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Bodnar v. Wagner

January 5, 2010

ALLEN BODNAR AND TIFFANY BODNAR, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
KEVIN WAGNER AND SCOTT NICHOLAS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendants Kevin Wagner and Scott Nicholas. (Doc. 35.) The Court will grant the Defendants' motion in part and deny it in part, as stated below. This Court has jurisdiction over the Plaintiffs' federal claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("federal question jurisdiction") and over the state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367 ("supplemental jurisdiction").

BACKGROUND

I. Factual Background

The events relevant to this litigation occurred on December 15, 2005. (Allen Bodnar Dep., 41:21-22, Feb. 5, 2009.) While driving from his brother's house to his mother's house, the mirror of a truck driven by Plaintiff Allen Bodnar ("Bodnar") struck the mirror of another vehicle. (Bodnar Dep. 54:3-8.) Bodnar did not stop and instead continued to his mother's home. (Bodnar Dep. 54:8-11.) Bodnar went into the home and sat at the table in the kitchen. (Bodnar Dep. 75:22-76:6.) After a few minutes, Bodnar's sister also arrived at the home. (Bodnar Dep. 78:7-9.)

A knock on the door was answered by Bodnar's sister. (Bodnar Dep. 80:2-3.) Both Officer Scott Nicholas ("Nicholas") and Officer Kevin Wagner ("Wagner") were at the door. (Bodnar Dep. 80:3-4.) At this time, Bodnar was still sitting by the kitchen table. (Bodnar Dep. 80:7-8.) The floor of the kitchen is linoleum. (Bodnar Dep. 75:2-4.) Nicholas entered and asked Bodnar if he knew that he had been involved in an accident. (Bodnar Dep. 80:7-10.) Bodnar denied that he had been involved in an accident. (Bodnar Dep. 80:10-13.) Nicholas "kept going on about it" while Wagner stared at Bodnar. (Bodnar Dep. 80:13-16.) Bodnar refused to give Nicholas his license or any other identifying information, despite being requested to do so numerous times. (Bodnar Dep. 86:11-16.) Bodnar started to get frustrated and aggravated. (Bodnar Dep. 81:16, 97:22-25.) Bodnar was pacing around the kitchen. (Bodnar Dep. 94:7-12.) The parties assert two different versions of the events which occurred next.

A. Bodnar's Version

Bodnar asserts that Wagner then told him he was under arrest and instructed him to put his hands behind his back. (Bodnar Dep. 81:20-24.) Bodnar states that he complied, but that as Wagner was pulling his arms back it hurt Bodnar's shoulder. (Bodnar Dep. 81:23-82:2.) Wagner allegedly told Bodnar to stop resisting, to which Bodnar answered that he was not resisting. (Bodnar Dep. 82:2-3.) Bodnar alleges that Wagner then kicked his ankle and caused him to fall forward to the floor. (Bodnar Dep. 82:3-5.) Bodnar's sister recalled hearing his leg pop. (Trial Transcript, 121:14-21, June 13, 2007 (hereinafter "TT"); June Bodnar Dep. 52:11-14, Dec. 2, 2008.) As Bodnar tried to get up, Wagner kicked the back of Bodnar's head and banged it off the floor a few times. (Bodnar Dep. 82:6-8; June Bodnar Dep. 52:15-18.) Bodnar kept his hands under himself to protect his face from the floor. (June Bodnar Dep. 59:25-60:6.) Nicholas said something to Wagner, and Wagner got off of Bodnar. (Bodnar Dep. 82:15-16.) Bodnar attempted to stand, but could not, and he felt that his leg was broken. (Bodnar Dep. 82:18-19.) Then both officers grabbed him and slammed him to the floor. (Bodnar Dep. 82:19-20.)

The officers then "drove" Bodnar down the stairs and out of the house to the police car. (Bodnar Dep. 82:21-24.) Bodnar's mother testified that the officers "drug [sic] him like a dog." (TT 161:13-16.) Bodnar's leg continued to hurt through the following morning, but he was told that it was "too late" to receive medical care. (Bodnar Dep. 112:1-4.) The following morning he was taken to the hospital where he was told his leg was broken. (Bodnar Dep. 112:5-15.) A few days later Bodnar was told that the charges against him would be dropped if he did not retain a lawyer. (Bodnar Dep. 112:19-113:12.)

B. Defendants' Version

At one point during the requests for information, Bodnar lunged at Wagner with a clenched fist at his side. (TT 56:12-24.) Wagner then grabbed the front of Bodnar's shirt and told him he was under arrest. (TT 57:1-4.) The two struggled for a few seconds, after which they slipped on the wet linoleum floor and fell to the ground. (TT 57:5-14, 96:16-24.) Bodnar and Wagner then struggled on the floor, with Bodnar trying to push himself up. (TT 58:9-13.) At some point Bodnar's arms gave out and he slammed on the floor where both officers were able to handcuff him. (TT 58:15-19.) Nicholas assisted by grabbing one of Bodnar's arms, allowing handcuffs to be placed upon Bodnar. (TT 98:10-21.) Nicholas did not see Bodnar's head smash against the floor. (TT 75:7-19.)

II. Procedural Background

On November 8, 2007, Plaintiffs filed this suit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1.) On November 16, 2009, the Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 35.) The motion is fully briefed and 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. 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. Id. 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, FEDERALPRACTICE AND PROCEDURE: CIVIL2D ยง ...


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