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George B. Keahey v. Bethel Township

December 13, 2012

GEORGE B. KEAHEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BETHEL TOWNSHIP, PENNSYLVANIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM

Currently pending before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendants Bethel Township, Lieutenant William Coyle, Corporal Christopher Kimball, Patrol Officer Brian Buck, Patrol Officer James Register, Detective Russell Mervine, Patrol Officer Sean Bradshaw, and Patrol Officer Lou Stackeni. For the following reasons, the Motion is granted.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This action arises out of a series of incidents that occurred between the Plaintiff, George

B. Keahey ("Plaintiff" or "Keahey") and several police officers of the Bethel Township Police Department in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

On the evening of November 25, 2009, the Bethel Police received a call from Wendy Keahey, the Plaintiff's wife, concerning a domestic dispute at their residence, 1584 Conchester Road. (Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 3, Police Report of November 25, 2009 ("Nov. 25 Police Report").) Officers James Register and Brian Buck responded to the call. (Id.) The officers arrived in different cars, and they observed that there were two vehicles parked outside the residence, a Ford F150 truck and a 1987 Mustang. (Id.; Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 4, Deposition of Brian Buck ("Buck Dep."), 42:6--10, June 20, 2012.) Officer Buck described the couple as being "verbally combative upon [their] arrival." (Police Report; Buck Dep. 52:2--6.) According to Officer Register, Wendy Keahey was "heated" and "agitated" upon the officers' arrival, the couple was arguing, and Wendy Keahey was "adamant" that she wanted her husband out of the house. (Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 5, Deposition of James Register ("Register Dep."), 25:1--7, May 23, 2012.) The officers then separated the couple to question them separately. (Buck Dep. 53:2--7; Register Dep. 25:12--19.) Ms. Keahey informed Officer Buck that the mortgage to the property was in her name and that the F150 truck and 1987 Mustang were titled solely in her name. (Buck Dep. 53:17--23.) When asked by Officer Buck if she had somewhere else she could go, Wendy Keahey replied that she did not. (Nov. 25 Police Report; Buck Dep. 57:2--18.) Officer Register asked George Keahey if he had somewhere else he could go, and Mr. Keahey stated he had a friend's house to which he could go and voluntarily agreed to do so. (Buck Dep. 57:21--58:18.) Wendy Keahey refused to let her husband take the F150 truck and suggested that he contact Irene Reardon, a woman Mr. Keahey was allegedly seeing, and ask her for a ride. (Nov. 25 Police Report; Register Dep. 30:13--21.)

Mr. Keahey describes a different scene. He states that his wife was "very inebriated" and "really looped" when the officers arrived. (Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 2, Deposition of George Keahey ("Keahey Dep."), 29:24--30--1; 32:21--23, Sep. 17, 2012.) He also states that, while his wife was angry that he would not give her the keys to the Ford F150 as a result of her intoxication, he would not classify the situation as an "argument." (Id. at 31:15--20.) He also claims that he had been home from work for only ten minutes and was just sitting down to eat when the police arrived. (Id. at 33:2--7.) Mr. Keahey says that Officer Buck said to him, "One of you has to leave. You both can't stay in the house tonight." (Id. at 40:11--15.) He was also told that he would be unable to take the F150 truck or the Mustang to leave because they were his wife's vehicles. (Id. at 40:22--42:20.) Finally, Officer Register told Mr. Keahey that he was going to take him in his police car, and asked if Keahey wanted to get his coat. (Id. at 43:5--16.)

Mr. Keahey was eventually taken by Officer Register in his police car and dropped off at a nearby McDonald's restaurant. (Nov. 25 Police Report; Buck Dep. 60:10--17; Register Dep. 34:1--11; Keahey Dep. 47:21--48:15.) At the time, Keahey states that he felt he was under arrest "in a legal sense," and felt this way because he was going to get in the front seat of the car but was told he needed to sit in the back seat. (Keahey Dep. 45:7--10; 46:11--14.) He also believed Officer Register was taking him to the police station and not a McDonald's. (Id. at 46:1--14; 46:24--48:9.) Keahey states that, when dropped off, he asked Officer Register if he could go back to his house, and Officer Register told him no and that he could not go back until his wife says he could go back. (Id. at 48:10--15.) After remaining at the McDonald's restaurant for over forty minutes, Mr. Keahey was eventually picked up and given a ride by Ms. Reardon. (Id. at 49:3--51:5.) He was then taken to another friend's house where he spent the night. (Id. at 51:6--13.)

Mr. Keahey returned to the property the next morning. (Id. at 52:10--53:4.) When his wife discovered he had returned, she "started screaming," and Mr. Keahey took the Ford F150 truck and left. (Id.) The Bethel Police Department then received another call from Wendy Keahey. (Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 3, Police Report of November 26, 2009 ("Nov. 26 Police Report").) Officers Sean Bradshaw and Detective Russ Mervine responded to the call, and were told by Mrs. Keahey that her husband had returned to the property and driven off with the truck. (Nov. 26 Police Report, Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 7, Deposition of Sean Bradshaw ("Bradshaw Dep."), 23:14--22, May 23, 2012; Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 8, Deposition of Russell Mervine ("Mervine Dep."), 33:11--22, June 28, 2012.) Mrs. Keahey informed Officer Bradshaw and Detective Mervine of the previous night's events, told them that her husband did not have her permission to use the truck, and that she did not want to file charges against her husband but wanted the truck returned. (Nov. 26 Police Report; Bradshaw Dep. 23:14--22.) Officer Bradshaw called Mr. Keahey and left him a message informing him that his wife wanted the truck returned. (Nov. 26 Police Report; Bradshaw Dep. 46:22--47:5.) Keahey returned the call later and spoke with Detective Mervine. (Nov. 26 Police Report.) He told Detective Mervine that he did not have to return the truck and was not planning on doing so. (Id.; Keahey Dep. 54:6--13.) Later that day, a "stop and hold" order was placed on the truck. (Nov. 26 Police Report.) Officer Bradshaw informed Wendy Keahey of the order and that the police would be on the lookout for the truck. (Id.)

