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Rosemont Taxicab Co., Inc. v. The Philadelphia Parking Authority

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 26, 2018

ROSEMONT TAXICAB CO., INC and GERMANTOWN CAB COMPANY, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE PHILADELPHIA PARKING AUTHORITY, WILLIAM SCHMID, and STEVEN MARSHALL, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          JOHN R. PADOVA, J.

         The Philadelphia Parking Authority (“PPA”) through its Taxi and Limousine Division (“TLD”) routinely seizes without a warrant vehicles that are suspected of being used as taxicabs that do not have a PPA inspection sticker. Plaintiffs Rosemont Taxicab Co., Inc. (“Rosemont”) and Germantown Cab Company (“GCC”) filed this lawsuit alleging that the PPA's practice violates their rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and parallel provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution (Counts I and II). They also seek declaratory relief that a Pennsylvania statute and the PPA implementing regulations permitting warrantless seizures of taxicabs are unconstitutional “as applied” (Count III). Finally, GCC alleges state law claims for conversion (Count IV), trespass to chattels (Count V), and fraud (Count VI). Presently pending are the parties' cross motions for summary judgment based on a stipulation of facts (“Stip.”).[1] We conclude that the PPA's warrantless seizure of Plaintiffs' vehicles is prima facie unconstitutional, and the absence of pre-deprivation procedures denied Plaintiffs due process of law. We also conclude that Defendants have failed to meet their summary judgment burden to show they are entitled to their proffered affirmative defenses on Plaintiffs' constitutional claims. Finally, we conclude that, while Plaintiffs have demonstrated that there are no genuine issues of material fact and they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on their constitutional claims, GCC cannot demonstrate the elements of its state law claims as a matter of law. Accordingly, with limited exceptions to be discussed later, we grant Plaintiffs' Motion on liability issues on Counts I, II, and III and deny Defendants' Motion on those Counts; we grant Defendants' Motion for summary judgment with regard to Counts IV, V, and VI.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is not 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). An issue is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Id.

         “[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record that] it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the non-moving party bears the burden of proof on a particular issue at trial, the movant's initial Celotex burden can be met simply by “pointing out to the district court [ ] that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Id. at 325. After the moving party has met its initial burden, the nonmoving party has the burden of identifying specific facts to show that, to the contrary, a genuine issue of material fact exists for trial. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). That is, summary judgment is appropriate if the nonmoving party fails to rebut by making a factual showing “sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

         “In evaluating the evidence, we take the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party . . . and draw all reasonable inferences in [their] favor.” Morton Int'l, Inc. v. A.E. Staley Mfg. Co., 343 F.3d 669, 680 (3d Cir. 2003) (internal quotation omitted). “Speculation, conclusory allegations, and mere denials are insufficient to raise genuine issues of material fact.” Boykins v. Lucent Techs., Inc., 78 F.Supp.2d 402, 408 (E.D. Pa. 2000). Indeed, evidence introduced to defeat or support a motion for summary judgment must be capable of being admissible at trial. Callahan v. AEV, Inc., 182 F.3d 237, 252 n.11 (3d Cir. 1999) (citing Petruzzi's IGA Supermarkets, Inc. v. Darling-Delaware Co., 998 F.2d 1224, 1234 n.9 (3d Cir. 1993)).

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT RECORD

         GCC is a taxicab operator that holds a certificate of public convenience (“CPC”) issued by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) authorizing it to provide taxicab service in parts of the City of Philadelphia and Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. (Stip. ¶ 1.) Rosemont is a taxicab operator that holds a CPC issued by the PUC authorizing it to provide call or demand taxicab service in parts of Delaware County and Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 5.) Both companies generate revenue by leasing taxicabs to drivers. (Id. ¶ 4.) GCC's CPC provides for limited or “partial” operating rights within Philadelphia; it does not authorize “city wide” rights. (Id. ¶ 2.) Only taxicabs with medallions issued by the PPA are authorized to provide citywide service in Philadelphia. (Id. ¶ 3.)

