Greensburg sues man, attorney over 'frivolous' case
A Greensburg man and his attorney who filed a federal suit against the City of Greensburg two years ago alleging police brutality are being sued by city officials to recoup money spent battling the case they deemed “frivolous.”
The original suit filed by attorney Robert Owsiany on behalf of Edward Wisneski, 43, stemmed from an incident on July 4, 2010, when Wisneski was stopped while driving by Greensburg police for swerving into another lane, according to the lawsuit, which was dismissed earlier this year.
Rather than stepping out of his car for a sobriety test, Wisneski grabbed the arm of an officer, then attempted to start his car and drive away, police reports indicate.
During the ensuing scuffle, one officer punched Wisneski in the face while another used a Taser to stun him, according to the city's lawsuit and police reports.
Wisneski drove away anyway, but was stopped 2.5 miles away, according to police and the city's suit.
“We countersued him because it was frivolous,” city administrator Sue Trout said Tuesday. “We felt he was almost abusing the system by pursuing charges that were frivolous.”
Owsiany said he had not seen a copy of the lawsuit and would not comment. Wisneski could not be reached for comment.
City solicitor Bernard McArdle declined comment.
Wisneski was eventually convicted of driving under the influence, escape, fleeing or attempting to elude an officer, recklessly endangering another person and resisting arrest in September 2011, court records indicate.
Now that Wisneski's allegations against the city have been dismissed for lack of merit, officials are looking for reimbursement of the more than $50,000 spent fighting the case.
Greensburg's tactic is an unusual one, according to assistant professor Jessie Allen at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
In federal lawsuits, it is possible for the defendant to ask the court to impose financial sanctions on the plaintiff if the charges are found to be frivolous, Allen said.
It is rare for a plaintiff in a federal court case to file a separate case looking for restitution, rather than using this process, she said.
“It just seems odd that they would wait, not do this, and (then) file a separate case,” Allen said.
The city may be fighting an uphill battle, because it is rare that plaintiffs win when alleging that a lawsuit was frivolous. It will have to prove that Wisneski's claims were not only false, but an intentional waste of time and resources, she said.
“Simply losing doesn't mean that it was frivolous to file,” Allen said. “It's sort of an unusual action to try to get your money back.”
The city will have to pay more legal fees to cover the costs of this case.
Wisneski and Owsiany have 20 days to respond to the charges against them, once they are officially notified of the lawsuit.
Jacob Tierney is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6646 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Tree falls into house in Hempfield, injuring 1
- Police seek 2 in Derry Twp. luring attempt
- 2 arrested after Jeannette raid turns up heroin, crack, gun
- Inmate charged with smuggling drugs into Westmoreland prison
- PennDOT prefers keeping Yukon, Madison interchanges; project to require at least 3 new bridges
- Greensburg Salem parents plead for restoration of 3 bus routes
- Directors to view Southmoreland High upgrades
- Ligonier man accused of beating, strangling woman
- Police: Woman faked Mt. Pleasant robbery
- Hempfield officials to review site plan for Excela Health Orthoplex
- Two Westmoreland men charged with drug possession