The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Nora Barry Fischer
Plaintiff David O'Hara ("Plaintiff") pursues this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Yvonne Suppok ("Suppok") seeking redress for claims of unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution, and intentional infliction of emotional distress under Pennsylvania law. (Docket No. 16).
Before the Court is the motion for summary judgment filed by Suppok. (Docket No. 83). For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the Suppok motion and judgment is entered in her favor on all claims.
a.Identification of the Parties
Plaintiff is a 44 year old construction worker who is currently a resident of Carmichaels, Pennsylvania. (Docket No. 67, Ex. A, pp. 6-7). At the time of the events giving rise to this lawsuit, Plaintiff was residing with Rose Della Kennedy and her two children, TL and CL.*fn1 Id.
Since the filing of the lawsuit they have married. Id. At the time of his arrest, Kennedy's brother and CS lived in Plaintiff's home.(Id. at p. 17). CJ is the mother of SB, a female minor, who visited plaintiff's residence from time to time. (Id. at pp. 60-61). SB lived with her grandmother, BB, who is SB's legal guardian. SB has been the subject of a custody battle between CJ and BB. (Docket No. 64, ¶¶ 2, 3). Also living with Plaintiff were his niece and nephew. (Id. at pp. 55-56).
At the time of the circumstances underlying this lawsuit, Defendant Jorel Hanley ("Hanley"), an employee of the Cumberland Township Police Department, was serving as a patrolman while Defendant Craig Miller ("Miller"), also an employee of the Cumberland Township Police Department, was serving as a sergeant. (Docket No. 67, Ex. H, p 11; Ex. C, pp. 4-5). Suppok was a caseworker for Greene County Children and Youth Services ( "CYS"). (Docket No. 102, pp. 14). Former Defendant Michael Schlesinger ("Schlesinger")*fn2 was a supervisor for CYS and served as the direct supervisor of Suppok. (Docket No. 102, pp. 51).
b.Facts Related to Childline Investigation
On September 8, 2006, a call was made by BB to the ChildLine and Abuse Registry Intake Unit reporting alleged child sexual abuse to SB. (Docket Nos. 84, ¶ 1; 86, Ex. 1). The report made allegations that SB was sexually abused by Plaintiff. (Docket Nos. 84, ¶ 1; 67, Ex. J, p. 34; Ex. H, p. 23; 86, Ex. 1).
ChildLine is a state sponsored child abuse reporting service available 24 hours a day to receive reports of suspected child abuse. It accepts calls from the public and professional sources. Any person may report suspected abuse, even if the individual wishes to remain anonymous. Each call is answered by a trained intake specialist who will interview the caller to determine the most appropriate course of action. Actions include forwarding a report to a county agency for investigation of child abuse or general protective services; forwarding a report directly to law enforcement officials; or referring the caller to local social services. 23 Pa.C.S.A §§6301 et. seq.; Pa. Code §§3490.11 et. seq.
The subject ChildLine report was referred to Greene County CYS and assigned to Mark Starstanko, a Greene County CYS caseworker for investigation. (Docket No. 84, ¶ 1; 67, Ex. J, p. 34; Ex. H, p. 23). Starstanko informed Plaintiff of the allegations made against him as well as the identities of the callers and the fact that an investigation would be conducted. (Docket No. 67, Ex. A, pp 22-25; 102, pp. 34-36). Subsequently, Starstanko resigned and the investigation was reassigned to Aimie Hunchuck, another CYS caseworker. (Docket No. 84, ¶ 5). On September 18, 2006, Hunchuck sent a "Report of Suspected Child Abuse to Law Enforcement Official" (CY-104 form) notice to the Greene County District Attorney's office. (Docket Nos. 84, ¶ 6; 86, Ex. 1). Hunchuck later resigned and the investigation was again reassigned at CYS to Suppok. (Docket No. 84, ¶¶ 7, 8). The CY-104 Form indicates that a copy was sent to the Cumberland Township Police Department. (Docket No. 86, Ex. 1). On or about September 20, 2006 the form was received by the Cumberland Township Police Department and the matter was assigned to Hanley for investigation. (Docket No. 67, Ex. B, pp. 18-26). Because Hanley had not handled a child sexual abuse complaint before, he consulted Miller as to where the forensic interview of SB would be conducted, directions to the facility and other interviews Hanley should consider in conducting the investigation. (Docket No. 67, Ex. B, pp. 21-22).
A forensic interview of SB was conducted on September 29, 2006 at the
Children's Advocacy Center in Pittsburgh. (Docket No. 86, Ex. 12).
