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.

RAY v. ABINGTON TOWNSHIP

May 25, 2004.

CANDACE RAY Plaintiff,
v.
ABINGTON TOWNSHIP, CHIEF OF POLICE WIEEIAM KELLY, POLICE OFFICER NISBET, POEICE OFFICER J. KING, POLICE OFFICER BRUCE HASLAM, OFFICER MATZ, OFFICER RAWTZ, OFFICER SCHOLL, OFFICER MANN AND ABINGTON MEMORIAE HOSPITAE AND MARK SCHNEE Defendants



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

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court are Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment, and Plaintiff's responses thereto. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motions are granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

  According to the Plaintiff, the following events led to Plaintiff's present complaint. In July 2000, Plaintiff Candace Ray called the police to her house to intervene in a domestic dispute. As a result of this call, the Abington police arrested Jon Grob, Plaintiff's fiance. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff went to Mr. Grob's arraignment hearing and attempted to stop the hearing by explaining that she was responsible for the alleged altercation, not Mr. Grob. The magistrate ordered Plaintiff to leave the courtroom, and Defendant Officer Nisbet of the Abington Police department escorted her out of the building, eventually convincing her to leave the premises in her car. Within a few minutes, Plaintiff returned, parking outside the courtroom window. Defendant Officer Nisbet went out to speak with Plaintiff and to place her under arrest. While speaking with Plaintiff, Defendant Officer Nisbet leaned his head and arms inside the passenger's side window of Plaintiff's car. When Plaintiff learned she was to be arrested, her car rolled forward, hitting Defendant Officer Nisbet. Defendant Officer Nisbet then dove inside the car, and attempted to stop Plaintiff from fleeing. Defendant Officer King soon joined Defendant Officer Nisbet in subduing Plaintiff. During the course of the struggle, Defendant Officer King sprayed Plaintiff with pepper spray. Defendant Officer Bruce Haslam allegedly instructed other officers responding to the scene via police radio. Throughout the time that the Defendant Police Officers were subduing her, Plaintiff was screaming and crying. This event caused Plaintiff to suffer a bipolar episode.

  Defendant Officer King and other officers placed Plaintiff under arrest and transported her in a police car to the Abington Police Station. Plaintiff requested she be taken to the hospital for treatment for the pepper spray still burning her skin. Instead, Plaintiff was placed in an open area, forced to strip in front of several male officers and various prisoners in nearby cells, and sprayed with a hose. During this time, Plaintiff cried and screamed, while the unidentified officers jeered and taunted her.*fn1 Afterward, Plaintiff was given a paper dress, and put in a cell. Six hours later, Plaintiff was taken to Abington Hospital.

  According to hospital records, while at Abington Hospital, Plaintiff became violent and was placed in four point restraints. She was then given 10 mg of intramuscular Haldol to bring her out of her bipolar episode. When she came out of this episode, Plaintiff saw Defendant Mark Schnee talking to police officers at the nurses' station. She heard him tell the police officers to "lock her [Plaintiff] up and throw away the key." She also observed Defendant Mark Schnee revealing Plaintiff's medical history to the police officers, by reviewing her medical records on the computer at the nurses' station and she heard Defendant Mark Schnee tell the police officers that Plaintiff was not currently taking her medication and refused to take her medication. Soon after Plaintiff observed this exchange, she was involuntarily committed to the Montgomery County Emergency Services Building 50.

 II. Standard of Review

  A motion for summary judgment will be granted where all of the evidence demonstrates "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A dispute about a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Since a grant of summary judgment will deny a party its chance in court, all inferences must be drawn in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. U.S. v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). The ultimate question in determining whether a motion for summary judgment should be granted is "whether reasonable minds may differ as to the verdict." Schoonejongen v. Curtiss-Wright Corp., 143 F.3d 120, 129 (3d Cir. 1998). "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

 III. Discussion

  a. Count I — Civil Rights Violations

  Plaintiff brought suit against the following Defendants: Chief of Police William Kelly, Police Officer S. Nisbet, Police Officer J. King, Police Officer B. Haslam, Police Officer Matz, Police Officer Rawtz, Police Officer Scholl, and Police Officer Mann (collectively referred to as "Defendant Police Officers"). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Police Officers intentionally used excessive force and failed to provide Plaintiff with medical care for her serious medical condition, thereby violating her Constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Despite naming all the Defendant Police Officers in her complaint, the deposition evidence provided by both parties identifies only Defendant Officers Haslam, Nisbet and King as participating in any activity that might involve excessive force.

  Defendant Officer Haslam is only implicated as directing, via radio, the police response involved with Plaintiff's arrest. A police officer may be held liable for a violation of a Plaintiff's constitutional rights not only when he or she personally participates in the violation, but also if he or she "directs others to so violate, or had knowledge of and acquiesced in his [or her] subordinates' violations." Sharrar v. Felsing, 128 F.3d 810, 821 (3d Cir. 1997). However, where the Plaintiff can not identify the alleged violators or where the Plaintiff cannot provide any evidence that superior officers knew and acquiesced to the subordinate officer's actions, those officers cannot be held liable. In this case, although Plaintiff cannot identify any of the perpetrators, Defendant Nisbet named Defendant Officers Matz, Scholl and King as well as himself as being in the cellblock area while Plaintiff was being hosed off.*fn2 Plaintiff has not provided evidence that any of the other named Defendant Police Officers participated in, or had knowledge of and acquiesced to the alleged excessive force incidents or any of the other incidents detailed in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. Therefore as to Defendant Officers Mann and Rawtz, Defendants' motion for Summary Judgment is granted on Count I. As to Chief of Police William Kelly, there is no evidence that he participated in any part of the arrest or detention of Plaintiff nor did Plaintiff provide any evidence that Defendant Chief of Police Kelly knew of and acquiesced to the level of force used in connection with her arrest and detention, therefore as to Chief Kelly, Defendants' Motion on Count I is granted. As to all other Defendants, Defendants' Motion on Count I is denied.

  b. Count II — Civil Rights Violation (Excessive Force)

  The second count of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint is against the Township of Abington for civil rights violations for repeatedly and knowingly failing to enforce the laws of the United States and allowing instead for Police Officers to employ excessive and illegal force. Under the United States Supreme Court holding in Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), a municipality may be held responsible for civil rights violations if the Plaintiff can prove that there was a longstanding custom or policy in place that had taken on the force of law, and that a municipality employee, acting in accordance with that policy, violated the civil rights of the Plaintiff. Monell, 436 U.S. at 691-95. A municipality cannot be held liable for merely employing persons who commit tortious acts. There must instead be a causal link between the tortious act and the municipality's custom or policy. Beck v. City of Pittsburgh, 89 F.3d 966, 972 (3d Cir. 1996). In this case, there are several practices alleged by the Plaintiff that if proven to be a custom of established and condoned by Abington Township, would subject the township to liability. Specifically, if the Township's policy condoned the excessive use of pepper spray or if the Township's custom was that ...


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.