16, 1994. On February 26, 1994, Mr. Robey hung himself from a hook on his cell. Reasonable minds could conclude that the treating psychologist knew of decedent's suicidal behavior prior to the suicide watch and that she ordered the watch discontinued in a manner that was deliberately indifferent to a serious suicidal threat.
Reasonable jurors could also find that Martin was deliberately indifferent to the serious suicidal problems of decedent when, on January 12, 1994, two days after the suicide watch was removed and over a month before his suicide, she received his medical report form complaining of "bad nerves" and other symptoms and then brushed off his cry for help on January 20, 1994 with a promised further regular medical check in two weeks which never took place. Def. Martin Mot. Ex. B.
3. Liability of Defendants Chester County and the Board of Prison Inspectors of Chester County
Municipal defendants such as Chester County and the Board of Prison Inspectors of Chester County can be held liable under § 1983 only if the plaintiff can establish a policy or custom on the part of the municipality; there is no federal liability on a respondeat superior theory. Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91, 694, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611, 98 S. Ct. 2018 (1978). Plaintiffs have claimed, through an expert report, that Chester County Prison has not followed the minimal practice in the field for personal observation of inmates and that this evidences an unconstitutional policy or practice on the part of Chester County. Pl. Mot. Ex. D, see also Pl. Mot. Ex. E.
Proof of the existence of a policy or custom is not enough to establish § 1983 liability. Bielevicz v. Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845, 850 (3d Cir. 1990). The plaintiff must also show that an official who has the power to make policy is responsible for the affirmative proclamation of a policy or acquiescence is a well-settled custom, and the plaintiff must also demonstrate a causal link between the policy at issue and the deprivation of constitutional rights alleged. Id. Here, plaintiff has produced enough facts of record to create a question of material fact with regard to the policy it alleges and the requisite causation required to sustain that claim.
5. Punitive damages under § 1983
A municipality is immune from punitive damages under § 1983. Newport v. Fact Concerts, Inc., 453 U.S. 247, 271, 69 L. Ed. 2d 616, 101 S. Ct. 2748 (1981). As for the individual defendants, they can be held liable in their individual capacities for punitive damages if the individual defendants' conduct can be shown "to be motivated by evil motive or intent, or when it involves reckless or callous indifference to the federally protected rights of others." Smith v. Wade, 461 U.S. 30, 56, 75 L. Ed. 2d 632, 103 S. Ct. 1625 (1983). There is no evidence of record that indicates evil motive or intent on the part of the individual defendants Frame, Masters, Snyder, and Martin nor have plaintiffs demonstrated an issue of reckless or callous indifference on the part of the individual defendants involved, aside from Defendant Martin. As a result, this claim must fail as to defendants Frame, Masters, and Snyder, and plaintiffs may pursue the claim as to defendant Martin.
C. Plaintiffs' State Law Claims
1. Defendants Chester County and the Board of Prison Inspectors of Chester County
Defendants Chester County and the Board of Prison Inspectors of Chester County also raise the defense of sovereign immunity to plaintiffs' state law claims. The Pennsylvania Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act, 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8541 et seq. (1982 & Supp. 1995) controls the question of immunity over the state law claims. In order for plaintiffs' claims against Chester County and the Board of Prison Inspectors to be viable under the Act, plaintiffs' claim must meet two conditions: the damages must be those which would be recoverable at common law, and the injury must be caused by the negligence of the local agency or its employee while acting within the scope of his or her employment. 42 Pa. C.S.A § 8542(a)(1-2). In addition, plaintiffs' claim must also fall within one of the eight exceptions listed in § 8542 of the Act: vehicle liability; care, custody, or control of personal property; real property; trees, traffic controls and street lighting; utility services facilities; street and sidewalk conditions; and care, custody, and control of animals. 42 Pa. C.S.A § 8542(b); see also Simmons v. Township of Moon, 144 Pa. Commw. 198, 601 A.2d 425 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1991). Moreover, the exceptions set forth in § 8542 should be narrowly construed. Schwartz v. County of Montgomery, 843 F. Supp. 962, 973-74 (E.D. Pa. 1994), aff'd 37 F.3d 1488 (3d Cir. 1994). As a result, although the record could establish that plaintiffs' damages were caused by defendants' negligence, these acts do not fall within the exceptions set out in § 8542, and the municipal defendants are entitled to immunity under the state law claims.
2. Defendants Frame, Masters, and Snyder
As for the individual defendants Frame, Masters, and Snyder, the court in its discretion dismisses the state law claims against them in Counts II, III, and IV without prejudice for plaintiffs to pursue in state court.
3. Defendant Martin
The court will exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims in Counts II, III, and IV against defendant Martin.
BY THE COURT:
MARVIN KATZ, J.
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