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Arditi v. Subers

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

January 10, 2017

RAY A. ARDITI, Plaintiff,
v.
POLICE OFFICER RICHARD SUBERS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          GENE E.K. PRATTER United States District Judge

         Ray Arditi filed suit against police officers from three municipalities, alleging that his constitutional rights were violated when he was handcuffed and searched in a McDonald's parking lot and later received a citation for disorderly conduct. The Defendants filed three motions for summary judgment, and the Court granted in part and denied in part each of the motions, dismissing several claims, including a claim for excessive force, and leaving only a claim for illegal seizure against Officers Clymer, Naegele, and Young, and an illegal search claim against Officer Clymer. The Defendants have filed two motions in limine, seeking to exclude any evidence relating to alleged physical injuries resulting from the McDonald's incident and any evidence relating to the issuance of a citation for disorderly conduct and the ultimate disposition of that citation. Mr. Arditi opposes both motions. The Court will deny Defendants' motion to exclude evidence of physical injuries and grant Defendants' motion to exclude evidence relating to the citation and its ultimate disposition.

         Background

         While Ray Arditi was eating at a McDonald's restaurant on May 31, 2015, he became involved in some way in a verbal altercation with Catherine Herbert. Someone at the McDonald's restaurant did call 911 and reported that a fight had broken out. Officers from three municipalities were dispatched to the scene. While they were on their way to the McDonald's, a dispatch operator clarified for the officers that the fight was a verbal altercation, rather than a physical one.

         When Mr. Arditi finished eating, he left the restaurant to walk to his car. As he stood in the parking lot, he saw multiple police cars pull in to the lot. He states that several officers then got out of their cars and immediately approached him, demanding that he identify himself and screaming orders and threats.[1] Mr. Arditi admits that he answered the officers' demands with questions of his own rather than by identifying himself. However, according to Mr. Arditi's account, he did not physically resist the officers at any time. Officer Clymer of the Brookhaven Police Department then handcuffed Mr. Arditi, and Officer Naegele of Upland assisted by holding one of Mr. Arditi's arms.[2] Meanwhile, Officer Young of Parkside pointed a taser at Mr. Arditi and, according to Mr. Arditi, screamed that he was resisting and was a terrorist. After Mr. Arditi was handcuffed, he informed the officers that his identification was in the trunk of his car. Mr. Arditi told the officers that his car keys were in his pocket, and Officer Clymer retrieved Mr.

         Arditi's car keys from his pocket and searched his car to get the identification. Mr. Arditi was then released without being charged.

         At no time during this encounter did Mr. Arditi tell any of the officers that the handcuffs were uncomfortable, although Mr. Arditi testified at his deposition that the handcuffs felt like knives digging into his wrists. Mr. Arditi submitted pictures of his wrists, taken shortly after the incident, showing marks. He went to the emergency room for treatment of his wrists the afternoon of the incident and saw his doctor a few days later, by which time there were no visible injuries. At that doctor visit, no treatment was given. He claimed that his wrist injuries are ongoing, but it was unclear from the limited medical records submitted as part of the summary judgment record whether his ongoing wrist and thumb complaints actually stem from this incident.[3]

         The next day, Mr. Arditi went to the police department to complain about his treatment. There, he spoke with Chief McGoldrick, who denied him access to a police report and threatened to issue a criminal summons because of his complaints. Unbeknownst to Mr. Arditi, Officer Subers had already written in his notes at the end of Officer Subers's shift on May 31, 2015 that he was planning to issue a disorderly conduct citation to both Mr. Arditi and Ms. Herbert. He then issued both Mr. Arditi and Ms. Herbert citations on his next shift. The charges against Mr. Arditi were later dismissed, however, when the police officers failed to appear at a hearing on the charges.

         Mr. Arditi then filed this suit. After initial motion practice and amendments to the original complaint, the following claims remained. In Count One of Mr. Arditi's Third Amended Complaint, Mr. Arditi claimed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that all defendants except Chief McGoldrick[4] violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by illegally searching his car and seizing him. In Count Two, he claimed under § 1983 that all defendants except Chief McGoldrick violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by using excessive force against him. In Count Three, he claimed that Defendants Subers and McGoldrick maliciously prosecuted him in violation of Pennsylvania state law. In Count Four, Mr. Arditi claimed Defendants Subers and McGoldrick violated § 1983 when they conspired to maliciously prosecute him.

         The Defendants filed motions for summary judgment. As a result, the Court dismissed all claims against Officer Subers and Chief McGoldrick, the excessive force claim, and the illegal search claim as to Officers Naegele and Young. The illegal seizure claim, therefore, remains as to Officers Naegele, Young, and Clymer, and the illegal search claim remains as to Officer Clymer. The Defendants have now filed in limine, seeking to exclude any evidence relating to alleged physical injuries resulting from the McDonald's incident and any evidence relating to the issuance of a citation for disorderly conduct and the ultimate disposition of that citation.

         Legal Standard

         “Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, subject to certain limitations, all evidence is admissible if it is relevant, i.e., if it tends to make the existence or nonexistence of a disputed material fact more probable than it would be without that evidence.” Forrest v. Beloit Corp., 424 F.3d 344, 355 (3d Cir. 2005); see Fed. R. Evid. 401, 402. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 403, a court may nonetheless exclude relevant evidence if the probative value of the evidence is “substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.” Forrest, 424 F.3d at 355 (quoting Fed R. Evid. 403). To exclude evidence under Rule 403, “the probative value of the evidence must be ‘substantially outweighed' by the problems in admitting it.” Id. (quoting Coleman v. Home Depot, Inc., 306 F.3d 1333, 1343-44 (3d Cir. 2002)). However, “prejudice does not simply mean damage to the opponent's cause.” Goodman v. Pa. Turnpike Comm'n, 293 F.3d 655, 670 (3d Cir. 2002) (internal quotation marks omitted). Only “unfair prejudice, ” or “prejudice of the sort which cloud[s] impartial scrutiny and reasoned evaluation of the facts, which inhibit[s] neutral application of principles of law to the facts as found, ” can tip the scales in favor of inadmissibility. Ansell v. Green Acres Contr. Co., 347 F.3d 515, 525 (3d Cir. 2003) (emphasis added).

         Discussion

         A. Defendants' Motion in limine to preclude any testimony, evidence, or argument that Mr. Arditi suffered any physical injuries at ...


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