The opinion of the court was delivered by: Orlofsky, District Judge.
Defendants' motion for summary judgment presents two novel issues of
law unresolved in this Circuit. First, I must determine the appropriate
legal standard to be applied to a civil rights claim for malicious
prosecution brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the wake of
Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 114 S.Ct. 807, 127 L.Ed.2d 114 (1994),
and two recent Third Circuit decisions construing Albright, namely,
Torres v. McLaughlin, 163 F.3d 169 (3d Cir. 1998), and Gallo v. City of
Philadelphia, 161 F.3d 217 (3d Cir. 1998). Second, I must next determine
whether and in what circumstances a civil rights plaintiff may maintain a
malicious prosecution action based on one groundless accusation, when
probable cause existed for one or more other accusations made in the same
On June 8, 1996, after a domestic dispute with a former boyfriend,
Plaintiff, Shannon Kellie Luthe ("Luthe"), was arrested and charged with
burglary, harassment, and criminal mischief. Luthe was acquitted on all
these charges on September 20, 1996. On October 29, 1997, Luthe filed a
civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983*fn1 against
Defendants, the City of Cape May, Police Sergeant William Alvarez,
Patrolman Joseph Safaryn, and Andrew K. Boyt, a private citizen, alleging
claims for unlawful arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution
in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments,
as well as unspecified state law claims asserted solely against
Defendant, Boyt. Defendants, the City of Cape May and Officers Alvarez
and Safaryn, have moved for summary judgment on all claims alleged
against them, contending that the arrest, imprisonment and prosecution at
issue were supported by probable cause, that the doctrine of qualified
immunity shields the police officer/defendants from liability, and that
Luthe has failed to establish municipal liability under § 1983
against the City of Cape May. Defendant, Boyt, has not moved for summary
judgment. This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1331, 1343.*fn2
For the reasons set forth below, I shall grant the motion of Officers
Alvarez and Safaryn for summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims for
unlawful arrest and false imprisonment because I conclude that there is
no genuine issue of material fact as to whether Plaintiff's arrest and
subsequent imprisonment were supported by probable cause. In addition, I
shall grant the police officers' motion for summary judgment on Luthe's
claim for malicious prosecution because, although Luthe can maintain her
claim for malicious prosecution on the groundless felony charge of
burglary when probable cause existed only as to the disorderly persons
offenses of harassment and criminal mischief, the police officers are
shielded from liability by the doctrine of qualified immunity. Finally, I
shall grant the motion of the City of Cape May for summary judgment on
Luthe's § 1983 claim because she has failed to demonstrate that her
alleged constitutional injury was the result of a custom or policy of the
On October 29, 1997, Luthe filed a civil rights Complaint pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Defendants, the City of Cape May ("Cape
May"), Sergeant William Alvarez of the Cape May Police Department
("Alvarez"), Patrolman Joseph Safaryn of the Cape May Police Department
("Safaryn," collectively, "Officer Defendants"), and Andrew K. Boyt
("Boyt"), a private citizen. See Complaint, ¶¶ 3-6 (filed Oct. 29,
1997) ("Compl."). On October 1, 1998, Defendants, Cape May, Alvarez and
Safaryn, moved for summary judgment. See Notice of Motion (filed Oct. 1,
1998). Luthe has asserted the following three causes of action against
Cape May and the Officer Defendants: (1) unlawful arrest, Counts I and
II; (2) false imprisonment, Counts I and II; and (3) malicious
prosecution, Count III. See Complaint, Counts I, II, and III.*fn3
The material facts and circumstances of this case are relatively
undisputed. On June 8, 1996, at approximately 1:55 a.m., Luthe, who had
been involved in a ten year
"on and off" relationship with Boyt, entered Boyt's home located in Cape
May, New Jersey. See Compl., ¶ 7; see also Defendants' Brief in
Support of Summary Judgment ("Def.Brief"), Exh. A (Police Report);
Plaintiff's Brief in Opposition to Summary Judgment ("Pl.Brief"), Exh. A
(Interrogatory Answers of Plaintiff), Exh. I (Luthe Dep. at 28). "When 
Luthe entered [Boyt's] house[,] . . . she proceeded to Mr. Boyt's bedroom
where she sat on the bed and began to talk to [him]." See Plaintiff's
Rule 56.1 Statement ("Pl. R. 56.1") at 2. "At that moment, since the room
was dark and  Luthe did not before notice,  Luthe realized that 
Boyt had another women [sic] in his bed." Id. The woman was Boyt's
current girlfriend, Michelle Teaney. See Def. Brief, Exh. A. "[A]fter
seeing Ms. Teaney[, Luthe] became upset." Id.; see also Def. Brief, Exh.
I (Criminal Complaint/Warrant) (stating that "[Luthe] . . . observed
[Boyt's] girl friend [sic] in the bed and started to get upset").
