United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
December 12, 2005.
CATHERINE CRUISE, In Her Own Right and as the Administratrix of the Estate of her deceased daughter, DEBORAH CRUISE, Plaintiff,
STEVE MARINO, Officer, ROBERT OLECKI, Officer, DENNIS LUKASEWICZ, Officer, PAUL REED, Officer, A.M. STULGIS, Officer, SCRANTON POLICE DEPARTMENT, and CITY OF SCRANTON, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: MALACHY MANNION, Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
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
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
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).
II. FACTUAL HISTORY*fn2
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 See Pifcho
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 cell for however long it took for the effects
of the alcohol to pass. Generally, this was a period of up to
In addition, the record indicates that officers received yearly
MOPEC (Municipal Police Officer Educational Training Commission)
training updates, provided by the Scranton Police Department,
which dealt with various issues, including how to deal with
intoxicated persons.*fn9 [EDITORS' NOTE: THIS PAGE CONTAINED FOOTNOTES.] As was the case at the time of the Pifcho suicide, the Scranton
Police Department continued to follow suicide prevention measures
by removing any items from the detainees which they could use to
injure themselves such as hair pins, hair clips, belts, coats,
socks and shoelaces.
Officer Michael Cammerota was a police officer with the City of
Scranton from 1978 until 2002. In 1996, he became the training
sergeant and was responsible for acquainting new officers with
the operation of the department.*fn10 He testified that
officers were provided a copy of the 1973 Scranton Police Rules
and Regulations and advised that the rules, while dated, set
forth the protocol and standards of behavior for the officers.
Officer Cammerota testified that new officers would become
acquainted with the various divisions of the department through
officers of different ranks in each of the divisions. Specific
training for any particular position within the department was
provided through on-the-job training with an officer performing
that particular job, rather than through instruction by Officer
The 1973 Rules and Regulations require that the Desk Officer document that they checked on the condition of the prisoners
every half hour. A prisoner log sheet is used to keep track of
prisoners in the holding cells to memorialize their name, charges
against them, the time they were brought in and the time they are
discharged from the cell block. The last column of the prisoner
log sheet indicates when the prisoners were checked by an
According to the 1973 Rules and Regulations, the Desk Officer
is responsible for, among other things, maintaining the security
of the desk area and the waiting area, and is responsible for all
prisoners and property brought into the Scranton Police
Headquarters. The Desk Officer arrives an hour earlier than the
rest of the shift. There is a computer, telephone and a video
monitor used for monitoring prisoners on the Desk Officer's desk.
Testimony indicates that the video monitor in use at that time
was probably between 8 inches by 8 inches and 12 inches by 12
inches. The monitor could be set to various settings to display
one or more cells at a time, as well as the ramp leading up to
the police department, the central booking area and the evidence
room. The Scranton Police Department had no specific policy with
regard to which view the monitor must be set on at any given
time. The image depicted on the monitor rotated every three to
According to the record, Officer Stulgis had been a police
officer with the City of Scranton since 1990. She was trained to work as the
Desk Officer and was certified in that position. In order to work
as the Desk Officer, an officer must receive certification
through the State after completing a thirty (30) day hands-on
training program. Officer Stulgis received training for
monitoring detainees in the holding cells.*fn12 Officer Stulgis testified that she was not aware that she was
required to document the fact that she checked on the detainees on one-half
hour increments. She further testified that she was unfamiliar
with the specific provision in the 1973 Scranton Police Rules and
Regulations which provided "the desk patrolmen while on his tour
of duty shall inspect the cells every half hour to check the
condition of the prisoners. Any unusual occurrences shall be
immediately reported to the commanding officer and log the
inspection on the state form." In fact, Officer Stulgis testified
that it was her position that the detainees should be monitored
on a more frequent basis.
Officer Marino, a police officer with the City of Scranton
since 1995, testified that he received training as to monitoring
prisoners in his position as a Desk Officer, but did not log each
time he checked a detainee. He further testified that he was
familiar with the City of Scranton's protocol for referring any
prisoners exhibiting suicidal behavior to the Community Medical
Center for observation.
