PRIDE v. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA et al
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE GERALD J. PAPPERT ON 4/11/18. 4/11/18 ENTERED & E-MAILED.(fdc)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, et al.,
April 11, 2018
Krystal Pride alleges that Philadelphia police officers detained her on the front
porch of her home for approximately four hours before entering the house and arresting
her brother Demetrius. Pride sued the City of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Police
Department, Captain Javier Rodriguez and numerous unnamed officers. Pride asserts
claims against all defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for malicious prosecution
and wrongful arrest (Counts I and II), unlawful seizure and wrongful arrest under
Pennsylvania law (Counts III and IV) and a § 1983 Monell claim (Count V). (Compl.,
ECF No. 1.) The City and Rodriguez filed a Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 4), to which
Pride responded (ECF No. 8).
In her Response, Pride voluntarily dismissed all claims against the Police
Department, (Pl.’s Resp. in Opp. to Mot. to Dimiss at 1, ECF No. 8-1), presumably
because, as the City points out in its Motion, City departments cannot be sued
separately. See 53 P.S. § 16257; Lee v. Abellos, No. 13-0486, 2014 WL 7271363, at *1
n.2 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 19, 2014); Costobile-Fulginiti v. City of Phila., 719 F. Supp. 2d 521,
525 (E.D. Pa. 2010). Pride also voluntarily dismissed Count I against all Defendants as
well as Counts III and IV against the City. The Court now grants the City and
Rodriguez’s Motion as to all remaining claims but will allow Pride to amend Counts II,
III, IV and V against Rodriguez and Count V against the City, consistent with this
At approximately noon on April 1, 2016, Pride was in the bathroom of her home
with her four year old niece, preparing to take a shower, when she heard knocking on
her front door. (Compl. ¶¶ 10–13.) After quickly dressing, Pride opened the door and
encountered police officers looking for her younger brother Demetrius. (Id. ¶ 15–17.)
Pride explained that her brother did not live there, and that she did not know where he
was. (Id. ¶¶ 21–22.) The officers asked Pride to step outside onto her front porch. (Id.
¶ 25.) She initially resisted, but when the officers demanded that she do so, she
complied with their order and sat down on the front porch. (Id. ¶¶ 24–25, 27.)
Pride asked if she could check on her niece, telling the police that she left the girl
unattended in the bathroom with the shower water still running. (Id. ¶ 29.) Pride
alleges the officers told her that she could not go into the house, but that she was not
under arrest. (Id. ¶¶ 29–30.) A few minutes later, Pride heard her niece crying and
knocking on the front door from inside the house. (Id. ¶ 33.) Pride again asked to
check on her niece, but was not allowed to do so. (Id. ¶¶ 35–37.)
About an hour later, four more police officers arrived at the scene. (Id. ¶ 38.)
Pride contends that her niece was still crying inside the home, and she asked a third
time if she could go back inside the house. (Id. ¶¶ 39–40.) The police denied her
request, and then asked for permission to enter her home without a search warrant.
(Id. ¶¶ 40–41.) Pride refused to give them permission, and remained seated on the
front porch. (Id.)
Approximately two hours later, Pride informed the officers that she needed to
begin getting ready for work. (Id. ¶ 42.) The officers still would not allow her back in
the house, and she demanded to speak with a sergeant. (Id. ¶ 46.) At approximately 4
o’clock, the first sergeant arrived at the scene, and allegedly told Pride that “it will be a
lot easier to let [the officers] inside the house.” (Id. ¶¶ 47–48.) Pride gave the officers
permission to enter, whereupon they “ransacked” the house, arrested Demetrius and
“took him away.” (Id. ¶¶ 51–52.)1
To survive dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
the complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially
plausible when the facts pled “allow[ ] the court to draw the reasonable inference that
[a] defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “[W]here the
well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of
Aspects of Pride’s Complaint are confusing, inherently contradictory, and belied by “items
subject to judicial notice [and] matters of public record[.]” Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452
F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing 5B Charles A Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice &
Procedure § 1357 (3d ed. 2004)). Specifically, she alleges that she did not know where her brother
was (Compl. ¶¶ 21–22) but that the police subsequently found Demetrius inside the house and
arrested him (Id. at ¶¶ 51–52). She also alleges Demetrius was never charged with any criminal
offense. (Id. at ¶ 55.) The Complaint never attempts to reconcile these discrepancies, though they
are understood a bit better when reviewing Judge Surrick’s account, denying a suppression motion
in Demetrius’ criminal case, of what happened at Ms. Pride’s house that day. See United States v.
