Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

TURNER v. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA

September 29, 1998

MARCUS TURNER, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, CITY OF PHILADELPHIA HOUSING POLICE DEPARTMENT, PHILADELPHIA HOUSING AUTHORITY POLICE OFFICER ARIEL MORALES, Badge No. 654, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: KATZ

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

 Katz, J.

 September 29, 1998

 Factual Background

 In this action, plaintiff Marcus Turner alleges violations of his constitutional rights by the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) and one of its police officers. He claims that on February 13, 1996, he was standing on the sidewalk at 4811 Tackawanna Street, in Mill Creek Apartments, a PHA development, when defendant Ariel Morales, a PHA police officer, ran toward him. He then alleges that he proceeded into his home and was immediately followed by Morales, who tackled, handcuffed, and beat him. Plaintiff states that Morales searched his home, threatened his mother, forced him into a police car, and drove him to an unknown location next to I-95 and released him from the car. Based on these claims, plaintiff brought suit in federal court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 1985 and also stated claims for assault and battery under Pennsylvania law. The defendant City of Philadelphia has since been dismissed by stipulation. Defendants Philadelphia Housing Authority and Ariel Morales now move for summary judgment, arguing that there is no basis for municipal or official capacity immunity. For the following reasons, the motion will be granted.

 Discussion *fn1"

 Section 1983 Claims

 Turner's claims against the PHA must rest on the theories of municipal liability set forth in Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91, 694, 56 L. Ed. 2d 611, 98 S. Ct. 2018 (1978) and City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 380, 390-92, 103 L. Ed. 2d 412, 109 S. Ct. 1197 (1989). While Monell establishes that municipalities are "persons" subject to suit for section 1983 purposes, the resulting liability is not without limits. Unless the plaintiff can demonstrate the existence of an affirmative policy of the type at issue in Monell, the plaintiff must assert that the municipal defendants followed an unconstitutional custom; no § 1983 liability exists on a respondeat superior theory. See Harris, 489 U.S. at 392; Monell, 436 U.S. at 690-91; Baker v. Monroe Township, 50 F.3d 1186, 1191 (3d Cir. 1995), citing Harris, 489 U.S. at 385. The Third Circuit has articulated the difference between section 1983 liability based on policy and § 1983 liability based on custom as follows:

 
policy is made when a 'decisionmaker possessing final authority to establish municipal policy with respect to the action' issues an official proclamation, policy, or edict. A course of conduct is considered to be a 'custom' when, though not authorized by law, 'such practices . . . [are] so permanent and well settled' as to virtually constitute law.

 Andrews v. City of Philadelphia, 895 F.2d 1469, 1480 (3d Cir. 1990) (citations omitted); see also Beck v. City of Pittsburgh, 89 F.3d 966, 971 (3d Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 137 L. Ed. 2d 219, 117 S. Ct. 1086 (1997) (same). The existence of a custom or a policy must be established by evidence that the decisionmaker is responsible for the policy or acquiesced to the custom. See Andrews, 895 F.2d at 1480; Beck, 89 F.3d at 971; Fletcher v. O'Donnell, 867 F.2d 791, 793 (3d Cir. 1989). While a plaintiff does not have the burden of identifying a single individual who established a given policy, he or she must identify a particular practice that is "so permanent and well-settled as to have the force of law." Bielevicz v. Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845, 850 (3d Cir. 1990) (internal punctuation omitted).

 Even if a plaintiff claiming municipal liability under § 1983 can demonstrate the existence of such a custom or policy, he or she must also prove that "the municipal practice was the proximate cause of the injuries suffered," and in so doing establish a "plausible nexus" or an "affirmative link" between the policy/custom and the specific deprivation alleged. Bielevicz, 915 F.2d at 950 (citations omitted); see also Kneipp v. Tedder, 95 F.3d 1199, 1213 (3d Cir. 1996). While plaintiffs need not show that a given harm was the direct result of a formal decisionmaking process, a plaintiff must demonstrate that "policymakers were aware of similar unlawful conduct in the past, but failed to take precautions against future violations, and that this failure, at least in part, led to [the] injury." Bielevicz, 915 F.2d at 851.

 Finally, a plaintiff must present sufficient evidence to maintain § 1983 liability. Absent unusual circumstances, "proof of a single incident of unconstitutional activity is not sufficient to impose liability under Monell, unless proof of the incidents includes proof that it was caused by an existing, unconstitutional municipal policy, which policy can be attributed to a municipal policymaker . . . ." Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 823-24, 85 L. Ed. 2d 791, 105 S. Ct. 2427 (1985). *fn2"

 In this case, the plaintiff has demonstrated no evidence to indicate the existence of a policy or custom such as would suffice to establish municipal liability. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint simply alleges that the PHA had "de facto policies, practices and customs" that led to the assault in question. See Amended Compl. P 20. In particular, plaintiff cites "the failure to properly screen, supervise, discipline, transfer, counsel or otherwise control police officers engaged in the excessive and unconstitutional use of force," id. at P 21, and suggests that such failure amounts to "deliberate indifference." Id. In the Plaintiff's response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, he argues that he has met his burden of demonstrating a custom or policy by showing a "systematic pattern on the part of defendant Officer Morales in which it was confirmed that Officer Morales' personnel file contains several complaints of police brutality on the part of Officer Morales against citizens of this Commonwealth." Plaintiff's Reply to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. He also contends that Morales' deposition "further revealed that the defendant PHA had full knowledge of the several unconstitutional acts by Officer Morales and did nothing to properly supervise, screen, adequately train, discipline, or impose any type of reprimand Officer Morales." Id.

 The only proof offered by the plaintiff in response to the motion for summary judgment is a deposition of Officer Morales. The court has been provided with no other supporting evidence such as copies of complaints against Officer Morales or other PHA officers, depositions of PHA officials, personnel policies, or training policies. Indeed, the plaintiff does not identify any incident other than the one in which he was himself involved that would tend to show the existence of a custom within the PHA of acquiescing in ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.