of failing to train and supervise officers whose conduct resulted in improper
Id. ¶ 70.
Id. ¶¶ 66, 71.
prosecutions. He does not allege facts, which if proven, could show how the City and
Ramsey failed to train and supervise.
Weston’s complaint does not allege facts
identifying the policy or custom that is necessary upon which to premise Monell liability,
or how it caused the constitutional violation. Nor does it allege that the policymaker had
prior notice through a pattern of similar constitutional violations. The complaint contains
no facts that could support the conclusion that Ramsey was deliberately indifferent or
made a conscious choice not to train or to discipline police officers. Therefore, we shall
dismiss the Monell claim.
Weston’s federal § 1983 and state-law claims for unlawful search and seizure,
excessive bail, and false arrest and false imprisonment are barred by the statute of
limitations. His claims based on malicious prosecution are not time-barred. He has
sufficiently alleged individual liability of each of the individual defendants, except
Ramsey, but he has not sufficiently alleged the necessary elements to support a Monell
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