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Ryan v. Burlington County

argued: June 2, 1988.


On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, D.C. Civil No. 85-2002.

Seitz, Sloviter and Hutchinson, Circuit Judges.

Author: Hutchinson


HUTCHINSON, Circuit Judge.

Defendants William H. Fauver and Joseph G. Call appeal a district court order denying their motion for summary judgment in a 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983 (West 1981) action brought by Timothy Ryan. Ryan sought compensatory and punitive damages for injuries he sustained while a pretrial detainee in the Burlington County Jail. We have jurisdiction to review the district court's order as it pertains to Fauver and Call's claim of qualified immunity under 28 U.S.C.A. § 1291 (West Supp. 1988). See Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 86 L. Ed. 2d 411, 105 S. Ct. 2806 (1985). We hold that Fauver and Call did not establish an entitlement to qualified immunity and, accordingly, will affirm the district court's order.


The Burlington County Jail is a small, two story building in Mount Holly, New Jersey. Its first floor contains dormitory housing and its second contains maximum security cell blocks and six dormitory cells. In 1977 and 1978, inmates at the county jail brought civil rights actions against the county sheriff, his chief deputy and the Burlington Board of Chosen Freeholders, alleging, among other things, that the jail was overcrowded and that there was no effective classification procedure.*fn1 The cases were consolidated and eventually settled.*fn2 The Settlement Agreement limited the number of inmates that could be housed in individual and dormitory cells, "except in emergencies," capping the total number of inmates at the county jail at 117. Appendix (App.) at 354a-55a. The Agreement also provided for renovation of the county jail by June 22, 1983, to include an inmate reception area with at least eight individual detention rooms "for classification." Id. at 354a.*fn3

On September 30, 1983, Timothy Ryan was arrested in Medford Township, New Jersey, and charged with motor vehicle violations. Because he could not make bail, he was sent to the Burlington County Jail, where he was placed in a dormitory cell along with nine other persons.*fn4 One of these was Maurice Scott, who had violated the conditions of his parole on a state prison sentence and was awaiting transfer to a state facility. During the two-month period in which he was incarcerated at the county jail pending this transfer, Scott had been involved in several violent attacks on other inmates. Burlington County Jail documents show that Scott had been convicted of a violent crime that resulted in the injury or death of another person. See id. at 379a.

On October 4, 1983, Scott attacked Ryan. At some point after the attack, prison guards placed Ryan on a stretcher and carried him to the jail's infirmary. There, he was handcuffed and shackled before being taken by ambulance to a hospital. Hospital personnel determined that Ryan's neck had been broken, rendering him quadriplegic.

In April, 1985, Ryan brought an action seeking compensatory and punitive damages and attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985 and 1988 (West 1981) against Burlington County; the Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders; the Warden of the Burlington County Jail; county prison guards and officials; the Burlington County Solicitor's office; Michael J. Hogan, part-time Solicitor of Burlington County; William H. Fauver, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Corrections; and Joseph G. Call, Deputy Director of the Division of Adult Institutions. Ryan claimed that defendants overcrowded the Burlington County Jail, precluding effective classification of inmates and causing his injury, in violation of his liberty interest in personal security and his right as a pretrial detainee not to be punished prior to an adjudication of guilt.*fn5

Defendants Fauver and Call filed a motion to dismiss the complaint or, in the alternative, for summary judgement on the basis of eleventh amendment immunity and qualified immunity. The district court reserved decision on this motion and ordered that Fauver and Call be deposed. After giving their testimony on deposition, Fauver and Call renewed their motion to dismiss or for summary judgment, arguing with respect to the § 1985 claim that Ryan failed to show any class-based discrimination and with respect to the § 1983 claim that (1) they could not foresee that Ryan would be injured by Scott while in custody; (2) they had no knowledge of the conditions under which Ryan was incarcerated and were not responsible for the day-to-day administration of the county jail; (3) they were free from suit in their official capacities under the eleventh amendment; and (4) they violated no clearly established rights of which reasonable persons in their positions would have known.

On November 9, 1987, the district court dismissed the § 1985 claim, the state law claims and the § 1983 claims premised on the fourth, fifth and eighth amendments. It also dismissed the complaint against Fauver and Call in their official capacities. The court denied Fauver and Call's motion on all other grounds. Fauver and Call now appeal the denial of their motion with respect to qualified immunity.


Ryan contends that we lack appellate jurisdiction under Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 86 L. Ed. 2d 411, 105 S. Ct. 2806 (1985), because the issues raised by Fauver and Call on appeal are not separable from and collateral to the merits of this case, and resolution of these issues would require review of the record. Development of a record is required in some cases under Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 107 S. Ct. 3034, 97 L. Ed. 2d 523 (1987). Anderson teaches that cases requiring development of a record do not in every instance fall outside the scope of Mitchell.

In Mitchell, the Supreme Court held that a district court's denial of a claim of qualified immunity is an appealable "final decision" under 28 U.S.C.A. § 1291 to the extent that it turns on an issue of law, notwithstanding the absence of a final judgment. Mitchell, 472 U.S. at 530. In Anderson, the Court explained that the issue of law in a qualified immunity case is the "objective (albeit fact-specific)" question whether a reasonable official could have believed his actions lawful in light of clearly established law and the information he possessed. Anderson, 107 S. Ct. at 3040. Resolution of this fact-specific question may require discovery and the development of a record "tailored specifically to the question of [the official's] qualified immunity." Id. at 3042 n.6. Mitchell and Anderson are not designed to ease the workload of appellate judges; the necessity of reviewing a record to determine the propriety of a district court's denial of a qualified immunity claim does not divest an appellate court of its jurisdiction.*fn6

We next address Ryan's assertion that we lack jurisdiction because Fauver and Call raise issues that are not appealable. Ryan correctly states that we cannot review issues that pertain to liability on this appeal because the district court's order is "final" only with respect to the collateral issue of qualified immunity. See Brown v. United States, 851 F.2d 615, 619 (3d Cir. 1988). The flaw in his argument is his apparent assumption that our power of review is dependent upon the proper framing of issues on appeal. We have jurisdiction to review the district court's order under 28 U.S.C.A. § 1291 to the extent that it is final. The court's order is "final" and immediately reviewable under Mitchell if Fauver and Call properly raised a claim of qualified immunity in the district court. See footnote 6, supra; See Chinchello v. Fenton, 805 F.2d 126, 130 (3d Cir. 1986); see also Musso v. Hourigan, 836 F.2d 736, 741 (2d Cir. 1988) (appellate review appropriate ...

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