The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLAUGHLIN, District Judge.
Plaintiffs in this action assert claims pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law against Lord Corporation (hereinafter
"Lord"), MacDonald Illig Jones & Britton, LLP (hereinafter
"MacDonald Illig"), and Sheriff Robert Merski. The claims arise
out of the execution of a Writ of Seizure obtained by Lord in a
state court replevin action. MacDonald Illig represented Lord in
this action, and representatives of both Lord and MacDonald
Illig allegedly accompanied deputies of the Erie County Sheriff
and participated in the execution of the writ on March 31, 1999.
Presently pending are three motions: 1) Merski's Motion to
Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment [Doc. No.
16]; 2) Lord's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [Doc. No.
21]; and 3) MacDonald Illig's Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings [Doc. No. 23]. For the reasons stated below, each of
these motions will be granted.
Plaintiff Gregory J. Buzzanco was employed by Lord until he
resigned on July 5, 1995, and was employed by Ameribond, Inc.
(hereinafter "Ameribond") on March 31, 1999. Complaint ¶ 12. His
brother, Plaintiff Joseph E. Buzzanco, was the owner and
President of Ameribond on the date of the search. Both Lord and
Ameribond are manufacturers of adhesives, and in a Complaint for
Replevin and Injunction and Damages filed in the Court of Common
Pleas of Erie County, Pennsylvania, Lord alleged that
Ameribond's adhesives had been produced with its trade secrets.
Complaint ¶¶ 11, 13.
On the same day that it filed its Complaint, Lord obtained an
ex parte "Order for Special Injunction and Writ of Seizure" from
the court, which provided in relevant part:
1. Lord has provided a reasonable basis for
preserving, pending a hearing, documents, records and
incorporating or embodying trade secrets and
confidential information of Lord, including but not
limited to customer lists, customer purchasing
histories and patterns, customer contact names,
supplier lists, and specific formulations and process
techniques for preparing Lord adhesive and coating
products, including those relating to high
performance rubber-to-metal adhesives, and for
obtaining access to personal computers and computer
storage disks and tapes of Buzzanco which may have
the information described above.
2. Notice to Buzzanco of the Court's action before
the seizure of the documents, records and computer
files in question could lead to copying, destruction,
or concealment of documents, records, and computer
files, incorporating or embodying Lord's trade
secrets, and confidential information.
3. Any potential harm to Buzzanco can be adequately
remedied by requiring the posting of a bond by Lord,
which shall be posted in the amount of $200,000.00.
4. Given the sensitive and confidential nature of the
trade secrets in this case, and the possibility that
such material may be copied, destroyed or delivered
to a third party, it is appropriate that the record
in this case should be sealed. IT IS THEREFORE
ORDERED, pursuant to Rules 1531 and 1075 of the
Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure, that the Erie
County Sheriff shall seize and hold the property
described below in the care, custody or control of
Gregory Buzzanco located at 5130 Evans Road, Erie,
Pennsylvania 16509 or at such where the same may have
been stored by Buzzanco until further order of this
(a) any and all originals and copies of documents,
records, computer files, computer disks and tapes and
computer hard drives containing, incorporating, or
embodying Lord Corporation customer lists; customer
purchasing history and patterns; customer contact
names; supplier lists; and specific formulations and
process techniques for preparing Lord's adhesives and
coatings, including but not limited to its important
and commercially-sensitive rubber-to-metal adhesives,
as well as acrylic, urethane, and epoxy adhesives.
(b) all personal computers and computer disks and
tapes within Buzzanco's possession or control, for
purposes of forensic evaluation to determine whether
information of this type contained in (a) above is
Order for Special Injunction and Writ of Seizure at 1-3, Ex. A.
to Answer to Complaint by Lord [Doc. No. 19].
As alleged by Plaintiffs, the search and seizure occurred as
follows. At 5:15 p.m. on March 31, 1999, deputies of the Erie
County Sheriff and representatives of Lord and MacDonald Illig
arrived at Gregory J. Buzzanco's residence. Complaint ¶ 17.
Buzzanco requested that he be permitted to have an attorney
present during the search, and was informed that the search
would proceed immediately. The participants searched tables,
cabinets, CD cases and other items purportedly looking for
property of Lord. Complaint ¶ 21. They seized a computer,
monitor and keyboard from the residence.
Joseph E. Buzzanco objected to the search at the Ameribond
offices, but was told by the party that they were authorized to
conduct it. Complaint ¶ 28. The party allegedly did not find
property belonging to Lord, but seized "various property of the
Plaintiffs" without listing or itemizing such property. They
then asked Joseph E. Buzzanco to produce Ameribond's checkbook,
and he informed them that it was at his residence. Complaint ¶
31. At 6:45 p.m., the search party left the Ameribond facility
and proceeded to Joseph E. Buzzanco's residence. They allegedly
did not find property belonging to Lord, but seized documents
and computer records of Ameribond, Joseph E. Buzzanco and his
wife Jennifer L. Buzzanco, Buzzanco Accounting, Asian Fighting
Arts, and Industrial Systems and Controls without listing or
itemizing the property seized. Complaint 45. The party left the
residence at 9:30 p.m.
A hearing was held on April 1, 1999. Transcript of Hearing,
Ex. C to Answer of MacDonald, Illig. Gregory J. Buzzanco and
Joseph E. Buzzanco attended this hearing and were represented by
counsel. On April 14, 1999, the Court of Common Pleas determined
that Lord had established the probable validity of its claim of
possession and of the grounds for the issuance of the writ, and
confirmed the writ. Findings and Order for Preliminary
Injunction and in Confirmation of Issuance of Writ of Seizure,
Ex. D to Answer of MacDonald Illig. A Final Order of Court was
issued on March 21, 2001, which, pursuant to a stipulation by
the parties, directed the Buzzancos to deliver all documents
relating to adhesives to Lord and erase from all computers in
their care and control information relating to adhesives. Final
Order of Court, Ex. E to Answer of MacDonald Illig.
The same standard is applied to assess motions to dismiss for
failure to state a claim brought pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and motions for judgment on the
pleadings brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(c). Regalbuto v. City of Philadelphia, 937 F. Supp. 374,
376-77 (E.D.Pa. 1995), affd, 91 F.3d 125 (3d Cir. 1995),
cert. denied, 519 U.S. 982, 117 S.Ct. 435, 136 L.Ed.2d 333
(1996). In both, the district court must accept as true all
well-pleaded allegations in the pleadings, and must view the
facts and inferences to be drawn from the pleadings in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party. Janney Montgomery
Scott, Inc. v. Shepard Niles, Inc., 11 F.3d 399, 406 (3d Cir.
1993) (citation omitted). The proper inquiry is "whether relief
could be granted . . . `under any set of facts that could be
proved consistent with the allegations.'" Gasoline Sales, Inc.
v. Aero Oil Co., 39 F.3d 70, 71 (3d Cir. 1994) (quoting
National Org. for Women, Inc. v. Scheidler, 510 U.S. 249, 256,
114 S.Ct. 798, 127 L.Ed.2d 99 (1994)). Judgment will only be
granted if it is clearly established that no material issue of
fact remains to be resolved and that the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Regalbuto, 937 F. Supp. at 377
(citing Inst. for Scientific Info., Inc. v. Gordon and Breach,
Science Publishers, Inc., 931 ...