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Higgins v. Borough of Taylor

May 27, 2009

ROBBIE J. HIGGINS, PLAINTIFF
v.
BOROUGH OF TAYLOR, BOROUGH OF TAYLOR POLICE DEPARTMENT, OFFICER EDWARD FRESCOLN, CARL F. SIMINSKI, AND MARY JOYCE SIMINSKI, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley

MEMORANDUM

Before the court are defendants' motions for summary judgment (Docs. 36, 39). Having been fully briefed, the matters are ripe for disposition.

Background*fn1

This case arises out of an incident that occurred on January 9, 2005. On that date, Borough of Taylor, Pennsylvania, Police Officer Edward Frescoln observed Plaintiff Robbie Higgins in the middle of a roadway in the Borough at 4:32 a.m. (Defendants, Borough of Taylor, Borough of Taylor Police Department and Officer Edward Frescoln's Proposed Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. 38) (hereinafter "Borough Defendants' Statement") at ¶ 1). Plaintiff appeared to be extremely intoxicated. (Id. at ¶ 2).

Frescoln transported plaintiff to the Borough of Taylor Police Department Headquarters. (Id. at ¶ 3). Once at headquarters, Frescoln issued plaintiff a non-traffic citation for public drunkenness. (Id. at ¶ 4). Defendant Frescoln then told plaintiff he was free to leave. (Id. at ¶ 5). He inquired of plaintiff whether there was anyone who could come and pick him up from the station; plaintiff could not name anyone. (Id. at ¶¶ 6-7). Defendant Frescoln then offered to assist plaintiff in getting home, and plaintiff accepted the ride. (Id. at ¶¶ 8-9).

Plaintiff's residence was just across the street from the police department. (Id. at ¶ 10). Defendant Frescoln transported him there. (Id.). Plaintiff lived in an apartment which could be accessed by a set of stairs on the exterior of the building. (Id. at ¶ 11). Plaintiff did not tell Frescoln that there was another way to enter the apartment from the inside of the building. (Id. at ¶ 13). Defendant Frescoln thus escorted plaintiff to his apartment using the exterior stairway. (Id. at ¶ 11). Plaintiff fell while climbing these stairs and rolled from the stairs onto the asphalt below. (Id. at ¶ 14). Officer Frescoln attempted to prevent plaintiff from falling, but failed to do so. (Id. at ¶ 15). Plaintiff has no recollection of the events that occurred on this day. (Affidavit of Robbie Higgins, Exh. A to Plaintiff's Answer and Opposition to Defendants' Motion (Doc. 44)). He asserts that the exterior entrance to his apartment, including the stairway and an attached porch, were poorly maintained and covered with ice and snow during winter months. (Id.). Plaintiff claims he "would not use the rear entrance to my residence during the winter months." (Id.).

Plaintiff filed the instant complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania on March 12, 2007. (See Notice of Removal (Doc. 1) Exh. 2). Defendants removed the complaint to this court on April 2, 2007.

Jurisdiction

Because plaintiff brings his claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."). The court has supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiff's state-law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) ("In any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction, the district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article II of the United States Constitution.").

Legal Standard

Granting summary judgment is proper 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. See Knabe v. Boury, 114 F.3d 407, 410 n.4 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)). "[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).

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 burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248 (1986). A fact is material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. Where the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving 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. Id. at 324.

Discussion

The defendants seek summary judgment on several grounds. The court will address each ...


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