Regarding the events of June 8, 1996, Boyt testified:
I was sleeping. [Luthe] came in. Sat on the bed. Woke
me up. I realized what was going on and who it was,
and at that time I guess she realized that Michelle
[Teaney] was there with me and she turned on the
light. I immediately asked her to leave. Told her she
had to leave. She started getting — you know,
abusing Michelle verbally, calling her names. . . .
I'd continuously been telling [Luthe] to leave. . . .
That's when I got up, threw on a pair of shorts, and
walked her to the door.
See Def. Brief, Exh. D (Boyt Dep.) at 23. Luthe provided a substantially
similar account of the events, stating:
I sat down on the side of [Boyt's] bed and touched his
leg, and spoke his name. I heard a sleeping sound that
did not sound like him, and got up and turned on the
light. I was surprised to see Michelle in his bed. . . .
I didn't know what to do. I called him a liar.
[H]e got up, and came toward me. We both headed toward
the door arguing.
Boyt escorted Luthe out of his home and onto the front porch. See Boyt
Dep. at 27-28. According to Boyt's testimony, once on the front Porch,
Luthe grabbed the door jam of the exterior porch door. See id. Boyt
"grabbed her hands off the door and pushed her out[,] . . . shut the
door" and locked it. Id. at 28-29. Boyt further testified:
I walked back inside and that's when she began banging
on the door. I mean she was banging. . . . [T]his was
banging trying to get in, break-the-door-down
banging. . . . She was banging on the door and I told
her that we were calling the police and that she
better leave and she continued to bang and she broke
the glass. The glass fell in. She pushed it out of the
After the glass in the porch door was broken, Scott Nash, Boyt's
roommate, who had been sleeping in the living room, called the police.
See id.; see also Pl. R. 56.1 at 2. "Shortly thereafter, the police
arrived and Officer Safaryn[, who was] the first officer on the scene[,]
took a statement from  Boyt." See Pl. R. 56.1 at 2. Sergeant Alvarez
also arrived at the scene and took Boyt's statement. See Def. Brief,
Exh. B (Alvarez Dep.) at 14-15.
Previously, on February 20, 1996, Alvarez had answered a call regarding
a disturbance at Boyt's home involving Luthe. See Alvarez Dep. at 12; see
also Def. Brief, Exh. F (Police Report, dated Feb 20, 1996). Alvarez
From a prior incident back in February [Luthe's] MO
was when she knew the police were being called that
she would leave the scene . . . and go to her house.
In his statement to Safaryn and Alvarez, Boyt indicated that "[w]e need
to teach [Luthe] that she can't continue to do this." See Boyt Dep. at
70. Safaryn advised Boyt that he could, obtain a temporary restraining
order ("TRO"). See id. at 63. Boyt agreed and went to the police station
for this purpose. See id. While at the police station, Boyt filed a
Domestic Violence Complaint against Luthe. See Def. Brief, Exh. G
(Domestic Violence Complaint, dated June 8, 1996).
While Boyt was at the police station, Officer Sheehan "knocked on
[Luthe's] door, and [she] let him in." See Pl. Brief, Exh. A. In
responding to Defendants' interrogatories, Luthe testified:
[Officer Sheehan] asked me if I was at [Boyt's]
house. I said yes. He said the cops were there and I
had to come down to the police department. I asked him
why. He said that [Boyt] was going down there to,
[sic] and we were going to get this straightened out.
See id. (internal quotations omitted). Luthe accompanied Officer Sheehan
to the police station. See id.
Based on Boyt's statement, Safaryn and Alvarez filed a criminal
complaint against Luthe. See Def. Brief, Exh. I. Specifically, the
Criminal Complaint charged Luthe with violations of: (1) N.J. Stat. Ann.
§ 2C:18-2(a)(1), burglary; (2) N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:33-4(a),
harassment; and (3) N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:17-3(a)(1), criminal
mischief.*fn4 See Def. Brief, Exh. I. In addition to setting forth the
charges in the Criminal Complaint, Safaryn and Alvarez also explained the
grounds supporting their belief that probable cause existed to arrest
Luthe. See id. As to the charge of burglary, Safaryn and Alvarez stated:
Probable Cause: O[n] June 8, 1996 at 0155 hrs. I was
dispatched to the Victim's home. Upon arrival the
victim stated that [Luthe] enter [sic] the house and
woke him up by sitting and turning on the light.
[Luthe] then observed his girl friend [sic] in the bed
and started to get upset. The victim was able to get
her outside then [Luthe] broke out the storm window on
Id. Safaryn and Alvarez repeated these same grounds in support of the
basis for probable cause to charge Luthe with harassment and criminal
mischief. See id.
Because the Criminal Complaint charged Luthe with burglary, a crime of
the third degree, punishable by a minimum term of imprisonment, see note
4 supra, the on-call municipal court judge for the City of Cape May,
Judge Way, issued a warrant for Luthe's arrest and set bail in the amount
of $3,000.00. See id.; see also Def. R. 56.1, ¶¶ 8-9. Judge Way also
granted Boyt's request for a TRO.
