ELDRIDGE v. DIEHL et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE RONALD L. BUCKWALTER ON 9/23/11. 9/23/11 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE PETITIONER AND E-MAILED. (jpd)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
WILLIAM ANTHONY ELDRIDGE,
OFFICER MATTHEW DIEHL, CITY OF
ALLENTOWN, SGT. JOHN HILL, OFFICER
PATRICK BULL, and JOHN DOE,
September 22 , 2011
Currently pending before the Court is pro se Plaintiff William Anthony Eldridge’s
(“Plaintiff”) Motion to Amend the Amended Complaint. For the following reasons, the Motion
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
This matter stems from Plaintiff’s November 5, 2008 arrest for possession with intent to
distribute crack cocaine, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, criminal conspiracy, and related
charges. (Pl.’s Mot. Amend ¶ 2; Defs.’ Resp. Opp’n, Ex. A.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant
Officer Matthew Diehl violently attacked him during the course of the arrest, causing significant
injuries to his face, and that Defendants Sergeant John Hill and Officer April Kummerer1 failed
to intervene and prevent those injuries. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 19-21, 24, 44.) He further alleges that
When Plaintiff joined Officer Kummerer as a Defendant to this action, he did not
include her name in the caption to the Amended Complaint.
once he was in police custody, Defendant Diehl ignored his request to be taken to a hospital. (Id.
¶ 27.) Finally, Plaintiff contends that Defendants Officer Patrick Bull and John Doe – a
paramedic who examined Plaintiff after the arrest – falsified a medical report to hide the severity
of Plaintiff’s injuries. (Id. ¶¶ 38-41.)
Plaintiff filed his initial Complaint on August 24, 2010. Defendants filed a Motion to
Dismiss on October 25, 2010, which this Court granted in part and denied in part on February 2,
2011. On February 22, 2011, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, which includes the
following claims: (1) Defendants Diehl, Hill, and Kummerer used excessive force in violation of
the Fourth Amendment during the course of Plaintiff’s arrest; (2) Defendant Diehl ignored
Plaintiff’s request for medical treatment in violation of either the Fourteenth Amendment or
Eighth Amendment; and (3) Defendants Bull and Doe conspired to deny Plaintiff medical
treatment in violation of the Fourteenth or Eighth Amendment. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 44-46.)
On May 12, 2011, Plaintiff was convicted in the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas
of resisting arrest; disorderly conduct; manufacture, delivery, or possession of a controlled
substance with intent to manufacture or deliver; and intentionally possessing a controlled
substance by a person not registered. (Defs.’ Resp. Opp’n 2.) The criminal conspiracy charge,
however, was withdrawn. (Pl.’s Mot. Amend ¶ 21; Defs.’ Resp. Opp’n, Ex. A.) This charge was
based on the allegation that Plaintiff conspired with another man to possess and distribute crack
cocaine. (Pl.’s Mot. Amend ¶ 3.) On August 19, 2011, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion to
Amend to include claims for false arrest and malicious prosecution, alleging that the criminal
conspiracy charge was filed without probable cause and with the intent to subject Plaintiff to
more severe penalties. (Id. ¶ 32.) Defendants filed their Response in Opposition on August 31,
2011. The Motion is now ripe for the Court’s consideration.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), a party may seek the court’s leave to
amend a pleading, and the court should freely grant such leave “when justice so requires.” Fed.
R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has held that “absent undue or
substantial prejudice, an amendment should be allowed under Rule 15(a) unless ‘denial [can] be
grounded in bad faith or dilatory motive, truly undue or unexplained delay, repeated failure to
cure deficiency by amendments previously allowed or futility of amendment.’” Lundy v.
Adamar of N.J., Inc., 34 F.3d 1173, 1196-97 (3d Cir. 1994) (quoting Bechtel v. Robinson, 886
F.2d 644, 652-53 (3d Cir. 1989)). “Amendment of the complaint is futile if the amendment will
not cure the deficiency in the original complaint or if the amended complaint cannot withstand a
renewed motion to dismiss.” Jablonski v. Pan Am. World Airways, Inc., 863 F.2d 289, 292 (3d
Cir. 1988) (citing Massarsky v. Gen. Motors Corp., 706 F.2d 111, 125 (3d Cir. 1983)).
A cause of action for malicious prosecution made pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 must
allege the following:
(1) the defendants initiated a criminal proceeding; (2) the criminal proceeding ended
in plaintiff’s favor; (3) the proceeding was initiated without probable cause; (4) the
defendants 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 seizure as a consequence of a legal proceeding.
