United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, J.
INTRODUCTION ............................................ 2
FACTUAL BACKGROUND ...................................... 3
PROCEDURAL HISTORY ...................................... 6
LEGAL STANDARD .......................................... 9
DISCUSSION ............................................ 11
Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Claims ...............
Count One: Retaliation ....................... 15
Count Two: Excessive Force ................... 21
Officer Simmons ......................... 24
Officer Little .......................... 29
Count Three: Unreasonable Search and Seizure. 31
Seizure ................................. 34
Search .................................. 40
Count Four: Equal Protection ................. 42
Plaintiff's State Law Claims ...................... 47
Counts Five and Six: False Arrest and False Imprisonment
Count Seven: Abuse of Process ................ 53
Count Eight: Malicious Prosecution ........... 56
Punitive Damages .................................. 57
CONCLUSION ............................................. 59
action, Plaintiff Clyde Price (“Plaintiff”),
proceeding pro se, alleges that Philadelphia Police Officers
Tyrone Simmons (“Officer Simmons”) and James
Little (“Officer Little”) wrongfully stopped,
searched, and arrested him, using excessive force, in
retaliation for Plaintiff's previous filing of a lawsuit
against the Philadelphia Police Department. Plaintiff brings
claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Pennsylvania state law
against the City of Philadelphia (“the City”),
Officer Simmons, Officer Little, and former Philadelphia
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey (“Former
Commissioner Ramsey”) (“collectively,
“Defendants”). After the Court granted
Defendants' motion to dismiss as to the City, but denied
the motion as to Officer Simmons, Officer Little, and Former
Commissioner Ramsey, Defendants deposed Plaintiff. The
remaining Defendants now move for summary judgment pursuant
to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff
has also filed a motion to strike Defendants' motion for
reasons discussed below, the Court will grant in part and
deny in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment. The
Court will grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment
with respect to all of Plaintiff's claims against Officer
Little and Officer Simmons, with the exception of
Plaintiff's claims against Officer Simmons under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 for (1) excessive force and (2)
unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth
Amendment. The Court will also deny Plaintiff's motion to
strike Defendants' motion for summary judgment.
facts of this case are relatively straightforward. On April
13, 2013, Plaintiff became involved in an argument with a
female acquaintance near the corner of Lindenwood and
Jefferson Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Price Dep.
13:14-16, 16:1-2, 17:7-24, Nov. 6, 2015, Defs.' Mot.
Summ. J. Ex. A, ECF No. 19-1; Simmons Decl. ¶¶ 3-5,
Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. B, ECF No. 19-2. Officers
Simmons and Little, on patrol in the area, observed the
dispute. Price Dep. 23:2-10, Simmons Decl. ¶¶ 5-7.
to Plaintiff, he and his acquaintance yelled at each other,
and she moved her hands in front of Plaintiff's face.
Price Dep. 22:20-23:10. While Officer Simmons refers to the
interaction between Plaintiff and his acquaintance as
“an altercation, ” and Officer Little claims that
he “observed the female grabbing [Plaintiff] by his
collar, ” it is undisputed that Plaintiff did not touch
his acquaintance during the course of their argument. Simmons
Decl. ¶ 5; Little Decl. ¶ 6, Defs.' Mot. Summ.
J. Ex. C, ECF No. 19-3.
observing the argument, Officer Simmons and Officer Little
approached Plaintiff and his acquaintance. Price Dep.
24:2-10; Simmons Decl. ¶¶ 5-7. At some point during
their approach, Plaintiff started moving away from the
officers. At that time, Officer Simmons grabbed
Plaintiff and placed him in handcuffs. Price Dep. 24:7-8,
25:5-6; Simmons Decl. ¶ 9.
testified that after Officer Simmons approached Plaintiff and
before he placed Plaintiff in handcuffs, he
“threw” Plaintiff against the police vehicle with
“force, but not with that much force.” Price Dep.
24:7-8, 25:5-6, 28:24-29:7. Officer Simmons does not make any
statement regarding his physical interaction with Plaintiff,
and Officer Little states that he walked away to speak with
Plaintiff's acquaintance after Officer Simmons placed
Plaintiff in handcuffs. See Little Decl. ¶¶ 10-11.
