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WYCHUNAS v. O'TOOLE

March 25, 2003

ERIC WYCHUNAS, PLAINTIFF
v.
MICHAEL O'TOOLE, CITY OF POTTSVILLE, ROBERT PHILLIPS, SCHUYLKILL HAVEN BOROUGH, ROBERT BRUCE, AND THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Malachy E. Mannion, Magistrate Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Pending before the court is the defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 33).

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND FACTS

By way of relevant background, on March 30, 2001, the plaintiff filed the instant action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges that the above-named defendants*fn1 violated his civil right to be free from unlawful arrest and seizure, in relation to his arrest on March 30, 1999, for alleged violations of the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device & Cosmetic Act, 35 Pa.C.S. §§ 780-113. The plaintiff bases his claim upon "blatant misrepresentations and significant omissions contained within Defendants' Affidavit of Probable Cause." (Doc. No. 1).

On August 15, 2002, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, (Doc. No. 33), along with a statement of material facts, (Doc. No. 34). A brief and documentation in support of the motion were filed on August 29, 2002. (Doc. Nos. 35 & 36). The plaintiff filed a response to the defendants' statement of material facts on September 3, 2002, (Doc. No. 37), and a brief in opposition to the motion on September 26, 2002, (Doc. No. 40). On October 8, 2002, the defendants filed a reply brief. (Doc. No. 41).

Summary judgment is appropriate 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 judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

The Supreme Court has stated that:

". . . [T]he plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. In such a situation, there can be `no genuine issue as to any material fact,' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial. The moving party is `entitled to judgment as a matter of law' because the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof."
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986).

The moving party bears the initial responsibility of stating the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. The moving party can discharge that burden by "showing . . . that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325.

Issues of fact are genuine "only if a reasonably jury, considering the evidence presented, could find for the nonmoving party." Childers v. Joseph, 842 F.2d 689, 693-94 (3d Cir. 1988) (citations omitted). Material facts are those which will effect the outcome of the trial under governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The court may not weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations. Boyle v. County of Allegheny, 139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir. 1998). In determining whether an issue of material fact exists, the court must consider all evidence and inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. at 393.

If the moving party meets his initial burden, the opposing party must do more than raise some metaphysical doubt as to material facts, but must show sufficient evidence to support a jury verdict in its favor. Id.

In his complaint, the plaintiff alleges that on or about March 16, 1999, defendants O'Toole, Phillips, and Bruce filed three criminal complaints against him along with affidavits of probable cause. (Doc. No. 1, ¶¶ 15-17). As a result of the criminal complaints and affidavits of probable cause, the plaintiff alleges that he was arrested on March 30, 1999. (Doc. No. 1, ¶ 18). At his preliminary hearing, the plaintiff states that the District Attorney's office withdrew two of the criminal complaints against him, leaving only one criminal complaint docketed at CR-75-99. (Doc. No. 1, ¶ 19). On November 4, 1999, the plaintiff states that the district attorney nolle prosequied the remaining complaint. (Doc. No. 1, ¶ 20).

The plaintiff contends that all of the above criminal complaints were based upon information received by the defendants from Dwight Duckett, ("Duckett"), a confidential informant, and that the defendants knew or should have known that he was an unreliable informant. (Doc. No. 1, ¶¶ 21-22). The plaintiff contends that the defendants compensated Duckett $40.00 each time he purchased drugs and provided him with cost-free housing. (Doc. No. 1, ¶ 23). According to the plaintiff, the purported drug purchases made by Duckett were not corroborated by the defendants or any other witnesses. (Doc. No. 1, ¶ 24).

In Counts I through III of his complaint, the plaintiff claims that the above actions by defendants O'Toole, Phillips and Bruce, deprived him of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights in that the defendants lacked probable cause to arrest him; knew or should have known of such; that they failed to aver exculpatory evidence within their affidavits of probable cause; and, that they provided inaccurate information within the affidavits of probable cause. (Doc. No. 1, ¶¶ 28-33). In addition, in Count VII of his complaint, the plaintiff sets forth pendant state claims of false arrest and malicious prosecution. (Doc. No. 1, ¶¶ 43-44).*fn2 As a result of the above allegations, the plaintiff claims that he suffered ...


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