         Prior to 2004, the PUC was solely responsible for the regulation of taxicab and limousine operations throughout Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 6.) In Act 94 of 2004, 53 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 5701-5725 (“Act 94”), the Pennsylvania General Assembly transferred the regulatory responsibility over taxicab and limousine operations within Philadelphia from the PUC to the PPA. (Id. ¶¶ 7, 9.) The PUC retained jurisdiction over all other taxicab and limousine services provided outside of Philadelphia. (Id. ¶ 8.) The PPA regulates the Philadelphia taxicab industry through the TLD. (Id. ¶ 9.) TLD's Enforcement Division is responsible for enforcing the PPA's regulations and governing statute. (Id. ¶ 11.) At all relevant times, Defendant William Schmid (“Schmid”) has been TLD's Manager of Enforcement and, in 2013, became TLD's Deputy Director. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13.) Defendant Steven Marshall (“Marshall”) is a TLD Enforcement Officer who reports to Schmid. (Id. ¶¶ 14-15.)

         When the PPA assumed responsibility for regulating the Philadelphia taxicab industry in or about 2005, Section 5714 of Act 94, 53 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5714 (superseded) (“Section 5714”), set forth the PPA's authority to impound taxicab vehicles. (Stip. ¶ 16.) Section 5714 did not require the PPA to impound vehicles when violations were discovered; neither did it require the PPA to obtain a warrant before impounding a vehicle. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18.) At that time, the PPA interpreted and applied Section 5714 as authorizing it to impound without a warrant any non-medallion vehicle found to be providing “hail service” in Philadelphia without legal authority to do so, including licensed taxicabs operating under valid CPCs issued by the PUC, such as those operated by Plaintiffs. (Id. ¶ 19.)

         After having taxicabs seized without warrant under Section 5714, Plaintiffs, along with Sawink, Inc. (another taxicab company), filed suit in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, docketed at Sawink, Inc., v. PPA, No. 84 M.D. 201 (2011) (“Sawink”), challenging the constitutionality of the PPA's impoundment of their vehicles. (Stip. ¶ 20.) On January 6, 2012, the Commonwealth Court issued a decision in favor of the petitioners in Sawink, concluding that Section 5714 “does not authorize the impoundment sanction where a taxicab, certificated by the PUC, accepts a hail in Philadelphia, ” a decision that was ultimately affirmed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Sawink, Inc. v. PPA, 34 A.3d 926, 932 (Pa. Commw. Ct.), aff'd, 57 A.3d 644 (Pa. 2012). In the aftermath of Sawink, the PPA has only seized private “hacks” - vehicles providing unlawful taxicab service in Philadelphia - as well as vehicles providing Uber or Lyft service prior to the Legislature's legalization of those services in Philadelphia in November, 2016. (Stip. ¶ 22.) The PPA has not impounded any taxicab vehicle operating under a valid CPC issued by either the PPA or the PUC merely for operating outside of its territorial rights. (Id.)

         On July 6, 2012, the Pennsylvania Legislature adopted Act 119 of 2012, which modified the relevant language of Section 5714 (“Act 119”) following the Sawink decision. (Id. ¶ 23.) Like its predecessor, Section 5714 as amended by Act 119 (the “Current Impoundment Statute”), does not require the PPA to obtain a warrant before impounding a vehicle.[2] (Id. ¶ 25.) Although empowered to do so, the Current Impoundment Statute likewise does not require the PPA to impound any vehicles. (Id. ¶ 26.) Vehicles impounded under the Current Impoundment Statute are not subject to civil forfeiture. (Id. ¶ 27.)

         In 2014, following the Legislature's adoption of the Current Impoundment Statute, the PPA promulgated new regulations, approved by the PPA's Board on March 13, 2014 and codified at 52 Pa. Code §§ 1017.51 and 1017.52 (the “Current Impoundment Regulations”), setting forth the circumstances under which it would impound vehicles and establishing a procedure for such impoundments.[3] (Stip. ¶¶ 28-30.) The Current Impoundment Regulations define five circumstances as an “impoundable offense.” See 52 Pa. Code § 1017.51. One of the “impoundable offenses” occurs when “[a]n unauthorized taxicab provides, or attempts to provide, call or demand service [i.e. taxicab] in Philadelphia.” (Stip. ¶ 32 (bracket in original).) An “unauthorized taxicab” is defined as “[a] vehicle without a current and valid TLD inspection sticker. . . .” (Id. ¶ 33.) Like the Current Impoundment Statute, the Current Impoundment Regulations also do not require the PPA to obtain a warrant before impounding a vehicle for an impoundable offense. (Id. ¶ 34.)

