United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
ESTATE OF RAYMOND J. GUZIEWICZ, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
RENEE P. MAGNOTTA, Defendant.
SAPORITO MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Richard Caputo United States District Judge.
before me is Magistrate Judge Saporito's Report and
Recommendation (Doc. 93) on the Motion for Summary Judgment
filed by Defendant Renee Magnotta (“Defendant” or
“Agent Magnotta”). (Doc. 79). For the reasons
that follow, the Magistrate Judge's recommendation to
deny summary judgment and dismiss Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 false arrest claim and state law abuse of process
and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims with
prejudice will be adopted.
forth in greater detail in Magistrate Judge's Report and
Recommendation, this case arises out of criminal charges
filed against Raymond Guziewicz (“Raymond”) for
criminal conspiracy and forgery concerning narcotics
prescriptions including Percocet, Oxycontin, and Dilaudid.
January 27, 2012, a criminal complaint was initiated against
Raymond. (Doc. 80-1, “Def.'s Ex. A,
” at 2). Included with this complaint was an
affidavit of probable cause created by Agent Magnotta, a
Narcotics Agent with the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney
General. (Doc. 80, “Def.'s SMF, ” ¶ 3;
Doc. 84, “Pl.'s SMF, ” ¶ 3; Doc. 84-5,
“Pl.'s Ex. C”). This affidavit of probable
cause relies in large part on a February 22, 2011 phone call
betweem Agent Magnotta and Raymond's former physician,
Dr. Mark Cruciani. Dr. Cruciani informed Agent Magnotta he
was notified by Medicap Pharmacy that prescriptions were
being billed in Raymond's name. (Def.'s SMF ¶ 8;
Pl.'s SMF ¶ 8). He told Agent Magnotta that Raymond
was his patient but that these prescriptions were not valid
and that Raymond “had either stolen a blank
prescription pad or mass produced an authorized prescription
and passed them at several different pharmacies.”
(Def.'s SMF ¶¶ 4, 8; Pl.'s SMF ¶¶
4, 8). However, he also stated Steven Guziewicz
(“Steven” or “Plaintiff”),
Raymond's son, presented “many” of the
prescriptions. (Def.'s SMF ¶¶ 6, 7; Pl.'s
SMF ¶¶ 6, 7). In addition, Dr. Cruciani told Agent
Magnotta the prescriptions were “passed” in six
(6) different names: Raymond Guziewicz, Steven Guziewicz,
Janine Belles, Joan Guziewicz, William Guziewicz, and Denise
Belles. (Def.'s SMF ¶¶ 10; Pl.'s
SMF ¶¶ 11). Agent Magnotta spoke with other
individuals as part of her investigation, including Sam
Sebastianelli, a pharmacist at Medicap Pharmacy. (Magnotta
January 31, 2012, Raymond was arrested and appeared before a
state magisterial district judge for his preliminary
arraignment where bail was set at five thousand dollars ($5,
000). (Def.'s Ex. A at 1). Raymond was held in custody
until he was able to post bail on February 2, 2012.
(Id.). Raymond waived his preliminary hearing on
February 9, 2012. (Id. at 5). The next entry on the
criminal docket reflects that the case was nolle
prossed, and the disposition of the case is listed as
“Nolle Prosequi WITHOUT PREJUDICE - COMM RESERVES THE
RIGHT TO REFILE.” (Id. at 12; Def.'s SMF
¶ 1; Pl.'s SMF ¶ 1). Raymond later died on
March 18, 2013. (Doc. 93 at 5).
appearing both individually and in his role as the
administrator filed the initial complaint pro se on
September 8, 2014 against Agent Magnotta raising claims under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law for malicious
prosecution, abuse of process, unreasonable seizure, and
intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Doc. 1).
Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss on July 6, 2015, and on
September 30, 2016, Plaintiff's personal capacity claim
for intentional infliction of emotional distress was
dismissed and the remaining claims were permitted to proceed.
(Doc. 25; Doc. 46; Doc. 47). On February 1, 2017, Plaintiff
filed an amended complaint alleging the same claims as his
initial complaint and adding a claim for supervisory
liability against Agent Magnotta's supervisor, Jerome
Smith. (Doc. 52). Plaintiff eventually obtained counsel, who
entered her appearance on May 2, 2017. (Doc. 63). On May 16,
2018, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc.
