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SCHORR v. BOROUGH OF LEMOYNE

February 10, 2003

KEITH I. SCHORR AND SUSAN SCHORR, IN THEIR OWN RIGHT AND AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ESTATE OF RYAN K. SCHORR, PLAINTIFFS
V.
BOROUGH OF LEMOYNE; BOROUGH OF WORMLEYSBURG; WEST SHORE REGIONAL POLICE DEPT.; HOWARD DOUGHERTY, CHIEF, WEST SHORE REGIONAL POLICE DEPT.; CUMBERLAND COUNTY; ROBERT GORIL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CUMBERLAND COUNTY MENTAL HEALTH/MENTAL RETARDATION DEPT.; HOLY SPIRIT HOSPITAL, AND WEST SHORE REGIONAL POLICE COMMISSION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kane, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Before this Court are motions to dismiss filed by (1) West Shore Regional Police Commission and Police Chief Howard Dougherty (Doc. No. 34), and (2) Cumberland County (Doc. No. 36); the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Mannion (Doc. No. 63); and Plaintiffs' objections thereto (Doc. No. 64). For the reasons discussed below, this Court will adopt the Report and Recommendation in part and sustain the Plaintiffs' objections.

I. Factual Background

This Court adopts the factual background as found by the Magistrate Judge as follows:

Plaintiffs' decedent, Ryan K. Schorr, ("Schorr"), suffered from bipolar disorder. Schorr's condition deteriorated shortly before November 18, 2000, and his roommate and family applied for his involuntary committal pursuant to § 302 of the Pennsylvania Mental Health Procedures Act. A crisis intervention worker employed by Holy Spirit Hospital took and evaluated the application, and caused an order for involuntary commitment to be issued. The worker then contacted the Cumberland County Control Unit and arranged for West Shore Regional Police Department officers to detain Schorr pursuant to the commitment order and related warrant.
Two officers went to Schorr's apartment and took him to Holy Spirit Hospital, where he was placed in a "high security" room in the emergency department to wait for an evaluation. When a crisis intervention worker entered the room, Schorr pushed past the worker and escaped from custody. Schorr's family called his apartment and, finding him there, called the police to report his whereabouts. Two officers were again dispatched to Schorr's apartment to take him back into custody and to Holy Spirit Hospital. A violent confrontation ensued and Schorr was shot and killed by one of the officers.

(Doc. No. 63 at 1-2.)

II. Scope of Review

Plaintiffs, Keith and Susan Schorr, filed this civil action against several Defendants as a result of the events surrounding the death of their son, Ryan Schorr. The remaining Defendants are West Shore Regional Police Commission ("Commission"), Howard Dougherty, Chief of West Shore Regional Police Department ("Dougherty"), Cumberland County, and Holy Spirit Hospital. The Commission and Dougherty moved to dismiss Counts I, V, VI, and VII of Plaintiffs' complaint; Cumberland County moved to dismiss Counts IV, V, VI, and VII of Plaintiffs' complaint. The Magistrate recommends denying the Commission and Dougherty's motion to dismiss Count I of the complaint and granting the motions to dismiss Counts IV, V, VI, and VII of the complaint against all remaining Defendants.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), "[a] judge of the court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. A judge of the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." Id. Plaintiffs object only to the dismissal of Count V of the amended complaint against the Commission. Defendants have not filed objections to the Report and Recommendation. Additionally, Plaintiffs have since filed, and this Court has granted, a motion to dismiss Counts VI and VII against all moving Defendants, Count IV against Cumberland County, and Count V against Dougherty and Cumberland County. This Court will therefore limit its review to those portions of the Magistrate's Report and Recommendation reviewing Count I as to the Commission and Dougherty and Count V as to the Commission.

III. Discussion

A. Plaintiffs' § 1983 Claim

Plaintiffs bring Count I of their complaint against the Commission and Dougherty pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging unconstitutional policies and procedures for dealing with mentally ill persons and unconstitutional failure to train police officers to peacefully deal with mentally ill persons. The Commission and Dougherty moved for dismissal of Count I of Plaintiffs' complaint, arguing that it fails to allege a deprivation of Schorr's constitutional rights, and characterizing it as a fourth amendment excessive force claim. However, Plaintiffs' claim is more properly characterized as a fourteenth amendment substantive due process claim.

Therefore, the Magistrate properly concluded that Plaintiffs have stated a § 1983 claim against the Commission and Dougherty. See City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 388 (1989) (holding that the inadequacy of police training may serve as the basis for § 1983 liability "where the failure to train amounts to deliberate indifference to the rights of persons with whom the police come into contact"); Fagan v. City of Vineland, 22 F.3d 1283 (3d Cir. 1994) (substantive due process case for failure to train arising out of police pursuit could be brought even where there was no allegation of constitutional violations ...


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