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Pugh v. Chester Downs and Marina

June 4, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.



Plaintiff Stanley A. Pugh ("Pugh" or "Plaintiff") filed suit against Chester Downs and Marina, LLC ("Chester Downs"), Dennis F. Dougherty ("Dougherty"), and New Jersey State Police Trooper Gary Onick ("Onick"), (collectively "Defendants"), alleging the following constitutional violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983: conspiracy, excessive force, malicious prosecution, and false arrest/ imprisonment. In addition, Plaintiff alleges Pennsylvania state law claims for assault and battery, false arrest/ imprisonment, malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress, as applied to Defendant Dougherty. Finally, Plaintiff alleges a claim for respondeat superior, as applied to Defendant Chester Downs.

Plaintiff is a citizen of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Defendant Chester Downs is a limited liability corporation, existing under the laws of Pennsylvania. Defendant Chester Downs owns and operates Harrah's Chester Casino and Racetrack. Defendant Dougherty is an individual, employed as the security shift manager at Harrah's Chester Casino. Defendant Onick is a Pennsylvania State trooper and, pursuant to an agreement between Defendant Chester Downs and Pennsylvania State Police, Defendant Onick was assigned to work at Harrah's Chester Casino.*fn1

Before the Court is moving Defendants Chester Downs and Dougherty's motion for summary judgment.*fn2 For the reasons that follow, the motion for summary judgment will be granted in part and denied in part.


According to Plaintiff, the facts supporting his allegations are as follows. On May 10, 2007, Plaintiff and his fiancée, Adrienne Cropp, were playing the slot machines at Harrah's Chester Casino when Defendant Dougherty approached Plaintiff and asked him to leave the casino. (Pl.'s 2d. amd. compl. at ¶¶ 7, 12). Plaintiff inquired as to why he was forced to leave and Defendant Dougherty did not respond. (Id. at ¶¶ 12, 13). Defendants Dougherty and Onick escorted Plaintiff out of the casino and "began, in concert, to physically assault and batter plaintiff, taking him to the ground and spraying him with mace." (Id. at ¶ 15).

Plaintiff was taken to a holding room where Defendant Onick arrested him and then "severely assaulted and battered plaintiff, without provocation... causing numerous injuries about his face, ears, head, body, shoulder, and limbs." (Id. at ¶ 17). Security cameras at the casino recorded (the "Video") at least part of the interactions among Plaintiff, Onick and Dougherty on the night of the incident. After the incident, Plaintiff was charged with terroristic threats with intent to terrorize, simple assault and resisting arrest. (Id. at ¶ 17). Plaintiff posted bail and was released twelve hours later. (Id. at ¶ 18). Later, Plaintiff was acquitted on all charges at jury trial. (Id. at ¶ 21).

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. On July 27, 2009, the Court granted the motion in part and denied it in part.*fn3 The following claims remained after the Court's disposition of Defendants' motions to dismiss: (1) Section 1983 claims, as to Defendant Onick, alleging false arrest/imprisonment, excessive force, and malicious prosecution [Counts II, III, and IV]; (2) Pennsylvania state law claims, as to Defendant Dougherty, alleging assault and battery, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress [Counts V, VI, VII]; and (3) Respondeat superior claim, as to Defendant Chester Downs [Count VIII].


Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."

Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A fact is "material" if its existence or non-existence would affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of fact is "genuine" when there is sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could find in favor of the non-moving party regarding the existence of that fact. Id. at 248-49. "In considering the evidence, the court should draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party." El v. Se. Pa. Transp. Auth., 479 F.3d 232, 238 (3d Cir. 2007).

"Although the initial burden is on the summary judgment movant to show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, 'the burden on the moving party may be discharged by showing-that is, pointing out to the district court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case' when the nonmoving party bears the ultimate burden of proof." Conoshenti v. Pub. Serv. Elec. & Gas Co., 364 F.3d 135, 140 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Singletary v. Pa. Dep't. of Corr., 266 F.3d 186, 192 n.2 (3d Cir. 2001)). Once the moving party has discharged its burden, the nonmoving party "may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own ...

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