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Monday, July 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Family Spat That Led to Eviction Supports Suit

(CN) - A Pennsylvania fire marshal must face claims that he helped a man evict his mother with 24 hours' notice, seal her locks and put her in a nursing home, a federal judge ruled.

Camilla Evans had resided and rented a property in Emsworth, Pa., for 50 years when the local fire marshal gave her 24 hours to vacate the premises, according to the complaint.

The eviction allegedly sprang from a family dispute over the distribution of an estate.

Evans said her son and daughter-in-law, David and Judith Evans, the lawful owners of the property at the time, had tapped the marshal to evict her.

Though the trio tried to commit Evans to a nursing home on the basis of incompetence, their efforts proved unsuccessful, the complaint states.

David and Judith ultimately drilled in the locks to the home, leaving Camilla Evans and her daughter, Camilla Conners, unable to retrieve their possessions, and forcing them to live in a hotel since November 2012, according to the complaint.

The mother and daughter later sued David, Judith, the borough and the marshal in federal court, claiming that they unlawfully seized and condemned Evans' property pursuant to an alleged custom or policy.

The complaint asserts claims for constitutional violations and due process deprivations under the Fourth, Fifth and 14th Amendments, as well as numerous state-law claims for conspiracy, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, conversion, trespass and invasion of privacy against the individual defendants.

U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab refused to dismiss any part of the complaint last week for failure to state a claim.

Though the ruling gives only the last name of the fire marshal, a borough website states his full name as Michael Adams.

Schwab held that the complaint does "raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary elements" and "provides adequate facts to establish 'how, when, and where,'" as set forth by the Supreme Court in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly in 2007.

The complaint also shows a "plausible claim for relief," as required by the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal in 2009, Schwab ruled.

"Viewed in light of the foregoing pleading standards, this court finds that the allegations of the complaint, when taken as true, allow the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendants are liable for the conduct and misconduct alleged, and that the complaint meets the standards as enunciated in Twombly and Iqbal," Schwab wrote.

After discovery, the defendants may raise the issues set forth in their motions to dismiss in a motion for summary judgment, the ruling states.

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