United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
BRIAN J. STONE and ELLEN A. STONE, Plaintiffs
TODD A. MARTIN and JASON DUNLAP, Defendants
MALACHY E. MANNION United States District Judge.
before the court is the defendants' motion for summary
judgment. (Doc. 16). Based upon the court's review of the
motion and related materials, the defendants' motion will
be granted with respect to the plaintiffs' Fourth
Amendment claim and the plaintiffs' remaining state law
claims will be dismissed without prejudice.
of relevant procedural background, the plaintiffs filed the
instant action on August 24, 2015, in which they set forth a
claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983, as well as various
state law claims. (Doc. 1). On June 30, 2016, the defendants
filed the instant motion for summary judgment, (Doc. 16),
along with a statement of material facts, (Doc. 17), and
supporting brief, (Doc. 18). The plaintiffs filed a
responsive statement of material facts, (Doc. 19), and
opposing brief, (Doc. 20), on July 13, 2016.
judgment is appropriate “if the pleadings, the
discovery [including, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file] and disclosure
materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 322-23 (1986); Turner v. Schering-Plough Corp.,
901 F.2d 335, 340 (3d Cir. 1990). A factual dispute is
genuine if a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving
party, and is material if it will affect the outcome of the
trial under governing substantive law. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Aetna
Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Ericksen, 903 F.Supp. 836, 838
(M.D. Pa. 1995). At 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.” Anderson,
477 U.S. at 249; see also Marino v. Indus. Crating
Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004) (a court may not
weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations).
Rather, the court must consider all evidence and inferences
drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party. Andreoli v. Gates, 482 F.3d 641, 647 (3d Cir.
prevail on summary judgment, the moving party must
affirmatively identify those portions of the record which
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24. The moving party can
discharge the burden by showing that “on all the
essential elements of its case on which it bears the burden
of proof at trial, no reasonable jury could find for the
non-moving party.” In re Bressman, 327 F.3d
229, 238 (3d Cir. 2003); see also Celotex, 477 U.S.
at 325. If the moving party meets this initial burden, the
non-moving party “must do more than simply show that
there is some metaphysical doubt as to material facts,
” but must show sufficient evidence to support a jury
verdict in its favor. Boyle v. County of Allegheny,
139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir. 1998) (quoting Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475
U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). However, if the non-moving
party “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish
the existence of an element essential to [the
non-movant's] case, and on which [the non-movant] will
bear the burden of proof at trial, ” Rule 56 mandates
the entry of summary judgment because such a failure
“necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.”
Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23; Jakimas v.
Hoffman-La Roche, Inc., 485 F.3d 770, 777 (3d Cir.
their complaint, the plaintiffs allege that, on June 17,
2015, defendant Dunlap, a deputy sheriff in Monroe County,
entered onto their property to serve a small claims notice
from the State of Rhode Island. At the time of entry, the
plaintiffs allege that their home and property were posted
with signs that prohibited persons from entering or
trespassing upon the property. Moreover, the plaintiffs
allege that the driveway on the property had a gate that was
closed and locked. The plaintiffs allege that defendant
Dunlap disregarded the signs and circumvented the locked gate
in order to enter onto the property and reach the
plaintiffs' home and garage which are not visible from
the adjoining street.
upon the above allegations, the plaintiffs assert a claim
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983, a claim for a violation of
the Pennsylvania Constitution, and state law claims for
invasion of privacy and trespass. The plaintiffs are seeking
declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory
and punitive damages.
support of their motion for summary judgment, the defendants
have submitted a statement of material facts, the following
of which are not in dispute. The plaintiff, Brian Stone, is a
licensed Pennsylvania attorney with offices in New York and
Pennsylvania. The plaintiff, Ellen Stone, is Brian
Stone's wife. Todd Martin is the elected Sheriff of
Monroe County and Jason Dunlap is a Monroe County
Stones own a property along Route 115 in Tobyhanna Township,
Monroe County, Pennsylvania, which is comprised of
approximately 75 acres. The Stones' home and Brian
Stone's Pennsylvania law office are adjacent to each
other on the property and are both accessed by a shared
driveway running from Route 115. At the Route 115 entrance to
the property, Mr. Stone erected a sign advertising to the
public that the property is the site of his law office and
included his phone number on the sign.
entrance to the plaintiffs' driveway is a gate. Along the
driveway leading to the plaintiffs' home and Mr.
Stone's law office were placed signs reading
“Beware of Dog”, “No Hunting”,
“Speed Limit 15", “Posted - Private Property
- Hunting, Fishing, Trapping or Trespassing for Any Purpose
is Strictly Forbidden - Violators will be Prosecuted”,
and “Keep Out”. These signs are posted even when
Mr. Stone's law office is open for business.
Monroe County Sheriff's Office was asked by Latese T.
Smith, the plaintiff in a Rhode Island lawsuit against Mrs.
Stone, to serve documents upon Mrs. Stone relating to the
lawsuit. On two occasions on June 8, 2015 and June 11, 2015,
defendant Dunlap went to the plaintiffs' property to
serve the civil process and found the gate at the
plaintiffs' driveway locked. On those occasions,
defendant Dunlap placed his card in the plaintiffs'
mailbox and left the property. On June 17, 2015, the day at
issue in this case, defendant Dunlap returned to the
plaintiffs' property. At that time, the gate at the end
of the driveway was once again closed and locked. This time,
defendant Dunlap proceeded to walk around the gate and down
the Stones' driveway. When he reached the law office
building, the garage door in the building was open and Ellen
Stone was visible from the open door. Defendant Dunlap
indicated that he was looking for Ellen Stone at which time
she replied “You found me.” Defendant Dunlap gave
the Rhode Island paperwork to Mrs. Stone at her husband's
law office and then left the property. A sign on the door of
the law office reflects that the building houses Mr.
Stone's law office and provides a contact phone number
and website address.
plaintiffs allege that defendant Dunlap was acting “in
conformity with the policy of the (sic) defendant Martin . .
. and under color of the statutes, regulations, customs, and
usages of defendant Martin”, and that the
“[d]efendants affirmatively assert and claim that
[they] have a right to disregard posted signs and to go
around locked gates in connection with serving civil process,
no matter how trivial the matter, . . .” (Doc. 1, p.
plaintiffs have provided their own counterstatement of
material facts to which the defendants have not
responded. To the extent that those facts are
supported by the record, they demonstrate that a majority of
the property in question is covered by dense woods which
blocks the view of the home and nearby garage from the public
road. At the time that defendant Dunlap entered the property,
he was not able to see the Mr. Stone's law office from
the public roadway. The plaintiffs' materials demonstrate
that there is a mailbox at the intersection of the driveway
and public roadway outside of the plaintiffs' gate at
which the plaintiffs receive their mail.
their first, and only federal, cause of action, the
plaintiffs allege that they “were deprived of their
rights, privileges and immunities secured by the Constitution
of the United States and laws enacted under that
Constitution, in that defendants' conduct constituted an
arbitrary intrusion by defendants on the plaintiffs'
property, deprived plaintiffs' (sic) of their peace and
quiet, invaded plaintiffs' privacy and solitude, and
diminished plaintiffs' enjoyment of life, which conduct
was not authorized by law and which constituted a denial of
plaintiffs' rights without due process of law.”
Despite what appears to be a Fourteenth Amendment claim in
their complaint, throughout the plaintiffs' briefs