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Finder v. Crawford

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

July 6, 2017

CHARLES N. FINDER Appellant
v.
TODD B. CRAWFORD AND JENNIFER L. CRAWFORD Appellee CHARLES N. FINDER
v.
TODD B. CRAWFORD AND JENNIFER L. CRAWFORD Appellants

         Appeal from the Order Entered March 15, 2016 In the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County Civil Division at No(s): 2014-09663

          BEFORE: PANELLA, J., LAZARUS, J., and STEVENS, P.J.E. [*]

          OPINION

          PANELLA, J.

         Appellant, [1] Charles N. Finder, appeals from the order that granted summary judgment to Todd and Jennifer Crawford and dismissed Finder's complaint asserting a claim of malicious prosecution. After careful review, we agree with the trial court's conclusion that Finder failed to create a factual record capable of supporting his claim. We therefore affirm.

         Finder and the Crawfords were neighbors, whose suburban driveways were separated by a thin strip of lawn. Unfortunately, they did not enjoy this proximity, and the Crawfords filed several complaints to the local police regarding Finder's behavior.

         The police never filed charges against Finder, but the Crawfords ultimately filed a private criminal complaint asserting that Finder was guilty of the summary offense of harassment. The Montgomery County District Attorney's Office approved the complaint, and it proceeded to trial before Magisterial District Judge Karen Eisner Zucker.

         While the Crawfords were presenting their case, Judge Zucker interrupted the proceedings and urged the parties to "settle their differences … and get along as neighbors." What happened next is disputed by the parties and forms the crux of the trial court's decision to grant summary judgment.

         The Crawfords, in their motion for summary judgment, asserted that Judge Zucker presided over attempts to have the parties settle their differences and resolve the litigation amicably. In particular, the Crawfords asserted that at "the conclusion of her compromise discussions with the parties … Judge Zucker advised the Crawfords and [Finder's] counsel that, in essence, a compromise had been reached involving a conditional dismissal of the harassment charge[.]" Motion for Summary Judgment, at ¶ 10(f). The dismissal was to be conditioned upon Finder's behavior over the next month and a half.

         In contrast, Finder asserted "absolutely no conditional compromise was reached." Answer to Motion for Summary Judgment, at ¶ 10(f). However, he admitted that he had "no total recollection of exactly what [Judge Zucker] said[, ]" and that he had "no recollection of the judge talking about an opportunity for the parties to settle the matter[.]" Id., at ¶ 10(c), (e).

         Both parties acknowledged that the trial was continued to a later date. The Crawfords asserted that the continuance was "an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal to which [Finder] consented, [as well as] a conditional dismissal, and a compromise between [Finder] and the Crawfords." Motion for Summary Judgment, ¶ 10(i). Finder, for his part, denied that there was "an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal[.]"

         Both parties agree that shortly before the date for the rescheduled trial, the Crawfords requested that Judge Zucker cancel the trial, as they had not had any issues with Finder since the previous hearing. Judge Zucker subsequently dismissed the Crawford's private criminal complaint. Finder's counsel wrote to Judge Zucker, inquiring whether it was necessary to file a motion for judgment of acquittal. No judgment of acquittal was entered on the docket.

         Finder subsequently filed the instant suit, asserting multiple claims against the Crawfords. After the Crawfords filed preliminary objections, Finder amended his complaint and asserted only a single claim premised upon malicious prosecution.

         The Crawfords subsequently filed for summary judgment, asserting that Finder had not provided evidence capable of supporting a favorable verdict on his claim for malicious prosecution. Finder filed a response to the motion, and attached a "certification" that asserted several facts.

         The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment, dismissed Finder's complaint, and denied the Crawfords' request for attorney's fees. Both parties ...


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