Shortly after Safaryn obtained the arrest warrant, Luthe was arrested
in the Cape May police station by Officer Sheehan. See Pl. Brief, Exh.
A. Safaryn informed Luthe that her bail was set at $3,000.00, and
transported her to the Cape May County Correctional Facility ("CMCCF"),
where she was processed as a pre-trial detainee. See id. Approximately
eight hours later, Luthe was released from the CMCCF after posting bail.
On September 20, 1996, Luthe was tried and acquitted on all charges.
See Pl. Brief, Exh. A (Affidavit of Shannon Luthe, dated Nov. 14, 1996).
Subsequently, on October 29, 1997, Luthe filed this civil rights action.
In Count I of her Complaint, Luthe alleges that Alvarez and Safaryn
"intentionally and recklessly under color of state law deprive[d][her] of
her rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and did
otherwise cause [Luthe] to be incarcerated without probable cause or
reasonable basis . . . depriving [Luthe] of those rights secured [by]
. . . the United States Constitution, [specifically, the Fourth and
Fourteenth] Amendments[.]" See id. at 4. Luthe makes the same allegations
against all Defendants in Count II. See id., Count II. In Count III,
Luthe alleges a cause of action for malicious prosecution against all
Defendants for the deprivation of her rights under the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendments. See id., Count III.
On October 1, 1998, Cape May and the Officer Defendants moved for
summary judgment contending that: (1) Safaryn and Alvarez had probable
cause to arrest, imprison and prosecute Luthe for burglary, harassment
and criminal mischief; (2) even if probable cause was lacking, Safaryn
and Alvarez are entitled to qualified immunity; and (3) Luthe has failed
to state a civil rights claim against the City of Cape May. See Def.
Brief at 6-13. Luthe opposes the motion contending that Safaryn and
Alvarez did not have probable cause; that their actions were
unreasonable, thereby defeating the defense of qualified immunity; and
that summary judgment in favor of the City of Cape May is not yet ripe
because discovery has not been completed. See Pl. Brief at 5-8.
II. LEGAL STANDARD GOVERNING MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
A party seeking summary judgment must "show that there is no genuine
issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see, e.g., Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265
(1986); Reitz v. County of Bucks, 125 F.3d 139, 143 (3d Cir. 1997); Hersh
v. Allen Prod. Co., 789 F.2d 230, 232 (3d Cir. 1986). In deciding whether
there is a disputed issue of material fact, the Court must view the
underlying facts and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
non-moving party. See, e.g., Pennsylvania Coal Ass'n v. Babbitt,
63 F.3d 231, 236 (3d Cir. 1995); Hancock Indus. v. Schaeffer, 811 F.2d 225,
231 (3d Cir. 1987).
Under the rule, a movant must be awarded summary judgment on all
properly supported issues identified in its motion, except those for which
the non-moving party has provided evidence to show that a question of
material fact remains. Once the moving party has properly supported its
showing of no triable issue of fact and of an entitlement to judgment as
a matter of law, "its opponent must do more than simply show that there
is some metaphysical doubt as to material facts." Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct.
1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) ("By its very
terms, this standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged
factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly
supported motion . . .; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue
of material fact.") (emphasis in original);
What the non-moving party must do is "go beyond the pleadings and by
[its] own affidavits, or by the `depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate `specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Celotex Corp., 477
U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)); see also Lujan
v. National Wildlife Fed., 497 U.S. 871, 888, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 111 L.Ed.2d
695 (1990) ("The object of [Rule 56(e)] is not to replace conclusory
allegations of the complaint . . . with conclusory allegations of an
affidavit."); Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358,
1363 (3d Cir. 1992) ("[T]o raise a genuine issue of material fact . . .
the [non-moving party] need not match, item for item, each piece of
evidence proffered by the movant," but rather must exceed the "`mere
scintilla' threshold."), cert. denied, 507 U.S. 912, 113 S.Ct. 1262, 122
L.Ed.2d 659 (1993). If the nonmoving party fails to oppose the motion by
written objection, memorandum, affidavits and other evidence, the Court
"will accept as true all material facts set forth by the moving party
with appropriate record support." Anchorage Assocs. v. Virgin Islands
Bd. of Tax Rev., 922 F.2d 168, 175 (3d Cir. 1990) (quoting Jaroma v.
Massey, 873 F.2d 17, 21 (1st Cir. 1989)).
Even where the non-moving party has failed to establish a triable issue
of fact, summary judgment will not be granted unless "appropriate."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); see Anchorage Assocs., 922 F.2d at 175. Rule 56(e) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that the case be evaluated
on its merits, with summary judgment being granted for the movant only if
they are entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. See Anchorage
Assocs., 922 F.2d at 175.
A. Probable Cause on Counts I and II: Unlawful Arrest and False