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TUCCI v. DIXON

September 23, 2005.

MARYANN TUCCI, Individually and on behalf of her minor children, Isaiah Tucci and Jonathan Tucci, and CARMEN TUCCI, Individually and on behalf of his minor children, Isaiah Tucci and Jonathan Tucci, Plaintiffs
v.
JAMES M. DIXON Defendant. PATRICIA DUKSTA, Plaintiff v. DAVID COFFMAN Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS VANASKIE, Chief Judge

MEMORANDUM

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion for judgment as a matter of law and/or for a new trial following an adverse jury verdict. Maryann Tucci, along with her husband, Carmen, and their minor children (sometimes referred to collectively as the "Tucci Plaintiffs"), and Patricia Duksta had presented to the jury civil rights and state law claims arising out of separate encounters with members of the City of Hazleton Police Department.*fn1 As to the Tucci claims, the jury found that Maryann Tucci had not shown that Officer Dixon had used unreasonable force against her or engaged in a malicious prosecution of her. The jury further found that Officer Dixon had entered the Tucci home with consent, thereby undermining the Tucci Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment illegal entry claim. With respect to the claims asserted by Plaintiff Duksta, the jury found that she had failed to prove that Defendant Coffman had used unreasonable force against her or engaged in a malicious prosecution of her.

The following issues are presented on Plaintiffs' post-trial Motion:

  (1) Whether the court erred in not directing judgment as a matter of law in favor of the Tucci Plaintiffs based upon Defendant Dixon's entry into their home, and in allowing the jury to determine whether consent could be inferred from the totality of the circumstances, including the presence of another law enforcement officer in the Tucci home when Dixon entered it?

  (2) Whether the evidence, as a matter of law, compelled the conclusion that Officer Dixon had used unreasonable force against Maryann Tucci?

  (3) Whether the court erred in refusing to allow Plaintiffs to impeach Defendants based upon alleged inconsistent statements made by their attorney in answering the Complaint, even though Plaintiffs conceded that they had no evidence that Defendants ever reviewed the Answer to the Complaint or otherwise adopted their attorney's statements?

  (4) Whether the Court erred in instructing the jury that the existence of probable cause on at least one of the criminal charges brought against a Plaintiff would be sufficient to defeat the Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim?

  The issues have been fully briefed. In addition, oral argument was conducted on July 25, 2005. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs' motion will be denied.

  DISCUSSION

  Each of the issues presented by Plaintiffs, along with the evidence germaine to that issue, will be assessed separately. In undertaking this review, this Court will, as required, view the evidence in the light most favorable to Defendants, giving them "the advantage of every fair and reasonable inference." Lightning Lube, Inc. v. Witco Corp., 4 F.3d 1153, 1166 (3d Cir. 1993).

  A. The Tucci Claim of Illegal Entry Asserted Against Officer Dixon

  The Tucci Fourth Amendment illegal entry claim was considered by the jury in the context of three conflicting versions of the incident. On June 20, 2001, Constable Joseph Corradini attempted to serve an arrest warrant upon Louis Tucci, son of Plaintiffs Carmen and Maryann Tucci, for unpaid traffic fines. Shortly after Constable Corradini arrived at the Tucci residence, Louis Tucci appeared and informed the Constable that he would retrieve his credit card from the Tucci home to pay the fines. Louis Tucci entered the home, but he fled the scene through the back door.

  At the request of the responsible District Magistrate, Constable Corradini returned to the Tucci residence during the evening of June 20, 2001, accompanied by Officers Dixon and Coffman. Officer Coffman watched the rear of the property, and was not involved in the encounter. The parties are in agreement that Constable Corradini went to the front door of the Tucci home while Officer Dixon concealed himself from view. The stories diverge considerably at this point.

  According to Maryann Tucci, she met Constable Corradini at the front door. She refused his request to search the home to see if her son, Louis, was present, claiming that he did not live there. She also testified that Corradini did not enter the home before Officer Dixon appeared at the front door. Instead, he called to Officer Dixon, and both ...


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