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THERESA A. HARDING v. MARGARET GALYIAS (06/29/88)

decided: June 29, 1988.

THERESA A. HARDING, ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF SCOTT W. HARDING, DECEASED, ON BEHALF OF THE ESTATE OF SCOTT W. HARDING, DECEASED, AND THERESA A. HARDING, ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF SCOTT W. HARDING, DECEASED, ON BEHALF OF THE NEXT OF KIN OF SCOTT W. HARDING, DECEASED, APPELLANT
v.
MARGARET GALYIAS, T/D/B/A D & G BAR AND MUNICIPALITY OF BETHEL PARK, APPELLEES. DONNA L. COOPER, ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF CHRISTOPHER L. COOPER, DECEASED, ON BEHALF OF THE ESTATE OF CHRISTOPHER L. COOPER, DECEASED, AND DONNA L. COOPER, ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF CHRISTOPHER L. COOPER, DECEASED, ON BEHALF OF THE NEXT OF KIN OF CHRISTOPHER L. COOPER, DECEASED, APPELLANT V. CITY OF PITTSBURGH, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, APPELLEE



Appeals from the Orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, in the cases of Theresa A. Harding, Administratrix of the Estate of Scott W. Harding, deceased, on behalf of the Estate of Scott W. Harding, deceased, and Theresa A. Harding, Administratrix of the Estate of Scott W. Harding, deceased, on behalf of the next of kin of Scott W. Harding v. Margaret Galyias t/d/b/a D & G Bar and Municipality of Bethel Park, No. G.D. 85-17387, and in the case of Donna L. Cooper, Administratrix of the Estate of Christopher L. Cooper, Deceased, on behalf of the Estate of Christopher L. Cooper, Deceased, and Donna L. Cooper, Administratrix of the Estate of Christopher L. Cooper, Deceased, on behalf of the next of kin of Christopher L. Cooper, Deceased v. City of Pittsburgh, a municipal corporation, No. G.D. 85-2502.

COUNSEL

John E. Quinn, Evans, Rosen, Portnoy, Quinn & Donohue, for appellants, Theresa A. Harding et al. and Donna L. Cooper et al.

Robert W. Deer, for appellee, Margaret Galyias, t/d/b/a D & G Bar.

Thomas J. Madigan, Tighe, Evan & Ehrman, for appellee, Municipality of Bethel Park.

Robert B. Smith, Assistant City Solicitor, with him, D. R. Pellegrini, City Solicitor, for appellee, City of Pittsburgh.

President Judge Crumlish, Jr., and Judges Craig, MacPhail, Colins, Palladino, McGinley and Smith. Opinion by Judge Palladino.

Author: Palladino

[ 117 Pa. Commw. Page 373]

These consolidated cases involve appeals from orders of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas in two separate cases involving Pennsylvania common law wrongful death and survivor actions (PA actions) and a federal cause of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Section 1983 action).*fn1 Theresa A. Harding, Administratrix of the Estate of Scott W. Harding, appeals from an order granting the motion of the Municipality of Bethel

[ 117 Pa. Commw. Page 374]

Park (Municipality) for partial judgment on the pleadings and dismissing her PA actions against the Municipality (19 T.D. 1987). Donna L. Cooper, Administratrix of the Estate of Christopher L. Cooper, appeals from an order granting the motion of the City of Pittsburgh (City) for summary judgment (PA actions and Section 1983 action) (488 C.D. 1987). For the reasons which follow, we affirm both orders.

Scott W. Harding was arrested by the Municipality police, at approximately 6:50 P.M. on July 30, 1984, for driving under the influence of alcohol. He was taken to the Municipality's jail and placed in a cell. Shortly thereafter Scott Harding committed suicide by hanging himself from the bars of the cell with his bluejeans.

Christopher L. Cooper was arrested by the City police, at approximately 1:00 A.M. on February 13, 1983, for intoxication in a public place. He was taken to the City's Public Safety Building and placed in a cell. Shortly thereafter Christopher Cooper committed suicide by hanging himself from the bars of the cell with his bootlaces.

Theresa Harding and Donna Cooper (Appellants) filed PA actions and a Section 1983 action against the Municipality*fn2 and the City, respectively. Appellants' complaints contained the same allegations of wrongdoing.*fn3 In the PA actions it was alleged that the Municipality and the City were negligent "in maintaining and

[ 117 Pa. Commw. Page 375]

    exercising care, custody or control of real property with a jail facility" in which intoxicated individuals would be incarcerated when they knew or should have known that "a high or increased incidence of jail suicides" would result because "a number of suicides and attempted suicides had previously occurred in the jail facility and/or in other similar facilities." The specific allegations of negligence were: (1) use of jail cells with only bars; (2) lack of proper surveillance such as cameras and better positioned desks; (3) lack of "cells that were non-isolated or otherwise visible to the jail guards or attendants on duty;" (4) lack of a "barless cell or room for non-violent arrests;" (5) maintenance of a jail facility "that was not fit or suitable for the safe detention of these individuals;" and (6) maintenance of a jail facility in which no alteration or modification of the traditional barred jail cells or the location of observations desks had been made. Harding complaint, paragraph 25; Cooper complaint, paragraph 13.*fn4

Appellants made the following allegation with respect to their Section 1983 action:*fn5

On and [prior to the suicides] the [Municipality/City], acting under color of state law, authored, promulgated and implemented a policy, or, in

[ 117 Pa. Commw. Page 376]

    the alternative, by custom and practice, implemented a policy that had the effect of law whereby individuals arrested on charges of public intoxication and other non-violent, summary offenses would be taken to [a jail facility] for detention. The [Municipality's/City's] policy regarding the handling of the detention of these arrestees or pre-trial detainees included the following:

(a) The arrestee or pre-trial detainee would be placed in a traditional jail cell with bars; and/or

(b) The arrestee or pre-trial detainee would be placed in a cell in isolation; and/or

(c) No special screening was done of the arrestee or pre-trial detainee to determine if that individual represented a high risk of suicide while incarcerated; and/or

(d) No special surveillance or monitoring was performed or required of such an arrestee or pre-trial detainee; and/or

(e) No television cameras or other monitors were utilized to observe or watch such arrestees or pre-trial detainees; and/or

(f) The [Municipality/City] would fail to remove all items of personal adornment that may be used by the arrestee in a hanging.

Harding complaint, paragraph 34; Cooper complaint, paragraph 22. Appellants further alleged that:

The [Municipality/City] in implementing and maintaining the above policy or custom . . . acted in a callous and/or reckless manner that showed a deliberate indifference to the welfare, well being and lives of . . . [Appellants' decedents] so as to deprive [Appellants' decedents] . . . of the rights, privileges and liberties guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America,

[ 117 Pa. Commw. Page 377]

    and specifically Section '1' thereof, in that said Amendment provides for no deprivation of the life and liberty of any ...


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