Estate of Smith v. Marasco, 318 F.3d 497, 521 (3d Cir. 2003). To bring a Fourth Amendment
false arrest claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege: “(1) that there was an arrest; and (2) that
[the] arrest was made without probable cause.” Williams v. Temple Univ., No. Civ.A.04-831,
2011 WL 2516234, at *5 (E.D. Pa. June 21, 2011) (citing Dowling v. City of Philadelphia, 855
F.2d 136, 141 (3d Cir. 1988)).
Plaintiff requests leave to amend his Amended Complaint to include claims for both false
arrest and malicious prosecution against Defendants Diehl, Hill, and Kummerer.2 (Pl.’s Mot.
Amend ¶ 32.) According to Plaintiff, the assistant district attorney withdrew the criminal
conspiracy charge during the course of his trial because there was insufficient evidence to prove
the offense. (Id. ¶¶ 19-21.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Diehl filed the conspiracy charge,
which he knew to be false, so that Plaintiff would face more severe penalties, including a higher
bail. (Id. ¶¶ 22, 32.) Plaintiff also avers that Defendants Kummerer and Hill, as well as Officer
David Howells III, knew that Defendant Diehl fabricated the conspiracy charge but failed to
report his misconduct. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 28-32.) As a result, Plaintiff contends he was falsely arrested
and maliciously prosecuted in connection with the charge.
Defendants do not respond to Plaintiff’s allegations concerning the criminal conspiracy
charge or the reason it was withdrawn. Rather, they argue that pursuant to Heck v. Humphrey,
512 U.S. 477 (1994), allowing Plaintiff to sue for false arrest and malicious prosecution would
constitute an impermissible collateral attack on his underlying conviction for related charges in
the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas. (Defs.’ Resp. Opp’n 3-4.)
Defendants are correct that Plaintiff’s conviction precludes any cause of action for false
arrest. When making an arrest, “[p]robable cause need only exist as to any offense that could be
charged under the circumstances.” Barna v. City of Perth Amboy, 42 F.3d 809, 819 (3d Cir.
Plaintiff also seeks to bring these claims against David Howells III, another officer who
apparently was involved in Plaintiff’s arrest, but who has not been named as a defendant in this
action. (Pl.’s Mot. Amend ¶¶ 4, 32.)
1994) (citing Edwards v. City of Philadelphia, 860 F.2d 568, 575–76 (3d Cir. 1988)). Therefore,
the fact that Plaintiff was found guilty of some of the charges in the underlying criminal trial
establishes that Defendants had probable cause to arrest him.
With respect to a potential cause of action for malicious prosecution, however, the Court
finds that the Heck opinion cited by Defendants is not directly on point. In Heck, the Supreme
Court held that “when a state prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must
consider whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his
conviction or sentence.” 512 U.S. at 487. Here, the criminal conspiracy charge that forms the
basis for Plaintiff’s proposed amended complaint was withdrawn. Therefore, if this Court were
to find that Plaintiff was maliciously prosecuted for the conspiracy charge, it would not
necessarily imply the invalidity of those charges for which he was convicted.
Rather, the Court finds that the controlling precedent in this matter is Kossler v. Crisanti,
564 F.3d 181 (3d Cir. 2009). There, the Third Circuit addressed the following question:
[w]hether acquittal on at least one criminal charge constitutes “favorable
termination” for the purpose of a subsequent malicious prosecution claim, when the
charge arose out of the same act for which the plaintiff was convicted on a different
charge during the same criminal prosecution. On these facts, we conclude that this
question should be answered in the negative. As an initial observation, we note that
various authorities refer to the favorable termination of a “proceeding,” not merely
a “charge” or “offense.” . . . Therefore, the favorable termination of some but not
all individual charges does not necessarily establish the favorable termination of the
criminal proceeding as a whole.
Id. at 188 (internal citations omitted). In this case, the conspiracy charge at issue arose out of the
same act – possession of crack cocaine – for which Plaintiff was convicted on a different charge.
As such, even though Plaintiff was not found guilty of criminal conspiracy, that charge cannot
form the basis of a malicious prosecution claim. Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend is therefore
For all of the foregoing reasons, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s conviction in the
underlying criminal trial establishes that Defendants had probable cause to arrest him and
precludes a cause of action for false arrest. In addition, because the underlying criminal
proceeding did not terminate in Plaintiff’s favor, he cannot rely on the withdrawn charge of
conspiracy to support a claim for malicious prosecution. Therefore, Plaintiff’s Motion to Amend
An appropriate Order follows.
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