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OCCHIATO v. EXETER TOWNSHIP

November 17, 2005.

DOMINICK OCCHIATO, Plaintiff,
v.
EXETER TOWNSHIP and JOHN HINKLE, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. CAPUTO, District Judge

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion For Summary Judgment (Doc. 21). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendants' motion in part and deny it in part. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

BACKGROUND

  Plaintiff was stopped by Defendant John Hinkle on State Route 92 in Wyoming County Pennsylvania, on April 27, 2002. (Doc. 32-2, Ex. 1 ¶¶ 7-10.) At the time, Defendant Hinkle was the Chief for Exeter Township Police Department. (Doc. 24-4, tab 3 at 4.) Defendant Hinkle submitted evidence that he had observed Plaintiff speeding, crossing over the double yellow line twice and crossing the white fog line once. Id. Plaintiff admits that he was speeding, but denies having driven across either the yellow or white lines. (Doc. 32-2, Ex. 1 ¶¶ 7-8.)

  While speaking with Plaintiff about his license and registration, Defendants submitted evidence that Defendant Hinkle observed a strong odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle. (Doc. 23 ¶ 6; Doc. 24-3, tab 2 at 22.) Defendant Hinkle then asked Plaintiff to submit to a field sobriety test, and Plaintiff agreed. (Doc. 24-3, tab 2 at 26-27; Doc. 24-4, tab 3 at 5.) Plaintiff subsequently failed the test. (Doc. 24-4, tab 3 at 8.) Plaintiff was then arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, he did not attempt to resist arrest or flee, and Defendant Hinkle initially handcuffed Plaintiff's hands behind his back prior to transporting Plaintiff to Tyler Memorial Hospital for blood testing, to which Plaintiff had consented. (Doc. 24-4, tab 3 at 8, Doc. 24-3, tab 2 at 7, 47.)

  Plaintiff submitted evidence that while in transport to the hospital he complained to Defendant Hinkle numerous times that the handcuffs were hurting him, and requested the handcuffs be loosened. (Doc. 24-3, tab 3 at 50.) Plaintiff also submitted evidence that he began to cry from the pain caused by the handcuffs. (Doc. 32-2, Ex. 1 ¶ 19.) Furthermore, Plaintiff submitted evidence that despite his requests and crying, Defendant Hinkle did not check or loosen the handcuffs until Plaintiff was in the examination room at Tyler Memorial Hospital. (Doc. 24-3, tab 3 at 53.) Defendants submitted evidence that Plaintiff had actually began to cry when Plaintiff was advised he was under arrest. (Doc. 24-3, tab 2 at 41.)

  According to Plaintiff, upon removal of the handcuffs at the hospital, his wrists were bleeding and had abrasions. (Doc. 24-2, tab 1 at 53.) Defendants, however, submitted evidence that Plaintiff's wrists were red where the handcuffs had been, but were not bleeding or showing signs of injury. (Doc. 23 ¶ 14.) Plaintiff submitted evidence that Defendant Hinkle observed the injuries to Plaintiff's wrists and, following completion of the blood test, proceeded to reapply the handcuffs as tightly as before. (Doc. 32-2, Ex. 1 ¶¶ 23-24.) Plaintiff further submitted evidence that his hands were, again, handcuffed behind his back. Id. Defendant submitted evidence that Plaintiff's hands were handcuffed in front of his body following completion of the blood tests. (Doc. 24-3, tab 2 at 55.) Defendants also submitted evidence that Plaintiff's blood alcohol content tested at .149 and was thus over the legal limit. (Doc. 24-7, tab 6.)

  Plaintiff next submitted evidence that outside of the hospital, Defendant Hinkle tried to shove Plaintiff into the police cruiser in order to transport Plaintiff to Plaintiff's home. (Doc. 24-2, tab 1 at 67.) Plaintiff further submitted evidence that due to the shove, he fell onto his back with the handcuffs on and sustained an injury to his lower back. Id. Defendants submitted evidence that Plaintiff was not shoved and did not fall. (Doc. 24-3, tab 2 at 56.) Plaintiff also submitted evidence that Defendant Hinkle refused to allow him to use a restroom, which forced Plaintiff to urinate on himself in the back of the cruiser. (Doc. 24-2, tab 1 at 58-59.) Defendants submitted evidence that Plaintiff was allowed to use the restroom at the hospital, and that Plaintiff never urinated in the police cruiser. (Doc. 24-3, tab 2 at 55-57.)

  The following day, on April 28, 2002, Plaintiff returned to the Tyler Memorial Hospital complaining about bilateral wrist pain with numbness of the right thumb and index finger. (Doc. 32-3 at 1.) Plaintiff then submitted evidence that he has received ongoing treatment for injuries to his wrists and lower back following his arrest, including EMG nerve conduction, three nerve blocks, and imaging at the Wilkes Barre Imaging Center. (Doc. 32-3 at 2.) Finally, Plaintiff submitted evidence from an expert stating that Plaintiff's "current symptoms of numbness in his right thumb and index finger are secondary to the handcuff application," and "that his current low back pain is also secondary to the injury he sustained when falling to the ground." (Doc. 32-3 at 3.) On March 8, 2004, Plaintiff filed the present suit. Defendants moved for summary judgment on March 31, 2005. The motion is fully briefed and the matter is ripe for disposition.

  LEGAL STANDARD

  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 a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

  Where there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Where, however, there is a disputed issue of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate only if the factual dispute is not a genuine one. See id. at 248. An issue of material fact is genuine if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.

  Where there is a material fact in dispute, the moving party has the initial burden of proving that: (1) there is no genuine issue of material fact; and (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT & ARTHUR. MILLER, FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE: CIVIL 2D § 2727 (2d ed. 1983). The moving party may present its own evidence or, where the nonmoving party has the burden of proof, simply point out to the Court that "the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing of an essential element of her case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

  All doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact must be resolved against the moving party, and the entire record must be examined in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See White v. Westinghouse Elec. Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to either present affirmative evidence supporting its version of the material facts or to refute ...


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