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). See also Masters v. Crouch,
872 F.2d 1248,
1252-53 (6th Cir. 1989); Criss v. City of Kent, 867 F.2d 259, 263 (6th
Cir. 1988); Thompson v. Olson, 798 F.2d 552, 556 (1st Cir. 1986), cert.
denied, 480 U.S. 908 (1987).*fn9
This does not mean, of course, that an officer may arrest an individual
whom he knows it not the subject of the warrant or indefinitely detain an
arrestee without attempting to resolve an apparent issue of identity.
See Kennell, 215 F.3d at 829-30 (distinguishing officer with apparent
knowledge that plaintiff was detained mistakenly from those who merely
failed to investigate her claim of mistaken identity); Gray v. Cuyahoga
County Sheriff's Dep't., 150 F.3d 579, 582-83 (6th Cir. 1998) (detention
of plaintiff for forty days after receipt of photograph of subject of
warrant that "bore virtually no resemblance" to plaintiff found
actionable). There is no allegation, however, that either Deputy Tall or
Doe knew they were arresting the wrong person or that Mr. Garcia was
inordinately detained after the mistake was verified.
Mr. Garcia alleges that he protested he was not the subject of the
warrant, and offered to show the officers a social security card and
birth certificate to substantiate his claim. An arresting officer does
not, of course, have to accept at face value an arrestee's claim of
innocence or mistaken identity. While the Freddie Garcia named in the
warrant was younger than Mr. Garcia and presumably had a different social
security number, there is no factual allegation that the Sheriff's office
knew the subject's date of birth, social security number or other
identifying information on March 1, 2000. What does appear from the
complaint is that by the following day Deputy Sheriff Gaittens had
verified that the Freddie Garcia named in the warrant and Mr. Garcia had
different dates of birth, and authored a written communication to effect
Mr. Garcia's release. The only logical inference is that between March
1st and March 2nd the Sheriff's office did act to ascertain and rectify
the mistake in identity.*fn10
Although the complaint refers to the First Amendment, the facts alleged
do not remotely implicate Mr. Garcia's First Amendment rights.
As to Mr. Garcia's Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference
to his medical condition, it is the Fourteenth and not the Eighth
Amendment which applies to pretrial detainees. See Bell v. Wolfish,
441 U.S. 520, 535 n. 16 (1979); Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 671 n.
40 (1977). Nevertheless, the court will construe the claim as one for
deliberate indifference under the Fourteenth Amendment.
The same deliberate indifference standard is applied to Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendment prison medical claims. See Reynolds v. Wagner,
128 F.3d 166, 173 (3d Cir. 1997). Thus, to maintain such a claim, the
plaintiff must show that a failure to provide medical care amounted to
indifference to a serious medical condition. See Groman v.
Township of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 637 (3d Cir. 1995).
The court will assume that Mr. Garcia's diabetes was a serious medical
condition. See Rouse v. Plantier, 182 F.3d 192, 198-99 (3d Cir. 1999)
(recognizing that some, although not all, insulin-dependent diabetics
have a serious medical condition and concluding that persistent failure
to monitor their blood sugar levels could amount to deliberate
indifference).*fn11 Plaintiffs, however, allege no facts which show that
any defendant was deliberately indifferent to Mr. Garcia's medical needs
after his detention. A nurse was assigned to monitor Mr. Garcia's
blood-sugar level. Even assuming that the point had been reached where
medication or other treatment was required, there is no factual
allegation from which it reasonably appears that anyone other than the
nurse would have been deliberately indifferent.*fn12
In the § 1983 claim against Bucks County in Count III, plaintiffs
assert that the County has a policy or custom of tolerating police
misconduct, that the County has a pattern or practice of falsely
arresting persons and that the County inadequately trains and supervises
its police officers.
There is no respondeat superior liability under § 1983. See Rizzo
v. Haines, 423 U.S. 362, 370-71 (1976); Andrews v. Philadelphia,
895 F.2d 1469, 1478 (3d Cir. 1990). To be liable for a constitutional
tort, a superior officer must personally participate or knowingly
acquiesce in the offending conduct of a subordinate. Id. A municipality
is liable for a constitutional tort only "when execution of a
government's policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those
whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy,
inflicts the injury" complained of. Robinson v. City of Pittsburgh,
120 F.3d 1286, 1295 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting Monell v. Dept. of Social
Services, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978)).
