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WALKER v. WEST CALN TOWNSHIP

October 16, 2001

BRIAN JOSEPH WALKER
v.
WEST CALN TOWNSHIP, ET. AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Curtis Joyner, J.

  MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This civil rights action has been brought before the Court upon motion of all of the defendants, Eric D. Ruggeri, West Caln Township, John Doe, and West Brandywine Township for summary judgment. For the reasons which follow, the motion shall be granted.

Factual Background

This lawsuit arose at approximately 1:15 a.m. on October 27, 1998 when Officer Eric Ruggeri of the West Caln Township Police Department received a call through the 911 emergency dispatcher that there was a possible domestic dispute in the 100 block of Sugarmans Road in West Caln Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. At that time, Officer Ruggeri was the only officer on duty and as he approached 115 Sugarmans Road he saw several articles of what appeared to be clothing in the roadway in front of that address. Officer Ruggeri's patrol car was then approached by a woman who identified herself as Sharon Glenn and who said that she had just been involved in an argument with her ex-boyfriend, Plaintiff Bryan Walker, that Mr. Walker had assaulted her, injured her right arm and that she was in a lot of pain. Officer Ruggeri noted that her hand was bent back from her right forearm and was obviously disfigured. Ms. Glenn also told the defendant officer that Mr. Walker was still inside the house, that he was intoxicated and that as she was fleeing, she heard him ransacking the home and breaking glass. Finally, Ms. Glenn informed the officer that Mr. Walker had firearms in the house and that due to a previous incident which he had had with the Pennsylvania State Police, it was not likely that Mr. Walker would be cooperative with him.

As Ms. Glenn had a friend with her at that time, Officer Ruggeri told her to go to the hospital and he would interview her there later. He then radioed for assistance and two officers from nearby Parkesburg Borough and West Brandywine Township arrived some fifteen minutes later. At defendant Ruggeri's direction, the West Brandywine police officer took up a position to the rear of Plaintiff's house and he and the Parkesburg officer went to the front and knocked on the door. From his vantage point at the front door, Officer Ruggeri could see the plaintiff in his kitchen drinking from a cup. In response to the knock, Mr. Walker came to the front door but refused to open it. Officer Ruggeri told Plaintiff that Sharon Glenn had told him that she had a broken arm, that he wished to talk to him about what happened. The defendant then asked Mr. Walker to either come outside to talk or allow him to come into the house. Plaintiff told Defendant that Ms. Glenn's arm was already broken, that she was a drug addict who should be taken away and that he didn't feel comfortable either opening the door or letting the police in because he didn't want to go to jail. Officer Ruggeri told Mr. Walker that something had to happen-either he was going to have to come out or the police would have to come in. Some fifteen minutes later, Officer Ruggeri began to pound on the door and then told the plaintiff that he was going to come in. Approximately 6-7 minutes later, Officer Ruggeri broke in the front door to Plaintiff's residence, seized and handcuffed the plaintiff and took him into custody.

Mr. Walker was subsequently charged with simple and aggravated assault, harassment and stalking, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Although he was bound over for trial on all charges following his preliminary hearing, he was eventually acquitted of everything following a jury trial on July 14, 1999.

He brought this lawsuit on October 26, 2000 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that by arresting and prosecuting him for the events of October 27, 1998, the defendants violated his constitutional rights under the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and under the state law theories of false arrest, malicious prosecution and assault and battery.

Summary Judgment Standards

It is recognized that the underlying purpose of summary judgment is to avoid a pointless trial in cases where it is unnecessary and would only cause delay and expense. Goodman v. Mead Johnson & Co., 534 F.2d 566, 573 (3d Cir. 1976), cert. denied, 429 U.S. 1038, 97 S.Ct. 732, 50 L.Ed.2d 748 (1977). Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), summary judgment is properly rendered:

". . . if the pleadings, depositions, 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. A summary judgment, interlocutory in character, may be rendered on the issue of liability alone although there is a genuine issue as to the amount of damages.

Stated more succinctly, summary judgment is appropriate only when it is demonstrated that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-32, 91 L.Ed.2d 265, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986).

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, all facts must be viewed and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 89 L.Ed.2d 538, 106 S.Ct. 1348 (1986); Troy Chemical Corp. v. Teamsters Union Local No. 408, 37 F.3d 123, 125-126 (3d Cir. 1994); Oritani Savings & Loan Association v. Fidelity & Deposit Company of Maryland, 989 F.2d 635, 638 (3d Cir. 1993); Arnold Pontiac-GMC, Inc. v. General Motors Corp., 700 F. Supp. 838, 840 (W.D.Pa. 1988). An issue of material fact is said to be genuine "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, 248, 91 L.Ed.2d 202, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986).

In Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, supra, the Supreme Court articulated the allocation of burdens between a moving and nonmoving party in a motion for summary judgment. Specifically the Court in that case held that the movant had the initial burden of showing the court the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, but that this did not require the movant to support the motion with affidavits or other materials that negated the opponent's claim. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The Court also held that Rule 56(e) requires the nonmoving party to "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.'" Id. at 324 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)).

Thus, Rule 56(e) permits a proper summary judgment motion to be opposed by any of the kinds of evidentiary materials listed in Rule 56(c), except the mere pleadings themselves, and it is from this list that one would normally expect the nonmoving party to make the required showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists. Id. See Also, Morgan v. Havir Manufacturing Co., 887 F. ...


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