Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

THOMAS v. IPC INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania


February 12, 2004.

WALTER E. THOMAS, JR., Plaintiff
v.
IPC INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION, LaSALLE PARTNERS MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC., BOROUGH OF WYOMISSING, POLICE OFFICER JOHN G. PHILLIPS, POLICE CHIEF JEFFREY R. BIEHL Defendants

The opinion of the court was delivered by: FRANKLIN VAN ANTWERPEN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff Walter E. Thomas, Jr., ("Plaintiff) has filed a complaint against Defendants IPC International Corporation ("IPC"), LaSalle Partners Management Services, Inc., ("LaSalle Partners"), Borough of Wyomissing ("Wyomissing"), Police Officer John G. Phillips ("Officer Phillips"), and Police Chief Jeffrey R. Biehl ("Police Chief Biehl") for injuries arising out of an altercation with Officer Phillips. Against Defendant IPC, Plaintiff has alleged malicious prosecution (Count I), false imprisonment (Count II), false arrest (Count III), intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count IV), and negligence (Counts V). Plaintiff has alleged an additional negligence claim against Defendant LaSalle Partners (Count VI). Finally, Plaintiff alleges § 1983 violations against Wyomissing and Biehl (Counts VII) and Phillips (Count VIII). Before us now are two motions for summary judgment, one submitted on behalf of Officer Phillips and Police Chief Biehl and one on behalf of IPC. For the reasons stated below we deny Defendants' Borough of Wyomissing, Police Chief Biehl, and Officer Phillips motion for Page 2 summary judgment and grant in part and deny in part Defendant IPC's motion for summary judgment.

I. Facts

  On or about September 28, 2000, Plaintiff was arrested in connection with the burglary of the Berkshire Mall in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. Plaintiff pled guilty to the offense, which he committed with the assistance of his cousin, Craig Charlemagne, who was then employed by IPC as Public Safety Officer at the Berkshire Mall. As a result of the burglaries, IPC prepared a "Defiant Trespass Notice" to notify Plaintiff and Charlemagne that they were no longer permitted on mall property. The "Defiant Trespass Notice" was apparently never presented to Plaintiff, as evidenced by the notation "not present" where Plaintiff's signature should have been.

  On the evening of October 24, 2000, Plaintiff drove to the Old Country Buffet Restaurant with his daughter, Jasmine Thomas, to pick up her mother, Jennifer Setta. The Old Country Buffet Restaurant is located at Berkshire Mall West, which is across the street from, but still part of, the Berkshire Mall. While Plaintiff waited inside the car for his daughter to get her mother inside the restaurant, he observed IPC Public Safety Officer (PSO) Thomas Haines driving by and waved to him. Believing Plaintiff to be banned from the Berkshire Mall, PSO Haines requested assistance from another PSO, Andy McAfee, to confirm Plaintiff's identity. After McAfee confirmed Plaintiff's identity, Haines contacted the Mall Security Office in order to obtain a copy of the Defiant Trespass Notice and the Wyomissing Police Department for assistance. Officer Phillips arrived shortly and pulled up behind Plaintiff in a marked police car. Here the parties' accounts diverge.

  According to Plaintiff, both he and Officer Phillips got out of their cars. Officer Phillips Page 3 then notified Plaintiff that he was not permitted to be there. Plaintiff responded that he had not received any such notice, that he worked at the Old Country Buffet, and that he was picking up his daughter's mother there. Officer Phillips then approached Plaintiff and told him to get against the car because he was under arrest. He then grabbed Plaintiff and threw him against Plaintiff's car so hard it caused Plaintiff to bounce off the car. At that point, Officer Phillips yanked Plaintiff's wrists back and handcuffed him. Plaintiff alleges that he was not resisting the arrest and went into custody easily. However, at some point, he lost his balance and fell to the ground, causing him to say, "My back," to Officer Phillips. Officer Phillips then grabbed Plaintiff by the handcuffs and yanked him up, ordering him to stop resisting. Next Officer Phillips brought Plaintiff over to the police car, where he again slammed him against the car before putting him in the back seat. During this time, Plaintiff repeatedly called out for his daughter and her mother and asked Officer Phillips if he could go calm his daughter down, who was, by that time, in front of the restaurant.