Demetrius Pride, No. 16–0264–002, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138036, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 3, 2016).
Demetrius subsequently pleaded guilty to one count of felon in possession of a firearm as a result of
his arrest that day, and was sentenced to 25 months incarceration, three years supervised release
and a $100.00 special assessment. See Judgment, United States v. Pride, No. 16-0264 (E.D. Pa. Oct.
15, 2017), ECF No. 85.
misconduct, the complaint has alleged—but it has not ‘show[n]’—‘that the pleader is
entitled to relief.’” Id. at 679 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)).
Twombly and Iqbal require the Court to take three steps to determine whether a
complaint will survive a motion to dismiss. See Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d
780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016). First, it must “take note of the elements the plaintiff must
plead to state a claim.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675). Next, it must identify the
allegations that are no more than legal conclusions and thus “not entitled to the
assumption of truth.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). Finally, where the
complaint includes well-pleaded factual allegations, the Court “should assume their
veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to
relief.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).
This “presumption of truth attaches only to those allegations for which there is
sufficient factual matter to render them plausible on their face.” Schuchardt v.
President of the U.S., 839 F.3d 336, 347 (3d Cir. 2016) (internal quotation and citation
omitted). “Conclusory assertions of fact and legal conclusions are not entitled to the
same presumption.” Id. This plausibility determination is a “context-specific task that
requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.
(quoting Connelly, 809 F.3d at 786–87).
In Count II of the Complaint, Pride alleges that all Defendants violated her
Fourth Amendment rights by detaining her on her porch for approximately four hours.
(Compl. ¶¶ 67–73.) The claim is dismissed against the City with prejudice because a
municipality cannot be held liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Andrews
v. City of Phila., 895 F.2d 1469, 1480 (3d Cir. 1990). Rather, municipal liability under
§ 1983 exists only when a constitutional injury results from a city’s official policy or
informal custom. See Beck v. City of Pittsburgh, 89 F.3d 966, 971 (3d Cir. 1996); see
also Monel v. Dep’t of Social Servs. of the City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 692 (1978) (§ 1983
only “imposes liability on a government that, under color of some official policy, ‘causes’
an employee to violate another’s constitutional rights.”). Pride does not identify any
policy or custom attributable to the City; she apparently attempts to hold the City
responsible for the officers’ alleged misconduct.
Pride also sues Rodriguez in both his official and individual capacities. (Compl.
¶¶ 67–73.) “Individual, or personal, capacity suits seek to impose personal liability
upon a government official for actions he takes under color of law.” Helm v. Palo, No.
14-6528, 2015 WL 437661, at *9 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 3, 2015) (citing Kentucky v. Graham,
473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985)). “Official capacity suits, however, are just another way of
pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent.” Id.; see also
Monell, 436 U.S. at 690 n.55. Thus if “the governmental entity receives notice of the
suit and an opportunity to respond to it, an official-capacity suit is, in all respects, to be
treated as a suit against the government entity itself.” Id. (citing Graham, 473 U.S. at
166). To the extent Pride sues Rodriguez in his official capacity, her claim is redundant
of her claim against the City and is dismissed with prejudice. See, e.g., Wimbush v. City
of Phila., No. 16-05783, 2017 WL 1355174, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 13, 2017).
