The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS VANASKIE, Chief Judge
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
(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
(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.
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.
A. The Tucci Claim of Illegal Entry Asserted Against Officer
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 ...