The following day, Officer Bradshaw consulted the Delaware County District Attorney's Office and was told that Mr. Keahey would most likely be allowed to take the truck because it would be considered marital property. (Id.) Officer Bradshaw contacted Ms. Keahey and informed her that she would have to contact her divorce lawyer if she wanted to get the truck back. (Id.) He then removed the "stop and hold" order which was placed on the truck. (Id.; Bradshaw Dep. 63:10--15.)

On January 23, 2010, upon discovering the truck parked outside the home of Irene Reardon, Ms. Keahey took the truck and parked it at a new location. (Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 3, Police Report of January 23, 2010 ("Jan. 23 Police Report").) Upon discovering that the vehicle was missing from the driveway, Mr. Keahey called the Bethel Police and spoke with Corporal Christopher Kimball. (Keahey Dep. 61--62; Jan. 23 Police Report.) Mr. Keahey demanded the truck be returned to him, and informed Corporal Kimball that the truck contained personal belongings and items he needed for his legal practice. (Keahey Dep. 63:3--13; Jan. 23 Police Report.) He also informed Corporal Kimball that he had a court order allowing him to use the truck. (Jan. 23 Police Report; Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 9, Deposition of Christopher Kimball ("Kimball Dep.") 44:19--45:7, May 22, 2012.) On the same day, Wendy Keahey called the Bethel Police and informed Corporal Kimball that Irene Reardon had called her and threatened her. (Jan. 23 Police Report; Kimball Dep. 72:15--74:17.) She also informed Corporal Kimball that she would return her husband's personal belongings and items needed for his law practice, but she would not return the truck. (Jan. 23 Police Report; Kimball Dep. 64:14--18.) Corporal Kimball then called Mr. Keahey and informed him that his belongings would be returned by his wife to the police department, where he could retrieve them the following morning. (Jan. 23 Police Report; Kimball Dep. 67:16--68:13.) Mr. Keahey told Corporal Kimball in response that he wanted his wife charged with theft. (Jan. 23 Police Report; Kimball Dep. 45:8--21.) He also informed Corporal Kimball that he wanted his belongings back by noon that day and that Corporal Kimball should arrest his wife. (Jan. 23 Police Report; Kimball Dep. 45:8--21.) Corporal Kimball responded that if he wanted his wife charged with theft, he needed to contact the police where the alleged theft took place-Aldan Borough. (Jan. 23 Police Report.)

The following day, Lieutenant William Coyle contacted Mr. Keahey to inform him that his wife had dropped off his personal belongings from the truck and that he could pick them up. (Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 3, Police Report of January 24, 2010 ("Jan. 24 Police Report").) Mr. Keahey responded to Lieutenant Coyle that he wanted to apologize for being argumentative the previous day with Corporal Kimball. (Jan. 24 Police Report.) Also on January 24, an unnamed Bethel officer was contacted by an Aldan Borough officer reporting that Mr. Keahey had called about having his wife charged with theft, noting that he had a court order authorizing his use of the truck. (Jan. 24 Police Report.)

On February 17, 2010, the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas entered an order permitting Mr. Keahey to use what was identified as "Wendy Keahey's 1987 Mustang" for a period of thirty days, "at which time he shall return the vehicle to Wendy Keahey without further proceeding." (Defs.' Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 10, February 17, 2010 Court Order ("Feb. 17 Order").) Thirty days later, on Friday, March 19, Wendy Keahey called and spoke with Officer Buck and informed him that the thirty-day period had expired and he had not returned the Mustang. (Buck Dep. 68:1--12.) Officer Buck spoke with Mr. Keahey the following day, and Mr. Keahey told him that there was a "stay order" relating to the use of the Mustang and that he was able to continue using it. (Id. at 79:20--80:3.) Officer Buck asked Keahey to fax or hand deliver a copy of the stay, but he refused to do so. (Id. at 79:20--80:3.) As a result, Officer Buck placed a "stop and hold" order on the 1987 Mustang. (Id. at 77:16--82:21.) Officer Buck also consulted the District Attorney's Office, who informed him that he could charge Keahey with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. (Buck Dep. 82:16--21.) After this exchange, Officer Buck had the stop and hold order removed from the Mustang on March 23. Keahey was never arrested for his use of the Mustang. (Keahey Dep. 70:4--5.)

Keahey filed the current action on November 18, 2011 bringing six counts: (1) seizure and detention without probable cause in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) seizure and deprivation of property in violation of § 1983; (3) conspiracy to deprive Plaintiff of his rights under § 1983; (4) false imprisonment; (5) harassment; and (6) malicious abuse of process. After Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss, the harassment and malicious abuse of process claims (Counts V and VI) were dismissed, leaving the § 1983 claims, the conspiracy claim, and the false imprisonment claim. After discovery was completed, Defendants filed the immediate Motion for Summary Judgment on October 4, 2012 to dismiss the remaining counts. Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition on October 24, Defendants filed a Reply Brief on November 8, and Plaintiff a Sur-reply on November 14. In his Response, ...


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