Third Circuit finds State Police troopers did not use excessive force

By Nicholas Malfitano | May 18, 2017

PHILADELPHIA – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently affirmed a lower court’s ruling that entered a jury verdict for four Pennsylvania State Police troopers accused of using excessive force after a high-speed chase.

On May 15, federal appellate judges declined Stephen C. Bowen’s appeal of the District Court’s judgment in favor of defendants Reginald Roberson, Trooper Jonathan Burnham, Corporal Alan Trees and Corporal Brian Torkar, in his civil rights lawsuit.

Bowen had sued four police officers, claiming each of them used excessive force when arresting him, after he led them on a high-speed chase. Represented by counsel, Bowen tried his case to a jury.

When evidence admission concluded, Bowen moved for a directed verdict on his excessive force claims against two of the officers, defendants Trees and Torkar. The District Court denied Bowen’s motion. The jury found that the defendants had not used excessive force against Bowen, and the District Court entered judgment for them.

Bowen proceeded to appeal in the District Court, and indicated he wanted to file two motions which he admitted were untimely: First, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(b), Bowen argued “the District Court should have directed a verdict against defendants Trees, Torkar, and Burnham.” Secondly, Bowen sought a new trial under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59, because he believed “the weight of the evidence compelled the jury to find in his favor.”

As Bowen’s motions were untimely, the District Court denied them, a decision which Bowen appealed to the Third Circuit.

“While Bowen purports to raise a number of claims, they all have the same thrust: he contends that the jury’s verdict was unsupported by the weight of the evidence. However, Bowen’s ‘failure to comply with Rule 50(b) forecloses [his] challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence…’ Where, as here, a party moves for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(a), he must renew that request after the jury has reached a verdict, as required by Rule 50(b). If he does not, he is foreclosed from challenging the sufficiency of the evidence on appeal,” the Third Circuit said.

“Because Bowen did not seek to overturn the jury’s verdict within 28 days of the trial, the District Court correctly denied his untimely request. Bowen’s failure to properly challenge the sufficiency of the evidence in the District Court has forfeited his right to do so on appeal. Accordingly, we will affirm the judgment of the District Court,” the Third Circuit stated.

The defendants are represented by Keli M. Neary of the Attorney General’s Office, in Harrisburg.

U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania case 1:12-cv-00036

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at

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