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JANICSKO v. PELLMAN

September 25, 1991

MARY SUE JANICSKO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SCOTT PELLMAN, WILLIAM G. DEMMY, III, JAY STONER, MECHANICSBURG POLICE DEPARTMENT, THE BOROUGH OF MECHANICSBURG, WALTER KATHERMAN, DR. SILVESTRE DE LA CRUZ, DR. JOANNE ROBERTSON, RON ROBERTS AND HOLY SPIRIT HOSPITAL OF THE SISTERS OF CHRISTIAN CHARITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rambo, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM

Before the court are the motions for summary judgment of four sets of defendants: 1) defendants William Demmy, III, Jay Stoner, Scott Pellman, Mechanicsburg Police Department and the Borough of Mechanicsburg (hereinafter referred to as the "Mechanicsburg defendants"); 2) defendant Joanne Robertson, M.D.; 3) defendant Silvestre De La Cruz, M.D.; and 4) Ron Roberts, Walter Katherman and the Holy Spirit Hospital of the Sisters of Christian Charity (hereinafter referred to as "Holy Spirit defendants"). These motions are ripe, and since they all concern the same essential facts, the court will address all four in one memorandum.

Background

This case presents a rather complex set of facts, many of which are indeed in dispute. In reciting the general background of the case, the court will attempt to rely on undisputed facts, but will, as necessary, fill in the gaps with the contested versions.*fn1 Occasionally, where appropriate, the court will rely only on plaintiff's version of the facts as the court tests for an absence of evidence to prove her claims.

Some time early in the week of July 15, 1989, plaintiff Mary Sue Janicsko discovered that her husband was having an affair. The parents of three children ages 19, 17, and 12 at the time, the Janicskos had been married 20 years. The Janicskos also had two foster children living with them at the time, Jim Harvey, age 19, and a female friend of their oldest daughter, age 18 or so.

The object of Mr. Janicsko's affection was one Sandy Markel, a co-worker of Mr. Janicsko's at a Hardee's restaurant in Mechanicsburg. Mrs. Janicsko became suspicious of her husband after receiving reports that he had been spending a great deal of time with Ms. Markel and coming home unusually late. Plaintiff also detected the odor of a strange perfume on her husband's clothes and pillow, and, perhaps most damningly, she had heard her husband murmur of "Sandy" in his sleep. She confronted Mr. Janicsko on July 20, 1989 and he admitted to the affair. He also countered with an accusation of his own — that Mrs. Janicsko was having an affair with their then-foster son, an allegation plaintiff denies wholeheartedly.

Plaintiff demanded that her husband break off the affair. At one point during the day, she wrote out a check for eight dollars made payable to "my mistress, Sandy Markel," and wrote in the "Memo" line "For sexual services rendered." Mrs. Janicsko had her husband sign the check. They then took the check, along with a note written by her husband informing Sandy of the breakup, to Ms. Markel's apartment in Mechanicsburg. When they found that Ms. Markel was not home, Mrs. Janicsko confronted Sandy's landlord. During this conversation, she told the landlord that Sandy was a "prostitute," that she was "selling herself" and that Mr. Janicsko was one of Sandy's customers. Mrs. Janicsko also accused the landlord of being "nothing better than a pimp."

The next day, in the late afternoon, Mrs. Janicsko's older daughter's boyfriend informed her that he had had sexual relations with Sandy Markel and Sandy's daughter at the same time. This revelation caused Mrs. Janicsko a great deal of stress. Later that night, events came to a head as family members became involved in a series of confrontations. On one occasion that evening, Mrs. Janicsko evidently dialed Sandy Markel's telephone number with Mr. Janicsko present, saying that she wanted him to sexually abuse Ms. Markel the same way he had abused her. According to Mrs. Janicsko, her husband broke the connection, struck her several times, and tried to choke her with the phone cord. They broke away and, for a time, things were calm. Then the Janicsko children arrived home, and, in Mrs. Janicsko's words, "all hell broke loose." Mrs. Janicsko became involved in a violent argument with her oldest daughter and with her husband. The Hampden Township police were called to settle the quarrel. Officers investigated and left. Eventually, Mrs. Janicsko left the house herself and climbed into her car with the purpose, she alleges, of going to her parents' home in Johnstown. She then drove to the Hardee's where her husband and daughter worked and dropped off their uniforms. She left the Hardee's and drove toward Mechanicsburg.

