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Pagliaccetti v. City of Philadelphia

August 12, 2010

PATRICIA PAGLIACCETTI PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, POLICE OFFICER ANTHONY COLARULO, BADGE #7162 INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS A POLICE OFFICER OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA; POLICE OFFICER CHRIS LAI, BADGE #6850 INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS A POLICE OFFICER OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA; POLICE OFFICER DEMAS, ASSIGNED TO 4TH DISTRICT OF PHILADELPHIA POLICE DEPARTMENT ON MARCH 13, 2007 INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS/HER CAPACITY AS A POLICE OFFICER OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, THE FIRST NAME OF OFFICER DEMAS IS NOT PRESENTLY KNOWN; POLICE OFFICER THOMAS ASSIGNED TO 4TH DISTRICT OF PHILADELPHIA POLICE DEPARTMENT ON MARCH 13, 2007, THE FIRST NAME OF OFFICER THOMAS IS NOT PRESENTLY KNOWN DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM

I. Introduction

This case arises out of the March 13, 2007, detention of plaintiff, Patricia Pagliaccetti, on the 2400 block of South Marshall Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Plaintiff alleges five causes of action against defendants, the City of Philadelphia, Police Officer Anthony Colarulo, Police Officer Chris Lai, Police Officer Dennis Demas, and Police Officer John Thomas: (1) violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) conspiracy in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985; (3) assault; (4) false imprisonment; and, (5) false arrest. The Court has jurisdiction over plaintiff's federal claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

Presently before the Court is defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, which the Court grants, for the reasons set forth below.

II. Background*fn1

On March 13, 2007, Charles Cory Vaughn was driving his taxicab when plaintiff's husband, Frank Pagliaccetti ("Pagliaccetti"), waived and pointed a gun at him. (Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 1 (hereinafter "Defs.' Stmt.").) Vaughn recorded Pagliaccetti's license plate number and called the police. (Id. ¶ 2.) Vaughn told Philadelphia Police Officer Chris Lai ("P.O. Lai"), the responding officer, that a white male, driving a green Honda with Pennsylvania license plate number EDP0639, pulled up next to him and pointed a gun at him. (Id. ¶¶ 3-5.) After taking Vaughn's statement, P.O. Lai broadcasted the details of the incident over the police radio. (Id. ¶ 6.)

Philadelphia Police Officer Anthony Colarulo ("P.O. Colarulo") heard P.O. Lai's radio flash and used the computer in his patrol car to ascertain the address associated with PA Tag EDP0639. (Id. ¶ 9.) According to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, the address for PA Tag EDP0639 was in the 2400 block of South Marshall Street. (Id. ¶ 10.) P.O. Colarulo and Philadelphia Police Officer Dennis Demas ("P.O. Demas") proceeded to that address and waited for the green Honda to return. (Id. at ¶¶ 11-12.)

Plaintiff, who was unaware of the incident at the time, was shopping in Center City Philadelphia when she called her husband, Pagliaccetti, to pick her up. (Id. ¶ 8.) After Pagliaccetti picked her up, they drove home to 2410 South Marshall Street. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 16.) As Pagliaccetti and plaintiff approached their home, P.O. Colarulo fell in behind the green Honda, verified the plate number, and activated his overhead lights and siren. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 16.) Instead of stopping, Pagliaccetti accelerated and led police on a twelve-block circular vehicle chase. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 24.) Pagliaccetti finally stopped at the corner of Ritner and South Marshall Street, and ran from the vehicle. (Id. ¶¶ 23, 26, 28.) He fell down about ten feet from the vehicle, and was apprehended by P.O. Colarulo. (Id. ¶ 28.) Realizing the P.O. Colarulo had Pagliaccetti secured, P.O. Demas turned toward the Honda and observed plaintiff sitting in the front passenger seat. (Id. ¶ 29.)

P.O. Demas asked plaintiff to step out of the vehicle and place her hands on the car. (Id. ¶¶ 30-31.) He testified that within minutes of plaintiff being removed from the car, a female officer arrived and frisked her; plaintiff was not handcuffed at this time. (Id. ¶¶ 34-35, Ex. F at 14-15.) After plaintiff was frisked, she was handcuffed and placed in the back of the police car. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 36.) Plaintiff avers that she was placed in the back of the police car in handcuffs first, and then waited forty-five minutes for a female officer to arrive and frisk her. (Pl.'s Mem. at 10.)

P.O. Demas handcuffed plaintiff because it was felony car stop, there was a report of a gun, and, at the time, he did not know who was involved in the incident with Vaughn. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶¶ 32, 37, 41; Pl.'s Mem. at 2.) He further stated that because the 2400 block of South Marshall Street is a high crime neighborhood, he placed plaintiff in the back of his patrol car for her safety and the safety of the officers. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 54.)

Plaintiff was detained for approximately forty-five minutes; she was released after Vaughn arrived and identified Pagliaccetti as the sole perpetrator. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶¶ 41, 44.) Plaintiff disputes this assertion; she states that after Vaughn identified her husband, she remained in the back of the police car until the frisk was complete. (Pl.'s Mem. at 10.)

III. Legal Standard

In considering a motion for summary judgment, "the court is required to examine the evidence of record in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, and resolve all reasonable inferences in that party's favor." Wishkin v. Potter, 476 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2007). After this examination, a court should grant summary judgment if "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); accord Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

A factual dispute is material when it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law," and genuine when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). There can be no genuine issue where the non-moving party "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." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; see also In re IKON Office Solutions, Inc., 277 F.3d 658, 666 (3d Cir. 2002) ("Only evidence sufficient to convince a reasonable factfinder to find all of the elements of the prima facie case merits consideration beyond the Rule 56 stage." (internal quotation marks omitted)). In order to be sufficient, the evidence "must amount to more than a scintilla, but may amount to less (in the evaluation of the court) than a preponderance." Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001). Where the evidence presented does not meet this threshold, "[t]he plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment . . . ." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

IV. Discussion

Defendants argue that they are entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff's claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the following reasons: (1) plaintiff has not adduced any evidence against the City of Philadelphia; (2) officers possessed reasonable suspicion sufficient to conduct a Terry stop; and (3) neither the officers' conduct nor the length of the detention exceeded the scope of the Terry stop. In the alternative, defendants aver that they are entitled to qualified immunity on the § 1983 claim. Defendants further argue that plaintiff's conspiracy claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 fails as a matter of law, and finally, that the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act bars plaintiff's state law tort claims. The Court addresses each of these arguments in turn.

A. Plaintiff's Claim of Excessive Force in Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 -- Count One

42 U.S.C. § 1983 does not create substantive rights, but rather provides a remedy for the violation of rights created by federal law. To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate a violation of a federal or constitutional right by a person acting under color of state law. See, e.g., Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906-07 (3d Cir.1997) (citing Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n. 3 (1979)). For the reasons stated below, the Court grants defendants' ...


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