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ROBEY v. CHESTER COUNTY

September 12, 1996

MARGARET ROBEY, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CHESTER COUNTY, et al, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: KATZ

 AND NOW, this 12th day of September, 1996, upon consideration of defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, and the response thereto, it is hereby ORDERED that defendants' Motion is GRANTED and DENIED in part in Count I as follows: defendants' motion is GRANTED as to plaintiff's § 1986 claims and as to defendant Wardens Masters and Frame and defendant Snyder and DENIED as to defendants Martin, Chester County, and the Chester County Board of Prison Inspectors. Defendants' Motion is GRANTED as to the federal claim in Count IV for defendants Frame, Masters, and Snyder, and DENIED as to defendant Martin. Defendants Motion is GRANTED as to defendants Frame, Masters, Snyder, Chester County, and the Chester County Board of Prison Inspectors in Counts II and III and the state law claims in Count IV and DENIED as to defendant Martin in Counts II and III and the state law claims in Count IV.

 I. Facts

 Plaintiffs in this case are the mother and minor children of Norman E. Robey, Jr., who committed suicide while incarcerated in Chester County prison. Defendants in this case are Chester County, the Board of Prison Inspectors of Chester County, Warden John Masters, Warden Thomas Frame, Frank Snyder, a prison counselor, and Robyn Martin, a psychologist who treated the decedent.

 On or about January 1, 1994, the decedent Norman Robey, Jr., was arrested for homicide and placed in a holding cell in Marcus Hook Police Station, where he attempted suicide and was transferred to Crozer-Chester Medical Center for observation. Complaint PP 18, 20-21. He was then sent to Delaware County Prison, but officials at Delaware County Prison discovered that the brother of the decedent's alleged victim was a corrections officer at the institution, so he was transferred to Chester County Prison on January 5, 1994. Def. Chester County Mot. for Summ. Judg. Ex. A.

 Decedent was on a suicide watch at Chester County Prison from January 5, 1994 until January 10, 1994. Def. Martin Mot. for Summ. Judg. Ex. B. The suicide watch was ended under unclear circumstances, possibly by order of Robyn Martin. He then saw Robyn Martin, a psychologist with EMSA, a private corporation that contracted for all of the medical and mental health care at the prison, on January 20, 1994. Id. Robey complained of "bad nerves" and "head ackes". Id. He denied having any suicidal intent but did request more antidepressant medication. Id. Martin increased his medication and promised a regular medical checkup in two weeks. Id. This checkup did not occur. In mid-February 1994, Margaret Robey contacted defendant Snyder and asked him to see her son. Snyder said he would see her son as soon as he got a chance. Def. Chester County Mot. Ex. F. Decedent also sent slips to Snyder and requested to speak with him. Pl. Mot. Ex. B. Snyder may have spoken with him about these requests. Pl. Mot. Ex. C; Def. Chester County Mot. Ex. F. On February 26, 1994, at approximately 4:00 p.m., Decedent committed suicide by hanging himself with a bed sheet from a hook in his cell. Def. Chester County Mot. Ex. A (Grantz Aff.).

 Plaintiffs assert both federal and state claims. Count I asserts claims under 42 U.S.C § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 1986; Count II is a wrongful death action; Count III is a survival action; and Count IV is a claim for punitive damages. Defendants now move for summary judgment and argue: 1) defendants did not deprive decedent or plaintiffs of any statutory or constitutional rights; 2) defendants did not conspire to deprive plaintiffs of their constitutional rights; 3) a number of the individual defendants are entitled to qualified immunity from suit under both federal and Pennsylvania state law; 4) the defendants' actions did not rise to the level of deliberate indifference required to establish § 1983 liability; 5) the actions taken by individual defendants do not indicate a policy or practice on the part of Chester County that would result in liability under Monell v. Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611, 98 S. Ct. 2018 (1978); and 6) plaintiffs' claims for punitive damages cannot stand under § 1983 because the plaintiffs are not entitled to punitive damages against the municipal defendants or the individual defendants in their official capacities, nor can plaintiffs establish that the individual defendants knowingly and maliciously deprived the plaintiffs of their constitutional rights.

 II. Legal Standard

 Summary judgment is appropriate "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). The moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986).

 When ruling on a summary judgment motion, the court must construe the evidence and any reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in favor of the non-moving party. Tigg Corp. v. Dow Corning Corp., 822 F.2d 358, 361 (3d Cir. 1987); Baker v. Lukens Steel Corp., 793 F.2d 509, 511 (3d Cir. 1986). If the evidence presented by the parties conflicts, the court must accept as true the allegations of the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986).

 III. Discussion

 A. Plaintiffs' § 1986 claim

 Under 42 U.S.C. § 1986, plaintiffs must establish that the defendants had knowledge of a conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. § 1985, that the defendants had the power to prevent such a conspiracy, and that the defendants failed to do so Rogin v. Bensalem Township, 616 F.2d 680, 696 (3d Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 1029, 68 L. Ed. 2d 223, 101 S. Ct. 1737 (1981). A conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 is a prerequisite to a finding of liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1986. See Rogin v. Bensalem Township, 616 F.2d 680, 696 (3d Cir. 1980). Leaving aside the question of whether this claim would qualify as an actionable conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. § 1985, plaintiff does not allege any conspiracy nor does the record indicate any knowledge of a ...


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