To the extent Pride sues Rodriguez in his individual capacity, she must allege
facts showing his personal involvement in the alleged violations of Pride’s rights. See
Chimenti v. Pa. Dep’t of Corrs., No. 15-3333, 2016 WL 1125580, at *5 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 21,
2016) (citing Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 353 (3d Cir. 2005)). Pride can allege such
personal involvement under either of two theories: (1) a supervisor’s personal direction
or actual knowledge and acquiescence in a constitutional violation, id. (quoting
Evancho, 423 F.3d at 353); or (2) that a defendant, in his role as policymaker, acted
with deliberate indifference in establishing a policy that directly caused the alleged
constitutional violation, Brown v. May, No. 16-01873, 2017 WL 2178122, at *2 (E.D. Pa.
May 17, 2017).
Pride does neither. Other than naming Rodriguez as a Defendant, Pride does
not mention him again in her Complaint. She does not allege that Rodriguez was
present at the scene, or that he directed or acquiesced in the violation of her Fourth
Amendment rights. “Allegations of participation or actual knowledge and
acquiescence…must be made with appropriate particularity.” Rode v. Dellarciprete,
845 F.2d 1195, 1207–08 (3d Cir. 1988). She similarly fails to allege that Rodriguez was
a policymaker or that he acted with deliberate indifference in establishing a policy
which directly caused a violation of her constitutional rights. Count II against
Rodriguez in his individual capacity is dismissed without prejudice.
In Counts III and IV, Pride asserts claims against Rodriguez, again in his official
and individual capacities, for false arrest and unlawful seizure under Pennsylvania
state law. Claims against Rodriguez in his official capacity are “to be treated as a suit
against the government entity itself.” Helm, 2015 WL 437661 at *9 (citing Graham,
473 U.S. at 166). Claims against the City for false arrest and unlawful seizure under
Pennsylvania law are barred by the Pennsylvania Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act
(“Tort Claims Act”), 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 8541, et seq. The Tort Claims Act states
that “except as otherwise provided in this subchapter, no local agency shall be liable for
any damages on account of any injury to a person or property caused by any act of the
local agency or an employee therefore or any other person.” 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 8541.
The statute immunizes local agencies, including municipalities, from tort liability. See,
e.g., Lory v. City of Phila., 674 A.2d 673, 675 (Pa. 1996) (“The Tort Claims Act…renders
the city immune from claims based on willful or malicious conduct.”). An injured party
may recover in limited circumstances, including where the negligent act of the city falls
within one of eight enumerated categories of exceptions to immunity.2 52 Pa. Const.
Stat. § 8542(a). Counts III and IV are intentional tort claims against the City, and are
thus barred by the Tort Claims Act. See McDonald-Witherspoon v. City of Phila., No.
17-1914, 2017 WL 3675408, at *10 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 25, 2017) (finding false arrest claim
against City of Philadelphia barred by Tort Claims Act); Ekwunife v. City of Phila., 245
F. Supp. 3d 660, 678 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 24, 2017) (same). Counts III and IV against
Rodriguez in his official capacity are dismissed with prejudice.
Claims for false arrest and unlawful seizure against Rodriguez in his individual
capacity must sufficiently allege his personal involvement. See Chimenti, 2016 WL
1125580 at *5. Pride fails to allege how Rodriguez was involved in the alleged false
arrest and unlawful seizure, or how he had policymaking authority and established a
policy that caused these violations. Counts III and IV against Rodriguez in his
individual capacity are dismissed without prejudice.
The eight exceptions are for: (1) vehicle liability; (2) care, custody or control of personal
property; (3) real property; (4) trees, traffic controls and street lighting; (5) utility service facilities;
(6) streets; (7) sidewalks; and (8) care, custody or control of animals. 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 8542(b).
In Count V, Pride alleges that all Defendants “instituted policies and procedures
within the police department” that led to the violation of constitutional rights through
“failures to train and hire suitable police officers and a failure to supervise those
officers.” (Compl. ¶ 90–91.) The City contends that Pride’s Monell claim fails because
she has not adequately alleged a policy or custom attributable to the City, and that any
claim against Rodriguez insufficiently alleges his personal involvement. (Mot. at 4–10.)