The parties do not dispute that after Officer Simmons placed
Plaintiff in handcuffs, he searched Plaintiff and located a
pocketknife and several bags containing a substance that was
later discovered to be crack cocaine. Price Dep. 25:5-12,
42:11-43:19; Simmons Decl. ¶¶ 12-20. Officer
Simmons then placed Plaintiff under arrest. Simmons Decl.
alleges that he was in custody from April 13, 2013, until
August 8, 2013, at which time his motion to suppress the
evidence gathered during Officer Simmons' search was
granted and he was released from prison. Am. Compl. ¶
13, ECF No. 11. At his deposition, Plaintiff testified that
the evidence was suppressed following a hearing before a
magistrate judge, and that all charges against him were
ultimately withdrawn. Price Dep. 38:20-39:12. Plaintiff
believes that the evidence was suppressed on the basis of
Officer Simmons' lack of probable cause for the search
and failure to inform Plaintiff of his Miranda rights prior
to questioning him. Id. at 41:2-6.
filed this action on April 10, 2015, initially bringing
claims against the City, the Philadelphia Police Department
(the “PPD”), and a John Doe police officer. ECF
No. 1. Plaintiff's complaint was deemed filed on April
17, 2015, after the Court granted him in forma pauperis
status. ECF Nos. 2, 3. The Court immediately dismissed
Plaintiff's claims against the PPD as legally baseless,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), after finding
that the PPD is not a separate legal entity from the City
subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF No. 2.
30, 2015, the City answered Plaintiff's complaint,
asserting affirmative defenses of (1) failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted and (2) sovereign
immunity under Pennsylvania's Political Subdivision Tort
Claims Act, 42 Pa. Const. Stat. §§ 8541-42. ECF No.
6. The City then filed a motion for judgment on the
pleadings, ECF No. 9, which Plaintiff did not
August 28, 2015, following a hearing, the Court dismissed
Plaintiff's Complaint with prejudice as to the City, and
without prejudice as to the individual John Doe police
officer. ECF No. 10. The Court also (1) granted Plaintiff
leave to file an amended complaint naming Officer Simmons as
a defendant; (2) granted Defendant leave to take
Plaintiff's deposition following the filing of the
amended complaint; and (3) ordered Defendant to file a motion
for summary judgment following the deposition. Id.
filed his Amended Complaint on September 21, 2015, adding
Former Commissioner Ramsey and Officers Simmons and Little as
defendants, and reasserting claims against the City. ECF No.
11. In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that, prior
to the April 13, 2013, incident, he had filed a previous
lawsuit against the 19th District of the Philadelphia Police
Department. Id. at ¶ 15. He alleges that
Officers Simmons and Little stopped, searched, and arrested
him during the incident at issue in this case in retaliation
for his filing of the previous lawsuit. Id. at
¶¶ 11-12, 15.
asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Pennsylvania
state law for (1) retaliation; (2) excessive force; (3)
unreasonable search and seizure; (4) violation of equal
protection rights; (5) false arrest; (6) false imprisonment;
(7) abuse of process; (8) malicious prosecution; (9)
intentional infliction of emotional distress; (10) respondeat
superior liability as to the City and Former Commissioner
Ramsey; (11) supervisory liability as to the City and Former
Commissioner Ramsey; and (12) violation of Plaintiff's
Miranda rights. Id. Plaintiff seeks a declaratory
judgment that Defendants' actions violated his rights,
$500, 000 in compensatory damages, $500, 000 in punitive
damages, and reasonable costs and fees. Id.
than following the Court's instruction to take
Plaintiff's deposition, on October 6, 2015, Defendants
moved to dismiss and/or strike Plaintiff's Amended
Complaint, ECF No. 12, which Plaintiff opposed, ECF No. 13.
