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SIMMONS v. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA

January 10, 1990

DELORES SIMMONS, Administratrix of the Estate of Daniel La Friscoe Simmons , Deceased
v.
THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA and OFFICER ALBERT PANATI



The opinion of the court was delivered by: VAN ANTWERPEN

 FRANKLIN S. VAN ANTWERPEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 From July 10 to July 13, 1989, a jury trial was held before this court in the above-captioned matter. On July 13, 1989, the jury returned a verdict finding the defendant, the City of Philadelphia ("City"), liable to the plaintiff for violations of plaintiff's decedent's constitutional rights, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and also finding the City negligent. The jury also found police officer Albert Panati ("Panati") negligent, but not liable under the plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 constitutional claims. The defendants have now moved for post-trial relief in the form of judgment notwithstanding the verdict and for a new trial. For the reasons given below, we find that the defendants' request for such relief must be denied.

 Before discussing the law, we believe it is first necessary to set forth the basic facts in the instant case. On October 19, 1985, Daniel Simmons ("Simmons") was taken into custody near City Hall for public intoxication by the City police department. Simmons had had no prior convictions and was 24 years old. Although technically an arrest, the policy of the City set forth in Directive #128 is usually to release persons picked up for public intoxication to responsible parties or release them after they have sobered up without filing any formal criminal charges. At the time he was taken into protective custody, the decedent was crying, anxious and very intoxicated. The police officers tried to calm him down and transported him to the City's Sixth Police District. Upon arrival, Simmons was placed in the custody of Officer Panati, the Sixth District turnkey. Panati was told that Simmons had been upset and crying upon being taken into custody.

 Once in the Sixth District, Simmons again became very emotional and confused. He expressed deep concern about his arrest and its consequences. In spite of his condition, the minor nature of his offense, and his inability to call his family, no one placed a call for him. After processing Simmons, Panati removed Simmons' belt and personal belongings and locked him in Cell No. 6 at approximately 5:00 a.m. No one else was in the cell block during the time Simmons was in custody. Although there were other jails in the City which were not totally empty, Simmons was not taken to one of them. Panati did not initially remove Simmons' shoe laces. According to Officer Panati, he removed Simmons' shoe laces approximately fifteen minutes after he was placed in the cell, because Simmons had untied them and they were flopping around. Aside from removing the shoe laces, no other steps were taken to protect Simmons.

 Officer Panati's desk was in an adjacent area separated by a wall and a steel door. Panati was unable to see the cell block area from his work place and unable to see Simmons unless he physically entered the block and inspected his cell.

 Panati maintained a log of the times he checked on prisoners. Such checks are to be made every fifteen minutes. Panati testified that, regardless of when he actually inspected the prison cells, he nevertheless wrote down that he inspected the cells at exactly every quarter hour. Panati also testified that his duties would sometimes take him away from the cell area and, at times, even outside the Sixth District building itself.

 Panati further testified that during at least one hour of Simmons' incarceration, the decedent was very upset and periodically rattled the bars of his cell. Simmons remained unresponsive to any words spoken by Panati. Panati described Simmons' condition as being in a "stupor" with "glassy eyes". The entire time Simmons was in the cell, he remained standing at the cell door. His reactions ranged from confusion to hysteria.

 In ruling on a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, the trial court is obliged to consider the evidence in a light most favorable to the party prevailing with the jury. Accordingly, it must be assumed by the trial court that all conflicts in the evidence were resolved by the jury in favor of plaintiff's evidence. The plaintiff is also to be given the benefit of all favorable inferences which may be reasonably drawn from the facts proved. Moreover, the defendants' motion must be denied if, upon reviewing the evidence in the above described light, reasonable men could differ as to the conclusions to be drawn from the evidence. J.J. Farms, Inc. v. Cargill, Inc., 693 F.2d 830 (8th Cir. 1982); Mroz v. Dravo Corp., 293 F. Supp. 499 (W.D.P.A. 1968), aff'd 429 F.2d 1156 (3rd Cir. 1970).

 A court cannot grant a judgment n.o.v. based on a ground not raised in a party's motion for directed verdict.

 
[A] motion for judgment n.o.v. based on a ground not raised in a party's Motion for Directed Verdict, cannot be granted. . . . The Third Circuit has interpreted strictly the requirements of F.R.Civ.P. 50(b) that a motion for directed verdict after the presentation of all evidence is a prerequisite to a motion for judgment n.o.v. . . . . Indeed, to entertain the plaintiff's motion, might deprive defendant of its Seventh Amendment rights to a trial by jury. . . .

 Sharp v. Coopers & Lybrand, 457 F. Supp. 879, 885 (E.D. Pa. 1978) (citations omitted), aff'd, 649 F.2d 175 (3d Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 455 U.S. 938, 71 L. Ed. 2d 648, 102 S. Ct. 1427 (1982). Furthermore as a general rule, although exceptions are now unnecessary, to properly preserve an issue a party must either object or otherwise inform the court of the action which a party desires. Fed.R.C.P. 46. Bucy v. Nevada Construction Co., 125 F.2d 213 (9th Cir. 1942). Similar more specific rules apply to the court's rulings on evidence, Fed.R.Evid. 103, and instructions to the jury, Fed.R.Civ.P. 51.

