United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
GABRIEL N. SUYDAM, Plaintiff,
PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE, et al., Defendants.
KAROLINE MEHALCHICK United States Magistrate Judge
the Court is a motion for summary judgment, filed by
Defendants, Daniel Nilon and the Pennsylvania State Police,
on June 22, 2016. (Doc. 20). The Defendants move for
summary judgment in the instant matter on the grounds that
the claims against Trooper Nilon are barred by the statute of
limitations, and claims against Defendant Pennsylvania State
Police are barred by sovereign immunity. (Doc. 22).
Background and Procedural History
Gabriel N. Suydam initiated the instant § 1983
action, filing a counseled complaint against Trooper Nilon
and the Pennsylvania State Police on January 12, 2015.
(Doc. 1). Suydam alleges Trooper Nilon subjected
Suydam to a warrantless arrest at 2:35 a.m. on September 1,
2012. (Doc. 1, ¶ 6-8). On the night in
question, Trooper Nilon patrolled a four-way-stop
intersection. (Doc. 1, ¶ 9). Trooper Nilon
pulled over Suydam's vehicle on the basis that the lights
meant to illuminate Suydam's registration plate were not
functioning. (Doc. 1, ¶ 10; Doc. 21,
¶ 2). As a result of the stop, Trooper Nilon placed
Suydam under arrest for DUI and driving with a suspended
license. (Doc. 1, ¶ 11; Doc. 21,
Nilon testified at trial that Suydam's registration plate
lights were inoperable, precipitating the stop. (Doc.
1, ¶ 13). The dash cam footage from Trooper
Nilon's cruiser indicated the lights on the registration
plate were in fact operating at the time of the stop.
(Doc. 1, ¶ 15). On January 10, 2014, the Monroe
County District Attorney filed a motion for nolle
prosequi. (Doc. 1, ¶ 16; Commonwealth
v. Suydam, No. CP-45-CR-0000570-2013 (Monroe County
C.C.P.). The Monroe County Court of Common Pleas granted the
motion for nolle prosequi on January 30, 2014,
dismissing the case. Commonwealth v. Suydam, No.
CP-45-CR-0000570-2013 (Monroe County C.C.P.).
complaint against Trooper Nilon and the Pennsylvania State
Police, Suydam states Trooper Nilon: lacked reasonable
suspicion to stop Suydam; knew the stop was unreasonable and
without probable cause; caused Suydam to retain counsel to
defend charges stemming from the stop and arrest; and acted
unlawfully and maliciously. (Doc. 1, ¶ 17-20).
Suydam seeks attorney's fees and costs incurred in
defense of the state court action and in the instant
proceedings, plus punitive damages and interest. (Doc.
1, at 4).
parties consented to proceed before the undersigned
Magistrate Judge on July 31, 2015. (Doc. 13). The
Defendants filed the motion for summary judgment on June 22,
2016. (Doc. 20). Suydam filed a brief in opposition
on August 24, 2016. (Doc. 28). The Defendants filed
a reply brief on September 13, 2016, making the motion ripe
for Court review. (Doc. 29). The Defendants argue
that the false arrest claims against Trooper Nilon are barred
by the statute of limitations and that claims against the
Pennsylvania State Police are barred by sovereign immunity.
concedes that the Pennsylvania State Police were protected by
sovereign immunity. (Doc. 28, at 4). Further, Suydam
does not challenge the argument proffered by the Defendants
regarding the applicable statute of limitations for false
arrest actions. (Doc. 28). Instead, Suydam argues
his cause of action for malicious prosecution is timely,
rendering summary dismissal improper. (Doc. 28, at
3). Defendants submit that judgment should be entered in
their favor, as the motion on false arrest claims was
unchallenged, and that Suydam never raised malicious
prosecution theories until his brief in opposition, at which
point advancement of new legal theories is improper.
(Doc. 29, at 3).
Court considers the claims against the Pennsylvania State
Police dismissed by consent of the Plaintiff and the motion
for summary judgment on his claim of false arrest unopposed.
Having found it meritorious, the Court grants summary
judgment in favor of the Defendants on any false arrest
claim. Thus, the only remaining issue is whether Suydam pled
a claim for malicious prosecution, sufficient to put the
Defendants on notice, or if this claim is being brought for
the first time in a brief in opposition to summary
Summary Judgment Standard
Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary
judgment should be granted only if “there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A
fact is “material” only if it might affect the
outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of material
fact is “genuine” only if the evidence “is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
non-moving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
In deciding a summary judgment motion, all inferences
“should be drawn in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party, and where the non-moving party's
evidence contradicts the movant's, then the
non-movant's must be taken as true.” Pastore v.
Bell Tel. Co. of Pa., 24 F.3d 508, 512 (3d Cir. 1994).
federal court should grant summary judgment “if the
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,
show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact
and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law.” Farrell v. Planters Lifesavers
Co., 206 F.3d 271, 278 (3d Cir. 2000). In making this
determination, “a court must view the facts in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all
inferences in that party's favor.” Armbruster
v. Unisys Corp., 32 F.3d 768, 777 (3d Cir. 1994). The
Court need not accept mere conclusory allegations, whether
they are made in the complaint or a sworn statement.
Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871,
888 (1990). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the
court's function is not to make credibility
determinations, weigh evidence, or draw inferences from the
facts. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. Rather, the court
must simply “determine whether there is a genuine issue
for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandates that a