Officer Yatko, a police officer with the City of Scranton since
1993, knew that one of his responsibilities as the Wagon Officer
was to monitor the condition of the prisoners in the holding
cells, but was not aware of any policy as to the frequency or
documenting that monitoring of the prisoners. When he was unable
to physically check on the prisoners, he would look at the video
monitor to observe the prisoners. Officer Yatko believed that, if
he was out of the building, the Desk Officer or another officer
would check on the condition of the prisoners. When Officer Yatko
would leave police headquarters, it would be his practice to tell
the Desk Officer that he was leaving and to tell him to watch the prisoners on the monitor.
Officer Lukasewicz, a police officer with the City of Scranton
since 1991, received training in the signs and symptoms of
suicidal behavior, but was never given any training as to
questions or inquiries to make of a detainee to determine whether
they were exhibiting suicidal behavior.
Officer Olecki, a police officer with the City of Scranton
since 1997, did not recall any specific training as to the signs
and symptoms of suicidal behavior. He was aware, however, of the
Scranton Police Department's protocol for removing items from
prisoners which they could use to harm themselves. Officer Olecki
testified that he had no formal training as to the signs and
symptoms of suicidal behavior, but that he is able to recognize a
person's propensity toward suicide from his experience, as well
as his observations of statements made and actions taken by
individuals. He was also aware of the Scranton Police
Department's protocol for taking any prisoners to the Community
Medical Center, for a mental evaluation, if they exhibited
suicidal tendencies or threatened to harm themselves. While he
knew that it was the Desk Officer's responsibility to monitor the
prisoners through the use of the video monitor, he was not aware
of any particular policy setting forth the frequency of that
monitoring or the need to document that he checked on the
prisoners on the prisoner log sheet. According to Officer
Olecki's testimony, there were between five and nine unsuccessful
suicide attempts in the Scranton Police Department's holding
cells since he was hired and only one successful suicide, that of
Joseph Pifcho, seven months prior to Ms. Cruise's suicide.*fn13
Captain Kevin Mitchell, Captain of the Patrol Division for the
City of Scranton during the relevant period of time and an
officer with the City of Scranton since 1978, testified that he
promulgated rules and regulations sometime between May 20, 1999,
and December 18, 1999, which changed the primary responsibility
for monitoring the prisoners from the Desk Officer to the Wagon
Officer.*fn14 Specifically, the new job description for the
Wagon Officer required the officer to check and log the prisoners
on one-half hour intervals until their services were needed in
the field. The Desk Officer would assist the Wagon Officer in
monitoring the prisoners by looking at the monitor. These changes
were designed to alleviate some of the burden placed upon the
Desk Officers, as that position encompassed numerous
responsibilities. Captain Mitchell testified that the union
challenged the amendment to the policies and, therefore,
superiors were not allowed to discipline any officer found in
violation of the policies. However, he testified that he believed
that the rules and regulations were in effect.*fn15
III. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Summary judgment is appropriate if the "pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with
the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).
The Supreme Court has stated that:
". . . [T]he plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates
the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time
for discovery and upon motion, against a party who
fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party's
case, and on which that party will bear the burden of
proof at trial. In such a situation, there can be `no
genuine issue as to any material fact,' since a
complete failure of proof concerning an essential
element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily
renders all other facts immaterial. The moving party
is `entitled to judgment as a matter of law' because
the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient
showing on an essential element of her case with
respect to which she has the burden of proof."
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317
, 323-24 (1986).
The moving party bears the initial responsibility of stating
the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record which
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Id. The moving party can discharge that burden by "showing . . .
that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving
party's case." Id. at 325.
Issues of fact are genuine "only if a reasonably jury,
considering the evidence presented, could find for the nonmoving
party." Childers v. Joseph, 842 F.2d 689, 693-94 (3d Cir. 1988)
(citations omitted). Material facts are those which will effect
the outcome of the trial under governing law. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The court may not
weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations. Boyle v.
County of Allegheny, 139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir. 1998). In
determining whether an issue of material fact exists, the court
must consider all evidence and inferences drawn therefrom in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. at 393.
If the moving party meets his initial burden, the opposing
party must do more than raise some metaphysical doubt as to
material facts, but must show sufficient evidence to support a
jury verdict in its favor. Id.
Initially, the court notes that the plaintiff set forth in her
complaint a cause of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3).
(Doc. No. 1, ¶ 32). In their motion for summary judgment, the
defendants argue that summary judgment should be entered in their
favor on this claim because there is no evidence that the
defendants treated Deborah Cruise in a discriminatory manner.
