The opinion of the court was delivered by: LOWELL A. REED, JR.
On October 4, 1991, Plaintiff Kent Jones, Sr. ("Jones") filed claims, on behalf of himself and his wife, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 alleging violations of his and his wife's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and various state law claims under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania against defendants Officer Charles Chieffo ("Chieffo"), Commissioner Willie Williams ("Commissioner"), the City of Philadelphia Police Department ("Police Department"), Mayor W. Wilson Goode ("Mayor"), and the City of Philadelphia ("City"). Currently before me is defendants' motion for summary judgment (Document No. 26).
The jurisdiction of this Court is founded upon the existence of a federal question pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. This Court has supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiffs' state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Upon consideration of the motion, as well as the pleadings, affidavits and discovery of record, and for the reasons which follow, I will grant defendants' motion for summary judgment of the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim.
Having dismissed plaintiffs' federal claims, I will decline to exercise my discretion to retain jurisdiction over their state claims and, thus, will dismiss plaintiffs' state law claims without prejudice.
This case arises out of a high speed automotive police chase and subsequent automobile collision which caused the death of plaintiff Bridgett G. Jones and personal injuries to her husband, plaintiff Kent R. Jones, Sr.
Except where noted, the following facts are taken from the uncontradicted testimony of Officer Chieffo and the relevant records of the events. On November 12, 1989, at approximately 2:00 a.m., Officer Chieffo, a fourteen-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, observed three vehicles speeding through the intersection of Lena and Coulter Streets in the City of Philadelphia. In response, Chieffo ceased his present activities and directly followed the three speeding automobiles. Officer Chieffo advised headquarters, via police radio, that he was in pursuit of three vehicles which were chasing each other at high speeds.
The pursuit continued south on Germantown Avenue proceeding approximately 2.2 miles through city streets. While travelling on Germantown Avenue, Chieffo observed a gun shot being fired from the second vehicle in the direction of the lead vehicle. Upon seeing and hearing the gun shot, Chieffo activated his emergency lights and siren, but the siren was not operational.
When the vehicles reached the intersection of Germantown and Hunting Park Avenues, Chieffo lost sight of one of the vehicles. The other two vehicles were soon two blocks ahead of Chieffo's vehicle so Chieffo shut off his dome lights and abandoned pursuit.
While Chieffo's police vehicle was decelerating, Chieffo observed one of the fleeing vehicles down the street proceed through the intersection of Broad Street and Roosevelt Boulevard, running a red light, and subsequently striking the vehicle operated by plaintiffs. The collision resulted in severe injuries to both Jones and his wife, Bridgett Jones, ultimately, causing her death.
Plaintiffs now seek a judgment in excess of $ 75,000 for each of the following counts charging that 1) the defendants willfully, deliberately, intentionally and maliciously violated the rights of plaintiffs, as secured by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution thereby violating 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983; 2) defendants' negligent, willful, wanton and gross conduct was the proximate cause of plaintiffs' injuries resulting in damage thereby supporting a claim for negligence; 3) defendants' negligent, willful, wanton and gross conduct caused plaintiffs to suffer severe emotional distress and extreme mental pain and suffering; 4) the actions of the defendants support a reward of punitive damages to serve as a deterrent to others who would commit similar acts in the future; 5) defendants' actions support a claim for wrongful death under the Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act, 42 Pa. C.S.A. 8301 et seq.; 6) defendants' actions caused plaintiff-decedent severe, unrelenting and excruciatingly painful injuries forming the basis of a claim under the Pennsylvania Survival Act, 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8302 et seq.; and that 7) defendants' actions formed a basis for punitive damages under the Pennsylvania Survival Act.
The analysis of a summary judgment motion in federal court is set forth in Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. Rule 56(c) states that:
the judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). "Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255 (citing 10A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2725, at 93-95 (1983)). In addition, a dispute over a material fact must be "genuine," i.e., the evidence must be such "that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party." Id.
Rule 56(e) does not allow the non-moving party to rely merely upon bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions. Fireman's Ins. Co. of Newark v. Du Fresne, 676 F.2d 965, 969 (3d Cir. 1982). In addition, the evidence of the non-moving party is to be considered as true, and justifiable inferences arising from the evidence are to be drawn in his or her favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. Yet if the evidence of the non-moving party is "merely colorable," or is "not significantly probative," summary judgment may be granted. Id. at 249-50. The non-moving party must offer specific facts contradicting the facts averred by the movant which indicate that there is a genuine issue for trial. Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 888, 111 L. Ed. 2d 695, 110 S. Ct. 3177 (1990).
I shall begin my analysis by addressing plaintiffs' constitutional claims. First, I shall determine whether defendants' acts amount to an unreasonable seizure, thereby depriving plaintiffs of their constitutional rights arising under the Fourth Amendment. Second, I shall consider whether defendants' acts deprived plaintiffs of their life, liberty, or property, thereby amounting to a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. In any section 1983 action, a plaintiff must establish that (1) the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law, and (2) that conduct deprived a person of his rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution of the United States. Parratt v. Taylor. 451 U.S. 527, 535, 68 L. Ed. 2d 420, 101 S. Ct. 1908 (1981), overruled on other grounds by, Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 88 L. Ed. 2d 662, 106 S. Ct. 662 (1986). As the first prong is clearly met, the following discussion addresses only the second.