ARDITI v. SUBERS et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION SETTING FORTH THE REASONS WHY THE COURT IS DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION (DOCKET NO. 103) AND GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION (DOCKET NO. 104). AN APPROPRIATE ORDER FOLLOWS. SIGNED BY HONORABLE GENE E.K. PRATTER ON 1/9/17. 1/10/17 ENTERED AND COPIES E-MAILED.(rab, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
RAY A. ARDITI,
POLICE OFFICER RICHARD SUBERS,
JANUARY 9, 2017
Ray Arditi filed suit against police officers from three municipalities, alleging that his
constitutional rights were violated when he was handcuffed and searched in a McDonald’s
parking lot and later received a citation for disorderly conduct. The Defendants filed three
motions for summary judgment, and the Court granted in part and denied in part each of the
motions, dismissing several claims, including a claim for excessive force, and leaving only a
claim for illegal seizure against Officers Clymer, Naegele, and Young, and an illegal search
claim against Officer Clymer. The Defendants have filed two motions in limine, seeking to
exclude any evidence relating to alleged physical injuries resulting from the McDonald’s
incident and any evidence relating to the issuance of a citation for disorderly conduct and the
ultimate disposition of that citation. Mr. Arditi opposes both motions. The Court will deny
Defendants’ motion to exclude evidence of physical injuries and grant Defendants’ motion to
exclude evidence relating to the citation and its ultimate disposition.
While Ray Arditi was eating at a McDonald’s restaurant on May 31, 2015, he became
involved in some way in a verbal altercation with Catherine Herbert. Someone at the
McDonald’s restaurant did call 911 and reported that a fight had broken out. Officers from three
municipalities were dispatched to the scene. While they were on their way to the McDonald’s, a
dispatch operator clarified for the officers that the fight was a verbal altercation, rather than a
When Mr. Arditi finished eating, he left the restaurant to walk to his car. As he stood in
the parking lot, he saw multiple police cars pull in to the lot. He states that several officers then
got out of their cars and immediately approached him, demanding that he identify himself and
screaming orders and threats. 1 Mr. Arditi admits that he answered the officers’ demands with
questions of his own rather than by identifying himself. However, according to Mr. Arditi’s
account, he did not physically resist the officers at any time. Officer Clymer of the Brookhaven
Police Department then handcuffed Mr. Arditi, and Officer Naegele of Upland assisted by
holding one of Mr. Arditi’s arms. 2 Meanwhile, Officer Young of Parkside pointed a taser at Mr.
Arditi and, according to Mr. Arditi, screamed that he was resisting and was a terrorist. After Mr.
Arditi was handcuffed, he informed the officers that his identification was in the trunk of his car.
Mr. Arditi told the officers that his car keys were in his pocket, and Officer Clymer retrieved Mr.
The officers’ testimony differs from Mr. Arditi’s significantly with respect to most of the encounter.
Mr. Arditi testified in his deposition that Officer Subers handcuffed him, but this assertion was based
only on the fact that Officer Subers was the officer who eventually issued a citation, not on any positive
identification. He also claims that no officers went into the McDonald’s to investigate, but the officers
testify that Officer Subers did so. Because Mr. Arditi’s testimony, uncorroborated by anyone inside the
McDonald’s, at most reveals that he did not personally observe any officer enter the McDonald’s, it does
not directly contradict the officers’ testimony that Officer Subers entered the McDonald’s and conducted
Arditi’s car keys from his pocket and searched his car to get the identification. Mr. Arditi was
then released without being charged.
At no time during this encounter did Mr. Arditi tell any of the officers that the handcuffs
were uncomfortable, although Mr. Arditi testified at his deposition that the handcuffs felt like
knives digging into his wrists. Mr. Arditi submitted pictures of his wrists, taken shortly after the
incident, showing marks. He went to the emergency room for treatment of his wrists the
afternoon of the incident and saw his doctor a few days later, by which time there were no visible
injuries. At that doctor visit, no treatment was given. He claimed that his wrist injuries are
ongoing, but it was unclear from the limited medical records submitted as part of the summary
judgment record whether his ongoing wrist and thumb complaints actually stem from this
The next day, Mr. Arditi went to the police department to complain about his treatment.