(Doc. No. 47, pp. 28-31). The plaintiff failed to respond to this
argument in her opposing brief. Therefore, pursuant to Local Rule
7.6, the defendants' motion for summary judgment is deemed
unopposed in this respect and will be granted.
Similarly, the plaintiff also alleged in her complaint
Pennsylvania common law wrongful death and survivor claims. (Doc.
No. 1, Counts IV & V). In their motion for summary judgment, the
defendants argue that summary judgment should be entered in their
favor on these claims because they are immune from liability
under the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act and the laws of
the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 47, pp. 50-53).
Again, the plaintiff failed to respond to this argument in her
opposing brief. Therefore, the defendants' motion for summary
judgment is also deemed unopposed in this respect and will be
The remaining claims, therefore, are the plaintiff's claims
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, the plaintiff
alleges: (1) that the conduct of the individual officers amounted
to deliberate indifference to Ms. Cruise's serious medical needs;
(2) the City of Scranton's failure to have adequate policies and
training regarding identification and monitoring of prisoners at
risk for suicide, including intoxicated prisoners, amounted to
deliberate indifference; (3) the City of Scranton's failure to
have clear, consistent and well-communicated policies and training regarding monitoring of detainees amounts
to deliberate indifference; (4) the City of Scranton's practice
of failing to respond to multiple complaints from its own
officers regarding the video monitoring system amounted to
deliberate indifference; and (5) the City of Scranton's lack of
policies to ensure proper use of the intercom system while
monitoring prisoners amounted to deliberate indifference.
A. Individual Defendants' Liability
Ms. Cruise was a pre-trial detainee when she committed suicide.
The Third Circuit first examined liability under § 1983 for such
suicides in Colburn v. Upper Darby Township, 838 F.2d 663 (3d
Cir. 1988) ("Colburn I"). There, the court held that "if
[custodial] officials know or should know of the particular
vulnerability to suicide of an inmate, then the Fourteenth
Amendment imposes on them an obligation not to act with reckless
indifference to that vulnerability." Id. at 669. This standard
was elaborated upon in Colburn v. Upper Darby Township,
946 F.2d 1017 (3d Cir. 1991) ("Colburn II"), where the court wrote
that a plaintiff in a prison suicide case has the burden of
establishing three elements: (1) the detainee had a "particular
vulnerability to suicide," (2) the custodial officer or officers
knew or should have known of that vulnerability, and (3) those
officers "acted with reckless indifference" to the detainee's
particular vulnerability. Colburn II, 946 F.2d at 1023.
In Colburn II, the court explained that Colburn I rested
primarily upon the Supreme Court's decision in Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976). Estelle involved an Eighth Amendment claim arising from allegations of
inadequate medical care.*fn17 Colburn II,
946 F.2d at 1023. The Supreme Court held in Estelle, that "prison officials
violate the Eighth Amendment's proscription of cruel and unusual
punishment when they exhibit `deliberate indifference to serious
medical needs of prisoners.'" Colburn II, at 1023 (citations
omitted). This standard "requires deliberate indifference on the
part of prison officials and [that] the prisoner's medical needs
. . . be serious." Colburn II, 946 F.2d at 1023 (quoting
Monmouth County Correctional Inst. Inmates v. Lanzaro,
834 F.2d 326 (3d Cir. 1987)).
A particular vulnerability to suicide represents a serious
medical need. Colburn II, 946 F.2d at 1023. "The requirement of
a `particular vulnerability to suicide' speaks to the degree of
risk inherent in the detainee's condition." Colburn II,
946 F.2d at 1024. "[T]here must be a strong likelihood, rather than a
mere possibility, that self-inflicted harm will occur." Id.
(citations omitted). However, "[e]ven where a strong likelihood of suicide exists,
it must be shown that the custodial officials `knew or should
have known' of that strong likelihood." Colburn II,
946 F.2d at 1024. Whether the custodial officials "knew or should have known"
can be demonstrated when the officials have "actual knowledge of
an obviously serious suicide threat, a history of suicide
attempts, or a psychiatric diagnosis identifying suicidal
propensities." Id. At 1025 n. 4 (citations omitted). "[I]t is
not necessary that the custodian have a subjective appreciation
of the detainee's `particular vulnerability'." Id. at 1024-25.
