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David Brown v. City of Philadelphia

May 16, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Linda K. Caracappa United States Magistrate Judge


Presently before this court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants City of Philadelphia, Sylvester Johnson, Police Officer Andrew Jenkins, and Sergeant Christopher Williams, and Plaintiff's Response. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.


This action arises out of an allegedly wrongful repossession of a vehicle plaintiff provided as collateral for a short term loan. The following facts are viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff.

On April 15, 2008, plaintiff entered into an installment loan and security agreement with Defendant Northeastern Title Loans, LLC ("Northeastern"). Pursuant to the terms of the agreement, Northeastern lent plaintiff $1,500.00, and plaintiff was to repay the sum of $1,950.00 by May 15, 2008. To secure the loan, plaintiff granted Northeastern an interest in plaintiff's 1999 Lexus ES 300, and turned over keys for the vehicle pending repayment of the loan. Plaintiff did not make payment to Northeastern, although plaintiff communicated to Northeastern that he was working on making a payment.

On the afternoon of November 22, 2008, six months after repayment of the loan was due, plaintiff observed from within his house a tow truck back up to his vehicle, which was parked in the driveway. Plaintiff ran outside and jumped in the passenger side of the vehicle as the tow truck operator was in the process of hooking up the vehicle. The tow truck operator told plaintiff to get out of the vehicle and plaintiff refused. Plaintiff called 911 and communicated that he was in his vehicle and that the tow operator was proceeding to hoist the vehicle. The tow truck operator returned to his truck and, after several minutes, pulled his truck out of the driveway, towing the vehicle with plaintiff inside. Plaintiff attempted to apply the brakes to prevent the truck from pulling the vehicle, which caused a jerk reaction and subsequent neck strain. The tow truck operator proceeded to tow the vehicle down the street, and stopped halfway down the block.

Petitioner again called 911. Defendant Officer Andrew Jenkins ("Jenkins") responded to the call, at which time Jenkins spoke to plaintiff, still inside the vehicle, and the tow truck operator. At that time, the vehicle was hooked by its rear wheels and the tow truck was stopped in the middle of the road. Plaintiff explained that there was a dispute about the repossession of the vehicle. Jenkins requested plaintiff to exit the vehicle. Plaintiff asked Jenkins to contact his supervisor.

Jenkins' supervisor, Defendant Sergeant Christopher Williams ("Williams"), arrived on the scene and Jenkins conveyed that there was a dispute concerning the repossession of the vehicle. Jenkins then stepped aside and let Williams handle the situation. Williams spoke to both plaintiff and the tow truck operator. The operator informed Williams that he had lawful possession of the vehicle. Plaintiff explained to Williams that he was protesting the repossession, and Williams requested that plaintiff exit the vehicle. Plaintiff refused to exit the vehicle and instead informed Williams that pursuant to Philadelphia Police Department Directive 3, plaintiff was protesting the tow and Williams was obligated to tell the tow truck operator to come back another time to claim the vehicle. Williams informed plaintiff that Directive 3 states that when the repossession has already occurred, the tow truck operator is allowed to continue with the repossession. Plaintiff continued to refuse to get out of the vehicle and rolled up his window.

Williams requested again that plaintiff exit the vehicle and plaintiff refused. Williams then pulled out his expandable baton and tapped on the window, asking plaintiff multiple times to roll down his window. Plaintiff refused. Williams threatened to break the glass with his baton and remove plaintiff if plaintiff continued to refuse to exit the vehicle. Plaintiff reluctantly exited the vehicle and the tow truck operator drove away with the vehicle.

On June 4, 2010, plaintiffs commenced a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against the City of Philadelphia, Police Officer Jenkins, Sergeant Williams, Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson, Northeastern Title Loans, LLC, and the tow operator Richard Johanson. Plaintiff alleged that through the repossession of the vehicle the defendants violated the Fourth Amendment and deprived plaintiff of his right to procedural and substantive due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. In Count II, plaintiff claimed that the Defendant City of Philadelphia failed to properly train and supervise the defendant officers which caused the violation of plaintiff's constitutional rights, also known as a Monellclaim. In Count III, plaintiff alleged that Northeastern Title Loans, LLC, and Richard Johanson were negligent in their repossession of the vehicle. Finally, in Count IV, plaintiff alleged that Defendants Johanson and Northeastern Title Loan committed unlawful conversion in taking plaintiff's vehicle without his permission.

Thereafter, Defendant Northeastern sought an order compelling plaintiff to pursue his claims against Northeastern in arbitration. On November 5, 2010, the Honorable Petrese B. Tucker granted Northeastern's Motion to Compel Arbitration.

On February 11, 2011, plaintiff filed an amended complaint adding as a defendant DRS Towing, LLC, the company that executed the repossession. Plaintiff later filed a Motion for Default Judgment against DRS Towing. Judge Tucker denied plaintiff's motion upon finding that plaintiff did not properly serve process upon DRS Towing.

On June 30, 2011, plaintiff and Defendant City of Philadelphia consented to jurisdiction before the undersigned.

A summary judgment motion was filed on behalf of Defendants City of Philadelphia, Commissioner Johnson, Police Officer Jenkins, and Sergeant Williams. In his response, plaintiff has voluntarily dismissed his claims against former Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson in his official capacity, as well as claims against the City of Philadelphia. Plaintiff asserts that he opposes the dismissal of his constitutional claims for wrongful seizure and his state law claim for malicious prosecution.*fn1 Thus, we shall review the ...

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