 Most of the arguments raised in the defendants' motions for judgment n.o.v. and new trial were not raised in defendants' motion for directed verdict, or for that matter, raised at any point during the course of the trial. Defendants moved for a directed verdict "for the reasons stated in defendants' Trial Brief." Therefore, any arguments raised by defendants in the instant motions and not appearing in the trial brief are waived. We can find only two arguments raised in the defendants' motion for post-trial relief that were raised in the motion for directed verdict. These are: that the plaintiff's claim for violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 must fail because of lack of evidence regarding the City's conduct and the "deliberate indifference" standard mandated by City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 109 S. Ct. 1197, 103 L. Ed. 2d 412 (1989), and that the defendants owed no duty to Simmons, since no "special relationship" existed between the decedent and the police. We must treat all other motions as waived. Nonetheless, we will proceed to address not only these arguments, but also all of the others, and to explain why even if they had been properly raised they would not have succeeded.

 Basically, the defendants' arguments in favor of their motions appear to consist of the following premises: (1) that the evidence presented in the instant case did not reach the "deliberate indifference" standard mandated by City of Canton, 489 U.S. 378, 109 S. Ct. 1197, 103 L. Ed. 2d 412; (2) that the jury reached an inconsistent verdict in its response to Question One on the verdict sheet; (3) that the jury did not find a causal relationship between the decedent's death and the conduct of the City and the conduct of Officer Panati; (4) that no pendent state law negligence claims were alleged or proved upon which an award could rest; (5) that the City is immune from suit for negligence; and (6) that it was error to permit a photograph of the plaintiff's decedent to go to the jury.

 I. The Evidence and the "Deliberate Indifference" Standard

 The defendants argue that the plaintiff failed to establish that the City was deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of Daniel Simmons, the plaintiff's decedent. The defendants do recognize that the instant case comes within the ambit of City of Canton, 489 U.S. 378, 109 S. Ct. 1197, 103 L. Ed. 2d 412 and, generally, Monell v. New York City Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611, 98 S. Ct. 2018 (1978). In City of Canton, the United States Supreme Court accepted "deliberate indifference" as the standard in cases under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging inadequate training of municipal personnel. In the City of Canton decision, the Court considered inadequate training in the context of municipal policy:

 
Monell's rule that a city is not liable under § 1983 unless a municipal policy causes a constitutional deprivation will not be satisfied by merely alleging that the existing training program for a class of employees, such as police officers, represents a policy for which the city is responsible. That much may be true. The issue in a case like this one, however, is whether that training program is adequate; and if it is not, the question becomes whether such inadequate training can justifiably be said to represent "city policy". It may seem contrary to common sense to assert that a municipality will actually have a policy of not taking reasonable steps to train its employees. But it may happen that in light of the duties assigned to specific officers or employees the need for more or different training is so obvious, and the inadequacy so likely to result in the violation of constitutional rights, that the policymakers of the city can reasonably be said to have been deliberately indifferent to the need. In that event, the failure to provide proper training may fairly be said to represent a policy for which the city is responsible, and for which the city may be held liable if it actually causes injury.

 Id. 109 S. Ct. at 1205 (footnotes omitted).

 In the instant case, the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence with respect to lack of proper training vis-a-vis intoxicated detainees to support a verdict of deliberate indifference.

 Plaintiff's experts, Joseph Rowen and Dr. Edward Guy both testified that Simmons fit the psychological profile of an individual who was at high risk to commit suicide, i.e., he was intoxicated, young, a high school graduate, employed, agitated, crying, unresponsive, and exhibiting mood swings. Dr. Guy further testified that 99 per cent of all suicides take place in isolated cells and that the periodic checks, as allegedly made by Officer Panati, are nowhere near sufficient.

 Joseph Rowan, an expert on corrections, testified for the plaintiff that standards established by the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) and the American Correctional Association, which were available and known to the City prior to the instant incident, recognize that intoxicated detainees are high risk suicide candidates and should be under observation at all times. Moreover, published standards detailing procedures for identifying suicidal detainees and preventing suicides were also available and known to the City prior to this incident. In addition, Mr. Rowan cited a number of cities and states which had instituted successful suicide prevention plans prior to the death of Daniel Simmons.

 Both experts testified that intoxicated detainees, especially those exhibiting the symptoms of Simmons, should be observed at all times. Mr. Rowan based his testimony on CALEA standard 72.5.4 which requires intoxicated arrestees to be under observation at all times. Both experts further testified that even a layman with minimal training could observe intoxicated arrestees and recognize suicidal symptoms.

 The City's own police officers admitted that they had no training in suicide prevention. Officer Panati said specifically that he had no such training. Sergeant Heran of the City police department's research and development department could not say for sure whether ...


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