  Defendants' allege a different set of facts regarding what took place upon Officer Phillips' arrival at Berkshire Mall West. Defendants state that Officer Phillips was immediately informed by McAfee that Plaintiff had been banned from mall property. Officer Phillips then pulled his car up behind Plaintiff without turning the emergency lights on. At that moment, Plaintiff got out of his car and began walking towards Officer Phillips, yelling something to the effect of "What are you doing here, why are you bothering me, why are you harassing me?" Officer Phillips also got out of the car and asked Plaintiff to calm down and informed him that he was there to investigate because Plaintiff had been banned from mall property. Plaintiff, however, continued to scream and use profanities, and assumed a combative stance toward Page 4 Officer Phillips by putting his right foot back and bringing his arms up to his chest. As Plaintiff came within a couple of inches of Officer Phillips, Officer Phillips decided to arrest him for disorderly conduct. He then advised Plaintiff that he was placing him under arrest, turned Plaintiff around, and handcuffed him. Phillips later testified that he was at that moment arresting Plaintiff for disorderly conduct. Although Plaintiff did not resist being handcuffed, when Officer Phillips attempted to walk him to the police car, Plaintiff resisted walking by trying to push backwards and made statements such as, "I wish you could take these fucking cuffs off me, and I'll take care of you." Once they reached the police car, Officer Phillips placed him in the back.

  It is undisputed that after Plaintiff was placed in the police car, PSO MacAfee informed Officer Phillips that the Mall Security Office could not confirm that Plaintiff had received the Defiant Trespass Notice. Consequently, Officer Phillips only issued a citation for disorderly conduct, which Plaintiff signed with a not guilty plea, and released him.

  II. Standard of Review

  The court shall render summary judgment "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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). An issue is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). A factual dispute is "material" only if it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Id. at 248. All inferences must be drawn and all doubts resolved, in favor of the non-moving party. See United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962); Gans v. Mundy, 762 F.2d 338, 341 (3d Cir. 1985). Page 5

  On a motion for summary judgment, the moving party bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of the record that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). To defeat summary judgment, the non-moving party must respond with facts of record that contradict the facts identified by the movant and may not rest on mere denials. Id. at 321 n. 3 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). See First Nat'l. Bank of Pa. v. Lincoln Nat'l. Life Ins. Co., 824 F.2d 277, 282 (3d Cir. 1987). The non-moving party must demonstrate the existence of evidence that would support a jury finding in its favor. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49.

  III. Discussion

 a. Defendants' Wyomissing, Officer Phillips, and Police Chief Jeffery Biehl's Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's § 1983 Claims

  Defendants Wyomissing, Officer Phillips, and Police Chief Biehl move for summary judgment with regard to Plaintiff's § 1983 claims. Since the parties have stipulated and agreed that Wyomissing and Police Chief Biehl are dismissed from this lawsuit, we will dismiss Defendants' motion as to Wyomissing and Police Chief Biehl as moot and decide this motion only as to the claim against Officer Phillips (Count VIII). In Count VIII, Plaintiff alleges that Officer Phillips used excessive force in arresting him in violation of his Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. However, "a claim for excessive force `should be analyzed under the Fourth Amendment and its `reasonableness standard,' rather than a `substantive due process approach.'" DeBellis v. Kulp, 166 F. Supp.2d 255, 271 (E.D. Pa. 2001), citing Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 (1989). In deciding whether excessive force was used, courts must balance "`the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual's Fourth Amendment interests' Page 6 against the countervailing governmental interests at stake." Id., quoting Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1, 8 (1985). The inquiry is an objective one, which asks whether the police officer's actions were "`objectively reasonable' in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation." Id., citing Graham, 490 U.S. at 397. Thus there is no hard and fast rule as to the amount of force that police may use in any given situation. Rather, a determination of whether excessive force was used is entirely dependant upon the facts of any given situation.

