United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
July 21, 2004.
MARSHA CRAWFORD, Plaintiff,
JEFFREY A. BEARD, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: CLARENCE NEWCOMER, Senior District Judge
ORDER and REASONING
AND NOW, this day of July, 2004, upon consideration of
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 3), Plaintiff's response
(Doc. 5), and Defendants' reply (Doc. 6), it is hereby ORDERED
that Defendants' Motion is DENIED in part and GRANTED in part.
Count III of Plaintiff's Complaint is DISMISSED with PREJUDICE,
and Count IV, as against Defendants Beard, Erhard, Vaughn, Owens,
and Womack, is DISMISSED with PREJUDICE. Additionally, Plaintiff
must file an amended complaint within ten (10) days of the date
of this Order, eliminating any reference to the Fourth Amendment
of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Sections 8 and 9 of the
This case involves an attack on Plaintiff, a nurse employed by
the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, while she was
examining an inmate at Graterford prison. Plaintiff brings this
suit against several prison guards and their supervisors under
42 U.S.C. § 1983. She claims violations of the Fourth Amendment and
the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Sections 8 and 9 of the
Pennsylvania Constitution, and state tort law.
In Count I of Plaintiff's Complaint, she alleges a
state-created danger theory of liability under the Due Process
Clause of the U.S. Constitution. State-created danger claims
derive from a state's affirmative duty to protect individuals
from harm by third persons when the state has created or
increased the risk of harm. Kneipp v. Tedder, 95 F.3d 1199,
1207 (3d Cir. 1996). A state-created danger claim requires the
following five elements: 1) the state actors' conduct must shock
the conscience; 2) the harm caused must be foreseeable; 3) the
state actors must have acted in willful disregard of Plaintiff's
rights; 4) there must be some relationship between Plaintiff and
the state; and 5) the state actors must have used their authority
to create an opportunity that otherwise would not have existed
for the third party's crime to occur. See Kneipp, 95 F.3d at
1208; Schieber v. City of Philadelphia, 320 F.3d 409, 417 (3d
In Plaintiff's Complaint, she alleges conduct that satisfies
the elements of a state-created danger claim. First, by asserting
that the inmate who attacked her was known to be violent and was
classified by the prison as a high security level inmate,
Plaintiff has met the foreseeability element. Specifically, the
inmate had a history of assaults, including one where he poked
out the eyeball of a prison staff member. Second, Plaintiff asserts that Defendants willfully disregarded her
rights by failing to help her during the attack. The officers
failed to stop the attack, failed to call for help, and allowed
the inmate to continue strangling her. Third, at the time of the
attack, Plaintiff worked for the state, which demonstrates her
relationship with the state. Fourth, Plaintiff claims that
Defendant Officers created the opportunity for the attack by
escorting her to his cell, failing to secure him with handcuffs,
and failing to take any other measures to prevent an attack. And
last, while Plaintiff was being choked, feet dangling in the air,
Defendant Officers still failed to call for backup or otherwise
respond to the assault. Taking these allegations as true, this
conduct could be found to shock the conscience. Therefore,
Plaintiff has alleged a state-created danger claim upon which
relief may be granted.
In Count II of Plaintiff's Complaint, she asserts that
Defendants Beard, Erhard, Vaughn, Owens, and Womack maintained a
policy, custom, pattern, and practice of failing to train and
supervise their staff. To prevail on this claim, Plaintiff must
prove that an official policy existed and that the policy
deprived Plaintiff of a constitutional right. Monell v. Dept. of
Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978). Plaintiff has alleged
that Defendants Beard, Erhard, Vaughn, Owens, and Womack
maintained a policy of poor employee training and ineffective
response to prison attacks. Plaintiff asserts that prison directives and guidelines were not adequate, investigations into
prison attacks were nonexistent, and disciplinary measures were
not taken. Assuming these facts are true, Plaintiff has stated a
cognizable Monell claim.
