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ARNOLD v. CITY OF YORK

September 1, 2004.

MICHAEL ARNOLD, ET AL., Plaintiffs
v.
CITY OF YORK AND MICHAEL R. HILL, Police Chief of the City of York Police Department, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN E. JONES, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Pending before this Court is the Motion to Dismiss of Defendants, City of York ("City"), and Michael R. Hill, Chief of the York Police Department. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343 and 1367, and have reviewed the submissions of the parties. For the reasons discussed below, we will deny Defendants' Motion.

BACKGROUND

  Michael Arnold and Linda Julius ("Plaintiffs") initiated this action on August 11, 2003 on behalf of their deceased son, Christopher Arnold ("Arnold" or "Decedent"). At issue in this case are the events of August 12, 2002 that resulted in Arnold's death. At the time of his death, Arnold was 29 years old and had been suffering from long-term schizophrenia. Plaintiffs allege that shortly before August 12, 2002, Arnold, through no fault of his own, was unable to take his medication for his schizophrenia and thus was his mental condition rendered him agitated, paranoid, and hallucinatory. Thereafter, on August 12, 2002, Arnold was observed wandering the streets of York in a delusional state. A woman who witnessed Arnold talking to himself called the York Police Department to report him. The Department classified the call as a "code 96," or person with mental illness, and dispatched officers to the area.

  The police searched the neighborhood and were told by neighbors where Arnold lived. A police officer and chaplin who was riding along arrived at Arnold's apartment at approximately 12:15 a.m. They heard Arnold talking to himself inside and called for back-up. When officers called to Arnold to exit his apartment, he jumped through a porch window and fled.

  Plaintiffs claim that while in the process of apprehending Arnold, police officers and the chaplin engaged in a physical struggle with him in which they applied O.C. spray, struck him with a flashlight and batons, forced him to the ground, knelt on his back, held him in a face down position, and cuffed his hands and shackled his legs, strapping them together in a "hog-tie" position. At some point the officers called for an ambulance and a patrol wagon to come to the scene. When the patrol wagon arrived, the officers lifted Arnold off of the ground and placed him in the face down position in the back of patrol wagon. The officers transported Arnold to York County Hospital for treatment of a head wound he incurred in the struggle. Plaintiffs claim that the officers noticed Arnold's irregular or "agonal" breathing while transporting him but did not adjust his position or inform the hospital. Based on these actions on the part of the officers, Plaintiffs allege Arnold died from a condition known as "positional asphyxiation."

  Plaintiffs' Complaint pleads the following Section 1983 and Pennsylvania state law claims against the City of York and its Police Chief, Michael R. Hill: 1) Defendants failed to train the City's police officers regarding the risks of positional asphyxia, in violation of Decedent's Fourteenth Amendment rights; 2) Defendants violated Decedent's rights under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("Rehabilitation Act"), 29 U.S.C. § 794, by treating Arnold, who was disabled under the Act, in a discriminatory manner; 3) Defendants violated Decedent's rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12132, by treating Arnold in a discriminatory manner; 4) a survival action on behalf of Decedent's estate; and 5) a wrongful death claim against Defendants.

  This case was assigned to Magistrate Judge Malachy E. Mannion for preliminary review. On June 28, 2004, Magistrate Judge Mannion issued a report recommending that Defendants' Motion to Dismiss be granted in part and denied in part, to the following extent: as to Count I, the Motion should be denied; as to Counts II and III, the Motion should be granted as to Defendant Police Chief Hill and denied as to Defendant City of York.

  Defendants filed objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation on July 12, 2004, and Plaintiffs filed a brief in opposition to Defendants' objections on July 29, 2004. As Defendants filed a reply brief on August 11, 2004, the issues have been fully briefed and this matter is now ripe for disposition.

  STANDARD OF REVIEW

  When objections are filed to a report of a magistrate judge, we make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge to which there are objections. United States vs. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667 (1980); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Local Rule 72.3l. Furthermore, district judges have wide discretion as to how they treat recommendations of a magistrate judge. Id. Indeed, in providing for a de novo review determination rather than a de novo hearing, Congress intended to permit whatever reliance a district judge, in the exercise of sound discretion, chooses to place on a magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations. Id. See also Mathews vs. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 275 (1976); Goney vs. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 7 (3d Cir. 1984).

  DISCUSSION

  Defendants objections are in essence restatements of the issues and arguments presented in their brief in support of their Motion to Dismiss submitted to Magistrate Judge Mannion. Defendants argue that the Magistrate Judge erred in deciding that the Plaintiffs stated a Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process claim, or alternatively, that he failed to limit the claim appropriately. Defendants also argue that the Magistrate Judge erred in deciding that the Plaintiffs stated claims pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA, or alternatively, that he failed to limit the applicability of the Acts appropriately.

  At the outset of our analysis we will observe that time and again Defendants object to Plaintiffs' form of pleading, claiming that Plaintiffs have failed to allege facts sufficient to support their claims. We disagree and direct Defendants to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, which requires only a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Rule 8 also states that "[e]ach averment of a pleading shall be simple, concise, and direct. No technical forms of pleadings or motions are required." We find that Plaintiffs have properly pled claims pursuant to the Fourteenth ...


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