KING v. HARMOTTA et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER - upon consideration of the Defendants' motions to dismiss (ECF Nos. 15 , 17 ), and for the reasons set forth in the accompanying memorandum, it is hereby Ordered that Defendants' motions are GRANTED. It is f urther Ordered that the due process claims are dismissed with prejudice and the First Amendment and defamation claims are dismissed without prejudice. It is further Ordered that Plaintiff is granted 21 days from 3/21/2017, to file an amended complaint as to the First Amendment and defamation claims, and as more fully stated in said Memorandum Opinion and Order. Signed by Judge Kim R. Gibson on 3/21/2017. (dlg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
CHARLES E. KING,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:15-297
JUDGE KIM R. GIBSON
DIANE HARMOTTA, M. VEIL
GRIFFITH, and DOUGLAS
This civil rights action comes before the Court upon motions to dismiss the
amended complaint filed by Defendants M. Veil Griffith and Douglas Lengenfelder (ECF
No. 15) and Defendant Diane Harmotta (ECF No. 17).
For the reasons that follow,
Defendants Griffith and Lengenfelder' s motion to dismiss will be GRANTED, and
Defendant Harmotta's motion to dismiss will be GRANTED. However, Plaintiff will be
granted leave to file a second amended complaint with respect to certain claims as set
forth in the Order.
The Court has jurisdiction over the federal constitutional claims pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1331, 1343(a)(3) and (4), and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has supplemental
jurisdiction over the state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Venue is proper under
28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2) because a substantial portion of the events giving rise to the claims
occurred in the Western District of Pennsylvania.
This case involves an incident that occurred on December 3, 2013. The lawsuit was
filed pro se by Plaintiff Charles King. Named as defendants are Dianna Harmotta, M.
Veil Griffith, and Douglas Lengenfelder. In a memorandum opinion dated July 5, 2016,
the Court previously granted Defendants' motions to dismiss Plaintiff's original
complaint (ECF No. 11) but granted Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint, which
he did on July 25, 2016 (ECF No. 13). All three Defendants have once again moved to
dismiss. The following facts are alleged in the amended complaint, which the Court will
accept as true for the sole purpose of deciding the pending motions.
Plaintiff is approximately eighty-five years old and is a black male. (ECF No. 1 at
1.) On December 3, 2013, Plaintiff was at his local senior citizens center, located on Main
Street in Johnstown, and was conversing with other senior citizens. (ECF No. 13 11.)
While Plaintiff was discussing an inspirational poster that he had in his possession,
Defendant Harmotta, the director of the center, "came at" him, screaming and demanding
that Plaintiff give her the poster. (Id. 11.) When Plaintiff rose from the table to leave with
his poster, Harmotta pursued him and instructed other staff members to call the police.
(Id. 12.) When Plaintiff inquired what he had done wrong, Defendant Harmotta yelled at
him and told him that he was banned from the center. (Id.)
When the police arrived, Defendant Harrnotta requested that Plaintiff be required
to leave the premises.
Plaintiff voluntarily exited the building with the police
officers. (Id.) Once outside, Plaintiff asked the officers whether Defendant Harrnotta had
the right to ban him from the center. (Id.) The officers instructed Plaintiff to contact the
Cambria County Commissioners. (Id.)
Plaintiff met with the county commissioners in an attempt to resolve the issue
without success. (Id. 'II 3.) Instead, one of the commissioners, most likely Lengenfelder,
released a statement to a local newspaper indicating that someone had been banned from
the center for attacking the director. (Id.) When Plaintiff's daughter visited the center and
asked Defendant Harmotta why she had accused Plaintiff of attempting to attack her,
Defendant Harrnotta stated that she "could tell by the look in [Plaintiff's] eye" that he was
going to strike her. (Id.) Plaintiff submits that he was wearing sunglasses on the day of
the incident because he suffers from light sensitivity. (Id.)
Plaintiff then visited the area office on aging to resolve the issue of being banned
from the center. (Id. 'II 4.) He requested a set of the center's rules and guidelines on
banning procedures but learned that the center did not have a rules or guidelines. (Id.)
Plaintiff spoke with Defendant Griffith at the office on aging because he felt he was being
denied his constitutional rights. (Id.) Griffith told him that he could go to any other
senior citizens center in Cambria County except for the on Main Street. (Id.) Plaintiff was
not happy with this answer because all of his friends attend the center on Main Street.
(Id.) Plaintiff later hired an attorney and appealed to the Pennsylvania Department of
Aging. (Id. 'JI 5; ECF No. 1-2.) Plaintiff prevailed on appeal and the administrative law
judge ("ALJ") overturned his ban. (ECF No. 1-2) (The ALJ concluded that "[e]ven if there
was justification for asking [Plaintiff] to leave the [center] temporarily, there simply is no
basis for making his exclusion permanent.")
Nevertheless, Plaintiff has not returned to the center because he believes that
Defendant Harmotta will again try to ban him as a result of her hatred and bigotry. (ECF
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?