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.

DEEMER v. COUNTY OF CHESTER

May 26, 2004.

PATRICIA DEEMER, Individually and as Representative and as Administrator of the Estate of Wade Evan Deemer
v.
COUNTY OF CHESTER (BOROUGH OF WEST CHESTER), et al



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JACOB HART, Magistrate Judge

ORDER AND OPINION

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.

 II. Legal Standards

 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 Cir. 1988).*fn1

  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. 2003).

  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 ...


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.