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Hajali v. Daller

Supreme Court of Delaware

February 21, 2019

ZOHRA HAJALI, Plaintiff Below, Appellant,
v.
OFFICER ANDREW W. DALLER, Defendant Below, Appellee.

          Submitted: December 28, 2018

          Court Below-Superior Court of the State of Delaware C.A. No. N15C-07-111

          Before STRINE, Chief Justice; VALIHURA and TRAYNOR, Justices.

          ORDER

          Karen L. Valihura Justice.

         After consideration of the parties' briefs and the record on appeal, it appears to the Court that:

         (1) The plaintiff below-appellant, Zohra Hajali, filed this appeal after the Superior Court granted in part and denied in part the revised motions for fees and costs filed by the defendant-below appellee, Officer Andrew W. Daller, and denied Hajali's motion for a new trial after a jury verdict in favor of Officer Daller.[1] We affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

         (2) This is a civil action arising from the arrest and detainment of Hajali in 2013. Hajali sued Officer Daller for: (i) violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments based on fabrication of evidence; (ii) violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on unlawful detention under the Fourth Amendment; (iii) malicious prosecution; and (iv) wanton negligence under the county and municipal tort claims act. After a five-day trial, the jury reached a verdict in favor of Officer Daller.

         (3) The trial record reflects that Hajali was leasing a house to tenants who were delinquent in their rent payments. The lease was due to expire on June 30, 2013. In May 2013, Hajali's counsel sent a letter to the tenants informing them that they were delinquent in their rental payments, they had five days to pay the total amount due or he would file an action for the rent due and possession of the property, and Hajali's agent, Jules Meliodon, would be entering the house on June 14, 2013 to inspect the house with the tenants and photograph any damage.

         (4) On June 14, 2013, Hajali (who had flown in from Morocco) and Meliodon, along with a New Castle County police officer they had asked to accompany them for an eviction, went to inspect the house and take photographs. The tenants were not present. The house was messy, with clothes piled up in the living room. Hajali and Meliodon testified that they believed the house was abandoned.

         (5) After locking the door and gates, Hajali and Meliodon left the property. Hajali returned to Morocco to spend time with her mother, who was dying. On June 18, 2013, Hajali's counsel sent a letter to the tenants informing them that Hajali was retaking possession of the property, changing the locks, and disposing of the abandoned personal property.

         (6) On July 3, 2013, Meliodon returned to the property to cut the grass. He noticed that the gates and back door were open. He went into the house where he noticed the same mess and two flat screen televisions. Meliodon testified that he took the televisions to his house for safekeeping. He also changed the locks to secure the property. He left a message for the tenants, informing them that he had taken the televisions. Meliodon testified that he did not tell Hajali about taking the televisions, but Hajali testified that he did tell her.

         (7) On July 13, 2013, Hajali's son called Meliodon to tell him that someone was trespassing on the rental property. Meliodon told him to call the police. Hajali also contacted the police about the trespasser. The trespasser was identified as a former tenant.

         (8) Officer Daller, a New Castle County police officer, and his supervising officer responded to the trespassing calls. According to Officer Daller, there was a woman on the property who identified herself as a tenant. Officer Daller learned that there was outstanding rent and property had been taken from the house. There was no paperwork showing that the woman was the tenant or that she had been evicted.

         (9) Officer Daller spoke to Hajali's son who referred him to Meliodon. Officer Daller testified that Meliodon told him the woman on the property was a former tenant, he and Hajali had taken property from the house that was worth approximately the amount of rent owed (more than $10, 000.00), and the property would not be returned until the tenants paid the rent. Meliodon testified that he told ...


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