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Heilimann v. O'Brien

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 7, 2017

RYAN A. HEILIMANN, Plaintiff
v.
STATE TROOPER THOMAS O'BRIEN, Individually and as a State Trooper for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; STATE TROOPER PETER P. NEMSHICK, Individually and as a State Trooper for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; CORY MOODY; AGENT CHRISTOPHER CARDONI, Individually and as an employee of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board; MOUNT AIRY, NO. 1, LLC d/b/a MT. AIRY CASINO; JOHN DOE CASINO DEFENDANTS #1-25, Individually and as employees of Mt. Airy Casino; and JANE DOE CASINO DEFENDANTS #1-25, Individually and as employees of Mt. Airy Casino, Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          JAMES M. MUNLEY JUDGE United States District Court

         Plaintiff Ryan A. Heilimann (hereinafter “plaintiff”) avers that two Pennsylvania state troopers, a Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (hereinafter “GCB”) agent, and casino security violated Pennsylvania state law and his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (hereinafter “section 1983”) for events related to his detainment and arrest inside Mount Airy Casino. Before the court for disposition is Defendants State Trooper Thomas O'Brien, State Trooper Peter P. Nemshick, and GCB Agent Christopher Cardoni's (collectively “the Commonwealth defendants”) motion for partial summary judgment on plaintiff's section 1983 malicious prosecution claim. (Doc. 43). For the reasons that follow, we will grant the motion.

         Background

         On August 25, 2012, plaintiff visited Gypsies nightclub inside Mount Airy Casino in Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania. (Defs.' Statement of Material Facts (hereinafter “SOF”) ¶¶ 1-2).[1] While dancing with a woman, plaintiff was escorted off the dance floor by Defendant State Troopers O'Brien and Nemshick along with casino employees. (SOF ¶ 2). After a casino employee physically led plaintiff from the dance floor, State Trooper O'Brien pushed plaintiff against a rack of chairs in the hallway. (SOF ¶ 3). A verbal exchange ensued, and troopers then arrested and escorted plaintiff to the Pennsylvania State Police office located inside the casino. (SOF ¶ 4).

         Subsequent to plaintiff's arrest, Defendant GCB Agent Cardoni arrived at the State Police office. (SOF ¶ 5). Inside the office, State Trooper O'Brien threw plaintiff, who was handcuffed and had one leg shackled to a bench, to the ground, and broke plaintiff's ankle. (SOF ¶ 6; Pl.'s SOF ¶ 6). State Troopers O'Brien and Nemshick eventually took plaintiff to Pocono Medical Center, and then to the Monroe County Correctional Facility. (SOF ¶ 8).

         As a result of the night's events, the Commonwealth charged plaintiff with aggravated assault under 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 2702(a)(3), resisting arrest under 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5104, disorderly conduct under 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5503(a)(1), harassment under 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 2709(a)(1), and public drunkenness under 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5505. (SOF ¶ 9; Pl.'s SOF ¶ 9). A jury found plaintiff not guilty of aggravated assault and disorderly conduct, and a Monroe County Court of Common Pleas judge dismissed plaintiff's resisting arrest charge on a motion for judgment of acquittal. (SOF ¶ 11; Pl.'s SOF ¶ 11). The judge, however, found plaintiff guilty of harassment and public drunkenness. (SOF ¶ 11).

         On July 1, 2014, plaintiff filed a thirteen-count complaint against the Commonwealth defendants as well as Mount Airy Casino and casino security officer Cory Moody (collectively “the casino defendants”). The sole count relevant to the instant motion, Count XI, asserts a section 1983 malicious prosecution claim against the Commonwealth defendants.[2](Doc. 1, Compl.).

         On March 7, 2016, the Commonwealth defendants moved for partial summary judgment on plaintiff's section 1983 malicious prosecution claim. (Doc. 43). The parties have briefed their respective positions and the matter is ripe for disposition.

         Jurisdiction

         As this case is brought pursuant to section 1983 for a violation of plaintiff's constitutional rights, we have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (“The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”). We have supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

         Standard of Review

         Granting summary judgment is proper 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 judgment as a matter of law. See Knabe v. Boury, 114 F.3d 407, 410 n.4 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). “[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., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must examine the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Int'l Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chem. Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A fact is material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. Where the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by establishing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the nonmovant's burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who must go beyond its pleadings, and designate specific facts by the use of affidavits, depositions, admissions, or answers to interrogatories demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324.

         Discussion

         The Commonwealth defendants move for partial summary judgment on Count XI, plaintiff's section 1983 malicious prosecution claim. Plaintiff does not oppose the motion with respect to GCB Agent Cardoni (Doc. 54, Pl.'s Br. in Opp'n at 4, n.1), and therefore, we will grant as unopposed the motion with respect to Defendant Cardoni. For the following reasons, we will also grant the motion with respect to Defendants O'Brien and Nemshick.

         I. Malicious Prosecution under Section 1983

         Count XI asserts a section 1983 malicious prosecution claim against Defendants O'Brien and Nemshick. Section 1983 does not, by its own terms, create substantive rights; rather, it provides remedies for deprivations of rights established elsewhere in the Constitution or federal law. Kneipp v. Tedder, 95 F.3d 1199, 1204 (3d Cir. 1996). Section 1983 states, in pertinent part,

Every person who, under the color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizens of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity or other proper proceeding for redress . . . .

42 U.S.C. § 1983. Thus, to establish a claim under section 1983, two criteria must be met. First, the conduct complained of must have been committed by a person acting under color of state law. Kaucher v. Cty. ofBucks, 455 F.3d 418 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 49-50 (1999)). Second, the conduct must deprive the plaintiff of rights ...


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