"Policy" is made when a decisionmaker with final authority to establish
municipal policy with respect to the action in question issues an
official proclamation, policy or edict. An action by a municipal official
may constitute a "policy" if he has final discretionary authority to act
with regard to the subject matter in question and deliberately chooses a
particular course of action from among various alternatives. See Bello v.
Walker, 840 F.2d 1124, 1129-30 (3d Cir. 1988). A "custom" is a course of
conduct which, although not formally authorized by law, reflects
practices of state officials that are so permanent and well settled as to
virtually constitute law. In either case, it is incumbent upon a
plaintiff to show that a final policymaker is responsible for the policy
or custom at issue. See Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469,
481-82 (1986); Andrews, 895 F.2d at 1480. A municipal official is not a
final policymaker if his decisions are subject to review and revision.
See Morro v. City of Birmingham,
117 F.3d 508, 510 (11th Cir. 1997)
cert. denied, 118 S.Ct. 1299 (1998).
A municipality may be liable under § 1983 for a failure to train
subordinate officers only where such failure reflects a policy of
deliberate indifference to the constitutional rights of citizens. See
City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 390-91 (1989); Stoneking v.
Bradford Area School Dist., 882 F.2d 720, 725 (3d Cir. 1989), cert.
denied, 493 U.S. 1044 (1990). The same standard applies to claims of
inadequate supervision. See Groman, 47 F.3d at 637. The standard has been
characterized as a "difficult" one. See Reitz v. County of Bucks,
125 F.3d 139, 145 (3d Cir. 1997).
To maintain such a claim, a plaintiff must show that a responsible
municipal policymaker had contemporaneous knowledge of the offending
occurrence or knowledge of a pattern of prior incidents of similar
violations of constitutional rights and failed to take adequate measures
to ensure the particular right in question or otherwise communicated a
message of approval to the offending subordinates. See City of Canton,
489 U.S. at 390; Montgomery v. DeSimone, 159 F.3d 120, 127 (3d Cir.
1998); Simmons v. City of Philadelphia, 947 F.2d 1042, 1059-60 (3d Cir.
1991), cert. denied, 503 U.S. 985 (1992).
A need for training or other corrective action to avoid imminent
deprivations of a constitutional right must be so apparent that any
reasonable policymaker or supervisor would have taken appropriate
preventive measures. See Jones, 787 F.2d at 205; Fulkerson v. City of
Lancaster, 801 F. Supp. 1476, 1483 (E.D.Pa. 1992), aff'd, 993 F.2d 876
(3d Cir. 1993). It is not sufficient merely to show that a particular
officer acted improperly or that better training would have enabled an
officer to avoid the particular conduct causing injury. See Simmons, 947
F.2d at 1060. Any failure to train or supervise adequately, of course,
must also cause the violation about which the plaintiff complains. Id. at
A plaintiff must show that the cause of his harm was a constitutional
violation and that the municipal defendant was responsible for this
violation. Collins v. City of Harker Heights, Tex., 503 U.S. 115, 120
(1992). As Mr. Garcia's mistaken arrest, handcuffing and brief detention
did not violate the constitution, it follows that no defendant is
responsible for causing a constitutional violation. Moreover, no facts
are alleged to support the conclusion that there is "a pattern or
practice of the County of falsely arresting people."*fn13
In three attempts, plaintiffs have failed to plead cognizable
Defendants' motion will be granted. Because it is conceivable that
a cognizable claim might yet be pled consistent with Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(b),
the dismissal will be without prejudice. An appropriate order will be
AND NOW, this day of March, 2001, upon consideration of defendants'
Motion to Dismiss (Doc. #6) and plaintiffs' response thereto, consistent
with the accompanying memorandum, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that said Motion
is GRANTED and plaintiff's second amended complaint is DISMISSED, without
prejudice to replead within twenty days to assert any cognizable claim
which may be pled consistent with the strictures of Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(b);
and, IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiffs' Motion to Dismiss Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss (Doc. #9) is DENIED.