Date of Verdict:
Court and Case No.:
U.S. District Court, E.D. Pa. No. 10-CV-0144.
J. Curtis Joyner.
Type of Action:
Malicious prosecution; civil conspiracy.
Harm to reputation.
Mark W. Tanner, Feldman, Shepherd, Wohlgelernter, Tanner & Weinstock, Philadelphia.
Gerald J. Dugan, Dugan Brinkman Maginnis and Pace, Philadelphia.
The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office has apologized to a contractor it wrongfully charged with defrauding a church and has agreed to settle with him for $1.7 million.
The settlement also covers claims the contractor filed against a Montgomery County detective, alleging false arrest, malicious prosecution, malicious abuse of process and civil conspiracy.
According to a recitation of the facts of the case in an August 2013 memorandum by U.S. District Judge J. Curtis Joyner for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania addressing the defendants’ motions for summary judgment in the civil case against them, plaintiff Walter J. Logan and his company, the Delta Organization, had been engaged in a contractual dispute with defendant Salem Baptist Church of Jenkintown over payment for renovations and alterations to buildings adjacent to Salem’s premises.
“Unfortunately, in an attempt to gain the upper hand in the contractual dispute, Salem and its legal counsel pursued questionable criminal charges against Logan,” resulting in an investigation by Montgomery County Detective Mary Anders and Logan’s subsequent arrest, Joyner said.
Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman charged Logan with theft, based on Salem’s allegations that Delta pocketed payments made by Salem that Delta was supposed to forward to its subcontractors, according to Joyner.
But in January 2010, nearly a year after the arrest and more than six months after an arbitrator sided with Delta in the contractual dispute, Ferman dropped the criminal charges against Logan, Joyner said.
Logan filed suit against Salem, Ferman, Anders and Salem’s law firm, Doylestown-based Eastburn & Gray, according to court documents.
Joyner said in his memorandum addressing the defendants’ motions for summary judgment that “Salem lacked probable cause to initiate the criminal proceedings.”
Joyner also said triable issues of material fact existed regarding “whether Anders made materially false or misleading statements or omissions which, if proven, would permit this court to conclude that she lacked probable cause to initiate the criminal proceedings.”
“Moreover, such a determination would permit a jury to infer the presence of malice,” Joyner said.
Joyner also said in his memorandum that “sufficient evidence exists for a jury to conclude that Salem, on its own and through its legal counsel, acted unlawfully in combination with Detective Anders and DA Ferman.”
Logan settled with Eastburn & Gray and the firm was dismissed from the case last August.
On May 5, Ferman and Anders reached a settlement with Logan, according to Logan’s attorney, Mark W. Tanner.
As part of the settlement, the District Attorney’s Office agreed to publicly apologize to Logan for the charges.
In the apology, the District Attorney’s Office said it would expunge Logan’s arrest record and admitted that “there is no credible evidence that Mr. Logan ever stole anything from Salem Baptist Church and we retract any statements to that effect previously made to the media.”
“After further review of the available information, which includes an award against Salem and in favor of Walter Logan in a civil arbitration hearing, the District Attorney’s Office concluded that there was absolutely no credible evidence that Walter Logan committed any crime, and the charges were dropped in January of 2010,” the office said in the apology. “The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office apologizes to Mr. Logan for the arrest and any statements made to the press regarding the arrest.”
According to court records, the case will now proceed against Salem, with trial scheduled for September.
Tanner said the case “started out as a simple contract dispute—the kind of case that gets resolved hundreds of times a week in our court system quietly and quickly—and it should have stayed that way.”
Salem’s “efforts to gain an unfair advantage and leverage in that case were really what gave rise to the most significant damage to Walt Logan, and it’s taken him a long time to restore his name,” Tanner said.
Counsel for Ferman and Anders, Gerald J. Dugan, could not be reached.