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Carpenter v. City of Pittsburgh

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 31, 2014

DAVID CARPENTER, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF PITTSBURGH, CITY OF PITTSBURGH POLICE OFFICER KENNETH SIMON, AND CITY OF PITTSBURGH POLICE OFFICER ANTHONY SCARPINE, individually And in their official capacity, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION ECF Nos. 50, 53, 56.

LISA PUPO LENIHAN, Chief Magistrate Judge.

Presently before the Court are the Motions for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Anthony Scarpine (ECF No. 50), Kenneth Simon (ECF No. 53), and the City of Pittsburgh (ECF force and denied in all other respects.

Plaintiff David Carpenter filed this civil rights action against the individual Defendants in their individual and official capacities pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his Fourth Amendments rights against excessive force, unlawful search and seizure, unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution. Plaintiff also brings state law claims against the individual Defendants for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. Finally, Plaintiff alleges claims in municipal liability against the City of Pittsburgh pursuant to § 1983 claiming failure to supervise/train and discipline.

FACTS

The following facts are taken from the parties' Statements of Material Facts and Responses thereto at ECF Nos. 52, 55, 58, 59, 61, 62, 63, 64, 75, 77, 79, 80, and 83. The facts are undisputed unless otherwise indicated.

This action arises from a series of events that occurred on or about July 7, 2010 at 8:30 p.m. (ECF Nos. 58, 62 at ¶ 29.) At that time, Timothy M. Joyce ("Joyce") and Plaintiff David Carpenter ("Plaintiff" or "Carpenter") were patrons of a self-serve carwash, located on Stayton Avenue in the North Side neighborhood of the City of Pittsburgh. (ECF Nos. 58, 62 at ¶ 30.) Plaintiff contends that he and Joyce did not know each other and had arrived separately to the carwash. (ECF No. 62 at ¶ 30.) Upon Joyce's arrival at the car wash at approximately 8:00 p.m., he began to vacuum his vehicle. (ECF Nos. 58, 62 at ¶ 31.) Joyce had his sixteen-month-old daughter in the vehicle at the time. (ECF Nos. 52, 63 at ¶ 1.) Shortly thereafter, at approximately 8:20 p.m., Plaintiff arrived at the car wash, went to a change machine, and then began to wash his vehicle. (ECF Nos. 58, 62 at ¶ 32.)

At or about the time Carpenter began washing his car, Defendant Officers Kenneth Simon ("Officer Simon") and Anthony Scarpine ("Officer Scarpine") (collectively "individual Defendants") were traveling southbound on Stayton Street. (ECF Nos. 58, 62 at ¶ 33.) According to the individual Defendants, they thought they saw some addicts in a vehicle traveling in the opposite lane. (ECF Nos. 52, 55 at ¶ 3.) Therefore, Officer Scarpine pulled into the car wash to turn around to follow the vehicle. (ECF Nos. 52, 55 at ¶ 3.) As Officer Scarpine was pulling into the car wash, Officer Simon believed he saw a hand-to-hand drug transaction between Plaintiff and Joyce; Officer Simon told Officer Scarpine to "stop the car. They just did a deal." (ECF Nos. 52, 55 at ¶ 4.) Officer Simon testified that he viewed the transaction diagonally through the police vehicle window. (ECF Nos. 61, 80 at ¶ 40.) Officer Scarpine pulled into the car wash and Officer Simon exited the police vehicle and approached Joyce. Officer Scarpine then drove the cruiser over to the bay where Plaintiff was standing and exited the cruiser. (ECF Nos. 55, 64 at ¶ 5.)

According to Plaintiff and Joyce, although Officer Simon testified that he believed that he saw a hand-to-hand drug transaction, no drug transaction took place between Joyce and Plaintiff; Joyce and Plaintiff did not know each other, and never came into close proximity to one another. (ECF Nos. 61, 80 at ¶ 36.) Plaintiff and Joyce rely on video surveillance footage recorded by cameras mounted to the exterior of the car wash. (ECF Nos. 61, 80 at ¶ 38.) A total of four video cameras covered the front of the car wash. (ECF Nos. 61, 80 at ¶ 38.) The surveillance footage fails to support Officer Simon's claim that he witnessed a hand-to-hand drug transaction between Plaintiff and Joyce. (ECF Nos. 58, 62 at ¶ 38.)

Defendant Officers Scarpine and Simon arrested and charged Plaintiff and Joyce. The individual Defendants reported that they recovered cocaine, $217, and two cellular phones from Plaintiff; they also reported that they recovered heroin, $793, a cellular phone, and a SAP glove from Joyce. (ECF Nos. 58, 62 at ¶ 35.) Carpenter was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession with intent to deliver. (ECF No. 54-6 at 1-3.)

After reviewing the surveillance video footage, Commander Rashall Brackney alerted the Command Staff at City of Pittsburgh Police Headquarters, and brought this matter to the attention of the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office for investigation. The District Attorney dropped the criminal charges against Plaintiff and Joyce. (ECF Nos. 58, 62 at ¶¶ 39-40.) Officer Scarpine was transferred and disciplined, and Officer Simon subsequently retired. (ECF Nos. 58, 62 at ¶ 41.)

On November 12, 2010 the District Attorney filed criminal charges against Officers Simon and Scarpine. Defendant Simon was charged with two counts of perjury, two counts of false swearing, two counts of unsworn falsification to authorities and other charges. Defendant Scarpine was charged with unsworn falsification, obstruction of administration of law, official oppression and criminal conspiracy. (ECF Nos. 55, 64 at ¶ 10.) After preliminary hearings, all charges against Officer Scarpine were dismissed. (ECF Nos. 58, 62 at ¶¶ 42-43.) Defendant Simon was acquitted of the charges against him at his jury trial. (ECF No. 55, 64 at ¶ 10.)

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate if, drawing all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Summary judgment may be granted against a party who fails to adduce facts sufficient to establish the existence of any element essential to that party's case, and for which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying evidence which demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact; that is, the movant must show that the evidence of record is insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof. Id . Once that burden has been met, the nonmoving party must set forth "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial" or the factual record will be taken as presented by the moving party and judgment will be entered as a matter of law. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Corp. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)) (emphasis added by Matsushita Court). An issue is genuine only "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson v. Liberty-Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In Anderson , the United States Supreme Court noted the following:

[A]t the summary judgment stage the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.... [T]here is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.

Id. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted).

ANALYSIS

A. SECTION 1983 CLAIMS AGAINST INDIVIDUAL DEFENDANTS SIMON AND SCARPINE

Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act provides as follows:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or any other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress....

42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a claim for relief under this provision, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the conduct in the complaint was committed by a person or entity acting under color of state law and that such conduct deprived the plaintiff of rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United States. Piecknick v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania , 36 F.3d 1250, 1255-56 (3d Cir. 1994). Section 1983 does not create rights; it simply provides a remedy for violations of those rights created by the United States Constitution or federal law. Kneipp v. Tedder , 95 F.3d 1199, 1204 (3d Cir. 1996).

Here, Plaintiff's § 1983 claims are all premised upon the protections of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Fourth Amendment provides that "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause...." U.S. CONST. amend. IV. The Fourth Amendment has been made applicable to ...


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