Submitted: December 28, 2018
Below-Superior Court of the State of Delaware C.A. No.
STRINE, Chief Justice; VALIHURA and TRAYNOR, Justices.
L. Valihura Justice.
consideration of the parties' briefs and the record on
appeal, it appears to the Court that:
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. We affirm the judgment of
the Superior Court.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 ...