The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOYNER
Today we resolve the cross-motions for summary judgment of Plaintiffs and Defendant City of Philadelphia (the "City"). For the following reasons, summary judgment is granted in favor of the City on Plaintiffs' federal claims, the two unknown defendants are dismissed, and the pendent state law claims are remanded to the Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County.
From 1985 to 1992, the City of Philadelphia (the "City") had a salvor's agreement (the "Agreement") with Thomas Venuto ("Venuto") doing business as Atlantic Used Auto Parts ("Atlantic"). Under this Agreement, Atlantic would "tow, take possession, and control the disposition ... of those abandoned vehicles ... to which it [was] directed by the [City's] Police Department." (Agreement, P 1.) Atlantic would then collect a percentage of the fine levied by the state on the abandoned vehicles' owners, as well as a fee for towing and storing the vehicles. (Venuto Dep. at 61-62.) As to those vehicles never claimed, Atlantic could acquire "salvor's title" and then either repair and sell the cars or break them down for parts. Id. at 63. The Agreement, in turn, granted the City the right to inspect Atlantic's operation at any time and required that Atlantic "provide City with such additional information and data as may be required from time to time by Federal, State, or City authorities." (Agreement, P 12.)
On October 10, 1991, members of the Philadelphia Police Department Auto Squad searched Atlantic's lot in accordance with the Agreement. (Venuto Dep. at 8.) On the lot the officers discovered numerous vehicles previously reported as stolen and car parts from which the vehicle identification numbers had been removed. The parties dispute whether Venuto was able to produce documentation establishing that Atlantic was in lawful possession of the vehicles at this time. (See Venuto Dep. at 13-21; City's Resp. to Pls.' Mot. at 1.) It is undisputed, however, that Venuto was arrested and charged with receiving stolen property and related offenses, and Atlantic's lot was closed for five days while the officers conducted a thorough inspection of the premises. The officers ultimately confiscated from the Atlantic lot numerous vehicles, parts and two guns. (Property Receipts Nos. 349936 through 349953, 349955 through 349971, 349979, and 349980; see Pl.'s Mot. Ex. D.) In a subsequent search of the lot on February 13, 1992, the officers confiscated three boxes of business records. (Property Receipt No. 359760; see Def.'s Resp. to Pls.' Mot. Ex. E.)
The City's District Attorney's Office initiated the criminal action against Venuto and proceedings continued until, on April 14, 1994, all charges were dismissed. Venuto contends that the charges were dropped after he produced receipts and tow orders for the vehicles in question to Charles Margiotti ("Margiotti"), the Assistant District Attorney handling the matter. (Venuto Dep. at 52-53). In an Affidavit filed in response to Plaintiffs' Motion, however, Margiotti states that neither Venuto nor his attorney ever provided him with any such documentation. (Margiotti Aff. P 5; see Def.'s Resp. to Pls.' Mot. Ex. G.) As to why the charges were dismissed, the City states only that it was done "for other reasons." (Def.'s Resp. at 2.)
Following the dismissal of charges, Venuto filed a Petition for the Return of Property (the "Petition") in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas seeking to recover all the property that had been confiscated from Atlantic's lot. On November 9, 1994, upon consideration of the Petition, Judge Joseph I. Papalini issued an order which directed in its entirety as follows:
(Order; see Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Mot. Ex. B.) To date, however, only the business records and one gun have been returned to Venuto. (Venuto Dep. at 52.) According to the City, Venuto was unable to demonstrate a legal right to the vehicles, parts, and the other gun and, thus, these remaining items were destroyed. (Def.'s Resp. to Pls.' Mot. at 2).
On April 15, 1996, Plaintiffs instituted the instant action against the City and two unknown individuals identified only as "John Doe" and "Jane Doe" in the Complaint.
Plaintiffs seek damages resulting from the City's failure to return the rest of the property confiscated from the Atlantic lot. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that said failure violates their Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and seek compensatory and punitive damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1982 and 1983 for the alleged violations, as well as attorney's fees under § 1988.
Plaintiffs also assert two Pennsylvania claims seeking damages for the lost property and for alleged harm to Venuto's personal and professional reputation. Plaintiffs and the City have filed cross-motions for summary judgment, which we decide today.