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.

BORNSTAD v. HONEY BROOK TOWNSHIP

May 26, 2004.

KENNETH T. BORNSTAD, Administrator of the Estate of Keith B. Bornstad, deceased,
v.
HONEY BROOK TOWNSHIP, and HONEY BROOK TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPARTMENT; and WEST BRANDYWINE TOWNSHIP; and BRANDYWINE TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPART, and WIEEIAM BAXTER c/o HONEY BROOK TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPT.; and MICHAEE SASSO c/o HONEY BROOK TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPART.; JOHN COEDREN c/o WEST BRANDYWINE TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPT. and DENISE NOKE c/o WEST BRANDYWINE TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPT.; and DANIEE SHAPPELL c/o WEST BRANDYWINE TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHARD B. SURRICK, District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Presently before the Court is the Motion Of Defendants Honey Brook Township, Honey Brook Township Police Department, William Baxter and Michael Sasso To Dismiss Portions Of Plaintiffs Amended Complaint Pursuant To Federal Rule Of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. No. 16.) For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

  Plaintiff filed the Complaint on June 26, 2003. (Doc. No. 1.) On July 22, 2003, Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint. (Doc. Nos. 5, 6.) Defendants' motions were denied without prejudice and Plaintiff was granted leave to amend the Complaint. (Doc. No. 14.) Plaintiff filed the Amended Complaint on December 10, 2003. (Doc. No. 15.) On December 22, 2003, several of the Defendants moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint. (Doc. No. 16.) The remaining Defendants answered the Amended Complaint on February 20, 2004. (Doc. No. 18.)

  In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he is the father of decedent, Keith Bryant Bornstad ("Decedent"). (Am. Compl. ¶ 1.) Defendants are Honey Brook Township, Honey Brook Township Police Department, West Brandywine Township, West Brandywine Township Police Department, William Baxter, Michael Sasso, Sgt. John Coldren, Denise Noke and Daniel Shappell. (Id. ¶¶ 3-11.) Baxter and Sasso are police officers with the Honey Brook Township Police Department. (Id. ¶¶ 3-4.) Coldren, Noke, and Shappell are police officers with the West Brandywine Township Police Department. (Id. ¶¶ 7-9.) The moving Defendants (hereinafter, "Defendants") are Honey Brook Township, Honey Brook Township Police Department, Baxter, and Sasso.

  Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant police officers arrested Decedent at his home on June 6, 2002. (Id. ¶ 17.) During the course of that arrest, the Defendant police officers, while acting within the course and scope of their employment, assaulted and battered Decedent, and used unreasonable, unnecessary, and excessive force and restraint on Decedent. (Id. ¶¶ 18-19.) Specifically, the Defendant police officers used a chemical spray, namely pepper spray, OC spray, and/or mace, in an excessive and improper manner on Decedent; used mechanical restraints, namely handcuffs and leg ties, in an excessive and improper manner; ignored Decedent's complaints of restricted and impeded ability to breathe; ignored and/or failed to recognize Decedent's grunting and flailing attempts to breathe; failed to properly call for timely and adequate backup; did not properly attempt to render proper medical care to Decedent; and employed restraint techniques and holds that caused Decedent to have difficulty breathing, which when coupled with the excessive application of pepper spray, caused compression asphyxia leading to Decedent's death. (Id. ¶¶ 21-27.) Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant police officers' conduct was unjustified, outrageous, callous, and exhibited a deliberate indifference to Decedent's rights and well-being. (Id. ¶ 29.) Plaintiff also alleges that Decedent was of mixed racial origin, and had a dark complexion similar to persons of Hispanic background. (Id. ¶ 14.) According to Plaintiff, the Defendant police officers' conduct was willful and/or intentional, and motivated by race or other class-based discriminatory animus. (Id. ¶¶ 30-31.)

  Plaintiff's federal claims arise under the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 1985 and 1988. Plaintiff also asserts state claims for wrongful death and survival under 42 PA. CONS. STAT. §§ 8301 and 8302, 20 PA. CONS. STAT. §§ 3371 and 3373, and PA. R. CIV. P. 2202 and 213. Plaintiff seeks damages on behalf of Decedent and himself, as well as his attorney's fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b).

 II. LEGAL STANDARD

  A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim will be granted if it appears to a certainty that no relief could be granted under any set of facts which could be proved. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984). When considering a motion to dismiss, we must "accept as true the facts alleged in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them," Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990), but we need not assume the truth of legal conclusions, Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). The defendant bears the burden of persuading the Court that no claim has been stated. Gould Elecs., Inc. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).

 III. ANALYSIS*fn1

  A. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Federal Claims Against Honey Brook Township Police Department

  Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's federal claims against Honey Brook Township Police Department on the grounds that police departments cannot be sued in conjunction with municipalities. It is well established that in § 1983 actions, police departments cannot be sued alongside municipalities. This is because the police department is merely an administrative arm of the local municipality, and not a separate legal entity. See, e.g., DeBellis v. Kulp, 166 F. Supp.2d 255, 264 (E.D. Pa. 2001) (collecting cases); see also Bonenberger v. Plymouth Township, 132 F.3d 20, 25 n.4 (3d Cir. 1997) ("[A] municipality and its police department [are] a single entity for purposes of section 1983 liability.") (citing Colburn v. Upper Darby Township, 838 F.2d 663, 671 n.7(3d Cir. 1988)).

  Plaintiff does not dispute this general principal, but argues that he is entitled to brief discovery to determine whether Honey Brook Township Police Department is merely an administrative arm of Honey Brook Township, or a separate legal entity. Plaintiff argues that while courts usually dismiss § 1983 claims against police departments when they are sued in conjunction with municipalities, they generally do so in response to motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff agrees that if discovery reveals that the Defendant police departments are merely the administrative arms of the Defendant townships, he will dismiss his claims against the police departments.

  There is no allegation in the Amended Complaint that the Defendant townships and police departments are separate legal entities. Absent such an allegation, we will not permit Plaintiff to maintain claims against both entities. In § 1983 cases, when there is no allegation that the defendant police department and township are separate legal entities, our courts dismiss the claims against the police departments. See, e.g., Mitros v. Cooke, 170 F. Supp.2d 504, 507 (E.D. Pa. 2001); Setchko v. Township of Lower Southampton, No. 00-3659, 2001 WL 229625, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 8, 2001); Smith v. City of Phila., No. 98-cv-3338, 1998 WL 966025, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 10, 1998). Accordingly, Plaintiff's federal claims against the Defendant police departments are dismissed.*fn2 We will, however, grant Plaintiff leave to amend the Complaint if Plaintiff deems it ...


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.