"Nevertheless, there can be no reckless or deliberate
indifference to that risk unless there is something more culpable
on the part of the officials than a negligent failure to
recognize the high risk of suicide." Id. at 1025. "The `strong
likelihood' of suicide must be `so obvious that a lay person
would easily recognize the necessity for' preventative action;
the risk of self-inflicted injury must not only be great, but
also sufficiently apparent that a lay custodian's failure to
appreciate it evidences an absence of any concern for the welfare
of his or her charges." Id. (Internal citations omitted).
In this case, the plaintiff has failed to establish that Ms.
Cruise had a particular vulnerability to suicide. On the date in
question, the record establishes that Ms. Cruise was intoxicated
and disorderly. However, there is no indication that she
threatened or attempted suicide, or exhibited any behavior which
would lead one to believe that she may commit suicide. Contrary
to the plaintiff's claims, the fact that Ms. Cruise was
intoxicated, in and of itself, is not a per se indication of
suicidal tendency. See Pifcho v. Walsh, et al., Civil Action No. 3:01-0893 (Jones, J.) (citing
Gunn v. City of Allentown, 1992 WL 191144 **6, 7 (E.D.Pa.)
("the bare fact that a detainee is intoxicated does not indicate
a need for enhanced protective measures.")).*fn18
In her opposing brief, the plaintiff argues that the fact that
Ms. Cruise did not wish to call someone to pick her up "was
consistent with being shamed and embarrassed at being arrested,"
and should have raised red flags for the defendants. This,
however, is pure speculation on the part of the plaintiff. There
is no evidence that Ms. Cruise exhibited any shame or
embarrassment because of her arrest which resulted in suicidal
There is also no indication that the defendants knew or should
have known that Ms. Cruise had any particular vulnerability to
suicide. In fact, to the contrary, this was only one of several
arrests of Ms. Cruise for public intoxication. On all previous
occasions, she had been detained in the Scranton holding cells without incident. In other words, this
particular plaintiff's prior history with the same police
department would lead one to believe that no risk of suicide
would be present simply because she was arrested for public
intoxication. Moreover, there is no evidence in the record that
the defendants had actual knowledge of any threats of suicide, a
history of suicide attempts, or a psychiatric diagnosis
identifying such propensities with respect to Ms. Cruise.
In her opposing brief, the plaintiff further argues that the
nature of the charges against Ms. Cruise should have put the
officers on notice that she was a threat to herself. However, the
record establishes that the plaintiff was detained and placed in
a holding cell because of her intoxication, not because any
officer believed that she was suicidal.
Based upon the foregoing, the plaintiff has not established the
first two elements under Colburn I and Colburn II. Therefore,
the defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted with
respect to the § 1983 claims set forth against the individual
B. Municipal Liability*fn19 A municipality is liable under § 1983 only when a plaintiff can
demonstrate that the municipality itself, through the
implementation of a policy or custom causes a constitutional
violation. Monnell v. New York City Department of Social
Services, 436 U.S. 658, 691-95 (1978). There is no liability
unless the policy or custom complained of itself violates the
Constitution or when that policy, which may not be
unconstitutional itself, is the "moving force" behind the
constitutional tort of one of the employees of a municipality.
Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312 (1981). Liability for a
municipality cannot be based on the theory of respondeat superior
or any type of vicarious liability theory. Monnell,
436 U.S. at 693-94. The municipality can only be liable if the city caused an
employee to violate the constitutional rights of an individual
through either following an official policy or a well-settled
informal custom. Id.
In this case, the plaintiff claims that the City of Scranton
was deliberately indifferent to Ms. Cruise's medical needs
because of its failure to have adequate policies to identify
detainees at increased risk for suicide, including intoxicated
In order to establish the City's liability under the theory
that Ms. Cruise's rights were violated as a result of a municipal
policy or custom of deliberate indifference to her serious
medical needs, the plaintiff must establish that officials,
determined by the district court to be the responsible
policymakers, were aware of the risk of suicide posed by intoxicated detainees
in the City's holding cells and of the alternatives for
preventing them, but either deliberately chose not to pursue
those alternatives or acquiesced in a longstanding policy or
custom of inaction in this regard. Simmons v. City of
Philadelphia, 947 F.2d 1042, 1064 (3d Cir. 1991). In addition,
the plaintiff must establish that the City's affirmative or
acquiescent election to take no measures to prevent suicides
caused one or more of its police officers to neglect Ms. Cruise's
serious medical needs, thereby causing her constitutional injury.