Present at the interview were Suppok, Hanley, Miller and Jamie Mesar
("Mesar"). Mesar, a forensic specialist, conducted the interview of
SB. (Id.). Mesar concluded that SB was able to distinguish truth from
a lie and was resistant to suggestibility. (Id.). During the
interview, SB described in great detail the nature of the alleged
sexual assault by Plaintiff. (Id.). SB further informed Mesar that
Plaintiff had abused her twelve times. (Id.). On the same date, a
medical exam of SB was conducted by Janet Squires, M.D.*fn3
The medical exam was inconclusive as to the allegations of
During the forensic interview, SB disclosed that Plaintiff had also sexually abused CL. (Id.). After the interview, a report of this allegation was made to ChildLine by Mesar. (Id.). Also, during the forensic interview, SB claimed to have been exposed to pornographic movies by CJ and CJ's boyfriend. (Id.). When asked about this claim, BB advised Mesar that BB was aware of this incident and had reported it previously to CYS. (Id.). Mesar reported the claim that CJ had exposed SB to pornographic movies to ChildLine. (Id.). Ultimately, the claim of exposure to pornographic movies was reported to the Cumberland Township Police Department for investigation and the investigation was likewise assigned to Hanley. (Docket No. 67, Ex. B, pp. 26-28; 61-62). The allegation made by SB that Plaintiff had also sexually abused CL, however, was investigated by Greene County CYS caseworker Mary Jo Ullom ("Ullom"). (Docket No. 86, Ex. 14, pp. 9-12).
c.Other Claims Involving SB
Between September 8, 2006 and October 13, 2006, Plaintiff learned of three other claims made by SB against CJ, DR and TC. (Docket No. 84, Ex. 9, pp. 36- 40). DR is SB's uncle and TC is SB's younger brother. (Id.)
On October 13, 2006, Plaintiff was interviewed at Greene County CYS. (Docket No. 86, Ex. 12). Present for the interview were Suppok, Hanley and Miller. (Id.) Miller indicated that he would be the officer in charge on the case and would be supervising Hanley. (Docket No. 79, Ex. A, ¶ 7). During this meeting, Plaintiff was questioned regarding the allegations made by SB and BB. (Docket No. 86, Ex. 12). Plaintiff denied them and responded by stating that the allegations were fabricated for the purpose of allowing BB to retain custody of SB. (Id.). Moreover, Plaintiff informed Defendants Suppok, Hanley and Miller that SB had made other similar allegations against relatives with whom she had contact. (Docket No. 84, Ex. 9, pp. 36- 40). At the interview, Plaintiff appeared to be in an agitated state and threatened to sue BB to whom he referred as "that bitch." (Docket No. 86, Ex. 12).
Plaintiff claims that he provided the following information to Defendants Suppok, Hanley and Miller during this interview: (1) SB had brought unfounded allegations of sexual abuse on prior occasions against other individuals, none of which were found to be credible; (2) BB had a clear motive to implicate Plaintiff and others in claims of sexual assault in order to further her goal of obtaining full legal custody of SB, evidenced in part by her alleged threat against Plaintiff's wife when she was required to testify against BB in a custody hearing (Docket No. 79, Ex. A, ¶ 7 (C)-(F))*fn4 ; (3) the allegations made by SB were physically impossible because the abuse was alleged to have occurred on the second floor of the dwelling where Plaintiff lived yet Plaintiff was not capable of climbing stairs because of a work related injury to his knee; (4) CL was prepared to (and later did) deny the claims made against Plaintiff by SB, including the claims of sexual assault on SB and CL; and (5) other facts, which Plaintiff claims cast doubt on the credibility of SB's and BB's claims against Plaintiff. (Docket No. 79, Ex. A, ¶ 7).*fn5 Plaintiff admitted that in the past he had shaved his genitals in a particular manner. (Docket No. 67, Ex. A, pp. 66-67). Specifically, Plaintiff stated that he shaved the area around his testicles. (Id.) He also told Defendants Suppok, Hanley and Miller that BB had threatened Plaintiff and his wife about interfering with the custody of SB. (Docket No. 79, Ex. A, ¶ 7). Plaintiff further informed Defendants Suppok, Hanley and Miller that while SB alleged that Plaintiff locked the door during the abuse, there was no lock on the door for the room where the abuse purportedly occurred. (Id.; Docket No. 67, Ex. B, pp. 39-40).
On October 16, 2006, Ullom made the determination that the claim against Plaintiff for sexually assaulting CL was unfounded based on the fact that CL denied that she had been sexually assaulted. (Docket No. 84, Ex. 14, p. 12). While Hanley was aware of the claim of abuse to CL that allegedly occurred at the same time as the abuse of SB, Hanley never interviewed CL because, in his opinion, her denial of the assault was not credible. (Docket No. 67, Ex. B, p. 74). Suppok, by the time of Ullom's determination that the alleged assault of CL was unfounded, had already determined that the claim by SB against Plaintiff was indicated. (Docket No. 102, p. 80). Suppok reviewed the investigation regarding CL and found that the investigation did not follow protocol because there had been no forensic interview. (Docket No. 102, pp. 80-81). Hence, the unfounded determination as to CL did not influence Suppok's view of the claims made against Plaintiff by SB. (Docket No. 102, pp. 80-83). Plaintiff was then informed by Suppok that he was determined to be an indicated sexual perpetrator on November 3, 2006 and that he was the subject of a criminal investigation. ...