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REGALBUTO v. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA

December 11, 1995

ELIZABETH REGALBUTO and LYNNE OLIVERI, INDIVIDUALLY IN HER OWN RIGHT and AS ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF SAMUEL R. REGALBUTO
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA; PHILADELPHIA POLICE DEPARTMENT; PHILADELPHIA FIRE DEPARTMENT; JOHN DOE NUMBER ONE, DIRECTOR OF DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, PHILADELPHIA COUNTY; JOHN DOE NUMBER TWO, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, DIVISION OF EMERGENCY DISPATCH, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, PHILADELPHIA COUNTY



The opinion of the court was delivered by: PADOVA

 I. INTRODUCTION

 This civil rights suit alleges that the City of Philadelphia's "911" service inadequately responded to calls for emergency aid made on behalf of decedent, Samuel Regalbuto (hereinafter "Decedent"). Plaintiffs, Decedent's wife and daughter, allege causes of action under 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983 (West 1994), the Pennsylvania Constitution, and state common law against: (1) the City of Philadelphia (hereinafter "the City"); (2) the Philadelphia Police and Fire Departments, which, Plaintiffs allege, implement and execute the 911 service; (3) "John Doe Number One," Director of the Department of Public Safety, Philadelphia County; and (4) "John Doe Number Two," Director of Communications in the Division of Emergency Dispatch Services for the Department of Public Safety, Philadelphia County.

 Currently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c), asserting that Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendants also move separately for the dismissal of the Philadelphia Police and Fire Departments. For the reasons discussed below, I will grant Defendants' motions.

 I. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS AND COMPLAINT

 Plaintiffs set forth the following factual allegations in their Complaint. On February 18, 1995 at about 8:40 PM, Decedent, who was attending a gathering at a Philadelphia residence, began having difficultly breathing and collapsed to the ground. An individual at the gathering promptly called "911" to request an ambulance. The 911 dispatcher told him that an ambulance would be sent immediately. In the twenty minutes that elapsed between this first call and the arrival of a fire engine and police car, two more calls were made to check on the ambulance's status; each time, the dispatcher assured the callers that an ambulance was en route.

 When the fire engine and police car arrived on the scene, these personnel did not enter the house until several minutes later, despite being informed that Decedent was inside and in need of assistance. Upon entering the house, these personnel administered an I.V. and used a defibrillator. However, the defibrillator did not function properly. Approximately five minutes after the arrival of the fire engine and police car, an ambulance arrived and the ambulance personnel entered the residence to assist Decedent. At that point, Decedent was in full cardiac and respiratory arrest. The ambulance personnel administered emergency aid and transported Decedent to Nazareth Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 9:35 PM.

 Plaintiffs advance two theories of liability under 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983. First, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants maintained certain policies, practices and/or customs in reckless disregard or with deliberate indifference to Decedent's Fourteenth Amendment right to life, property, and due process. Specifically, Defendants did not implement adequate systems and databases, procedures, and supervision to ensure that personnel quickly and adequately responded to emergency calls. Plaintiffs further allege that although Defendants knew of the 911 system's numerous deficiencies, they continued to misrepresent the service's efficacy, causing Philadelphia County residents to call 911 and rely on its services instead of seeking alternative emergency aid that was available to them.

 Second, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants breached their duty of care to Decedent and deprived him of his rights to substantive due process in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants knew that Decedent and those acting on his behalf would rely on Defendants' representations about 911 services, including the dispatcher's assurances that an ambulance would arrive soon, and this reliance would preclude Decedent from contacting other sources of emergency aid. By their actions and misrepresentations, Defendants created a "special relationship" with Decedent, depriving him of his ability to obtain alternative emergency aid and placing him in danger. This special relationship imposed an affirmative duty on Defendants to provide Decedent with prompt and effective medical assistance.

 Plaintiffs allege that these actions and misrepresentations also violated Decedent's right to life, property, and due process under the Pennsylvania Constitution. They seek compensatory damages, for medical, funeral, and estate expenses, lost earnings and benefits, and pain and suffering, damages for loss of companionship, punitive damages, and attorneys' fees.

 II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

 A motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) is assessed under the same standard as a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Nelson v. ARA Food Service, 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6673, No. Civ. A. 94-4542, 1995 WL 303990, at *6 n. 13 (E.D. Pa. May 18, 1995) (citing Constitution Bank v. DiMarco, 815 F. Supp. 154, 157 (E.D. Pa. 1993)). Therefore, in deciding a Rule 12(c) motion, a district court must view the facts and inferences to be drawn from the pleadings in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Janney Montgomery Scott, Inc. v. Shepard Niles, Inc., 11 F.3d 399, 406 (3d Cir. 1993) (citation omitted). Under Rule 12(c), judgment will only be granted if it is clearly established that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Institute for Scientific Information, Inc. v. Gordon and Breach, Science Publishers, Inc., 931 F.2d 1002, 1005 (3d Cir.) (citing Jablonski v. Pan American World Airways, 863 F.2d 289, 290-91 (3d Cir. 1988)), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 909, 112 S. Ct. 302, 116 L. Ed. 2d 245 (1991); see also Travelers Indemnity Co. v. Stedman, 895 F. Supp. 742, 745-46 (E.D. Pa. 1995) (noting that a court may not grant judgment on the pleadings unless it appears beyond doubt that plaintiffs can prove no set of facts in support of their claim which would entitle them to relief) (citation omitted).

 III. DISCUSSION

 A. Claims Against the Philadelphia Police and ...


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