The Court interprets Count V against the City as a failure to train claim, which
is analyzed under the standard for municipal liability set forth in Monell. Municipal
liability under § 1983 exists only when a constitutional injury results from a city’s
official policy or informal custom. See Beck, 89 F.3d at 971 (citing Monell, 436 U.S.
658). A policy is made “when a decisionmaker possess[ing] final authority to
establish…policy with respect to the action issues an official proclamation, policy, or
edict.” Andrews, 895 F.2d at 1480 (citation and quotation omitted). “A course of
conduct is considered to be a ‘custom’ when, though not authorized by law, such
practices…are so permanent and well settled as to virtually constitute law.” Id.
(citation and quotation omitted). A plaintiff “must identify a custom or policy, and
specifically what that custom or policy was.” McTernan v. City of York, 564 F.3d 636,
658 (3d Cir. 2009).
Failure to train claims “are generally considered a subcategory of policy or
practice liability.” Barkes v. First Corr. Med., Inc., 766 F.3d 307, 316 (3d Cir. 2014),
rev’d on other grounds by Taylor v. Barkes, 135 S. Ct. 2042 (2015). Section 1983
liability requires that the failure to train amount to “‘deliberate indifference’ to the
rights of persons with whom those employees will come into contact.” Carter v. City of
Phila., 181 F.3d 339, 357 (3d Cir. 1999) (quoting City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378,
Pride’s allegations fall well short of what is required to state a failure to train
claim. “A pattern of similar constitutional violations by untrained employees is
‘ordinarily necessary’ to demonstrate deliberate indifference for purposes of failure to
train.” Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 62 (2011) (quotation omitted). In rare cases,
deliberate indifference can be shown if “in light of the duties assigned to specific officers
or employees the need for more or different training is so obvious, and the inadequacy
so likely to result in the violation of constitutional rights, that the policymakers of the
city can be reasonably be said to have been deliberately indifferent to the need.” City of
Canton, 489 U.S. at 390. Pride has not alleged a history of similar violations nor is this
a rare case in which the need for more or different training is so obvious. Moreover, she
does not identify a policymaker for the City’s police department, nor does she allege any
facts which could allow the Court to reasonably infer that a policy existed or how such a
policy caused the alleged constitutional violation. See, e.g., Santiago v. Warminster Tp.,
629 F.3d 121, 131–32 (3d Cir. 2010) (discussing conclusory statements unsupported by
further factual content). Count V against the City is dismissed without prejudice.
The Court interprets Count V against Rodriguez as an attempt to hold him liable
for failing, as a supervisor, to properly train non-supervisory officers. Rodriguez can
bear responsibility as a supervisor if, “‘with deliberate indifference to the
consequences,’” he “‘established and maintained a policy, practice or custom which
directly caused [the] constitutional harm.” Barkes, 766 F.3d at 316 (quoting A.M. ex rel.
J.M.K., 372 F.3d at 586) (modification in original); see also Brown, 2017 WL 2178122, at
*2. Pride must satisfy a four-part test to prevail on a failure to train theory against
Rodriguez: she must identify “a supervisory policy or practice [Rodriguez] failed to
employ, and then provide that: (1) the policy or procedures in effect at the time of the
alleged injury created an unreasonable risk of a constitutional violation; (2) the
defendant-official was aware that the policy created an unreasonable risk; (3) the
defendant was indifferent to that risk; and (4) the constitutional injury was created by
the failure to implement the supervisory practice or procedure.” Id. at 317 (citing
Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1118 (3d Cir. 1989)). Pride does not allege any facts
that would support holding Rodriguez liable as a supervisory official under a failure to
train theory. Count V against Rodriguez is dismissed without prejudice.
“[I]n 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); see also Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d
229, 235 (3d Cir. 2004); Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 114 (3d Cir.
2002). Here, Pride requests leave to amend. (Resp. at 8.) Under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 15(a), “courts may grant…amendments ‘when justice so requires.’” Frasher
v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 352 F.3d 107, 116 (3d Cir. 2004) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P.
15(a)). Pride may amend her Complaint consistent with this Memorandum and its
BY THE COURT:
/s/ Gerald J. Pappert
GERALD J. PAPPERT, J.
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