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Shurney v. Scott's Econo Inn

June 23, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLAUGHLIN, Sean J., District J.


This civil action is brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983*fn1 and arises from Plaintiff Tanielle Shurney's claim that she was subjected to a warrantless felony arrest and subsequent incarceration without sufficient probable cause. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1343.

Presently pending before the Court are the Defendants' motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, these motions will be granted.


Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with any affidavits, show that there is no genuine issues 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). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must examine the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. International Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chemical Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir.1990). The moving party has the initial burden of demonstrating that, given the evidence of record, no reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party, who must go beyond its pleadings and designate specific facts by the use of affidavits, depositions, admissions, or answers to interrogatories showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986); Wilson v. Lemington Home for the Aged, No. 99-1893, 2000 WL 33712287 at *1 (W.D. Pa. April 12, 2000). Entry of judgment is mandated against any 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. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322; Wilson, supra, at *1. Viewing the evidence in this case most favorably to the Plaintiff, we recite the pertinent facts.


The underlying dispute in this action arises from an incident involving unauthorized charges made to a debit/credit card belonging to Tonya Traylor, a 33-year old female who lives and works in the Cleveland, Ohio area. The charges in question were made to secure the purchase of passes to Splash Lagoon (a water park located in Erie, Pennsylvania) and a room at the Econolodge (a hotel which provides accommodations for patrons of Splash Lagoon).

The undisputed evidence of record establishes that, on June 25, 2004, a woman identifying herself as Tanielle Shurney telephoned the Splash Lagoon reservation center to reserve a hotel room and five passes to Splash Lagoon for two adults and three children for July 3, 2004. The caller was informed that she would need a credit card to place the reservation. The caller indicated that she did not have a credit card but would call back. Later that same evening a female, who again identified herself as Tanielle Shurney, called the reservation center back and spoke with Kristen Mooney, a reservations clerk. During the course of this conversation, the caller indicated that her cousin, "Tracey Smith," would put the charges on her credit card. An individual identifying herself as Tracey Smith then got on the phone and provided a Master Card account number, which was accepted by the Splash Lagoon reservation system, immediately charging the card holder's account in the amount of $198.79. The account number used to purchase the reservation did not belong to either Tanielle Shurney or Tracey Smith, but instead belonged to Tonya Traylor.

On June 30, 2004, Ms. Traylor discovered that her Master Card account with Key Bank was overdrawn and that several unauthorized charges had been placed on her account. The first unauthorized charge was the June 25, 2004 charge to Splash Lagoon in the amount of $198.79. Upon discovering this activity, Ms. Traylor immediately contacted Splash Lagoon and reported that she had neither made the reservation nor authorized the use of her debit account to secure the reservation.

Ms. Traylor also reported the activity to Officer Jon Hurley of the Streetsboro, Ohio Police Department, who undertook an investigation. On July 2, Officer Hurley contacted Patty Purchase, manager of the Splash Lagoon reservation center. Ms. Purchase faxed him reservation documents confirming that a reservation had been placed in the name of Tanielle Shurney for July 3, 2004 using the account number belonging to Ms. Traylor. Officer Hurley indicated to Ms. Purchase that he would be in contact with the Pennsylvania State Police concerning the case and he requested that the Econolodge check-in-desk notify the state police when Ms. Shurney arrived to claim the reservation. Officer Hurley then contacted the state police in Erie, informed them of the situation, and asked that a trooper be dispatched to the Econolodge when Ms. Shurney checked in.

On the night of July 2, 2004, a female, again identifying herself as Tanielle Shurney, telephoned the reservation center to confirm her reservation. Ms. Purchase spoke with the caller who confirmed her identity as "Tanielle Shurney" and provided her address and telephone number. The caller advised Ms. Purchase that the credit card used to make the reservations belonged to "Tracey Smith" and requested that no additional charges be made to the card for incidentals. Ms. Purchase confirmed the reservation and advised the caller that she could come to the hotel at noon the following day to claim her passes.

On July 3, 2004, at approximately 2:00 p.m., Plaintiff arrived at the Econolodge along with a party of two other adults and four children. Plaintiff went alone into the Econolodge and signed for the hotel room and passes that had been purchased with Ms. Traylor's debit card account number. Plaintiff advised the Guest Services Agent that she was not in possession of the Master Card that had been used to pay for the reservation. She presented photo identification and obtained the room key and Splash Lagoon passes. An Econolodge employee then contacted the state police and advised that Tanielle Shurney was on the premises.

Shortly thereafter, Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Sean Pierce came to the Econolodge accompanied by his police training coach, Trooper James R. Szymanski. Trooper Szymanski remained in the patrol car while Trooper Pierce interviewed the Guest Services Agent who had processed Plaintiff's reservation. The agent confirmed that Tanielle Shurney had arrived at the Econolodge to claim a reservation made in her own name using the Master Card account number that had been reported stolen by Ms. Traylor. The agent further advised Trooper Pierce that Shurney had signed for the room using that same account number but did not have the Master Card in her possession. Physical evidence included documents from the reservation center bearing Plaintiff's name and the account number of Ms. Traylor's Master Card, as well as copies of Plaintiff's photo driver's license and the receipt for the room which was signed by Plaintiff using the unauthorized Master Card account. Trooper Pierce presented this evidence ...

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