Pitts v. State of DE., No. 10-3388 (3d Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
Following an altercation concerning auto repairs, plaintiff, an African American, found damage to his car and was threatened by a garage employee; he called 911. Garage employees also called 911. When officers responded, plaintiff and defendant, a white officer, had a verbal altercation about whether defendant was responding as he would respond to a white victim. Defendant handcuffed plaintiff, placed him in the patrol car, and spoke to the garage employees without questioning plaintiff. He arrested plaintiff and one of the garage employees. Plaintiff was acquitted. The garage employee apparently entered a plea of no contest. In a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and state law, a jury awarded plaintiff $80,000 in compensatory damages and $1,000 in punitive damages. The district court overturned the verdict and entered judgment for defendant. The Third Circuit reversed, holding that the evidence was sufficient to show unlawful seizure, equal protection violations, and that the defendant lacked probable cause for the vehicle search that followed towing of plaintiff's car.