Not what you're
looking for? Try an advanced search.
Buy This Entire Record For
GARCIA v. COUNTY OF BUCKS
March 27, 2001
FREDDIE GARCIA AND DOREEN GARCIA, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF THEIR MINOR CHILDREN
COUNTY OF BUCKS, PA., CHARLES H. MARTIN, COMMISSIONER, MICHAEL G. FITZPATRICK, COMMISSIONER, SANDRA A. MILLER, COMMISSIONER, LAWRENCE R. MICHAELS, SHERIFF, WILLIAM DALTON, CHIEF DEPUTY SHERIFF, G.J. GAITTENS, DEPUTY SHERIFF, OFFICER T. TALL AND SECOND JOHN DOE OFFICER.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jay C. Waldman, J.
Plaintiffs have asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and related
state tort claims against Bucks County, its Commissioners, its Sheriff
and several Deputy Sheriffs arising from the arrest of plaintiff Freddie
Garcia pursuant to a valid warrant for a "Freddie Garcia" and his brief
detention until a Deputy Sheriff learned that Mr. Garcia was not the
subject of the warrant. They seek $500,000 in compensatory damages and
$5,000,000 in punitive damages.*fn1
In Count I, plaintiff Freddie Garcia asserts § 1983 claims for
false arrest, excessive force, false imprisonment and deliberate
indifference to his medical condition against officers Tall and John Doe
based on purported violations of Mr. Garcia's First, Fourth, Fifth,
Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.*fn2 In Count II, he asserts
state tort claims of false arrest and false imprisonment against these
officers.*fn3 In Count III, he asserts a § 1983 claim against Bucks
County predicated variously on a failure to train or supervise its
officers and a policy or practice of permitting false arrests.*fn4
The basis of the claims by Doreen Garcia and the minor children is not
altogether clear. The only assertions in the complaint in this regard are
an allegation in the factual preamble that as a result of Mr. Garcia's
detention for two days, his wife and children suffered a loss of "care
and championship [sic]" and a request in the prayer for relief that they
receive damages for "pain and suffering."*fn5
Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim. Such dismissal is appropriate when it clearly appears that the
plaintiff can prove no set of facts to support the claim which would
entitle him or her to relief. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46
(1957); Robb v. Philadelphia, 733 F.2d 286, 290 (3d Cir. 1984). Such a
motion tests the legal sufficiency of a claim accepting the veracity of
the claimant's allegations. See Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co.,
906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990); Sturm v. Clark, 835 F.2d 1009, 1011 (3d
Cir. 1987). A claim may be dismissed when the facts alleged and the
reasonable inferences therefrom are legally insufficient to support the
relief sought. See Pennslyvania ex rel. Zimmerman v. PepsiCo., Inc.,
836 F.2d 173, 179 (3d Cir. 1988).
In their second amended complaint, plaintiffs allege the following.
Mr. Garcia was arrested on a valid warrant on March 1, 2000 by Bucks
County Deputy Sheriff Tall and another unknown "John Doe" Deputy
Sheriff.*fn6 In effecting the arrest, the officers grabbed Mr. Garcia's
coat and arms, and handcuffed him. Mr. Garcia maintained that he was not
the person sought in the warrant. He offered to show the officers a
social security card, a birth certificate and other unspecified
documentation to confirm his identity. Mr. Garcia's address and birth
date were different than those of the subject of the warrant.*fn7 The
officers ultimately looked at Mr. Garcia's identification but told him he
would have to "tell it to the judge."
Upon his detention, Mr. Garcia was subject to a strip search and his
was confiscated by unidentified persons associated with the
Sheriff's office.*fn8 Although Mr. Garcia explained that the medication
was necessary to treat his diabetes, he was not provided with diabetic
medication or a suitable diet. Apparently jail authorities were alerted
as a nurse took two readings of Mr. Garcia's blood sugar level during the
two days he was detained. The level was "high" and later "very high."
On March 2, 2000, Deputy Sheriff Gaittens confirmed that the Freddie
Garcia who was the subject of the warrant and plaintiff had different
dates of birth. The Officer issued a letter on that date directing that
Mr. Garcia not be held.
The Fifth Amendment, of course, does not apply to state action. See
Bartkus v. Illinois, 359 U.S. 121, 158-59 (1959); Nguyen v. United States
Catholic Conference, 719 F.2d 52, 54 (3d Cir. 1983); Huffaker v. Bucks
County Dist. Attorney's Office, 758 F. Supp. 287, 290 (E.D.Pa. 1991).
Thus, defendants are entitled to dismissal of any claim predicated on the
A claim of excessive force in the context of an arrest is governed by
the Fourth Amendment. A plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to show
that he was seized with an exercise of force which was objectively
unreasonable. See Brower v. County of Inyo, 489 U.S. 593, 599 (1989);
Abraham v. Raso, 183 F.3d 279, 288 (3d Cir. 1999); Mayard v. Hopwood,
105 F.3d 1226, 1227-28 (8th Cir. 1997). Mr. Garcia has not done so. The
restraint alleged by Mr. Garcia was minimal and routine. It did not
result in even de minimus injury.
To maintain a § 1983 false arrest claim, a plaintiff must show that
the arresting officer lacked probable cause to make the arrest. See
Dowling v. City of Philadelphia, 855 F.2d 136, 141 (3d Cir. 1988). See
also Smith v. Borough of Pottstown, 1997 WL 381778, *11 (E.D.Pa. June
30, 1997) (plaintiff cannot maintain a § 1983 false arrest claim
where police officers had probable cause to arrest him). When an officer
does make an arrest without probable cause, the arrestee may also assert
§ 1983 false imprisonment claim based on any
subsequent detention resulting from that arrest.
Groman v. City of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 636 (3d
Cir. 1995). A § 1983 false imprisonment claim
based on an arrest without probable cause is grounded
in the Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable
Probable cause exists when the totality of facts and circumstances are
sufficient to warrant an ordinary prudent officer to believe that the
party charged has committed an offense. See Sharrar v. Felsing,
128 F.3d 810, 817-18 (3d Cir. 1997). Police officers acting pursuant to a
facially valid warrant generally are deemed to have probable cause to
arrest. See Kis v. County of Schuykill, 866 F. Supp. 1462, 1469 (E.D.Pa.
1994). An officer making an arrest pursuant to such a warrant generally
is not required to investigate the arrestee's claim of innocence or
mistaken identity. See Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 145-46 (1979);
Kennell v. Gates, 215 F.3d 825 828 (8th Cir. 2000) (even unreasonable
refusal to investigate claim of mistaken identity by person arrested and
detained for six days pursuant to facially valid warrant does not amount
to constitutional violation). ...