  Since Plaintiff and Defendant Officer Biehl disagree as to the circumstances prior to and during the arrest on October 24, 2000, under Graham, this amounts to a genuine issue of material fact. Plaintiff alleges that in spite of the fact that he was cooperative in the arrest and only asked if he could comfort his daughter, Officer Phillips used excessive force with him by slamming him against the car twice and pulling him up from the ground by his handcuffs. Defendant Officer Phillips, on the other hand, alleges that Plaintiff was verbally and physically aggressive, jumping out of his car as soon as Officer Phillips pulled up, then walking towards Officer Phillips while screaming, and ultimately assuming a combative stance inches from Officer Phillips. Given the disparity in these versions of the incident that took place on October 24th, and their central importance to determining whether excessive force was used in the arrest, summary judgment would not be appropriate at this time. Therefore we deny Defendant Officer Phillips' motion for summary judgment.

 b. Defendant IPC's Motion for Summary Judgment with regard to Counts I through V and IPC's Crossclaims

  Defendant IPC moves for summary judgment with regard to Counts I through V of Page 7 Plaintiff's claims against and of all crossclaims against IPC. Since Plaintiff has withdrawn his malicious prosecution (Count I) and intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count IV) claims, we will dismiss as moot IPC's motion for summary judgment as to these claims. We now consider IPC's motion for summary judgment with regard to Plaintiff's remaining claims of false imprisonment (Count II), false arrest (Count III), and negligence (Count V).

  i. False Imprisonment and False Arrest

  IPC argues that there are no genuine issues of material fact as to Plaintiff's false imprisonment and false arrest claims and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because Plaintiff cannot establish that IPC arrested or detained him, or even attempted to do so. Since false arrest and false imprisonment have come to be viewed as nearly identical claims, we will analyze them together. See Olender v. Township of Besalem, 32 F. Supp.2d 775, 791 (E.D. Pa. 1999). IPC is correct that in order to establish a claim of false imprisonment or false arrest, Plaintiff must show that he was detained or arrested and that the detention or arrest was unlawful. Id. Since, IPC argues, it is undisputed that no IPC employee arrested or detained Plaintiff in any way, IPC argues it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on these claims. However, Plaintiff argues that a defendant can also be liable for false arrest and/or false imprisonment if he or she knowingly provides information, or incomplete information, which leads to an individual's false imprisonment or false arrest. See Doby v. DeCrescenzo, 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13175, *38 (E.D. Pa. 1996); Gilbert v. Feld, 788 F. Supp. 854 (E.D. Pa. 1992). Plaintiff is correct that two courts in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania have reached this conclusion. However, we respectfully disagree with the basis for the holdings in these cases, and rely instead on the more persuasive holding in Simmons v. Poltrone, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20512, *22-26. In both Page 8 Doby and Gilbert, the courts cited the rationale of the court in Hess v. County of Lancaster, 100 Pa. Commw. 316 (Pa. Commw. 1986), in which an individual was held liable for false imprisonment and false arrest for providing misleading information to a third party. But, as the court pointed out in Simmons, the Hess case is inapposite because it dealt with a malicious prosecution claim, not a false arrest and/or false imprisonment claim. Thus it should not be read to conclude that Pennsylvania courts would recognize a false imprisonment and/or false arrest claim caused by providing misleading information to a third party. Since we decline to accept the courts' holdings in Doby and Gilbert, we must apply the traditional analysis of a false imprisonment and false arrest claim. As it is undisputed that no IPC employee participated in the arrest and detainment of Plaintiff, we find that IPC is entitled to judgment as a matter of law as to Plaintiff's false arrest and false imprisonment claims.

  ii. Negligence

  IPC moves for summary judgment with regard to Plaintiff's negligence claim on the grounds that IPC did not breach any duty it might have owed to Plaintiff. Plaintiff, on the other hand, argues in its brief that IPC breached its duty to protect Plaintiff, a business invitee on Berkshire Mall property, from foreseeable dangers on the property. Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that IPC breached its duty to Plaintiff by failing to notify him that he was banned from mall property. Additionally, Plaintiff cryptically claims that "IPC's representative, McAfee, breached his duty to competently carry out his position as a Public Safety Officer by promptly reporting problems or deficiencies." (Pl.'s Response to IPC's Motion at 10). We assume here that Plaintiff is arguing that McAfee was negligent in calling the police since he allegedly knew that Plaintiff had not yet received notice that he was banned from mall property. Finally, Plaintiff Page 9 asserts that IPC's breaches caused Plaintiff injury because they created the opportunity for Plaintiff's "encounter with Officer Phillips."

