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Camiolo v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co.

June 30, 2003

PAUL CAMIOLO, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF EDWARD P. CAMIOLO, DECEASED; PAUL CAMIOLO, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF ROSALIE CAMIOLO, DECEASED
v.
STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY CO.; LEE AFFEL, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AGENT, SERVANT, WORKMAN OR EMPLOYEE OF STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY CO.; J. WHELAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AGENT, SERVANT, WORKMAN OR EMPLOYEE OF STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY CO.; KAREN RATCLIFFE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AGENT, SERVANT, WORKMAN OR EMPLOYEE OF STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY CO.; C. CLARK, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AGENT, SERVANT, WORKMAN OR EMPLOYEE OF STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY CO.; DON HULLENBAUGH, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AGENT, SERVANT, WORKMAN OR EMPLOYEE OF STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY CO.; D. MURPHY, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AGENT, SERVANT, WORKMAN OR EMPLOYEE OF STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY CO.; A. BOWLES, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AGENT, SERVANT, WORKMAN OR EMPLOYEE OF STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY CO.; G. WILAND, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AGENT, SERVANT, WORKMAN OR EMPLOYEE OF STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY CO.; ALEX SUTHERLAND, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AGENT, SERVANT, WORKMAN OR EMPLOYEE OF STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY CO.; STEVEN J. BENEDEK, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AGENT, SERVANT, WORKMAN OR EMPLOYEE OF STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY CO.; TOWNSHIP OF UPPER MORELAND; TOWNSHIP OF UPPER MORELAND POLICE DEPARTMENT; EDWARD O. STAUCH, JR., INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AGENT, SERVANT, WORKMAN OR EMPLOYEE OF UPPER MORELAND TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPARTMENT AND/OR TOWNSHIP OF UPPER MORELAND; ROBERT P. KERRIGAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AGENT, SERVANT, WORKMAN OR EMPLOYEE OF UPPER MORELAND TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPARTMENT AND/OR TOWNSHIP OF UPPER MORELAND; RICK TIDWELL, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AN AGENT, SERVANT, WORKMAN OR EMPLOYEE OF UPPER MORELAND TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPARTMENT AND/OR TOWNSHIP OF UPPER MORELAND; TOWNSHIP OF UPPER MORELAND FIRE DEPARTMENT; THOMAS M. SULLIVAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AGENT, SERVANT, WORKMAN OR EMPLOYEE OF TOWNSHIP OF UPPER MORELAND AND/OR TOWNSHIP OF UPPER MORELAND FIRE DEPARTMENT; TROOPER INVESTIGATIVE SERVICES; GEORGE L. WERT, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AN AGENT, SERVANT, WORKMAN OR EMPLOYEE OF TROOPER INVESTIGATIVE SERVICES; PETER C. MINZOLLA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AGENT, SERVANT, WORKMAN OR EMPLOYEE OF TROOPER INVESTIGATIVE SERVICES; MICHAEL MATELESKA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AGENT, SERVANT, WORKMAN OR EMPLOYEE OF TROOPER INVESTIGATIVE SERVICES; ROBERT H. JONES ASSOCIATES, INC.; WALTER KERR, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AGENT, SERVANT, WORKMAN OR EMPLOYEE OF ROBERT H. JONES ASSOCIATES, INC. PAUL CAMIOLO, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATES OF EDWARD P. CAMIOLO, DECEASED AND ROSALIE CAMIOLO, DECEASED, APPELLANT



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (D.C. No. 00-cv-3696) District Judge: The Honorable Harvey Bartle, III

Before: McKEE, Smith, Circuit Judges, and Hochberg, District Judge *fn1

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Smith, Circuit Judge:

PRECEDENTIAL

Argued: April 3, 2003

OPINION OF THE COURT

Paul Camiolo ("Camiolo") was arrested for, inter alia, the arson murder of his parents, Edward and Rosalie Camiolo, and detained for approximately ten months. After the charges were dismissed, Camiolo filed this action against State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. ("State Farm") and numerous individuals who had been involved in the investigation of the cause and origin of the fire.*fn2 His complaint alleged claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. § 1962, violations of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and various state law causes of action.

At the conclusion of discovery, the District Court denied a motion by Camiolo to compel production of transcripts of testimony that the defendants had given before a state grand jury. The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on all claims. Although we affirm the District Court's order denying the motion to compel production of the grand jury testimony, we do so for reasons other than those stated by the District Court. As we explain below, the District Court should first have given the Court of Common Pleas an opportunity to pass upon the request for access to transcripts from a county investigating grand jury convened under state law. We also affirm the orders granting summary judgment for the defendants on all of Camiolo's federal and state law claims.

