The opinion of the court was delivered by: MALACHY MANNION, Magistrate Judge
Presently pending before the court is the defendants' motion
for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 41). Based upon a review of the
materials before the court, the defendants' motion will be
On October 26, 2001, the plaintiff initiated the instant action
in the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas as the result of
the tragic suicide of her daughter, Deborah Cruise, in a Scranton
Police Department holding cell. The plaintiff alleges that her
daughter's civil rights were violated, during her detention for
public drunkenness and disorderly conduct, by members of the
Scranton Police Department. In addition, the plaintiff raises
state law wrongful death and survivor claims. On December 5, 2001, a notice of removal was filed on behalf of
the defendants. (Doc. No. 1). The defendants filed an answer to
the plaintiff's complaint on April 16, 2002. (Doc. No. 2).
Discovery having concluded, on June 21, 2005, the defendants
filed the instant motion for summary judgment, (Doc. No. 41),
along with a statement of material facts, (Doc. No. 42), and
supporting exhibits, (Doc. No. 43). On July 6, 2005, the
defendants filed a brief in support of their motion for summary
judgment with additional documentation. (Doc. Nos. 47 & 48). On
August 8, 2005, the plaintiff filed a brief in opposition to the
defendants' motion for summary judgment with supporting exhibits,
(Doc. No. 53), a response to the defendants' statement of
material facts, (Doc. No. 54), and a counter statement of
material facts, (Doc. No. 55).*fn1 A reply brief was filed
by the defendants on August 24, 2005. (Doc. No. 56).
On the evening of December 18, 1999, Scranton Police Officers
were dispatched to the Nativity Social Club, ("Club"), in
Scranton, Pennsylvania, where the bartender had complained that
Deborah Cruise, a patron at the Club, had been fighting with another patron, Mr. Brown. When the
officers arrived, Ms. Cruise was taken out of the Club. She
became belligerent and began to yell and scream. The officers
noted that Ms. Cruise smelled of alcohol and was staggering. As a
result, Officer Thomas Genovese, in his capacity as a backup
officer, arrested Ms. Cruise for public drunkenness and
disorderly conduct. Ms. Cruise did not resist arrest and was
transported to the City of Scranton Police Headquarters by
Officer Paul Reed.
According to the record, Ms. Cruise had been arrested on
numerous occasions by the Scranton Police Department for
excessive drinking. She had previously been detained overnight in
the Scranton Police Department's holding cells without incident.
On this occasion, upon arriving at police headquarters, Officer
Reed testified that he assisted Officer Genovese in preparing the
citations for Ms. Cruise's arrest. In response to inquiries by
Officer Reed, Ms. Cruise gave two different spellings for her
name. She also refused to provide a telephone number or name of
someone that the officers could call to pick her up from
headquarters.*fn3 During this time, Officer Reed testified
that he asked Ms. Cruise to sit in front of the Desk Officer's
desk. Officer Reed testified that he did not observe Ms. Cruise crying or physically confronting any
officers at any time.
While at the Desk Officer's desk, Ms. Cruise began yelling at
the Desk Officer, Ann Marie Stulgis. She also began to take off
her coat, shoes and socks, and she attempted to take off her
pants. Ms. Cruise then began fighting with Mr. Brown, who was
also brought to the Scranton Police Headquarters. Officer Stulgis
testified that Ms. Cruise exhibited an unsteady gait and failed
to sit down at the desk despite numerous requests to do so. At
some point, Officer Stulgis testified that Ms. Cruise stumbled in
the direction of a glass case and that she tried to convince Ms.
Cruise to sit down before she fell and got hurt. Ultimately,
Officer Stulgis determined that she needed to place Ms. Cruise in
a holding cell for her safety because of her refusal to sit down
and cooperate. Officer Stulgis testified that when she approached
Ms. Cruise to search her, prior to putting her in a holding cell,
Ms. Cruise attempted to take off her pants and became
confrontational. Between 9:10 p.m. and 9:15 p.m., Officer Stulgis
testified that she placed Ms. Cruise in a female holding cell
with the assistance of another officer. At that time, Officer
Stulgis testified that she did not observe Ms. Cruise exhibit any
signs or symptoms of suicidal behavior, nor had Ms. Cruise been
identified by any other officer as suicidal.
After placing Ms. Cruise in the holding cell, Officer Stulgis
returned to the desk to take a missing person's report. Sometime
between returning to the desk and prior to her leaving her shift
shortly before 10:00 p.m., Officer Stulgis testified that she observed Ms. Cruise through the video
monitor standing at the cell doors and moving her mouth, but did
not observe her making any gestures.