The Court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss as to
Plaintiff's claims against the City, but denied the
motion with respect to the other Defendants. ECF No. 17. The
Court again instructed Defendants to file a motion for
summary judgment after taking Plaintiff's deposition.
remaining Defendants took Plaintiff's deposition in
November 2015, and they filed a motion for summary judgment
with respect to all claims asserted against them on February
8, 2016. ECF No. 19. Following a telephone conference with
the parties, the Court stayed Plaintiff's claims against
Former Commissioner Ramsey pending a ruling on
Defendants' motion for summary judgment as to the claims
against Officers Simmons and Little. ECF No. 20. The Court
explained that, because Plaintiff's claims against Former
Commissioner Ramsey are based on a theory of supervisory
liability for the acts of Officers Simmons and Little, if
Plaintiff's claims against the officers do not survive
summary judgment, there is no need for the Court to consider
Plaintiff's claims against Ramsey. Id.
filed a response in opposition to Defendants' motion for
summary judgment, ECF No. 22, as well as a separate
“Motion to Strike and or Deny Defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment, ” ECF No. 23. Defendants'
motion for summary judgment is now ripe for disposition.
judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine dispute as to
any material fact and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “A
motion for summary judgment will not be defeated by
‘the mere existence' of some disputed facts, but
will be denied when there is a genuine issue of material
fact.” Am. Eagle Outfitters v. Lyle & Scott
Ltd., 584 F.3d 575, 581 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48
(1986)). A fact is “material” if proof of its
existence or nonexistence “might affect the outcome of
the suit under the governing law, ” and a dispute is
“genuine” if “the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
Court views the facts in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. “After making all reasonable
inferences in the nonmoving party's favor, there is a
genuine issue of material fact if a reasonable jury could
find for the nonmoving party.” Pignataro v. Port
Auth., 593 F.3d 265, 268 (3d Cir. 2010). In short, the
essential question is “whether the evidence presents a
sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or
whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a
matter of law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.
document filed pro se is to be “liberally
construed” and “a pro se complaint, however
inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson
v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle
v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). In addition, when
considering a motion in a pro se plaintiff's proceedings,
a court must “apply the applicable law, irrespective of
whether a pro se litigant has mentioned it by name.”
Holley v. Dep't of Veteran Affairs, 165 F.3d
244, 247-48 (3d Cir. 1999). However, on a motion for summary
judgment, “a pro se plaintiff is not relieved of his
obligation under Rule 56 to point to competent evidence in
the record that is capable of refuting a defendant's
motion for summary judgment.” Ray v. Fed. Ins.
Co., No. 05-2507, 2007 WL 1377645, at *3 (E.D. Pa. May
10, 2007). “[M]erely because a non-moving party is
proceeding pro se does not relieve him of the obligation
under Rule 56(e) to produce evidence that raises a genuine
issue of material fact.” Boykins v. Lucent Techs.,
Inc., 78 F.Supp.2d 402, 408 (E.D. Pa.
their motion for summary judgment, Defendants first argue
that all of Plaintiff's federal claims against Officer
Little and Former Commissioner Ramsey fail as a matter of law
because neither of those Defendants participated in the
alleged wrongs, as required for a claim brought pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Defs.' Mem. Law Support Mot.
Summ. J., ECF No. 19, 8-10 [hereinafter Defs.' Mem.].
Next, Defendants argue that Plaintiff fails to demonstrate a
genuine issue of material fact with respect to every one of
his claims. See Id. at 10-27. Defendants further
argue that Plaintiff's federal claims against Officers
Simmons and Little are barred by the doctrine of qualified
immunity, and that Plaintiff's state law claims are
barred by the Pennsylvania Tort Claims Act. See Id.
at 27-30. Finally, Defendants argue that Plaintiff is not
entitled to punitive damages. See Id. at 30.
response, Plaintiff argues that, with the exception of his
Miranda claim and his claim for intentional infliction of
emotional distress, both of which he concedes are not viable,
there are genuine issues of material fact with respect to
each of his federal and state claims. See Pl.'s Mem., ECF No.
22. He also argues that Defendants are not entitled to
qualified immunity because his constitutional rights were
clearly established, Id. at 22-23, and that he is
entitled to punitive damages, Id. at 15-17.
also filed a separate motion to strike and/or deny
Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the basis that
Defendants failed to file a separate statement of undisputed
material facts, which Plaintiff avers is required under the
Local Rules. Pl.'s Mot. to Strike, ECF No. 23. As neither
the Local Rules of Civil Procedure nor this Court's
Outline of Pretrial and Trial Procedures requires a party
moving for summary judgment to submit a separate statement of
undisputed material facts, the Court will deny
Plaintiff's motion to strike.
Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Claims
brings claims against Officers Simmons and Little under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 for (1) retaliation (Count One); (2)
excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment (Count
Two); (3) unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the
Fourth Amendment (Count Three); (4) violation of the
Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause ...