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Patricia Turosik v. Ronald L. Hougue

March 18, 2011

PATRICIA TUROSIK, PLAINTIFF
v.
RONALD L. HOUGUE, JR., DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Conti, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

Pending before the court is the motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 38) filed by Ronald L. Hougue, Jr. ("defendant" or "Hougue") seeking judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 against Patricia Turosik ("plaintiff" or "Turosik") with respect to all claims asserted in plaintiff's amended complaint (ECF No. 23). Defendant additionally argues that plaintiff's claims are barred by qualified immunity and the Heck doctrine. Plaintiff disputes these assertions.

Plaintiff's claims are asserted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (civil action for deprivation of rights), citing violations under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as Pennsylvania state law. This court exercises subject-matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's federal claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question jurisdiction) and § 1343 (civil rights), and over plaintiff's state claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) (supplemental jurisdiction). For the following reasons, defendant's motion for summary judgment will be GRANTED, in part, and DENIED, in part.

II. PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Between 10:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on September 7, 2007,*fn1 Turosik entered the Monaca Croatian Club (the "Club"). (Joint Concise Statement of Material Facts of the Parties (ECF No. 48) ("C.S.") at 1 -- 3). Turosik was accompanied by her brother and met some friends at the Club. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 3). Turosik and her friends ordered drinks. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 6). A man by the name of Arthur Knox ("Knox") entered the Club at some point that evening. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 6). Turosik and Knox had a history of animosity toward one another. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 6). Turosik was involved in a brief exchange of words with Knox shortly after his arrival. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 7; ECF No. 41-1 at 20).

Turosik and her friends sang karaoke while at the Club, and continued to drink and move about the Club. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 8-10). The Club owner, Ronald Eaton ("Eaton") approached Turosik while she was singing, and spoke to her in an allegedly "mean and nasty" manner regarding her karaoke performance and use of karaoke equipment. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 10-11; ECF No. 41-1 at 21). After being approached by Eaton, Turosik handed the karaoke microphone to him and indicated that she would stop singing. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 11). At this point, Eaton allegedly referred to Turosik using a strongly derogatory term, and Turosik responded by throwing beer into his face. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 1-3, 11; ECF No. 41-1 at 21). Eaton punched Turosik in the head. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 11). A brawl between Turosik's friends and Eaton's friends ensued. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 12). Turosik and her brother fled from the Club. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 12).

The commotion followed Turosik outside as she was getting into her car with her brother. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 16, 19). Turosik and her brother were both pulled from the car and assaulted while on the ground by a number of Club patrons, including Knox, and a woman named Melissa Ball ("Ball"). (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 1-3, 17). Eaton and a fourth individual participated in kicking Turosik's body and head while she lay on the ground. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 18). Three calls were made to 9-1-1 summoning police beginning at approximately 11:30 p.m. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 19). Hougue and Officer Benjamin Regney ("Regney") were en route to the scene by approximately 11:32 p.m. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 19-20). Hougue and Regney were the first officers on scene. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 20).

The parking lot outside the Club was described as a confusing and somewhat chaotic, hysterical scene, and Turosik was found by Hougue on her feet, crying and screaming that she was in pain and had been assaulted. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 21-22; ECF No. 41-2 at 6; ECF No. 41-7 at 27, 30, 43). The crowd outside the Club included neighbors exiting their homes to witness the ongoing commotion. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 21-22; ECF No. 41-7 at 31). Hougue eventually managed to control the scene despite the confusion created by the crowd, though Turosik continued yelling for a time. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 28-30).

Turosik's daughter arrived on the scene following the police officers' arrival. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 22). Hougue and she approached Turosik together. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 22-23). Turosik immediately stated that she had been attacked and requested an ambulance, because she believed she had suffered a head injury. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 23). She allegedly continued to engage in verbal exchanges with patrons inside the Club. (ECF No. 41-14 at 5). Turosik's speech may have been slurred, possibly as a result of being kicked in the head. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 25-26). Plaintiff eventually calmed down and identified the individuals she believed had assaulted her. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 25-26). She continued to ask Hougue to call for an ambulance. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 24-25).

Hougue placed Turosik in the back of a police cruiser, not for the purpose of arrest, but to separate her from other patrons of the Club in order to continue his investigation. (ECF No, 48, C.S. at 27). Turosik again asked that an ambulance be summoned, and Hougue replied that he would put in a call. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 27-28; ECF No. 41-1 at 33). Turosik called for an ambulance on her own while in the car. (ECF No. 41-1 at 30, 34). A "Priority 1 -- 2 Min Max" call for an ambulance was placed at approximately 11:31 p.m. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 29; ECF No. 33-1 at 1-2). An ambulance was dispatched at 11:44 p.m. for a reported "head injury." (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 29; ECF No. 33-1 at 1-2). Two subsequent, "duplicate," calls to 9-1-1 about the events at the Club were recorded following the first call. (ECF No. 33-1 at 3--6).

Hougue spoke with Turosik's friends, as well as Eaton and Knox. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 30). While away from Turosik, Hougue overheard -- either directly or from another police officer -- that a radio dispatcher, possibly from 9-1-1, announced that a woman had a cell phone, and that the cell phone should be taken away because she was attempting to call 9-1-1. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 30-32; ECF No. 41-2 at 10; ECF No. 41-6 at 2; 41-7 at 36-37; ECF No. 41-14 at 9). The identity of the dispatcher making the radio call, and the origin of the call are unknown. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 32). Hougue believed that Turosik was the woman mentioned in the radio call, she was tying up the 9-1-1 hotline, and her cell phone needed to be removed from her person. (ECF No. 48, C.S. 32-33; ECF No. 41-14 at 9--10; ECF No. 41-15 at 13). Turosik's friend Roberta Campbell -- present at the time, and having overheard the radio call -- also understood the call to refer to Turosik. (ECF No. 41-7 at 36-37).