In Count III of Plaintiff's Complaint, she alleges that
Defendants conspired to deprive her of a constitutional right. In
order for Plaintiff to prevail on this conspiracy claim, she must
prove that Defendants made an agreement to deprive her of a
constitutional right, and that her constitutional right was
actually violated. Thompson v. City of Lawrence, 58 F.3d 1511,
1517 (10th Cir. 1995) (citing Dixon v. Lawton, 898 F.2d 1443,
1449 (10th Cir. 1990)). Plaintiff has not stated a claim upon
which relief can be granted because she has not alleged that
Defendants, especially those Defendants who were not present at
the time of the incident, made any agreement. Accordingly, Count
III of Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed with prejudice.
In Count IV of Plaintiff's Complaint, she alleges that
Defendants intentionally caused her emotional distress. To prove
intentional infliction of emotional distress, Plaintiff must
prove Defendants' actions were willful or reckless, extreme and
outrageous, and that these actions caused her severe emotional
distress. Taylor v. Einstein Med. Ctr., 754 A.2d 650, 652 (
Pa. 2000) (quoting RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF TORTS § 46(1)).
Plaintiff's Complaint only satisfies these elements as to
Defendant Officers Gregoire, Seldon, Robinson, and Butler. The
alleged conduct of these Defendants can be seen as willful or reckless, and extreme
and outrageous. According to Plaintiff, these Defendants led her
to the inmate's cell without securing the inmate, even though he
had a history of psychiatric problems, escape attempts, and
assaults on prison staff. Defendant Officers then failed to
assist Plaintiff during the assault or call for help. Apparently,
Officer Butler took the stethoscope from around Plaintiff's neck
during the attack, but then stepped back and failed to offer
On the other hand, the conduct of Defendants Beard, Erhard,
Vaughn, Owens, and Womack does not rise to the level of extreme
and outrageous. According to Plaintiff, these Defendants merely
failed to train or supervise their employees. These failures do
not satisfy the test for intentional infliction of emotional
distress. As a result, Plaintiff's intentional tort claim can go
forward against Defendant Officers, but must be dismissed with
prejudice as against Defendants Beard, Erhard, Vaughn, Owens, and
Defendant Officers are not entitled to immunity. Generally,
public employees receive immunity for negligent acts.
42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 8521. Under Pennsylvania law, however, public
employees do not receive immunity for their intentional torts.
42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 8550. See also Brown v. Muhlenberg
Township, 269 F.3d 205, 214 (3d Cir. 2001). Therefore,
Plaintiff's intentional infliction of emotional distress claim can go forward against Defendants Gregoire, Robinson, Butler, and
In Count V of Plaintiff's Complaint, she alleges that Defendant
Officers stood idly by as Plaintiff was attacked, and failed to
intervene when they had a duty to do so. Under Plaintiff's
failure to intervene claim, she must prove that: 1) the officers
had a duty to intervene, 2) the officers had the opportunity to
intervene, and 3) the officers failed to intervene. Smith v.
Mensinger, 293 F.3d 641, 650-51 (3d Cir. 2002). Taking
Plaintiff's alleged facts as true, Plaintiff has stated a claim
upon which relief can be granted. The officers here are prison
guards, and have a duty to intervene during an attack by an
inmate in the prison in which they work. According to Plaintiff,
although the officers had ample time to stop the attack, they
failed to halt it. Viewing these facts in favor of Plaintiff,
they establish a cognizable failure to intervene claim.
Lastly, in Counts I, II, and V of Plaintiff's Complaint,
Plaintiff has alleged that Defendants' actions violated her
constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S.
Constitution, and Article I, Sections 8 and 9 of the Pennsylvania
Constitution. The Fourth Amendment and Article I, Section 8 both
protect against unreasonable searches and seizures. Plaintiff has
not alleged any facts that would support an unreasonable search
or seizure by a state actor. Plaintiff was "seized" by a prison inmate, not an officer of the law. The
type of seizure that Plaintiff endured was not the type of
seizure against which these provisions were designed to protect.
Article I, Section 9 of the Pennsylvania Constitution protects
the rights of the accused in criminal proceedings. This case has
nothing to do with a criminal proceeding. These provisions,
therefore, cannot support Plaintiff's causes of action. The
proper basis for Plaintiff's Count I, II, and IV claims is the
Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution, which Plaintiff has cited in her Complaint.
Plaintiff shall file an amended complaint within ten (10) days of
the date of this Order eliminating any reference to the Fourth
Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Sections 8 and
9 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.
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