ATHERTON v. SHAFFER et al
MEMORANDUM ORDER denying 20 Motion for Reconsideration. Signed by Chief Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly on 2/14/18. (ard)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
BRIAN SHAFFER and CHRISTOPHER
Civil Action No. 17-962
Chief Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly
Re: ECF No. 20
Presently before the Court is a Motion to Reconsider Motion to Dismiss for Failure to
State a Claim, ECF No. 20, in which Defendants Brian Shaffer and Christopher Robbins
("Defendants") seek for this Court to reconsider its decision, ECF No. 16, as to their Motion to
Dismiss, ECF No. 8, in light of an intervening change in the law. Also before the Court is
Defendants' Brief in Support of their Motion to Reconsider, ECF No. 21, and a Brief in
Opposition filed by Plaintiff Christina Atherton ("Plaintiff"), ECF No. 27.
This Court will decline reconsideration of a prior decision unless there is or has been: ( 1)
an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not
available when the court granted the motion; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact
or to prevent manifest injustice. Golon, Inc. v. Selective Ins. Co., No. 17-CV-0819, 2017 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 213966 (W.D. Pa. Dec. 14, 2017).
In the relevant portion of Motion to Dismiss, Defendants argued that Count II, a claim for
reckless investigation, should be dismissed because reckless investigation is not a recognized
claim in the Third Circuit. ECF No. 9 at 6-7. Upon review of this argument, this Court held:
As to [this] argument, this Court has recently explained:
It is generally understood that the Third Circuit Court of Appeals
has not explicitly recognized a claim for reckless investigation.
K.L.Q. v. Plum Borough Sch. Dist., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 64908,
2016 WL 2892174, at *6 (W.D. Pa. May, 17, 2016) (Lenihan,
M.J.). Further, the "'contours of a stand-alone claim for failure to
investigate are not well-defined within this Circuit."' Kelly v.
Jones, 148 F. Supp. 3d 395, 400 (E.D. Pa. 2015) (quoting Briscoe
v. Jackson, 2 F.Supp.3d 635, 645 n. 5 (E.D. Pa. 2014)).
Nonetheless, some courts have allowed such claims when a
plaintiff shows that '"a police officer acted intentionally or
recklessly, in a manner that shocks the conscience, in failing to
investigate."' Id. (quoting Thomas v. Stanek, 2015 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 21276, 2015 WL 757574, at *7 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 23, 2015)
(McVerry, J.)). These claims are typically asserted under
circumstances in which a police officer arrested the plaintiff
without conducting an adequate investigation beforehand. '"Failure
to investigate is considered in tandem with the strength or
weakness of the probable cause evidence.'" Johnson v. Logan,
2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 171173, 2016 WL 7187842, at *6 (W.D.
Pa. Dec. 12, 2016) (Bissoon, J.) (quoting Stanek, 2015 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 21276, 2015 WL 757574, at *7).
Doe v. Plum Borough Sch. Dist., Civ. A. No. 17-32, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
129464, at *11-13 (W.D. Pa. Aug. 15, 2017).
Thus, while Defendants are correct that the United States Court of Appeals
for the Third Circuit has not recognized a claim for reckless investigation,
this Court has done so in other cases. Accordingly, Plaintiffs claim for
reckless investigation will not be dismissed on this basis.
ECF No. 16 at 3-4.
In support of the instant Motion, Defendants assert that, ".. . on January 22, 2018, the
Third Circuit spoke on this matter." ECF No. 21 at 1. Defendants assert that this Court should
reconsider its holding on the above-described issue in light of what they concede to be dicta in a
footnote in non-precedential opinion from the United States Court of Appeals for the Third
Circuit, Johnson v. Logan, No. 17-1090, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 1468 (3d Cir. Jan. 22, 2018).
In Johnson, the Third Circuit, inter alia, affirmed the grant of summary judgment to the
defendants on a reckless investigation claim on factual grounds.
Johnson, 2018 U.S. App.
LEXIS at *5. In a footnote following the holding, the Court stated, "We note, without deciding,
that we have significant doubts about whether there is an independent substantive due process
right to be free from a reckless investigation." Id. n.9 (emphasis added).
Because the Johnson Court made no decision on the viability of a cause of action for
reckless investigation, Johnson provides no intervening change in the law upon which this Court
could grant the instant Motion for Reconsideration. Accordingly, the Motion is denied.
Dated: February 14, 2018
BY THE COURT:
CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGIST
All counsel of record via CM/ECF
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