The opinion of the court was delivered by: JACOB HART, Magistrate Judge
Patricia Deemer ("Mrs. Deemer") has brought this action,
individually, and as a representative of the estate of her former
husband, Wade Evan Deemer. Defendants, the County of Chester (Borough of
West Chester) ("West Chester") and Scott Bohn, the West Chester Borough
Chief of Police, have moved to dismiss the case on the pleadings under
Fed.R.Civ.Pr. 12(c). For the reasons set forth below, I will grant
their motion in part and deny it in part.
I. Factual and Procedural Background
On August 24, 2002, Wade Evan Deemer hanged himself while detained in
the holding cell of the West Chester County Police Station. Complaint at
¶ 23. In Count I, Mrs. Deemer has alleged that Defendants violated
Mr. Deemer's constitutional rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983
through their "policies and procedures, and through their failure to
train police personnel concerning the safety and psychological needs of
incarcerated persons in their custody." Complaint at ¶ 26. In the
second and third counts of her complaint, Mrs. Deemer alleges "Special
Relationship" and "State Created Danger," as separate theories for
recovery under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. She has also alleged pendent claims
under state law. In their motion to dismiss, Defendants maintain that Mrs. Deemer's
claims all fail at the pleading stage, primarily because she has not
alleged that any individual who came into contact with Mr. Deemer knew
that he was likely to commit suicide.
A. Dismissal on the Pleadings
The Honorable R. Barclay Surrick recently summarized the law regarding
dismissal on the pleadings under Fed.R.Civ.Pr. 12(c):
In reviewing a motion pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.Pr.
12(c) we apply the same standard used to review a
motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). Constitution Bank v. DiMarco,
815 F. Supp. 1154, 147 (E.D. Pa. 1993). We may not
grant a judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c)
"unless the movant clearly establishes that no
material issue of fact remains to be resolved and
that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law." Corestates Bank. N.A. v. Huls Am.,
Inc., 176 F.3d 187, 193 (3d Cir. 1999)
(quoting Kruzits v. Okuma Macn. Tool.
Inc., 40 F.3d 52, 54 (3d Cir. 1994)). We must
"view the facts presented in the pleadings and the
inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party." Jablonski
v. Pan Am. World Airways. Inc., 863 F.2d 289,
290 (3d Cir. 1988) (quoting Society Hill
Civil Association v. Harris, 632 F.2d 1045,
1054 (3d Cir. 1980)). Of course, to survive a
motion for judgment on the pleadings, "the
plaintiff must set forth facts, and not mere
conclusions, that state a claim as a matter of
law." Allstate Transportation Co., Inc. v.
SEPTA, C.A. No. 97-1482, 1998 WL 67550 at *1
(E.D. Pa. Feb. 13, 1998).
Nesmith v. Independence Blue Cross, Civ. A. No. 02-2894,
2004 WL 253524 at *3 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 10, 2004).
B. Theories of Municipal Liability Under § 1983
As to Count I, the plaintiff in a prisoner suicide case must show that
(1) the detainee had a particular vulnerability to suicide; (2) the
custodial officer or officers knew of that vulnerability; (3) the
officers acted with reckless indifference to the detainee's
vulnerability. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825. 837-838 (1994):
Colburn v. Upper Darby Township ("Colburn IT"), 946 F.2d 1017, 1023 (3d Cir. 1990); Colburn v. Upper
Darby Township, ("Colburn I"), 838 F.2d 663, 668-69 (3d
Liability has also been imposed upon custodial institutions with regard
to the harm caused to inmates by third parties, or by the inmate himself,
on the basis that the custodial relationship gives rise to a "special
relationship" creating an affirmative duty on the part of the institution
to protect the detainee. Morse v. Lower Merion School District,
132 F.3d 902, 907 (3d Cir. 1997); Commonwealth Bank & Trust Co.,
N.A. v. Russell, 823 F.2d 12, 16 (3d Cir. 1987).
Finally, Count III asserts a claim under the theory of "state-created
danger", whereby a state actor can be held liable for harm caused by a
third party to the plaintiff where:
(1) [T]he harm ultimately caused was foreseeable
and fairly direct; (2) the state actor acted in
willful disregard for the safety of the plaintiff;
(3) there existed some relationship between the
state and the plaintiff; and (4) the state actors
used their authority to create an opportunity that
otherwise would not have existed for the third
party's crime to occur.
Schieber v. City of Philadelphia, 320 F.3d 409
, 417 (3d Cir.
Despite the phrasing in Schieber, it is clear that a
third-party is not necessary, since the state-created danger theory was
originally applied in a case where police detained and then released an
obviously intoxicated woman, who froze to death on her way home.
Kneipp v. Tedder, 95 F.3d 1199 (3d Cir. 1996). C. Individual Liability
An individual can be held liable under § 1983 for civil rights
violations only where is it shown that he personally performed, directed,
or knowingly participated in an illegal act. Rode v.
Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988). In
Rode, the plaintiff alleged that Pennsylvania's Governor and
Attorney General had the responsibility for supervising the people who
had personal contact with her, and that, therefore, they could be held
liable for failing to prevent those people from committing allegedly
discriminatory acts. Id. The Court of Appeals for the Third
Circuit found that this was insufficient to create personal liability
on the part of the Governor or the Attorney General, and dismissed both
of them as defendants.
In an older case, but one which is even closer to the facts here, a
plaintiff who was injured by a fellow inmate alleged in his complaint
that the Commissioner of Corrections and the Superintendent of the
correctional facility breached a duty to him for (among other things)
failing to provide adequate training to the guards for the protection of
inmates. Curtis v. Everette, 489 F.2d 516, 520-521 (3d Cir.
1973). The plaintiff specifically wrote in his complaint: "[T]he
allegations are ...