Between 9:25 p.m. and 9:45 p.m., Officer Steven Marino arrived
to relieve Officer Stulgis as the Desk Officer for the 10:00 p.m.
to 6:00 a.m. shift. According to Officer Stulgis' testimony, she
believed that she advised Officer Marino about Ms. Cruise being
in the holding cell and the fact that she refused to provide a
telephone number of anyone who could pick her up. Although
Officer Marino testified that it would generally be his practice
to find out the status of inmates in the holding cells upon
arrival for a shift, he had no specific recollection on, this
occasion, of Officer Stulgis informing him regarding the
prisoners in lock-up. Officer Stulgis testified that Officer
Marino indicated that he would have the Wagon Officer, coming in
on the next shift, go in to see Ms. Cruise to determine whether
should would then be willing to give a telephone number of
someone who could pick her up.
On the date in question, Officer David Yatko was the Wagon
Officer working the 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. shift. Officer
Stulgis advised Officer Yatko that Ms. Cruise had been placed in
a holding cell and that she was loud and drunk. Sometime between
9:50 p.m. and 10:05 p.m., Officer Yatko left police headquarters
to take Sergeant Ralph Mifka, the Acting Sergeant on the 2:00
p.m. to 10:00 p.m. shift, to the Scranton Police roll call,
located in the basement of the Steamtown Mall and to get his car.
It took approximately five to ten minutes for Officer Yatko to
take Sergeant Mifka to his vehicle. If there are prisoners in the holding cells, it was the
practice of Officer Yatko to tell the Desk Officer that he was
leaving and to tell the Desk Officer to watch the prisoners on
the monitor. Officer Yatko testified that he did not recall
physically checking on Ms. Cruise, although he believed that he
observed her on the video monitor. After taking Sergeant Mifka to
his car, Officer Yatko responded to a call at the Broadway Bar
assisting other officers on the call at 10:08 p.m. That call was
"cleared" at 10:17 p.m. Officer Yatko testified that it took him
approximately three to five minutes from the time the call was
cleared to return to Scranton Police Headquarters.
Officer Dennis Lukasewicz relieved Sergeant Mifka as the Acting
Sergeant for the 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. shift. Although he was
aware of the fact that Ms. Cruise was in a female holding cell,
he was not aware of her name. At some point, he observed Ms.
Cruise on the video monitor, but was unable to determine exactly
what she was doing.
Approximately two to three minutes after Officer Yatko arrived
back at the Scranton Police Headquarters, Officer Robert Olecki
noted that something did not look right on the monitor when
viewing Ms. Cruise's cell. Officer Olecki was on light duty as a
result of an injury and was assisting Officer Marino as the Desk
Officer on the evening in question. When Officer Olecki arrived
on his shift, Officer Marino had already relieved Officer Stulgis
as the Desk Officer. He had not been advised by any officer that
any prisoner detained in the holding cells on the evening in
question was at risk for suicide. Officer Olecki observed
something peculiar on the monitor when the female cells were depicted and asked Officer Marino to switch back to the
female cells. Officer Marino was on the telephone at the time
Officer Olecki asked him to switch to the female cells and was
typing something into the NCIC computer on the Desk Officer's
desk. It took approximately two to three seconds for Officer
Marino to switch the monitor to view the female cells. Based upon
his observation of the monitor, Officer Olecki surmised that Ms.
Cruise was in distress. He observed that she appeared to be
hanging from the bars in her cell, her arms were limp, her
posture was odd and she was not moving.
Officer Olecki yelled the code for a suicide attempt and went
back to the cell as fast as he could. Ms. Cruise had tied her
shirt around her neck. When Officer Yatko ran back to the female
cells, he testified that he found Ms. Cruise in a sitting
position with her buttocks approximately one-half to one inch off
of the floor of the cell as she leaned against the door. At
approximately 10:27 p.m., Officer Marino requested an ambulance
to respond to the Scranton Police Headquarters. Officer
Lukasewicz called the Lackawanna County Communication Center to
make sure an ambulance had been dispatched.
Officer Olecki lifted Ms. Cruise up and unsuccessfully
attempted to remove the shirt from the bars. Officer Yatko cut
the garment from the door at which time Ms. Cruise collapsed to
the cell floor. Officer Yatko then ran to get the cell door key
and a CPR bag. Officer Lukasewicz testified that he believed that
he ran to the back with the keys and retrieved the CPR bag from
the patrol wagon and gave it to Officer Yatko. Officer Yatko, who is the CPR instructor for the Scranton
Police Department, returned to the cell and repositioned Ms.
Cruise to a prone position to administer CPR. Officer Olecki and
Officer Yatko administered CPR. At some point, Officer Olecki had
to stop administering CPR because he was unable to balance
himself due to his injured leg. At this time, Officer Lukasewicz
began to assist Officer Yatko.
Shortly thereafter, ambulance personnel arrived. Officer Olecki
testified that he believed that the ambulance personnel were able
to re-establish Ms. Cruise's pulse prior to transporting her to
the hospital. Officer Yatko testified that he detected Ms.
Cruise's vital signs during his attempts to resuscitate her.