         Dennis Weldon, the PPA's General Counsel, was involved in the rule-making process for the Current Impoundment Regulations. (Id. ¶ 35.) Because it is not permitted by the statute, the Current Impoundment Regulations do not allow civil forfeiture of an impounded vehicle. (Id. ¶ 36.) Since the Current Impoundment Regulations became effective, Defendant Schmid has 53 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5714(g)(1). maintained a policy of requiring TLD Enforcement Officers to obtain his approval before proceeding with any impoundment under the Current Impoundment Regulations. (Id. ¶ 38; DSOF ¶ 2; J.App. Tab Q (August 18, 2017 Dep. of William Schmid (“Schmid Dep.”)) at 292-294, 330.)

         The PPA has a written procedure entitled “Impoundment of Vehicle Equipment” that is issued to all Enforcement Officers. (DSOF ¶ 3; D.App. Tab 5; Schmid Dep. at 311-312.) The procedures applicable to the PPA's impoundment of vehicles under the Current Impoundment Regulations are set forth at 52 Pa. Code § 1017.52. (Stip. ¶ 40.) The Current Impoundment Regulations do not provide for pre-deprivation notice or a hearing prior to impounding a vehicle. (Id. ¶ 41.) The Current Impoundment Regulations only provide for post-deprivation notice and a hearing after an impoundment occurs. (Id. ¶ 42.)

         The PUC subjects Plaintiffs' vehicles to a number of regulations concerning equipment standards and inspections. See 52 Pa. Code §§ 29.401-29.407. The PUC requires that Plaintiffs' vehicles comply with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (“PennDOT”) Vehicle and Equipment Inspection standards. (Stip. ¶ 44.) None of Plaintiffs' vehicles at issue in this Litigation had been placed out of service by the PUC at the time of their impoundment by the PPA. (Dec. 28, 2017 Decl. of Joseph Gabbay ¶ 8; Dec. 26, 2017 Decl. of Rachel Tiffany Gabbay-Karsenty ¶ 8.) On July 30, 2014, just two days before being impounded by the PPA, the PUC inspected GCC taxicab G91 for safety and the vehicle passed the inspection. (Pl. Ex. I (GCC's 2014 Annual Inspection Report).) The PUC also safety inspected and passed G35 on that date, approximately five weeks before that vehicle was impounded by the PPA for lacking a safety inspection sticker. (Id.)

         The PPA's first impoundment of a vehicle operated by GCC or Rosemont under the Current Impoundment Statute and Regulations occurred on August 1, 2014. (Stip. ¶ 39.) On that date, the PPA stopped and cited G91 for allegedly providing illegal service by picking up a “hail fare” in Philadelphia. (Id. ¶¶ 39, 45.) An additional citation was also issued to the driver of G91 for operating without a valid driver certificate. (D.App. Tab 24 (N.T. Aug. 7, 2014 Impoundment Hrg.) at 6-7.) The PPA immediately seized G91 because it lacked a valid PPA inspection sticker, even though it had been inspected two days earlier by the PUC. (Stip. ¶ 46; Pl. Ex. I.) The PPA did not have a warrant for this seizure and did not provide GCC with pre-deprivation notice or an opportunity to be heard prior to seizing the vehicle. (Stip. ¶¶ 47-48.) On August 6, 2014, GCC requested a post-deprivation hearing, and an impoundment hearing was held the next day. (Id. ¶¶ 49-50.) On September 3, 2014, the hearing officer entered an order finding the impoundment to be proper and set bond for the release of the vehicle at $1, 000. (Id. ¶ 51.)