Hougue opened the car door while Turosik was sitting in the car and using her phone; Hougue demanded -- without explanation -- that Turosik turn over her cell phone. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 34-35; ECF No. 41-1 at 35; ECF No. 41-11 at 1; ECF No. 41-14 at 10). Turosik slid to the other side of the car, refused to provide the officer with the phone, and threw the phone away from him and onto the floor. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 34-35; ECF No. 41-1 at 34; ECF No. 41-11 at 1-2; ECF No. 41-14 at 10-13). As Hougue attempted to enter into the car to retrieve the phone from Turosik, she allegedly began to scream and kick at Hougue. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 36; ECF No. 41-14 at 10-13). Hougue had not explained the reason for demanding the phone. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 36).

Hougue informed Turosik that he was placing her under arrest for assaulting a police officer, and struggled to restrain her. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 36-38; ECF No. 41-14 at 10-13). Turosik vigorously resisted Hougue's attempt to remove her from the car to place her under arrest. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 37; ECF No. 41-14 at 10-13). In the ensuing struggle, Turosik allegedly kicked Hougue and struck him in the face with her arms, and Turosik was allegedly punched at least once in the ribs. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 33, 37, 39; ECF No. 41-1 at 3, 39; ECF No. 41-14 at 10-13). Turosik suffered bruises she attributed to her struggle with Hougue inside and outside the police cruiser, and her subsequent handcuffing. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 33, 39). Hougue eventually removed Turosik from the car by grabbing her legs and pulling her out. (ECF No. 48, C.S. 37-38; ECF No. 41-1 at 36; ECF No. 41-14 at 10-13).

While Turosik was handcuffed and awaiting the arrival of an ambulance, she continued hysterically screaming. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 40). When the ambulance reached the scene, a minute or two later, Hougue removed Turosik's handcuffs and admonished her to stop screaming and act appropriately in order that the ambulance crew could care for her injuries. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 41; ECF No. 41-1 at 37-38). The ambulance took Turosik to Aliquippa Hospital. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 40). Hougue rejoined the other officers who had arrived at the scene. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 41).

Prior to the time of the incident, Turosik had caused Hougue no problems. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 33). It was later found that there was no definitive evidence in the 9-1-1 hotline phone logs that the lines were being tied up by Turosik, or that she had successfully called 9-1-1. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 32; ECF No. 41-1 at 34-35).

Following the events of September 7, 2007, Hougue continued to conduct an investigation, contacting Turosik, her daughter and friends, Eaton, and other Club patrons that had participated in the fighting. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 41). On or about October 10, 2007, Hougue filed a police report depicting his interpretation of the events of the night in question, based upon the accounts of those involved. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 41). Eaton, Knox, and Ball were charged with summary assault, summary harassment, and disorderly conduct. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 42). They entered into plea agreements, under which the charges would be reduced to only the disorderly conduct offense if they each paid Turosik $850.00 in restitution for medical bills. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 42). Turosik was never paid this restitution and all charges were later dropped, because she failed to appear in court. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 43). Turosik argues that she was never told to attend the hearing in question. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 43). Charges against the three individuals were later refiled. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 44).

On February 11, 2008, Turosik was charged by Hougue with three counts of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, simple assault, and harassment. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 44). Turosik was fingerprinted, and her bail conditions required her to remain in Pennsylvania. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 44-45). Due to that condition, she claims that she missed a job opportunity in North Carolina. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 45). Hougue alleges that he waited approximately four months to charge Turosik because she was a victim, and he wanted her cooperation in resolving the criminal case against Eaton, Knox, and Ball. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 45-47).

Following Turosik's preliminary hearing on June 20, 2008, the charge of resisting arrest was dismissed. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 47). On the remaining charges Turosik never entered a plea of guilty; instead, she agreed to Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition ("ARD") on May 4, 2009, with respect to the misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge (count three). (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 11, 48; ECF No. 41-32 at 9-10; ECF No. 41-33). In exchange, the assistant district attorney agreed to nol pros the other remaining charges. (ECF No. 48, C.S. at 11, 48; ECF No. 41-32 at 9-10). A petition for nolle prosequi was granted by the court as to those other charges on May 20, 2009. (ECF No. 41-34).

On January 11, 2008, Turosik notified the Borough of Monaca about her intention to sue the borough and Hougue pursuant to 42 PA. CONS. STAT. § 5522(a) (notice prerequisite to action against government unit) for the events of the night in question. (ECF No. 41-27). Turosik filed a complaint with this court on September 8, 2008. (ECF No. 1). An amended complaint was filed on June 16, 2009. (ECF No. 23). On August 12, 2009, this court dismissed plaintiff's claims against the Borough of Monaca, without prejudice. Plaintiff did not refile her claims against the borough. Hougue filed his motion for summary judgment on April 30, 2010. (ECF No. 38). Turosik filed her response on June 15, 2010. (ECF No. 45). The matter has been fully briefed.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides in relevant part:

(a.) Motion for Summary Judgment or Partial Summary Judgment.

A party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense - or the part of each claim or defense - on which summary judgment is sought. The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The court should state on the record the reasons for granting or denying the motion.

(c) Procedures.

(1) Supporting Factual Positions. A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed ...


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