The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOYNER
This § 1983 case is before the Court today on motion of the defendant, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority ("SEPTA"), which asks for an award of summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. For the reasons that follow, SEPTA's motion will be granted and the case will be dismissed.
The plaintiff in this case is Edna Frazier, who was a passenger on a SEPTA bus that was allegedly involved in a traffic accident in 1985. Ms. Frazier later filed a personal injury lawsuit against SEPTA in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas seeking damages for injuries allegedly sustained as a result of the incident. In defense of the case, SEPTA retained the services of J.R. Gettier & Associates ("Gettier"), an investigative service, to monitor Ms. Frazier's activities. Fruits of the surveillance were introduced at trial to rebut Ms. Frazier's claim that she had incurred permanent, disabling injuries. Ms. Frazier's case went to the jury, which returned a verdict in SEPTA's favor on October 5, 1993.
On April 22, 1994, Ms. Frazier filed a second action in the Court of Common Pleas, in which she alleged that SEPTA was liable to her under a variety of common law theories. Ms. Frazier amended her complaint on July 25 to add a civil rights claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The nub of Ms. Frazier's § 1983 claim is that the nature of the surveillance undertaken by SEPTA in defense of the underlying action was so intrusive and unsettling that it violated her federally-protected civil rights. She further alleges that SEPTA (1) "set up" medical examinations for the purpose of videotaping her coming to and departing from the sessions, and (2) conducted the surveillance, with knowledge of her precarious mental state,
for the purpose of rendering her incompetent to testify at the trial. In so doing, Ms. Frazier asserts that SEPTA violated a number of rights guaranteed to her by the Constitution. SEPTA responded to the amended complaint by removing the case to this Court and submitting a motion to dismiss on August 15. In a Memorandum and Order dated December 1, 1994, this Court dismissed all of the common law claims, leaving SEPTA to defend only the civil rights claim. Frazier v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transp. Auth., 868 F. Supp. 757 (E.D. Pa. 1994). Later, on February 17, 1995, we issued an order limiting the scope of discovery to the issue of whether SEPTA can be liable under § 1983. Thus, in this Memorandum, we will determine if Ms. Frazier can identify a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether the nature of the surveillance was such as to violate her civil rights.
A. The Summary Judgment Standard
This Court is authorized to award summary judgment "if the pleadings, depositions 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 judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Thus, the Court's responsibility is not to resolve disputed issues of fact, but to determine whether there exist any factual issues to be tried. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-49, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). The non-moving party must raise "more than a mere scintilla of evidence in its favor" in order to overcome a summary judgment motion. Williams v. Borough of W. Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249). Further, the non-moving party cannot rely on unsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions in attempting to survive a summary judgment motion. Id. (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986)). Boiled to its essence, the summary judgment standard requires the non-moving party to create a "sufficient disagreement to require submission [of the evidence] to a jury." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 251-52.
B. Evidence Generated during Discovery
As we noted above, the gravamen of the complaint is that the surveillance performed by SEPTA in defense of the underlying tort suit violated Ms. Frazier's federally-protected civil rights. The evidence presented shows that Norman Hegge, an in-house SEPTA attorney, ordered that Ms. Frazier's physical activity be monitored after she alleged in a deposition that she had incurred a permanent disability. Gettier was retained to conduct the surveillance on January 8, 1992, and commenced the monitoring of Ms. Frazier on January 10. The overall surveillance effort can be broken down into three phases: the first phase beginning on January 10 and concluding on April 7; the second phase lasting from September 28 through November 11; and the final phase running from July 21 through July 29, 1993.
After receiving information regarding Ms. Frazier's last known address from SEPTA, Gettier commenced its surveillance effort by monitoring a residence on Chestnut Street in West Philadelphia. The Chestnut Street residence was monitored on January 10, January 14-16, January 24, February 5, and February 21. On January 16, the Gettier investigator peered into the front porch and spotted a Bible on the porch table. These monitoring efforts proved fruitless, however, because Ms. Frazier, unbeknownst to Gettier and SEPTA, had been evicted from the Chestnut Street residence in November of 1991. On March 13, Ms. Frazier attended a court-ordered vocational evaluation performed ...