         GCC appealed from the Hearing Officer's order to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.[4] (Id. ¶ 52.) On May 14, 2015, Common Pleas Judge Nina Wright Padilla denied GCC's appeal. (Id. ¶ 53.) GCC then appealed to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. (Id. ¶ 54.) In connection with GCC's appeal to Commonwealth Court, Judge Padilla issued an Opinion dated July 30, 2015. (Id. ¶ 55.) On March 1, 2016, the Commonwealth Court issued a decision denying GCC's appeal, Germantown Cab Co. v. Philadelphia Parking Authority, 134 A.3d 1115 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2016), alloc. denied, 160 A.3d 774 (Pa. 2016) (the “GCC Direct Appeal Opinion”), and GCC filed a petition for allocatur to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. (Stip. ¶¶ 56-57.) On November 1, 2016, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania denied GCC's petition for allocatur. (Id. ¶ 59.) Following that decision, the PPA abated storage fees and released G91 to GCC upon payment of $1, 500. (Id. ¶ 60.) The PPA did not require GCC to obtain a current and valid PPA inspection sticker before releasing G91 back to GCC. (Id. ¶ 61.)

         The PPA has also stopped, cited, and seized without warrants GCC taxicabs G35 (Stip. ¶¶ 62-67), G9 (id. ¶¶ 68-74), and G12[5] (id. ¶¶ 87-93) and Rosemont taxicabs R30 (id. ¶¶ 75-80) and R34[6] (id. ¶¶ 81-86.) In each instance, the Plaintiff owner of the taxicab received no pre-deprivation notice and hearing, and the vehicle was released after the owner paid the citation with no requirement that the vehicle be safety inspected before being placed back in service. (Id. ¶¶ 62-93.)

         On or about January 10, 2012, at the direction of Defendant Schmid, Defendant Marshall applied to work as a taxicab driver for GCC. (Stip. ¶ 94.) At Schmid's instruction, Marshall did not to identify himself to GCC as a PPA Enforcement Officer and did not wear any clothing that would indicate that he was a PPA employee. (Id. ¶ 95-97.) Marshall filled out an application to become a taxi driver at GCC using his real name, real contact information, real social security card and real driver's license. (Id. ¶ 98.) Marshall visited GCC several times through February 3, 2012, including attendance at a training class conducted by GCC during which Marshall and other attendees were instructed how to fabricate trip logs to conceal illegal operations and were advised that the PUC, rather than the PPA, properly regulates GCC's operations. (Id. ¶ 99; D.App. Tab 29; J.App. Tab K (Sept. 22, 2016 Deposition of Steven Marshall (“Marshall Dep.”)) at 348-75.)

         After being approved as a taxicab driver by GCC, on February 4, 2012 Marshall made arrangements to work a shift operating GCC taxicab G61 and made the lease payment required by GCC to lease the vehicle for one day. (Stip. ¶ 100.) However, Marshall had no intention of ever driving G61 as a taxicab-for-hire during his shift and did not engage in any business as a taxicab driver. (Id. ¶¶ 101-02.) Instead, Marshall drove G61 to the PPA's garage at 2415 South Swanson Street in Philadelphia, where the car was inspected by a PPA mechanic. (Id. ¶ 103.) Schmid was present during the inspection. (Id. ¶ 104.) The inspection revealed multiple problems, including a non-functional airbag, a leaking break line and pinion gear, and a hole in the trunk. (D.App. Tab 29; Marshall Dep. at 348-75.) No. one from GCC was notified about, or present during, the PPA's inspection of G61. (Stip. ¶ 105.) Marshall timely returned the taxicab to GCC. (Id. ¶ 106.) When he returned the vehicle, he represented to GCC that the PPA stopped him at 30th Street Station to inspect the vehicle. (Stip. ¶ 107.) The PPA did not issue any citations to GCC relating to any aspect of Marshall's activities or the inspection of G61. (Id. ¶ 108.) GCC was not aware of the Marshall undercover operation prior to conducting discovery in other litigation with the PPA pending before this Court. (Id. ¶ 109.)

