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Graziosi v. Joyce's Café

July 7, 2009

JOSHUA GRAZIOSI PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOYCE'S CAFÉ, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (judge Caputo)

MEMORANDUM

Three motions for summary judgment are presently before the Court from: (1) Defendant Jamie Barrett, (2) Defendants City of Scranton and Scranton Police Department (the "Municipal Defendants"), and (3) Defendant Nathan Barrett. For the reasons set forth in greater detail below, the Court will grant each of the Defendants' motions.

The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 28 U.S.C. § 1343.

BACKGROUND

The undisputed facts of this case are as follows.*fn1

On December 31, 2005, at approximately 2:00 a.m., Plaintiff Joshua Graziosi ("Plaintiff") drove his car to Defendant Joyce's Café ("Joyce's) with his friend Tim Gretz ("Mr. Gretz"). (Def. J. Barrett SOF, Doc. 30 ¶ 2; Def. Scranton SOF, Doc. 34 ¶ 1.) Prior to driving to Joyce's the Plaintiff, who was a minor at the time, had consumed three (3) cans of beer. (Doc. 30 ¶ 2.) The Plaintiff and Mr. Gretz drove to Joyce's in order to continue their consumption of alcoholic beverages and to look for a phone and jewelry that Plaintiff had lost at Joyce's during a December 27, 2005 visit to Joyce's Café. (Doc. 30 ¶ 3-4; Doc. 34 ¶ 2.) The Plaintiff and Mr. Gretz arrived at Joyce's and found it closed. (Doc. 30 ¶ 5; Doc. 34 ¶ 3.) After unsuccessfully attempting to enter Joyce's Café, the Plaintiff publically urinated in some bushes on an unidentified person's private property adjoining Joyce's Café. (Doc. 30 ¶ 6; Doc. 34 ¶ 4.) At this time, Mr. Gretz produced a paint-filled marker and began vandalizing the front door of Joyce's Café. (Doc. 30 ¶ 7; Doc. 34 ¶ 5.) After urinating in the bushes, and while Mr. Gretz continued to deface Joyce's front door, the Plaintiff walked to the back of the Joyce's Café building. (Doc. 30 ¶ 8.) Defendant Nathan Barrett, who was working as a bartender at Joyce's, opened the front door, yelled at and attempted to apprehend Mr. Gretz. (Doc. 34 ¶ 6.) The Plaintiff heard yelling and saw Mr. Gretz being chased by a man who had come out of Joyce's. (Doc. 30 ¶¶ 9-10.) Unable to apprehend Mr. Gretz, Defendant Nathan Barrett confronted the Plaintiff, who had picked up a stick after watching Mr. Gretz flee and observing Nathan Barrett's anger. (Doc. 30 ¶¶ 14-19; Doc. 34 ¶¶ 7-8.)

Defendant Nathan Barrett approached and shook the Plaintiff by his jacket. (Doc. 30 ¶ 9; Doc. 34 ¶ 21.) After the two men came into contact, Plaintiff was struck in the face by Defendant Nathan Barrett. (Doc. 30 ¶ 28.) During the course of the ensuing fight, Defendant Nathan Barrett kicked or punched the Plaintiff in the area of his head/face. (Doc. 30 ¶ 33.) Also, at some point during the course of the altercation, a razor blade that Plaintiff had purposefully carried to use as a weapon, was either removed from or fell out of Plaintiff's jacket. (Doc. 30 ¶¶ 22, 23, 36; Doc. 34 ¶ 8.)

Defendant Jamie Barrett is a detective in the Scranton City police department and Defendant Nathan Barrett's brother. (Doc. 34 ¶ 10.) At the time of the incident, Jamie Barrett resided on the second floor of the Joyce's Café building and, upon hearing the noise from the altercation, went outside to the scene of the fight. (Id.) Defendant Jamie Barrett was off duty at the time of this incident, was not in uniform, and did not identify himself as a police officer. (Doc.30 ¶ 37; Doc. 34 ¶ 10.) Jamie Barrett did not strike or kick the Plaintiff at any time during the incident and came upon the scene after Plaintiff had already fallen to the ground. (Doc. 30 ¶¶ 28-29, 34.) Plaintiff believes that Jamie Barrett held him to the ground until the police and an ambulance could arrive at the scene. (Doc. 30 ¶ 37.)

Plaintiff was injured in the altercation, suffering a broken nose and dislocated jaw. (Doc. 30 ¶ 43; Doc. 34 ¶ 12.) Plaintiff was also arrested in connection with the events occurring on December 31, 2005. (Doc. 30 ¶ 55; Doc. 34 ¶ 13.) Following a preliminary hearing, the Plaintiff plead guilty to a charge of harassment. (Doc. 30 ¶ 51; Doc. 34 ¶ 14.)

On December 31, 2007, Plaintiff filed his Complaint (Doc. 1) alleging eleven (11) causes of action against the Defendants, including a claim of assault/battery against Defendant Nathan Barrett, claims of malicious prosecution and civil conspiracy against Defendants Nathan and Jamie T. Barrett. (Doc 1 ¶¶ 25-40.) Plaintiff's Complaint also includes a variety of claims against the various Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (See id. ¶¶ 41-73.) Finally, Plaintiff brings a single claim against Defendant Joyce's Café, or its owners, alleging that Joyce's breached its duty to protect its patrons and the public when it hired Defendant Nathan Barrett, allowed Nathan Barrett to become involved in the incident involving Mr. Gretz and Plaintiff, and failed to either restrain Nathan Barrett or warn Plaintiff of Nathan Barrett's alleged violent tendencies. (Id. ¶¶ 74-81.)

Defendants Joyce's Café, Nathan Barrett and Jamie T. Barrett filed their Answer to Plaintiff's Complaint on February 1, 2008. (Doc. 6.) Likewise, Defendant Scranton Police Department/City of Scranton filed its Answer to Plaintiff's Complaint on February 21, 2008. (Doc. 11.) After a case management conference, the Court entered an Order placing the case on a standard case management track and setting a November 1, 2008 deadline for the completion of all discovery and a February 2, 2009 deadline for dispositive motions. (Doc. 21.) All three of the current motions for summary judgment (Docs. 29, 32, 36) were filed on February 2, 2009, along with corresponding statements of facts (Docs. 30, 34, 38) and briefs in support (Docs. 31, 35, 37). On March 2, 2009, Plaintiff filed a Memorandum of Law (Doc. 43) in opposition to all three motions for summary judgment, and on March 16, 2009 Scranton Police Department/City of Scranton filed a Reply Brief (Doc. 44). As the deadline for additional replies to Plaintiff's opposition memorandum has passed, and as the current motions have been thoroughly briefed, the Court finds that the Defendants' motions are currently 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 & ARTHURR. 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 the moving party's contention that the facts entitle it to judgment as a matter of law. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57.

The Court need not accept mere conclusory allegations, whether they are made in the complaint or a sworn statement. Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, "the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to ...


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