Based upon his understanding as a CPR instructor that you are not
able to re-establish a pulse more than eight minutes from when
the heart stops beating, Officer Yatko testified that he believed
that Ms. Cruise had been hanging for less than eight minutes. Ms.
Cruise was transported to the hospital by ambulance where she
subsequently died on December 31, 1999.
The record reflects that approximately seven months prior to
Ms. Cruise's suicide, another detainee, Joseph Pifcho, committed
suicide in the Scranton Police Headquarters' holding cells. The
parents of Joseph Pifcho filed an action, similar to the one at
hand, in which they alleged violations of the decedent's
constitutional rights pursuant to § 1983.*fn4
v. Walsh, et al., Civil Action No. 3:01-0893 (Jones, J.). In ruling upon
a motion for summary judgment filed by the defendants in that
action, the Honorable John E. Jones set forth the following
On the evening of May 20, 1999, Joseph Pifcho was
detained in the Scranton Police Department with two
of his friends, Donald Brennan and Mark Stanko, upon
suspicion of being intoxicated and being involved in
a hit and run accident.
Joseph Pifcho was transported to the police station
by one of the defendants, Officer Walsh. Prior to
being transported to the station, Officer Walsh spoke
with the detainees in a firm tone and at times used
profanities toward them. According to Mark Stanko,
Officer Walsh told Joseph Pifcho that he would be
going to jail for the rest of his life because
someone had died as a result of the car accident.
The Pifchos allege that Officer Walsh's conduct
amounted to verbal abuse and harassment which had the
effect of placing Joseph Pifcho in a mental state
whereby he was a danger to himself. Complaint at ¶
20. For purposes of this Motion for Summary Judgment,
Defendants "acknowledge Officer Walsh was rude to
Decedent [and that] [h]e may have . . . intimidated
Decent (sic) in his attempts to get him to admit that
he was driving the car involved in the hit and run
accident." (Defs.' Br. Reply Mot. Summ. J. 4).
In accordance with Scranton Police Department
policies,*fn5 after arriving at the police
station Joseph Pifcho was given an opportunity to call someone sober
to pick him up and take him home. Because he did not
choose to make a phone call, Joseph Pifcho was booked
by Officer Monahan and then placed in Cell No. 4 in
the police station.*fn6 According to Officer
Monahan, Joseph Pifcho was joking with him during the
booking process. Prior to placing Joseph Pifcho in
the cell, Officer Monahan removed Joseph's shoe laces
from his shoes. Officer Monahan maintains that he did
not observe any behavior in Joseph Pifcho which would
lead him to believe that he would hurt himself.
At the time that the events relevant to this matter
occurred, the Scranton Police Department had four
cells reserved for males. Cells No. 1, No. 2 and No.
3 had cameras trained on them. Cell No. 4, however,
did not have a camera on it. For this reason,
prisoners housed in this cell could only be observed
if an officer physically walked to the cell to look
inside it. Officer Monahan placed Joseph Pifcho in
Cell No. 4 because the other three cells were
At approximately 4:30 a.m., Officer Monahan told the
desk officer, William Wagner, that all of the
detainees were safe and then left the building in
order to have dinner. He returned at approximately
5:10 a.m. When he went to check on the prisoners,
sometime between 5:10 a.m. and 5:18 a.m., he found
that Joseph Pifcho had hung himself in his
cell.*fn7 Scranton Police Rules and Regulations in place at the
time of this incident mandated that desk officers
were to check on the condition of detainees every
half hour and then indicate that they had done so on
a prisoner log sheet. Officer Wagner was unaware that
this was one of his duties. Consequently, he failed
to check on any of the prisoners that evening.
Indeed, Officer Wagner was not aware that Joseph
Pifcho had even been placed in Cell No. 4.
See Pifcho v. Walsh, et al., Civil Action No. 3:01-0893,
(Jones, J.), Doc. No. 27, pp. 4-7.
In bringing the above action, the Pifchos alleged that the
individual defendants were deliberately indifferent in placing
Joseph Pifcho in a cell without a camera and in failing to
adequately supervise him.*fn8 With respect to the City of Scranton, the plaintiff set forth two theories of
liability. Initially, the plaintiffs alleged that the City was
deliberately indifferent to the needs of intoxicated and
suicidally prone individuals as evidenced by the deficient
policies instituted by the City to prevent suicides among
detainees. Second, the plaintiffs alleged that the City was
deliberately indifferent in that it failed to train its police
officers in a manner by which they could adequately prevent
suicides by detainees.
Turning back to the instant action, Deborah Cruise's suicide,
the record reflects that the Scranton Police Department's
protocol regarding the detention of intoxicated persons still
required that, if a person was detained only as a result of their
intoxication, they were given an opportunity to call a responsible adult who could pick them up and take them home. If a
responsible adult could not be contacted, the detainee would be
placed in a holding ...