There, he spoke with Chief McGoldrick, who denied him access to a police report and threatened
to issue a criminal summons because of his complaints. Unbeknownst to Mr. Arditi, Officer
Subers had already written in his notes at the end of Officer Subers’s shift on May 31, 2015 that
he was planning to issue a disorderly conduct citation to both Mr. Arditi and Ms. Herbert. He
then issued both Mr. Arditi and Ms. Herbert citations on his next shift. The charges against Mr.
Arditi were later dismissed, however, when the police officers failed to appear at a hearing on the
There are treatment records from May and June of 2016, and the handcuffing is described in those
records. The records also mention chiropractic care relating to wrist and thumb pain. None of the records
expressly link the injuries directly to the handcuffing. On the one hand, the records do recount Mr.
Arditi’s mention of that incident. On the other, the records note increasing pain in the few months before
the appointments, which is well after the incident. At the time the summary judgment motions were filed,
no medical or other expert opinion testimony had been submitted linking his current wrist issues with the
handcuffing. Mr. Arditi has since produced to Defendants the report of Dr. Osterman, which purports to
link his ongoing wrist complaints to the handcuffing.
Mr. Arditi then filed this suit. After initial motion practice and amendments to the
original complaint, the following claims remained. In Count One of Mr. Arditi’s Third
Amended Complaint, Mr. Arditi claimed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that all defendants except
Chief McGoldrick 4 violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by illegally searching
his car and seizing him. In Count Two, he claimed under § 1983 that all defendants except Chief
McGoldrick violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by using excessive force
against him. In Count Three, he claimed that Defendants Subers and McGoldrick maliciously
prosecuted him in violation of Pennsylvania state law. In Count Four, Mr. Arditi claimed
Defendants Subers and McGoldrick violated § 1983 when they conspired to maliciously
The Defendants filed motions for summary judgment. As a result, the Court dismissed
all claims against Officer Subers and Chief McGoldrick, the excessive force claim, and the
illegal search claim as to Officers Naegele and Young. The illegal seizure claim, therefore,
remains as to Officers Naegele, Young, and Clymer, and the illegal search claim remains as to
Officer Clymer. The Defendants have now filed in limine, seeking to exclude any evidence
relating to alleged physical injuries resulting from the McDonald’s incident and any evidence
relating to the issuance of a citation for disorderly conduct and the ultimate disposition of that
“Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, subject to certain limitations, all evidence is
admissible if it is relevant, i.e., if it tends to make the existence or nonexistence of a disputed
material fact more probable than it would be without that evidence.” Forrest v. Beloit Corp., 424
Mr. Arditi initially included Chief McGoldrick in Counts I and II, but the Court dismissed those claims
as to Chief McGoldrick.
F.3d 344, 355 (3d Cir. 2005); see Fed. R. Evid. 401, 402. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence
403, a court may nonetheless exclude relevant evidence if the probative value of the evidence is
“substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or
misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation
of cumulative evidence.” Forrest, 424 F.3d at 355 (quoting Fed R. Evid. 403). To exclude
evidence under Rule 403, “the probative value of the evidence must be ‘substantially
outweighed’ by the problems in admitting it.” Id. (quoting Coleman v. Home Depot, Inc., 306
F.3d 1333, 1343–44 (3d Cir. 2002)). However, “prejudice does not simply mean damage to the
opponent’s cause.” Goodman v. Pa. Turnpike Comm'n, 293 F.3d 655, 670 (3d Cir.
2002) (internal quotation marks omitted). Only “unfair prejudice,” or “prejudice of the sort
which cloud[s] impartial scrutiny and reasoned evaluation of the facts, which inhibit[s] neutral
application of principles of law to the facts as found,” can tip the scales in favor of
inadmissibility. Ansell v. Green Acres Contr. Co., 347 F.3d 515, 525 (3d Cir. 2003) (emphasis
A. Defendants’ Motion in limine to preclude any testimony, evidence, or argument
that Mr. Arditi suffered any physical injuries at the time of his detention on May
Defendants argue that because the excessive force claim was dismissed, any evidence of
physical injury suffered by Mr. Arditi as a result of the handcuffing is irrelevant, given that the
legality of the search and seizure has nothing to do with whether or not Mr. Arditi was in
physical pain. They further argue that any such evidence would confuse the jury, and that the
confusion would be heightened by Defendants’ need to rebut the evidence of physical injury with
their own physician witnesses. Mr. Arditi responds that if the handcuffing was illegal, then all
injuries, physical or otherwise, that resulted from it are relevant and compensable.
