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SCHORR v. BOROUGH OF LEMOYNE

May 30, 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: Yvette Kane, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Before the Court is Defendant Holy Spirit Hospital's motion for summary judgment. The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

This case arises out of the death of Plaintiffs' son, Ryan Schorr. Schorr was afflicted with bipolar disorder and had been under treatment for his condition for several years. Because Schorr's condition was escalating, his roommate, Matthew Gaumer, after consulting with a crisis worker at Holy Spirit Hospital along with Schorr's mother, signed paperwork requesting an involuntary commitment of Schorr. A warrant was issued by the West Shore Regional Police pursuant to § 302 of the Pennsylvania Mental Health Procedures Act ("MHPA"), 50 P.S. § 7302. On November 18, 2002, two officers from the West Shore Regional Police, Officers Hart and Berresford, took Schorr into custody and transported him to the emergency department of Holy Spirit Hospital.

Schorr was locked into a seclusion room, where he became agitated and threatening. The on-duty physician, who was not a psychiatrist, examined Schorr briefly and signed the § 302 commitment. During the initial examination, a security guard was posted outside the door, but the guard left the area before a crisis intervention worker entered the room in order to read Schorr his rights. Schorr pushed past the worker and ran out of the hospital. Hospital personnel then notified the police department of Schorr's elopement.

After a phone call from Schorr's mother in which she directed the police to Schorr's home, Officers Hart and Berresford returned to Schorr's home. After knocking on the door and receiving no response, the officers entered through a back door that was partially open. Upstairs, they found and confronted Schorr in his bedroom. A violent struggle ensued, during which Schorr shot at Officer Berresford's left ring finger, and Officer Hart struck Schorr repeatedly with a baton. At some point in the struggle, Schorr fled the house and went to the police officers' car. The officers remained in Schorr's bedroom and called for back up. Schorr then returned to the bedroom wielding pots and pans. Officer Hart shot and killed Schorr.

On May 25, 2001, Schorr's parents, Susan and Keith Schorr, brought this action in their own right and as personal representatives of Schorr's estate against Holy Spirit Hospital, Cumberland County, West Shore Regional Police Commission ("Commission"), Chief of Police Howard Dougherty, and several other defendants that have since been dismissed. All remaining defendants filed motions for summary judgment.

II. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is proper when "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.Pro. 56. A factual dispute is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is genuine only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis which would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. at 249. The nonmoving party receives the benefit of all reasonable inferences. Sempier v. Johnson & Higgins, 45 F.3d 724, 727 (3d Cir. 1995).

Once the moving party has shown that there is an absence of evidence to support the claims of the non-moving party, the non-moving party may not simply sit back and rest on the allegations in the complaint. Instead, [it] must "go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). Summary judgment should be granted where a party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case and on which that party will bear the burden at trial." Id. at 322.

III. Discussion

The remaining claims against Holy Spirit are as follows: Count II, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Count III, a state law negligence and/or gross negligence claim; Count VI, brought pursuant to Pennsylvania's Survival Act, and Count VII, a wrongful death claim. Holy Spirit has moved for partial summary judgment, seeking to dismiss Counts II and III in their entirety and Count VII insofar as it seeks damages for loss of fillial consortium.

A. Section 1983 Claim

Holy Spirit argues that it is not a state actor and therefore cannot be liable to Plaintiffs for any alleged violations of constitutional ...


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