United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
D. Mariani, United States District Judge.
Introduction and Procedural History
pending action was filed by Plaintiff, Jeremy Cieniawa, in
the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas, asserting one count
of excessive force against Defendants, Trooper Brian Pall,
Trooper Michael Foux, Trooper Larry McDaniel, Officer
Christopher Zukowsky, and Captain David Douglas, and one
count of excessive force under Monell v. Dep't of
Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), against Chief
Brian Buglio and the Borough of West Hazleton. (Doc. 1-2, at
16-17). Defendants thereafter removed this action to federal
court on June 6, 2017. (Doc. 1).
December 28, 2017, the parties stipulated that
Plaintiff's Monell claim against the Borough of
West Hazleton should be dismissed with prejudice, that
Plaintiff's operative Complaint was to be amended to name
Defendants Christopher Zukowsky and David Douglas as
employees and officers of the Pennsylvania State Police (in
their individual capacities only), and that the excessive
force claim was to be directed against all remaining
Defendants in their individual capacities (Doc. 27). This
Court approved the stipulation on January 2, 2018. (Doc. 28).
the completion of fact discovery, Defendants filed a Motion
for Summary Judgment (Doc. 37) asserting that Plaintiffs
claim against Defendants should be dismissed as a matter of
law because Defendants' use of force was reasonable under
the circumstances (Doc. 40, at 6). Further, Defendants argue
that even if it were found that there is a question of fact
about the force used, Defendant Pall is protected by
qualified immunity for his use of force. (Id. at
11). Additionally, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs
"humiliation and emotional distress" claims should
be dismissed. (Id. at 13).
in his "Response in Opposition to Defendants' Motion
for Summary Judgment," argues that summary judgment
should be denied because there are outstanding disputes of
material fact. (Doc. 41, at 6-7). In his brief, Plaintiff
withdraws his prayer for compensatory damages for emotional
distress and any claim against Trooper Douglas. (Id.
at 9). Thus, Plaintiff's excessive force claim is the
only remaining claim before the Court.
parties have fully briefed the motion, and it is now ripe for
adjudication. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will
grant Defendants' Motion with respect to Defendant David
Douglas and Plaintiffs prayer for compensatory damages for
emotional distress and deny Defendants' Motion with
respect to all other Defendants.
Statement of Undisputed Facts
have submitted a Statement of Material Facts (Doc. 38) as to
which they submit there is no genuine issue or dispute for
trial, as well as a number of exhibits attached thereto.
Plaintiff submitted a Response to Defendants' Statement
of Material Facts (Doc. 41-1). In addition, Plaintiff
submitted a Statement of Material & Undisputed Facts
(Doc. 41-2), as well as a number of exhibits, to which
Defendants provided an Answer to Plaintiffs Statement of
Material & Undisputed Facts (Doc. 48).
26, 2013 (and into the morning of May 27, 2013), Defendants
Pall and Foux pulled over a vehicle occupied by Plaintiff and
driven by Jamaal Bandy (non-party) for speeding. (Doc. 41-2,
¶ 1; Doc. 48, ¶ 1). Upon being pulled over,
Defendant Pall walked to the passenger side of the vehicle
and recognized Plaintiff. (Doc. 41-2, ¶ 2; Doc. 48,
¶ 2). Plaintiff previously lied to Defendant Pall about
his identity during a traffic stop in 2012, and he again lied
to Defendant Pall about his identity during the traffic stop
out of which this action arose. (Doc. 38, ¶¶ 3-4;
Doc. 41-1, ¶¶ 3-4). Moreover, Plaintiff was aware
that there was a warrant for his arrest at the time of this
incident. (Doc. 38, ¶ 8(c); Doc. 41-1, ¶ 7(c)).
identifying Plaintiff, Defendant Pall handcuffed and searched
Plaintiff (Doc. 41-2, ¶ 4; Doc. 48, ¶ 4). Plaintiff
was subsequently brought to the police cruiser, although the
manner in which he was brought to the police cruiser is in
dispute. (See Doc. 41-2, ¶ 5; Doc. 48, ¶ 5). While
in the back of the police cruiser, Plaintiff kicked the
window of the cruiser (Doc. 41-2, ¶ 9; Doc. 48, ¶
9), but did not damage the vehicle in any way (Doc. 41-2,
¶ 10; Doc. 48, ¶ 10). Defendant Pall then entered
the vehicle. (Doc. 41-2, ¶ 12; Doc. 48, ¶ 12).
Sometime thereafter, Plaintiff fled from the police cruiser
while handcuffed. (Doc. 1-2, ¶ 16).
Foux and Pall then chased Plaintiff to a nearby lot, tackled
him to the ground, and returned him to the back of their
squad car. (Doc. 41-2, ¶ 16; Doc. 48, ¶ 16).
Defendants Zukowsky, McDaniel, and Douglas arrived on the
scene when Plaintiff was again in the back of the squad car.
(Doc. 41-2 ¶ 17; Doc. 48, ¶ 17). Plaintiff was
subsequently put in leg restraints. (Doc. 41-2 ¶ 19;
Doc. 48, ¶ 19). Although the timing is in dispute,
Defendant Pall admitted that he struck Plaintiff in the face.
(Doc. 41-2, ¶¶ 13, 21; Doc. 48, ¶¶ 13,
Standard of Review
summary adjudication, the court may dispose of those claims
that do not present a "genuine dispute as to any
material fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "As to
materiality, ... [o]nly disputes over facts that might affect
the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly
preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of showing
the absence of a genuine issue as to any material fact.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
Once such a showing has been made, the non-moving party must
offer specific facts contradicting those averred by the
movant to establish a genuine issue of material fact.
Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871,
888 (1990). Therefore, the non-moving party may not oppose
summary judgment simply on the basis of the pleadings, or on
conclusory statements that a factual issue exists.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. "A party asserting
that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support
the assertion by citing to particular parts of materials in
the record ... or showing that the materials cited do not
establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or
that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to
support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A)-(B). In
evaluating whether summary judgment should be granted,
"[t]he court need consider only the cited materials, but
it may consider other materials in the record."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). "Inferences should be drawn in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and where
the non-moving party's evidence contradicts the
movant's, then the non-movant's must be taken as
true." Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am.,
Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992), cert,
denied 507 U.S. 912 (1993).
"facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party only if there is a 'genuine' dispute
as to those facts." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S.
372, 380 (2007). If a party has ...