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Kalinowski v. Kotowski

United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania

October 30, 2014

Grace Kalinowski Plaintiff,
Gina Kotowski and Plymouth Borough Police Department Defendants.



We consider here a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 14) filed by Defendant Gina Kotowski ("Defendant" or "Kotowski") on August 24, 2014. This motion has been briefed fully (Doc. 16, 18, and 19) by the parties and is ripe for disposition.

I. Background.

This lawsuit arises from a physical encounter between Defendant Kotowski, then an officer of the Plymouth Borough Police Force, and Plaintiff Grace Kalinowski ("Plaintiff" or "Kalinowski") on April 22, 2012.[1] This encounter occurred in the yard of the home in which Plaintiff resides. Plaintiff's yard abuts the parking lot of a Turkey Hill convenient store at 5 W. Main Street in Plymouth, Pennsylvania. Defendant Kotowski was summoned by 911 radio dispatch to respond to a report from that address that a female was acting strangely, throwing objects into the parking lot of the Turkey Hill convenient store, creating a general commotion, and bothering the store's customers. (Deposition of Gina Kotowski, Doc. 17-2 at 13-14) . Defendant Kotowski's testimony in this regard is corroborated by that of Vicki Long, an eyewitness to the entire episode. (Deposition of Vicki Long (Doc. 17-3 at 13-17) .

Defendant Kotowski had been dispatched to disturbances at the Kalinowski residence on approximately ten other dates prior to April 22, 2012 and was aware that Plaintiff Kalinowski was in some way mentally unstable. (Doc. 17-2 at 12-13) . When Officer Kotowski arrived at the Turkey Hill convenient store she saw various items strewn about the Turkey Hill parking lot and Plaintiff Kalinowski walking back and forth in her yard screaming in a different language (which the officer presumed to be Polish). (Doc. 17-2 at 16-17; Doc. 17-3 at 14-17) (Doc. 17, ¶ 5) .

Officer Kotowski attempted to engage Kalinowski in conversation, but Kalinowski was unreceptive, uncooperative and greeted Kotowski with obscenities. (Doc. 17-2 at 20-21; Doc. 17-3 at 22-25) . Officer Kotowski determined to arrest Kalinowski because " this point she (Kalinowski) had been a nuisance enough to the Turkey Hill". (Doc. 17-2 at 22). When Officer Kotowski attempted to enter Kalinowski's yard, Kalinowski grabbed the swinging gate and repeatedly blocked Officer Kotowski's attempt to enter and struck her with the gate several times. (Doc. 17-2 at 25-26; Doc. 17-3 at 23-26) (Doc. 17, ¶ 3) . Officer Kotowski told Plaintiff at least twice to back away from the gate or she would be tased. (Doc. 17-2 at 43; Doc. 17-3 at 25-26) (Doc. 17, ¶ 4) . When Plaintiff Kalinowski refused to follow Officer Kotowski's orders, Officer Kotowski deployed her taser striking Plaintiff Kalinowski in the abdomen. (Doc. 17-2 at 43-44; Doc. 17-3 at 26).

After Plaintiff Kalinowski was tased, Officer Shawn Reilly of the Larksville Police Force arrived on the scene and handcuffed Plaintiff Kalinowski. (Doc. 17-2 at 33; Doc. 17-4 at 16-17) . Officer Reilly arrived because Officer Kotowski had made a radio call to the 911 dispatcher requesting assistance. (Doc. 17-2 at 25; Doc. 17-4 at 15). Officer Kotowski testified that she had no idea when the assistance would arrive and that she was unaware that Reilly had arrived on the scene when she deployed the taser against Plaintiff Kalinowski. (Doc. 17-2 at 26 and 33).

After Plaintiff Kalinowski had been subdued, Officer Kotowski summoned an ambulance. (Doc. 17-2 at 40). Officer Kotowski accompanied Plaintiff Kalinowski to the hospital and, after speaking to the physicians that examined her, determined that "the hospital was the place for Grace, not jail." (Doc. 17-2 at 39). Physicians at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital examined Plaintiff Kalinowski and referred her to First Hospital for a mental health evaluation pursuant to 50 P.S. § 7302(a)(2). (Doc. 17-5 at 78-81; Doc. 17-2 at 40).

Plaintiff s Complaint alleges that she suffered "severe injuries" (Doc. 1 at 4-5), but she has produced no evidence of these injuries nor any records relating to treatment for them. Plaintiff seemed to testify at her deposition that she had a broken rib and liver damage that the physicians "hid" from her. Whether that was actually her testimony is unclear because of her imprecise use of English and the generally incoherent nature of her testimony (Doc. 17-5 at 73-79). Due to her failure to produce any medical records indicating that a rib or her liver was injured in her encounter with Officer Kotowski, the Court places little credence in her allegations of injury.

II. Summary Judgment Standard.

Summary judgment is appropriate when the movant demonstrates there is no "genuine issue as to any material fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., All U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

"An issue is genuine only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, and a factual dispute is material only if it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law." Kaucher v. County of Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Anderson, All U.S. at 248). In determining whether a genuine issue of fact exists, a court must resolve all factual doubts and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Conoshenti v. Public Serv. Elec. & Gas Co., 364 F.3d 135, 140 (3d Cir. 2004) (citation omitted).

The initial burden is on the moving party to show an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, All U.S. 317, 330 (1986) (citations omitted). The moving party may meet this burden by "pointing out to the district court [] that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case when the nonmoving party bears the ultimate burden of proof." Id. at 325. The non-moving party may not rest on the bare allegations contained in his or her pleadings, but is required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 to go beyond the pleadings by way of affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories or the like in order to demonstrate specific material facts which give rise to a genuine issue. Id. at 324.

"In considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of evidence." Anderson, All U.S. at 255. Therefore, when evidentiary facts are in dispute, when the credibility of witnesses may be in issue, or when ...

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