Jim Harvey and a companion followed her in a borrowed pickup truck, evidently concerned that his foster mother might do something to hurt herself or Sandy Markel. Mrs. Janicsko stopped at a scene on Trindle Road where several Mechanicsburg police officers were conducting a traffic stop of another vehicle. She spoke briefly with an officer, defendant Pellman, complaining that someone was following her. When the officer walked over to speak to Mr. Harvey in the truck, who had pulled in behind her, she pulled out and drove away. Soon after that, Mrs. Janicsko was pulled over further up the road by defendant Demmy, who had been dispatched from the previous scene by Pellman.

At some point subsequent to being pulled over by Officer Demmy, Mrs. Janicsko was nearly hit by an approaching car. According to plaintiff, she had been standing on the berm when, because of a night blindness condition, the approaching headlights temporarily blinded her. She states that she was jerked back by the officer for no apparent reason and that she was in no danger of being hit by the car. The police officer's version indicates that Mrs. Janicsko stood in the middle of the road and refused to move out of the path of an oncoming car. Demmy claims that he was forced to pull her out of the way or watch her be hit.

At some point, defendant Stoner, another Mechanicsburg police officer, arrived on the scene.

Mrs. Janicsko then returned to her car and locked the doors, refusing to get out despite the efforts of the police officers at the scene, Jim Harvey, and defendant Walter Katherman, a crisis intervention worker from Holy Spirit Hospital. After more than an hour had elapsed, the three police officers broke in and removed Mrs. Janicsko bodily from the car, handcuffing her and shackling her ankles. According to Mrs. Janicsko, she was badly manhandled and received numerous abrasions and bruises. In addition, she says that she was kicked in the chest by defendant Stoner.

The police transported Mrs. Janicsko to Holy Spirit Hospital where she was examined in the Emergency Unit by defendant Joanne Robertson, M.D., who concluded that Mrs. Janicsko should be involuntarily committed pursuant to § 302 of the emergency procedures of Pennsylvania's Mental Health Procedures Act ("MHPA"), 50 Pa. Stat. § 7302(b). During her stay at Holy Spirit, Mrs. Janicsko was also examined by defendant Silvestre De La Cruz. On July 26, 1989, a hearing was held as required by § 303 of the MHPA to extend plaintiff's commitment. The hearing officer dismissed the petition and directed that Mrs. Janicsko be discharged.

After this decision, a hospital social worker, defendant Ron Roberts, contacted Mr. Janicsko, Sandy Markel, Mrs. Janicsko's older daughter and the foster daughter who had been living with the Janicskos to inform them of plaintiff's impending release. Mrs. Janicsko was discharged the same day as the hearing.

Plaintiff filed this suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 1985 against the various named defendants on September 13, 1990, alleging that they violated her civil rights as guaranteed by the fourth, fifth and fourteenth amendments. Plaintiff also filed a pendent state law claim against defendant Roberts pursuant to the MHPA for violation of privacy. Motions for summary judgment were filed by all four sets of defendants.

Discussion

The standards for the award of summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 are well known. As the Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently capsulized:

  Summary judgment may be entered if "the pleadings,
  deposition[s], answers to interrogatories, and
  admissions on file, together with the affidavits,
  if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
  any material fact and that the moving party is
  entitled to a judgment as a matter of law."
  Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). An issue is "genuine" only if
  the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
  return a verdict for the nonmoving party.
  Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 106
  S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Equimark
  Comm. Finance Co. v. C.I.T. Financial Serv. Corp.,
  812 F.2d 141, 144 (3d Cir. 1987). If evidence is
  "merely colorable" or "not significantly probative"
  summary judgment may be granted. Anderson, 106
  S.Ct. at 2511; Equimark, 812 F.2d at 144. Where the
  record, taken as a whole, could not "lead a
  rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving
  party, summary judgment is proper." Matsushita
  Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 106
  S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986).

Hankins v. Temple Univ., 829 F.2d 437, 440 (3d Cir. 1987). Once the moving party has shown that there is an absence of evidence to support the claims of the nonmoving party, the nonmoving party may not simply sit back and rest on the allegations in his complaint, but instead must "go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the `depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate `specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The court will consider the various defendants' motions under these standards.

I. State Action Problems*fn2

As the court sees it, the critical issue with regard to three sets of defendants — the Holy Spirit defendants, Dr. De La Cruz, and Dr. Robertson — is whether their actions in committing Mrs. Janicsko could be considered the actions of ...


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