MALICIOUS PROSECUTION-FALSE ARREST

April 30th, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Criminal

Alleyne v. Pirrone, 2018 Pa. Commw. LEXIS 90 (March 9, 2018) Brobson, J. Detective George Pirrone (Detective Pirrone), Detective James Pitts (Detective Pitts), and Lieutenant Philip Riehl (Lieutenant Riehl) (collectively, Appellants) of the Philadelphia Police Department appeal from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County (trial court). Following a trial, a jury found all three defendants liable to Kareem Alleyne (Alleyne) for malicious prosecution and found Detective Pirrone and Lieutenant Riehl liable to Alleyne for false arrest. Appellants appeal from the trial court’s denial of their motion for judgment notwithstanding the jury’s verdict. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse. On April 20, 2016, the jury returned a verdict favorable to Alleyne and awarded him damages in the amount of $1,030,250. The jury found all three Appellants—Detective Pitts, Detective Pirrone, and Lieutenant 25 Riehl—liable for malicious prosecution. The jury determined that only Detective Pirrone and Lieutenant Riehl were liable for false arrest. Alleyne very effectively defended against the criminal charges he faced by highlighting serious holes and inconsistencies in the Police Department’s investigation. While the improprieties by Appellants significantly hindered the criminal case against Alleyne, they did not rise to the level of preventing any reasonable person from believing Alleyne had committed a crime.

As we noted in Schell v. Guth, 88 A.3d 1053 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2014), the law does not require that every 16 Finally, because we reverse the trial court’s order on the basis that ADA Selber had probable cause to charge and prosecute Alleyne, we need not address the remaining arguments presented by Appellants pertaining to immunity under the Tort Claims Act. 36 flawed investigation or failure to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt be vindicated by a subsequent lawsuit: We understand that [the plaintiff] believes that he was unjustly charged . . . He likely shares that feeling with many others ultimately acquitted of criminal charges in a court of law. His acquittal, however, does not necessarily mean that [the law enforcement defendants] should be held civilly liable for their roles in the criminal and internal administrative cases against [him]. Schell, 88 A.3d at 1070. Civil liability does not flow automatically from a weak criminal case. Here, there was sufficient undisputed evidence upon which Officer Ghee and ADA Selber could have reasonably believed that Alleyne committed a crime. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s order and remand the matter with instructions that the trial court enter judgment in favor of Appellants.

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]

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