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Bolden v. City of Wilmington

United States District Court, D. Delaware

January 8, 2019

STEPHANIE T. BOLDEN, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF WILMINGTON, Defendant.

          Geena Khomenko George, LOSCO & MARCONI, P.A., Wilmington, DE, Attorney for Plaintiff.

          Aaron C. Baker, CITY OF WILMINGTON LAW DEPARTMENT, Wilmington, DE, Attorney for Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          BURKE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Presently before the Court in this case is Defendant City of Wilmington's ("Defendant" or the "City") motion seeking to dismiss Plaintiff Stephanie T. Bolden's ("Plaintiff or "Bolden") Amended Complaint with prejudice, filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (the "Motion"). (D.I. 11) Plaintiff opposes the Motion. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court GRANTS the Motion in the manner set out below. I.BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff is a resident of Wilmington, Delaware and is a former City of Wilmington councilwoman. (D.I. 10 at ¶¶ 1, 8) Defendant is a Delaware municipal corporation. (Id. at ¶ 2)

         Plaintiff was raised in a home located at 610 East 11th Street in Wilmington (the "Bolden Property"), which she later inherited from her father. (Id. at ¶ 9) The City has owned the property adjacent to the Bolden Property, located at 608 East 11th Street (the "City Property"), since January 14, 2014. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-13) Plaintiff alleges that the City Property has been "vacant and boarded up for approximately ten years [, ]" (id. at ¶ 12), and that "she witnessed many occasions of vagrants, drug users, and other transient people squatting in or otherwise using the City Property" during that time, (id. at ¶ 13). Plaintiff asserts that since Defendant acquired the City Property, it has not performed maintenance, made repairs, or "otherwise take[n] any action to ensure that the property would be impervious to squatters and other transients." (Id. at ¶1 4)

         Plaintiff alleges that she complained repeatedly to several City employees or agents over a period of many years about the City Property's condition and about how "vagrants, drug users and . . . transient individuals" were occupying the property. (Id. at ¶¶ 16-17) She also alleges that she complained that conditions at the City Property were causing damage to her own property, and that there was a risk of more severe damage in the future. (Id. at ¶ 19) The City allegedly took no action to address Plaintiffs various complaints. (Id. at ¶ 23)

         Plaintiff and Lennie Sophrin ("Sophrin"), then-Director of Wilmington Real Estate and Housing, met and discussed the City Property on August 2, 2017. (Id. at ¶ 24) Sophrin "indicated that the matter would be assigned to Tom Ford, Jr., who then went on vacation." (Id.) Shortly afterwards, on or around August 7, 2017, a fire occurred in the City Property, resulting in "substantial damage to the Bolden Property[.]" (Id. at ¶¶ 25-26) Plaintiff asserts that the damage caused by the fire has resulted in a "substantial degradation of her health, including elevated blood pressure, loss of sleep, exacerbation of her heart disease and diabetic symptoms, and anxiety." (Id. at 27)

         B. Procedural Background

         On January 9, 2018, Plaintiff filed her Complaint. (D.I. 1) The parties thereafter jointly consented to the Court's jurisdiction to conduct all proceedings in the case, including trial, the entry of final judgment, and all post-trial proceedings. (D.I. 7)

         On February 14, 2018, Defendant filed a motion seeking dismissal of the Complaint. (D.I. 8) Plaintiff thereafter filed the operative Amended Complaint on February 23, 2018, which resulted in the termination of the then-pending motion to dismiss. (D.I. 10) On March 9, 2018, Defendant filed the instant Motion. (D.I. 11) The parties completed briefing on the instant Motion on April 2, 2018. (D.I. 17)

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss the plaintiffs complaint based on the failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The sufficiency of pleadings for non-fraud cases is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, which requires "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief[.]" Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In order to survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), "a 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) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         In assessing such a motion, first the court separates the factual and legal elements of a claim, accepting "all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but [disregarding] any legal conclusions." Fowler v. UPMC Shady side,578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). Second, the court determines "whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a 'plausible claim for relief" Id. at 211 (quoting Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 679).[1] A plausible claim does more than merely allege entitlement to relief; it must also demonstrate the basis for that "entitlement with its facts." Id. Thus, a claimant's "obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his' entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and ...


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