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Claim Preclusion and Issue Preclusion

         Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' constitutional claims are barred on both claim preclusion and issue preclusion grounds because the claims were raised or could have been raised in earlier litigation involving the parties. Citing the proceedings in the State Court Impoundment Action, they argue that Plaintiffs should not be permitted to relitigate the constitutionality of the Current Impoundment Statute and Regulations.[7]

         1. Claim Preclusion

         Claim preclusion or res judicata “is designed to avoid piecemeal litigation of claims arising from the same events.” General Elec. Co. v. Deutz AG, 270 F.3d 144, 157-58 (3d Cir. 2001); see also Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, 136 S.Ct. 2292, 2305 (2016), as revised (June 27, 2016) (stating that claim preclusion prohibits ‘“successive litigation of the very same claim' by the same parties” (quoting New Hampshire v. Maine, 532 U.S. 742, 748 (2001))). It generally bars the relitigation of a cause of action where there has been a “final judgment on the merits in a prior suit involving the same parties or their privies and a subsequent suit based on the same cause of action.” General Elec. Co., 270 F.3d at 158. Claim preclusion is “based on concerns of fairness, on reliance on the finality of prior judicial determinations, and on the expectation of not having to conform primary conduct to inconsistent decisions and inconsistent legal obligations.” Bell Atl.-Pennsylvania, Inc. v. Pennsylvania Pub. Util. Comm'n, 273 F.3d 337, 345 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing E.E.O.C. v. U.S. Steel Corp., 921 F.2d 489, 492 (3d Cir. 1990)). Importantly, claim preclusion applies both to claims that “were or could have been raised” in a prior action involving the “parties or their privies.” Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980) (citations omitted). “Claim preclusion thus bars relitigation of any claim that could have been raised in the prior action even if it was not so raised.” In re Graham, 973 F.2d 1089, 1093 (3d Cir. 1992) (emphasis added).

         In applying the principles of claim preclusion, “we must give the same preclusive effect to the [state court] judgment . . . that the courts in Pennsylvania, the state in which the judgment was entered, would give.” Turner v. Crawford Square Apartments III, L.P., 449 F.3d 542, 548 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Lance v. Dennis, 546 U.S. 459, 466 (2006)). In Pennsylvania, claim preclusion requires that the current action and the prior action share the following four “identities”: “(1) the thing sued upon or for; (2) the cause of action; (3) the persons and parties to the action; and (4) the capacity of the parties to sue or be sued.” Id. (citing Bearoff v. Bearoff Bros., Inc., 327 A.2d 72, 74 (Pa. 1974)). In Pennsylvania, “the mere advancement of a different legal theory does not necessarily give rise to a different cause of action.” Turner, 449 F.3d at 548 (citation omitted); Hopewell Estates, Inc. v. Kent, 646 A.2d 1192, 1194-95 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1994) (noting that courts consider “whether both actions seek compensation for the same damages” in determining whether claim preclusion applies); but see McArdle v. Tronetti, 627 A.2d 1219, 1222-23 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1993) (finding a lack of identity between two sets of claims - federal constitutional violations and state law gross negligence - because they involved distinct factual allegations and elements).

         Defendants argue that claim preclusion

unquestionably applies to Germantown, which actually raised the same constitutional claims in the State Court Impoundment Action in the context of one of the same impoundments raised here: the impoundment of G-91 on August 1, 2014 (the first impoundment under the Current Impoundment Statute and Regulations). The Commonwealth Court's decision rejecting those claims is a final judgment, as the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania declined review.

(Def. Mem. at 27 (emphasis omitted).) They argue that claim preclusion applies to Rosemont as well because, “prior to commencing this action, Rosemont pled liable to TLD's citations and paid all corresponding fines and charges in connection with the impoundments of R-30” and [u]nder Pennsylvania law, a plea qualifies as a final judgment on the merits for purposes of res judicata analysis.” (Id. at 28 (citing Moyer v. Allstate Ins. Co., Civ. A. No. 09-1290, 2010 WL 3328035, at *6 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 20, 2010) (holding that husband-insured's guilty plea to arson precluded both his and his wife's collection of fire insurance proceeds since (1) the wife was also an “insured person” under the policy; (2) the guilty plea was admissible in the civil action as an admission against interest; (3) the issue in criminal case was identical to the issue in coverage action; and (4) the guilty plea was conclusive of whether husband intended the result of his actions); DiJoseph v. Vuotto, 968 F.Supp. 244, 247 (E.D. Pa. 1997) (“Operative facts necessary for criminal convictions are admissible as conclusive facts in civil suits arising from the same events and circumstances.” (citing Folino v. Young, 568 A.2d 171, 172 (Pa. 1990))).) Because the Commonwealth Court's decision rejecting Plaintiffs' challenge to the impoundment of their taxicabs is a final judgment, Defendants assert that the claims raised here are precluded.