79). Magistrate Judge Saporito issued a Report and
Recommendation on March 13, 2019, recommending summary
judgment be denied on Plaintiff's § 1983 and state
law malicious prosecution claims and dismissing the remaining
claims with prejudice without leave to amend for failure to
state a claim. (Doc. 93). Defendant timely filed
objections to the Report and Recommendation on March 27,
2019, Plaintiff filed a response to the objections on April
25, 2019, and Defendant filed a reply brief on May 9, 2019.
(Doc. 97; Doc. 98; Doc. 99). This matter has therefore been
fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.
Standard of Review of Objections to a Report and
objections to the magistrate judge's Report are filed,
the court must conduct a de novo review of the
contested portions of the Report. Sample v. Diecks,
885 F.2d 1099, 1106 n.3 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)). However, this only applies to the extent
that a party's objections are both timely and specific;
if objections are merely “general in nature, ”
the court “need not conduct a de novo
determination.” Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5,
6-7 (3d Cir. 1984). Indeed, the United States Court of
Appeals for the Third Circuit has instructed that
“providing a complete de novo determination
where only a general objection to the report is offered would
undermine the efficiency the magistrate system was meant to
contribute to the judicial process.” Id. at 7.
In conducting a de novo review, the court may
accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the factual
findings or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge.
See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Owens v.
Beard, 829 F.Supp. 736, 738 (M.D. Pa. 1993). Uncontested
portions of the Report may be reviewed at a standard
determined by the district court. See Thomas v. Arn,
474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7. At
the very least, the court should review uncontested portions
for clear error or manifest injustice. See,
e.g., Cruz v. Chater, 990 F.Supp. 375,
376-77 (M.D. Pa. 1998).
judgment shall be granted “if the movant shows that
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). “Summary judgment is appropriate
when ‘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.'” Wright v.
Corning, 679 F.3d 101, 103 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting
Orsatti v. N.J. State Police, 71 F.3d 480, 482 (3d
Cir. 1995)). A fact is material if proof of its existence or
nonexistence might affect the outcome of the suit under the
applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986).
there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party need
only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law. See Edelman v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 83 F.3d
68, 70 (3d Cir. 1996). Where, however, there is a disputed
issue of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate only
if the factual dispute is not a genuine one.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505. An issue
of material fact is genuine if “a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.
Where there is a material fact in dispute, the moving party
has the initial burden of proving that: (1) there is no
genuine issue of material fact; and (2) the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Howard Hess
Dental Labs., Inc. v. Dentsply Int'l, Inc., 602 F.3d
237, 251 (3d Cir. 2010). The moving party may present its own
evidence or, where the non-moving party has the burden of
proof, simply point out to the court that “the
non-moving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on
an essential element of her case.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986).
considering whether there exist genuine issues of material
fact, the court is required to examine the evidence of record
in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary
judgment, and resolve all reasonable inferences in that
party's favor.” Wishkin v. Potter, 476
F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2007). Once the moving party has
satisfied its initial burden, the burden shifts to the
non-moving party to either present affirmative evidence
supporting its version of the material facts or to refute the
moving party's contention that the facts entitle it to
judgment as a matter of law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at
256-57. 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, 110 S.Ct. 3177 (1990).
prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving
party must show specific facts such that a reasonable jury
could find in that party's favor, thereby establishing a
genuine issue of fact for trial.” Galli v. New
Jersey Meadowlands Comm'n, 490 F.3d 265, 270 (3d
Cir. 2007) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). “While the
evidence that the non-moving party presents may be either
direct or circumstantial, and need not be as great as a
preponderance, the evidence must be more than a
scintilla.” Id. (quoting Hugh v. Butler
County Family YMCA, 418 F.3d 265, 267 (3d Cir. 2005)).
In deciding a motion for summary judgment, “the
judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and
determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether
there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson,
477 U.S. at 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505.
does not object to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation
to dismiss the state law claims for abuse of process and
intentional infliction of emotional distress and § 1983
claim for false arrest with prejudice. (See Doc. 93
at 37-38). As I find these recommendations are not clearly
erroneous, these uncontested portions of the Report and
Recommendation will be adopted.
objects to the Magistrate Judge's findings on the
following grounds: (1) Plaintiff is unable to satisfy the
favorable termination and probable cause elements for his
malicious prosecution claims; (2) this Court lacks
supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law
claim because Plaintiff's federal claim may not proceed
for failure to satisfy the malicious prosecution elements;
and (3) the Magistrate Judge should have concluded Defendant
is entitled to both qualified and sovereign immunity.