Although they did not cite case law in their motion to further their specific argument,
Defendants expanded on their argument at a Chambers conference, claiming that Snell v. City of
York, 564 F.3d 659 (3d Cir. 2009), stands for the proposition that illegal seizure claims stemming
from a lack of reasonable suspicion and/or probable cause are distinct from excessive force
claims and that therefore, once a court determines that an excessive force claim is not viable, any
evidence regarding that use of force must be excluded. Defendants stretch Snell to the breaking
point with their argument. While it is certainly true, as the Court discussed in evaluating the
parties’ summary judgment motions, that illegal seizure claims based on a lack of reasonable
suspicion and/or probable cause and excessive force claims are analytically distinct and that
excessive force claims do not automatically flow from a finding of an illegal seizure, it is not true
that any physical damages proximately caused by the illegal seizure must be jettisoned just
because the force used was not excessive.
For instance, in Bodine v. Warwick, 72 F.3d 393 (3d Cir. 1995), a case cited approvingly
in Snell, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals explained that “basic principles of tort law” govern
what damages are recoverable in an illegal search or seizure claim. Id. at 400. That is,
defendants are “liable for the harm ‘proximately’ or ‘legally’ caused by their tortious conduct
(i.e., by their illegal [search or seizure]).” Id. The Bodine court then drew a distinction between
excessive force claims, on the one hand, and illegal search and seizure claims, on the other,
noting that the former do not necessarily flow from the latter, and emphasized the need to keep
the two types of claims analytically distinct from one another. However, in so doing, the court
did nothing to limit or change the basic tort principles that it previously discussed as applying to
illegal search and seizure claims. Id. See also Velazquez v. City of Long Beach, 793 F.3d 1010,
1024 n.13 (9th Cir. 2015) (noting that even though all circuit courts that have addressed the
interplay between unlawful arrest claims and excessive force claims have found that excessive
force claims may not be “predicated only on the fact of unlawful arrest,” “the damages
recoverable on an unlawful arrest claim include damages suffered because of the use of force in
effecting the arrest”) (internal citations and quotations omitted) (citing Snell, 564 F.3d at 672;
Bodine, 72 F.3d at 400-01).
While Defendants are free to rebut Mr. Arditi’s claims of physical injuries and even to
argue, for instance, that his own conduct was a superseding cause of his injuries, the Court will
not bar Mr. Arditi from offering any evidence regarding physical injuries.
B. Defendants’ Motion in limine to preclude testimony, evidence, or argument that
Plaintiff was found not guilty on the charge of disorderly conduct
Defendants argue that because a finding of not guilty on the disorderly conduct charge or
the fact that no officers appeared at the hearing on the matter are not relevant to whether the
officers had reasonable suspicion or probable cause, the not guilty disposition and circumstances
surrounding that outcome should not be permitted as evidence in the case. Mr. Arditi responds
that the disposition of the charges is relevant to his damages and to the credibility of Officer
Subers, who will be a witness in the case. He claims that his damages include the stress of
having to defend himself against these charges. In addition, he claims that the outcome of the
charges is important in not creating bias against him.
The Court agrees with Defendants that whether any charges were ultimately brought
against Mr. Arditi, and the ultimate resolution of those charges, has no relevance to the issues
remaining in this case, even if they did figure prominently in claims that were dismissed at
earlier stages of the case. Mr. Arditi has not sufficiently explained how those facts would tend to
make it more or less likely that the officers at the McDonald’s had reasonable suspicion and/or
probable cause to stop and handcuff him. He has also not shown how the stress of an entirely
separate event – the bringing of charges against him for disorderly conduct – was caused by the
conduct of the officers in the McDonald’s parking lot, such that he would be able to recover
damages for that stress. Finally, Mr. Arditi has not shown how anything relating to the charges
or their disposition would make Officer Subers’s testimony about what happened at the
McDonald’s more or less credible, any more than any other irrelevant set of facts.
Therefore, the Court will exclude evidence and argument relating to both the fact that
charges were brought against Mr. Arditi for disorderly conduct and the facts relating to how
those charges were ultimately resolved.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will deny Defendants’ Motion in limine to preclude
any testimony, evidence, or argument that Mr. Arditi suffered any physical injuries at the time of
his detention on May 31, 2015 and grant Defendants’ Motion in limine to preclude testimony,
evidence, or argument that Plaintiff was found not guilty on the charge of disorderly conduct.
An appropriate order follows.
BY THE COURT:
S/Gene E.K. Pratter
GENE E.K. PRATTER
United States District Judge
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