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Dorkoski v. Pensyl

March 9, 2007

JOHN DORKOSKI, PLAINTIFF
v.
CHARLES E. PENSYL, III; MARK A. COSTA; EDWARD GRIFFITHS; ROBERT JOHN; EDWARD PURCELL; RICHARD B. HIGGINS; ROBERT J. WOLFE, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mannion, J.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Presently pending before the court are the Shamokin Township defendants' (Costa, Griffiths, and Wolfe)*fn1 motion and amended motion for partial summary judgment, (Doc. Nos. 39 & 45)*fn2 , and the Coal Township defendants' (Pensyl, Purcell and Higgins) motion for partial summary judgment, (Doc. No. 42).

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The plaintiff initiated the instant action on April 7, 2005. An answer to the plaintiff's complaint was filed on behalf of the Shamokin Township defendants on May 24, 2005. The Coal Township defendants filed their answer to the plaintiff's complaint on May 27, 2005.

On June 29, 2006, after completion of discovery, the Shamokin Township defendants filed a motion for partial summary judgment, along with a statement of facts and supporting exhibits.

On July 3, 2006, a motion for partial summary judgment was filed on behalf of the Coal Township defendants, along with a statement of facts and supporting exhibits.

On July 7, 2006, the Shamokin Township defendants filed an amended motion for partial summary judgment, adding Counts X and XI. In addition, the Shamokin Township defendants filed a brief in support of their motion and amended motion for partial summary judgment.

On July 13, 2006, the Coal Township defendants filed a brief in support of their motion for partial summary judgment.

On July 24, 2006, the plaintiff filed briefs in opposition to both the Shamokin Township defendants' motion and amended motion for partial summary judgment, and the Coal Township defendants' motion for partial summary judgment. In addition, the plaintiff filed supporting exhibits and statements/counter-statements of material facts.

On August 4, 2006, the Shamokin Township defendants filed a reply brief.

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT 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 judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

The Supreme Court has stated that:

". . . [T]he plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a 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. In such a situation, there can be 'no genuine issue as to any material fact,' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial. The moving party is 'entitled to judgment as a matter of law' because the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof."

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986).

The moving party bears the initial responsibility of stating the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. The moving party can discharge that burden by "showing . . . that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325.

Issues of fact are genuine "only if a reasonably jury, considering the evidence presented, could find for the nonmoving party." Childers v. Joseph, 842 F.2d 689, 693-94 (3d Cir. 1988)(citations omitted). Material facts are those which will effect the outcome of the trial under governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The court may not weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations. Boyle v. County of Allegheny, 139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir. 1998). In determining whether an issue of material fact exists, the court must consider all evidence and inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. at 393.

If the moving party meets his initial burden, the opposing party must do more than raise some metaphysical doubt as to material facts, but must show sufficient evidence to support a jury verdict in its favor. Id.

III. DISCUSSION

The plaintiff's complaint alleges as follows:

On June 5, 2003, defendant Pensyl, a detective with the Coal Township Police Department, arrested the plaintiff for aggravated assault, simple assault, obstructing administration of law or other governmental function, hindering apprehension or prosecution, and disorderly conduct. These charges stemmed from an incident wherein police officers from the Shamokin Police Department and the Coal Township Police Department were looking for the plaintiff's son, Kip Dorkoski, ("Kip"). During their search for Kip, he fled into an apartment which is owned by the plaintiff and located in a detached garage on the plaintiff's property at 911 West Pine Street in Coal Township, Pennsylvania.

Some of the defendants approached the plaintiff and told him that they were looking for his son. The plaintiff informed them that, to his knowledge, his son was not there. The plaintiff inquired as to whether the defendants had a search or arrest warrant, to which the defendants replied that they did not and that they did not need one.

One of the defendants asked the plaintiff to open the door to the garage which led to the apartment. When the plaintiff refused one of the defendants indicated that they would "break it down." As the defendants attempted to break down the door, the plaintiff alleges that he attempted to remove a piece of steel that was laying on the ground near the door, so that nobody would trip over it and hurt themselves. As he did so, the defendants grabbed him from behind and threw him to the ground. One of the defendants put his knee into the plaintiff's back and pushed his face into the ground. One of the defendants yelled at the plaintiff to get his arms out from under his body, which he could not do because of the defendant officer's weight on his back. During this attack, the plaintiff's ears and neck were turning red, which was allegedly noticed by one of the defendants, who failed to intervene to assist him.

At some point, the defendants brought the plaintiff to his feet and handcuffed him behind his back. He was then thrown up against a fence, with some of the defendants immobilizing his head and neck so that he was unable to see the activities of the other defendants. One of the defendants reached into the plaintiff's pockets and removed two sets of keys and $130.00. The defendants then used the keys, without permission, to enter the apartment and apprehend Kip.

The plaintiff's complaint alleges that some of the defendants actively participated in attacking him and entering his home without consent or a warrant, while others simply watched and failed to intervene. The plaintiff alleges that the charges brought against him were an attempt to cover up and justify the defendants' conduct. According to the plaintiff, there was no probable cause to bring the charges against him and the only reason that the charges were brought was an attempt by the officers to protect themselves from the consequences of their actions in brutalizing the plaintiff and entering his home and/or allowing these events to take place without intervening.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff had to be taken to the emergency room at Shamokin Hospital following the incident because of injuries sustained during the attack. Once released from the emergency room, the plaintiff was detained in the holding cell at the Coal Township police station for several hours before he was arraigned and released on bail.

On October 1, 2003, following a preliminary hearing, District Justice Gembic dismissed all charges against the plaintiff based on the Commonwealth's failure to establish a prima facie case.

The plaintiff alleges that the defendants conspired to commit the above acts or omissions and acted overtly in furtherance of that conspiracy.

Based upon the above allegations, the plaintiff brought the instant action alleging violations of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง1983 (Counts I-V), and state law claims for malicious prosecution (Count VI), abuse of process (Count VII), assault (Count VIII), battery (Count IX), ...


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