I. Facts and Procedural History

On September 30, 1996, the house where Camiolo resided with his parents, Edward and Rosalie Camiolo, was damaged by fire. According to Camiolo, the fire started in the living room sofa on which his mother was sleeping. Although Camiolo escaped from the house without injury, his father died in the fire and his mother died several months later as a result of the injuries she sustained during the fire.

State Farm insured the Camiolo residence against fire loss.*fn3

An entry in State Farm's claim activity log dated September 30 indicated that the cause of the fire "was due to careless smoking" and that efforts would be made to obtain a copy of the fire marshal's report. Yet Upper Moreland Township police and fire officials, who initiated an investigation, suspected that Camiolo had, by incendiary means, intentionally started the fire. That investigation eventually led to a request by the District Attorney of Montgomery County that the Court of Common Pleas of that county convene an investigating grand jury pursuant to Pennsylvania's Investigating Grand Jury Act. 42 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 4541-4553. The District Attorney's request was granted, and a county investigating grand jury met to hear evidence on ten separate occasions between August 13, 1998 and January 14, 1999.

State Farm had also initiated an investigation into the cause and origin of the fire, hiring Walter Kerr, an employee of Robert H. Jones Associates, Inc. to conduct an investigation and submit a report. Kerr opined in March 1997 that the "fire was intentionally set and accelerated by the use of gasoline." Thereafter, State Farm refused to pay Camiolo's claim for losses caused by the fire. In response, Camiolo filed suit in November 1997 in state court alleging that State Farm had breached its contract of insurance. State Farm subsequently removed the suit to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. See Paul Camiolo v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., Civil Action No. 97-8057 (E.D. Pa.).

In late September 1998, while the grand jury was still conducting its investigation, State Farm initiated discussions with Camiolo's counsel which eventually led to settlement of the initial civil suit seeking payment of the fire loss claim. Camiolo signed a release on October 15, 1998 in exchange for $240,000. The release provided, in relevant part, as follows:

The undersigned, PAUL CAMIOLO on his own behalf and as Administrator of the Estate of Edward Camiolo, Deceased, and Executor of the Estate of Rosalie Camiolo, Deceased (hereinafter referred to as Releasors) declares that, for and in consideration of TWO HUNDRED FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS ($240,000)... does forever release, acquit and discharge STATE FARM FIRE & CASUALTY COMPANY, its... employees and agents... of and from any and all actions, causes of actions, claims, demands, damages resulting or to result from a fire which occurred on or about September 30, 1996 at 4130 Hoffman Road, Hatboro, Pennsylvania, which became the subject of a property damage claim filed with State Farm... which claim is fully settled and satisfied by virtue of the above-mentioned sum paid.

It is further understood and agreed that Releasors hereby discharge Releasees of and from any and all actions, causes of actions, claims, demands or damages, including claims for contractual and extracontractual damages and claims for personal injury and emotional distress, and for any damages which may develop at some time in the future, and for any damages relating to the claims handling in connection with this matter, including bad faith, and for any and all unforeseen developments arising out of the incident referred to above, including any and all claims which were the subject matter of a lawsuit pending in the United States District Court, for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, styled Paul Camiolo v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., Civil Action No. 97-8057....

PAUL CAMIOLO hereby declares that the terms of this Release and Settlement Agreement have been completely read; and that said terms are fully understood and voluntarily accepted for the purpose of making a full and final compromise of any and all claims on account of the damages and losses mentioned above and further for the express purposes of precluding forever any further or additional suits by Releasors or any of them arising out of the aforesaid claims.

When Camiolo executed the release, he knew that he was the target of the investigation being pursued by the state grand jury. In an affidavit submitted to the District Court in support of his claims in this action, Camiolo acknowledged that he had discussed with his attorney in the insurance action that he might not "have the resources necessary to defend" himself in a criminal prosecution. The settlement Camiolo contemplated, however, would provide a means "to start hiring experts to prove the fire... was accidental in origin."

In mid January 1999, the county investigating grand jury returned a presentment concluding that Camiolo was responsible for the arson-homicide of his parents.*fn4 The twenty-three page presentment described in detail the responding police officer's observations at the scene, including her conversations with Camiolo and her discovery of an unattended Rosalie Camiolo lying several feet from the back door of the house. Five pages of the presentment concerned Camiolo's "Contradictory Versions of the Fire," discussing statements made by Camiolo about his whereabouts at the time the fire was discovered, his discovery of the fire, the cause of the fire, the alleged attempts to fight the fire, and his escape from the house.

Thirteen pages of the presentment discussed the forensic evidence, including the laboratory testing of samples of hardwood flooring and other debris which revealed the presence of partially evaporated gasoline. This section also identified several individuals who testified and the nature of their testimony. The testimony described in the presentment included not only that of professionals who opined that the cause and origin of the fire was incendiary, but also that of Agent Avato of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, who opined that the fire was accidental.