  There is no genuine issue of material fact as to the events surrounding IPC's alleged negligence. Plaintiff and IPC agree that an IPC employee, McAfee, informed police that Plaintiff was trespassing at the Berkshire Mall, but that Plaintiff had apparently never been notified that he was banned from the Berkshire Mall. Further, it is undisputed that Plaintiff was arrested and detained by Officer Phillips. Although there is a genuine issue of material of fact as to whether Officer Phillips used excessive force in arresting Plaintiff, we will assume Plaintiff was injured in the course of being arrested for purposes of assessing Plaintiff's negligence claim.

  Whether IPC had a duty to Plaintiff in this instance is dependant upon whether IPC knew or had reason to know that the conduct of Officer Phillips, or the Wyomissing Police Department, would likely be injurious to Plaintiff. As the court stated in Moran v. Valley Forge Drive-in Theater. Inc., citing Section 344 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts, a duty does not arise until the possessor of a property held open to the public

 

knows or has reason to know that the acts of the third person are occurring, or are about to occur [or unless h]e may [] know, or have reason to know, from past experience that there is a likelihood of conduct on the part of third persons in general which is likely to endanger the safety of the visitor.
246 A.2d 875, 878 (Pa. 1968).

  Thus, unless Plaintiff can establish facts which demonstrate that IPC knew or had reason to know that calling the Wyomissing Police Department would result in injury to Plaintiff, IPC had no duty Plaintiff. Since Plaintiff has not alleged any facts which would create such a duty, we cannot find that IPC was negligent and IPC is therefore entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Page 10 this count.

  iii. Cross Claims Brought By and Against IPC and Entry of Final Judgment

  Having granted summary judgment as to the remaining claims against IPC and seeing no reason why the above legal analyses and conclusions would not also apply with regard to cross-claimants LaSalle Partners and Officer Biehl, we will accordingly grant summary judgment as to all cross claims by and against IPC. There being no remaining claims against IPC and no just reason to delay, we now direct an entry of final judgment as to Defendant IPC, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). See Waldorf v. Shuta, 142 F.3d 601, 608-10 (3d Cir. 1998).

  IV. Conclusion

  Defendants' Borough of Wyomissing, Police Chief Biehl, and Officer Phillips Motion for Summary Judgment is dismissed as moot as to the Borough of Wyomissing and Police Chief Biehl, since Plaintiff has agreed to dismiss both of these parties from this suit. However, as to Defendant Officer Phillips, it is denied with regard to the § 1983 claim against him because a genuine issue of material fact exists as to the amount of force that was used during Plaintiff's arrest. Defendant IPC's Motion for Summary Judgment is denied in part and granted in part. It is dismissed as moot with regard to Plaintiff's malicious prosecution (Count I) and intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count IV) claims, which Plaintiff has agreed to withdraw. It is granted as to the false imprisonment (Count II), false arrest (Count III), and negligence (Count V) claims, as well as all crossclaims by and against IPC. An appropriate order will follow.

  ORDER

  AND NOW, this 12th day of February, 2004, upon consideration of Defendants' Borough of Wyomissing, Police Officer John G. Phillips, and Police Chief Jeffrey Biehl's Motion for Summary Judgment Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, filed on January 14, 2004, and Memorandum of Law in support thereof, filed on January 14, 2004; Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Borough of Wyomissing, Police Officer John Phillips and Police Chief Jeffrey Biehl's Motion for Summary Judgment, filed on January 30, 2004; Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendant IPC International Corporation, filed on January 14, 2004, and Brief in support thereof, filed on January 14, 2004; and Plaintiff's Response to the Motion of Defendant, IPC International Corporation, for Summary Judgment on Counts I-V of Plaintiff's Complaint, filed on January 30, 2004, it is hereby ORDERED that:

1) Defendants Borough of Wyomissing and Police Chief Jeffrey Biehl's Motion for Summary Judgment is DISMISSED as moot;
2) Defendant Police Officer Phillips' Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED;
3) Defendant IPC International Corporation's Motion for Summary Judgment as to Counts I and IV of Plaintiff's complaint is DISMISSED as moot;
4) Defendant IPC International Corporation's Motion for Summary Judgment as to Counts II, III and V is GRANTED;
5) All crossclaims brought by and against IPC International Corporation are DISMISSED.
ORDER
  AND NOW, this 12th day of February, judgment is hereby entered in favor of Defendant IPC International Corporation and against Plaintiff Walter E. Thomas, Jr.

20040212

© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.



Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.