         We find that claims preclusion does not apply to bar Plaintiffs' constitutional claims because there is no identity of the cause of action. The PPA hearing officer and the state courts that heard GCC's appeals were focused upon Plaintiffs' conduct in operating its taxicabs without PPA inspection stickers, while the constitutional claims GCC and Rosemont raise here focus on Defendants' conduct in conducting warrantless seizures of taxicabs found to lack inspection stickers. Moreover, this is clearly not an attempt at seriatim litigation of nearly identical claims. Whether or not GCC attempted to raise an affirmative defense in the State Court Impoundment Action, it could not have received the type of relief it and Rosemont seek here, namely an injunction and money damages arising from the unconstitutional seizure. Thus, the “same” constitutional claims could not have been raised in the State Court Impoundment Action.[8]Finally, there is no identity between the elements needed to be proved in that action and the elements Plaintiffs must prove to establish warrantless seizure and due process claims. The only element at issue in the enforcement action - whether the taxicab lacked a required inspection sticker - is immaterial to whether the PPA had a constitutional obligation to obtain a warrant to seize the taxicab. Conversely, if Plaintiffs had succeeded in having their citations dismissed on constitutional grounds, Defendants would not be barred from denying that civil rights violations occurred since the elements of a Section 1983 claim would not have been thereby established. Accordingly, we conclude that there is no identity in the “operative facts” undergirding the Plaintiffs' liability on the citations and their constitutional warrantless seizure claims sufficient to make those admissions preclusive to the constitutional claims.

         2. Issue Preclusion

         The doctrine of issue preclusion, also known as collateral estoppel, is based upon the principle that ‘“a losing litigant deserves no rematch after a defeat fairly suffered, in adversarial proceedings, on an issue identical in substance to the one he subsequently seeks to raise.'” Dici v. Pennsylvania, 91 F.3d 542, 547 (3d Cir. 1996) (quoting Astoria Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n v. Solimino, 501 U.S. 104, 107 (1991)). Its application by federal courts is grounded in the federal full faith and credit statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1738, which provides that state judicial proceedings “shall have the same full faith and credit in every court within the United States . . . as they have by law or usage in the courts of such State . . . from which they are taken.” Id., accord Marrese v. Am. Acad. of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 470 U.S. 373, 380 (1985). Thus, in determining whether the doctrine bars relitigation of an issue previously determined by a state court, a federal court must apply state law and evaluate whether relitigation would be precluded in the courts of the state in which the initial litigation took place. Swineford v. Snyder Cnty. Pa., 15 F.3d 1258, 1266 (3d Cir. 1994) (“Federal courts must give a state court judgment the same preclusive effect as would the courts of that state.”) (citation omitted).[9]

         Under Pennsylvania law, in order for issue preclusion to apply, five elements must be satisfied: (1) the issue is identical to one that was presented in a prior case; (2) there has been a final judgment on the merits of the issue in the prior case; (3) the party against whom the doctrine is asserted was a party in, or in privity with a party in, the prior action; (4) the party against whom the doctrine is asserted, or one in privity with the party, had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the prior proceeding; and (5) the determination in the prior proceeding was essential to the judgment. Dici, 91 F.3d at 548 (citation omitted); Cohen v. Workers' Comp. Appeal Bd., 909 A.2d 1261, 1264 (Pa. 2006) (citation omitted); Rue v. K-Mart Corp., 713 A.2d 82, 84 (Pa. 1998) (citation omitted).

         We find that Defendants cannot demonstrate these elements as a matter of law. As we concluded with regard to claim preclusion, we conclude that Defendants have failed to establish the identity of issue, that the issue was essential to the judgment, and that there was a full and fair opportunity to litigate. Whether Plaintiffs lacked a PPA inspection sticker is not the same issue as whether the impoundment of the taxicabs was an unconstitutional seizure or a due process violation. Because the PPA did not have to affirmatively prove that the seizure was constitutional at the administrative hearing, it was not ...


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