(See Doc. 95, generally). In light of these
objections, I will review de novo whether summary
judgment is appropriate on the Plaintiff's state law and
§ 1983 malicious prosecution claims.
Elements of Malicious Prosecution
must satisfy the following elements in a malicious
prosecution claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983:
(1) the defendant initiated a criminal proceeding; (2) the
criminal proceeding ended in his favor; (3) the defendant
initiated the proceeding without probable cause; (4) the
defendant acted maliciously or for a purpose other than
bringing the plaintiff to justice; and (5) the plaintiff
suffered deprivation of liberty consistent with the concept
of a seizure as a consequence of a legal proceeding.
Johnson v. Knorr, 477 F.3d 75, 82 (3d Cir. 2007)
(citing Estate of Smith v. Marasco, 318 F.3d 497,
521 (3d Cir. 2003). A claim for malicious prosecution under
Pennsylvania law includes the same elements as a § 1983
malicious prosecution claim, except that the state law claim
does not require the fifth seizure element. See Merkle v.
Upper Dublin Sch. Dist., 211 F.3d 782, 791 (3d Cir.
2000) (“[A] plaintiff alleging common law malicious
prosecution must show (1) the defendants initiated a criminal
proceeding; (2) the criminal proceeding ended in
plaintiff's favor; (3) the proceeding was initiated
without probable cause; and (4) the defendants acted
maliciously or for a purpose other than bringing the
plaintiff to justice.”).
Defendant objects to the Magistrate Judge's
recommendation to deny summary judgment on Plaintiff's
§ 1983 and state law malicious prosecution claims,
Defendant only specifically objects to the Magistrate
Judge's conclusions that Plaintiff satisfied the
favorable termination element and that a genuine dispute of
material fact exists as to the probable cause
element. To that end, I agree with the Magistrate
Judge that the first and fifth elements of a § 1983
claim for malicious prosecution, which are uncontested, are
beyond dispute. Agent Magnotta initiated criminal proceedings
by submitting a criminal complaint and affidavit of probable
cause to a state magisterial district judge, Raymond was
incarcerated for his inability to pay bail, and he remained
bound to appear in court while the criminal proceedings
against him remained pending.
satisfy the favorable termination prong of a malicious
prosecution claim, the prior disposition of the criminal case
must demonstrate “the innocence of the accused.”
Kossler v. Crisanti, 564 F.3d 181, 187 (3d Cir.
plaintiff may attempt to indicate his innocence by
demonstrating that his prior criminal proceeding terminated
in one of the following ways:
‘(a) a discharge by a magistrate at a preliminary
(b) the refusal of a grand jury to indict, or
(c) the formal abandonment of the proceedings by the public
(d) the quashing of an indictment or information, or
(e) an acquittal, or
(f) a final order in favor of the accused by a trial or
Id. (quoting Donahue v. Gavin, 280 F.3d
371, 383 (3d Cir. 2002). While “a grant of nolle
prosequi can be sufficient to satisfy the favorable
termination requirement for malicious prosecution, not all
cases where the prosecutor abandons criminal charges are
considered to have terminated favorably.” Hilfirty
v. Shipman, 91 F.3d 573, 579-80 (3d Cir. 1996)
disapproved of on other grounds by Merkle v. Upper Dublic
Sch. Dist., 211 F.3d 782, 794 (3d Cir. 2000); see
also Kossler, 564 F.3d at 187 (discussing how
“formal abandonment of the proceedings by the public
prosecutor” may satisfy the favorable termination
parties dispute which standard should be used to determine
whether Plaintiff satisfied the favorable termination prong.
This dispute is understandable, given the apparent lack of
congruity between the Third Circuit's holdings in
Hilfirty and Donahue v. Gavin. In
Hilfirty, the Third Circuit held:
[A] grant of nolle prosequi is insufficient to support a
claim of malicious prosecution only in circumstances
where the accused herself enters into a compromise with the
prosecution in which she surrenders something of value to
obtain the dismissal or where the accused formally accepts
the grant of nolle prosequi in exchange for her knowing,
voluntary release of any future claims for malicious
Hilfirty, 91 F.3d at 575 (emphasis
added). However, the Third Circuit later held in