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Fuciarelli v. Good

United States District Court, D. Arizona

May 31, 2017

Kevin Fuciarelli, Plaintiff,
Aaron B. Good, et al., Defendants.


          Honorable G. Murray Snow United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff Kevin Fuciarelli's Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law, (Doc. 244). Dr. Fuciarelli moves for a JMOL verdict only on the issue of whether “Defendants had reasonable suspicion to detain Plaintiff.” (Doc. 244 at 1.) For the following reasons, the Court denies the Motion.[1]


         Dr. Fuciarelli brought suit against the City of Scottsdale and against Scottsdale Police Officers Aaron Good and Edward Chrisman, alleging unreasonable seizure and excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment as well as asserting state law negligence claims. The action arose out of an incident on March 10, 2013, in which Dr. Fuciarelli was detained and subsequently arrested by Officers Good and Chrisman. A jury found in favor of all Defendants on all counts.

         A brief summary of the undisputed facts is as follows. Dr. Fuciarelli owns the building in which his medical practice is located and he leased a suite to Dr. Irwin Levey. Upon discovering that Dr. Levey was moving out while behind on rent, Dr. Fuciarelli initiated a commercial lockout. Within the leased suite was a set of keys for the car that Dr. Levey's wife, Sharon Levey, was driving that day.[2] Dr. Levey called 911 in an attempt to retrieve the keys.

         Officer Chrisman responded to the scene and was told by Mrs. Levey that Dr. Fuciarelli would not let her get her keys from the suite. Officer Chrisman detained Dr. Fuciarelli while he determined if Dr. Fuciarelli could deny Mrs. Levey access to the keys. Officer Good continued the detention while Officer Chrisman returned to his patrol car to do legal research.

         Dr. Fuciarelli argues that no reasonable jury could, on the evidence presented, have found that Officers Good and Chrisman had reasonable suspicion for detaining him. He therefore asks the Court for judgment as a matter of law on his unreasonable seizure claim against Officers Good and Chrisman.


         I. Legal Standard

         Rule 50(a) for the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “[i]f a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial and the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue, the court may resolve the issue against the party.” Here, where the Court did not grant the Rule 50(a) motion, Rule 50(b) allows the moving party to “renew” their motion no later than 28 days after discharge of the jury.

         The standard governing interpretation of the term “legally sufficient evidentiary basis” is analogous to a motion for summary judgment. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000) (“[T]he standard for granting summary judgment mirrors the standard for judgment as a matter of law, such that the inquiry under each is the same.”). The moving party must therefore show the absence of a dispute of material fact and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-51 (1986). A review of the entire record is required. Reeves, 530 U.S. at 150. But in so doing, “the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.” Id.

         The question, then, is whether there is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Fisher v. City of San Jose, 558 F.3d 1069, 1074 (9th Cir. 2009) (en banc) (internal quotation omitted). The standard is “extraordinarily deferential” and “is limited to whether there was any evidence to support the jury's verdict.” EEOC v. Go Daddy Software, Inc., 581 F.3d 951, 961-62 (9th Cir. 2009). The watchword is “manifest miscarriage of justice.” Janes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 279 F.3d 883, 888 (9th Cir. 2002).

         II. Analysis

         “The reasonable suspicion standard ‘is a less demanding standard than probable cause, ' and merely requires ‘a minimal level of objective justification.'” Gallegos v. City of L.A., 308 F.3d 987, 990 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 123 (2000)). “Reasonable suspicion is formed by ‘specific, articulable facts which, together with objective and reasonable inferences, form the basis for suspecting that the particular person detained is engaged in criminal activity.'” United States v. Lopez-Soto, 205 F.3d 1101, 1105 (9th Cir. 2000) (quoting United States v. Michael R., 90 F.3d 340, 346 (9th Cir. 1996)). To determine whether an officer had reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, courts look to the objective interpretation of facts of which the officer was subjectively aware. See United States v. Magallon-Lopez, 817 F.3d 671, 674 (9th Cir. 2016) (“The Fourth Amendment permits investigatory stops if the facts known to the officers established ‘reasonable suspicion to believe that criminal activity may be ...

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