The presentment concluded that there was "probable cause to believe that the fire at 4130 Hoffman Road was set by Paul Camiolo through the use of one or more flammable liquids which he poured in the family room of the house and then ignited with an open flame." The grand jury, through its presentment, recommended that the Montgomery County District Attorney charge Camiolo with various offenses, including the arson murder of his parents.

On January 19, 1999, Judge Albert R. Subers, the supervising judge of the grand jury,*fn5 accepted the presentment and referred the matter to the District Attorney. After the District Attorney charged Camiolo with several criminal offenses, he was arrested and detained pending trial for approximately ten months.

In early October 1999, John Lentini, an expert retained by Camiolo, submitted a report to Camiolo's counsel which indicated, inter alia, that the laboratory samples of hardwood flooring contained gasoline and lead. He explained that lead was not a natural component of wood finishing, but that it had been a natural component of gasoline prior to the early 1980s. As a result, Lentini opined that the gasoline in the samples was old and that it had not been used to set the fire. After considering Lentini's report and confirming his methodology, and taking into account the results of further tests on fabric similar to that on furniture in the Camiolo house together with the fact that State Farm had settled Camiolo's insurance claim, the District Attorney dismissed the charges against Camiolo. Camiolo was released from custody in late October 1999.

In July 2000, Camiolo filed the civil suit from which the instant appeal arises, alleging RICO violations against State Farm and several of its agents, several Upper Moreland Township police and fire officials involved in the investigation (collectively referred to hereafter as "Upper Moreland Township defendants" or "municipal defendants"), and Trooper Investigative Services and several of its agents (collectively referred to as "TIS"), who also were involved in preparing certain investigative reports.*fn6 See 18 U.S.C. § 1962. The complaint further alleged a § 1983 claim that these same defendants violated Camiolo's constitutional rights. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In addition, Camiolo alleged that State Farm, together with several other defendants, was liable for false arrest (Count III), false imprisonment (Count IV), assault and battery (Count V), intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count VI), negligent infliction of emotional distress (Count VII), civil conspiracy (Count VIII), bad faith (Count IX), violation of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection law (Count X), and punitive damages (Count XI) under Pennsylvania law.

By Memorandum and Order dated March 18, 2001, the District Court granted summary judgment for State Farm and its employees on all counts on the basis of the release that Camiolo had executed in settling the underlying breach of insurance contract claim. Shortly thereafter, the District Court entered an order directing that discovery on the remaining claims had to be completed by December 31, 2001.

At some point during discovery, Camiolo requested that the municipal defendants and TIS provide him with copies of the transcripts of their grand jury testimony. The record does not indicate whether this was an informal request or a request under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34 for the production of documents. In any event, purportedly lacking copies of those transcripts, the municipal defendants and TIS were unable to comply with the request.

Thereafter, the District Court suggested that Camiolo's counsel contact the District Attorney of Montgomery County to obtain the transcripts. Camiolo's counsel followed this suggestion and by letter dated November 27, 2001 inquired whether the District Attorney would object to the issuance of a subpoena for the grand jury testimony. In response, the District Attorney advised Camiolo that Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 230 governed whether he could disclose the transcripts at issue.*fn7 The District Attorney informed Camiolo that, in light of that rule, and "contrary to my initial inclination, I conclude that Pennsylvania Law prohibits me from disclosing grand jury transcripts as part of a civil case."

When the District Attorney refused to voluntarily produce the investigating grand jury transcripts, Camiolo applied to the District Court, a week before the close of discovery, to compel their production, asserting that "at least one of the defendants has raised the Grand Jury Indictment as a defense." Camiolo asserted that "[p]ermitting the disclosure would insure consistent and complete testimony by the witnesses since, the Grand Jury testimony was given in 1998, three years ago." In addition, he argued that "disclosure... far out weighs any continued [n]eed of secrecy given the age of the Grand Jury." Disclosure was necessary, in Camiolo's view, because he believed that the transcripts would "show that the Grand Jury indictment was obtained through fraud or other undue influences at work." Camiolo argued that "[a]s a result of this matter being placed in the Federal Court, the State Court overseeing the Grand Jury investigation is no longer the guardian of the Grand Jury transcripts."

The Upper Moreland defendants opposed Camiolo's request. Their counsel acknowledged in their response to the motion that he had been granted access to the entire investigative file of the Montgomery County Detective's Office, which contained some grand jury transcripts. However, he averred that he had not made copies of any of these transcripts, that he had no intent to use any of the grand jury transcripts, and that he intended to use only the presentment, which was a matter of ...


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