Id. at 1065.
The plaintiff has identified Captain Mitchell, Police Chief
Klee, and Training Sergeant Cammerota as the individuals whom she
believes were the City's policymakers. Even assuming that she is
correct that all of these individuals were policymakers on behalf
of the City,*fn20 the plaintiff has not presented any
evidence that these policymakers were, in fact, aware of the risk
of suicides by intoxicated detainees in the City's holding cells
or that they knew of alternatives for preventing them and that
they deliberately chose not to pursue those alternatives. "This element . . . [of] proof of a
conscious choice by the identified policy makers to implement a
policy which affords prisoners insufficient protection in light
of the information available to the policy makers concerning the
risk of suicide and in light of feasible alternatives for
prevention thereof which were deliberately not implemented" is
simply not presented in this case. See Gunn v. City of
Allentown, 1992 WL 191144 *4 (E.D.Pa.).
Here, unlike the case in Simmons, supra, there is no
evidence that the City had a history of numerous suicides at the
time of the incident involving Ms. Cruise. The testimony of
record establishes that between 1997 and 1999, there was only one
successful suicide attempt (that of Joseph Pifcho) and
approximately five to nine unsuccessful suicide attempts. Former
Police Chief Klee testified that in his forty years with the
Scranton Police Department, there were no more that "a few"
successful suicides. There is no evidence, other than in the case
of Joseph Pifcho, that intoxication played a role in the either
the suicides or suicide attempts. Therefore, the plaintiff has
failed to establish that the City was aware of a history of risk
of suicides among detainees, intoxicated or otherwise.
The record further establishes that the City had in place
policies for removing harmful items from detainees prior to
placing them in the holding cells;*fn21 referring any
detainee who exhibited suicidal tendencies for appropriate placement at the Community Medical Center; and
monitoring detainees at thirty minute intervals.*fn22 In
Colburn II, supra, the Third Circuit found that similar
policies in place by the municipality did not exhibit deliberate
indifference on the part of the municipality. Specifically, the
court noted that Upper Darby's policies provided that detainees
would be: (1) frisked on arrest; (2) searched at the station; (3)
relieved of drugs, weapons and other personal belongings that
could pose a hazard to themselves or others; (4) provided with
medical treatment where the need was apparent; (5) held in a cell
until they attained sobriety or until a family member could take
custody of them; (6) observed by video monitoring; and (7)
checked by an officer at least every one-half hour. The court
found that these policies were indistinguishable from those in City of Canton, supra, and that, based upon these
policies, the municipality had not exhibited deliberate
indifference to the serious medical needs of detainees.
Moreover, the record establishes that, following Joseph
Pifcho's suicide, the City took some corrective action by placing
a video monitor in the cell where he was confined in an attempt
to prevent any further incidents.*fn23 The City subsequently
replaced its entire video monitoring system with an updated
system and entered into a maintenance program for the system.
Based upon the record, it cannot be said that the actions of
the City in relation to the policies in place at the time of Ms.
Cruise's suicide exhibited deliberate indifference on the part of
the City. Courts in similar cases have been hesitant to second
guess "[t]he wide range of `judgment calls' that meet
constitutional and statutory requirements [and] are confided to
officials outside of the Judicial Branch of Government." Litz v.
City of Allentown, 896 F.Supp. 1401, 1413 (E.D.Pa. 1997) (citing
Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 562 (1979); Simmons v. City of
Philadelphia, 947 F.2d 1042, 1068 (3d Cir. 1991)). Therefore,
the defendants' motion for summary judgment must be granted in
With respect to the plaintiff's claim that the City was
deliberately indifferent in failing to have clear, consistent and
well-communicated policies with respect to monitoring detainees,*fn24 again, the
plaintiff has failed to establish that the relevant policymakers
were aware of any such problem and that they deliberately chose
not to take any corrective action.
Moreover, in reviewing the same policies which were in place at
the time of Ms. Cruise's suicide, the court in Pifcho stated as
Our review of the record indicates that the City of
Scranton's policy for monitoring detainees included
the following safeguards: officers were required to
check on prisoners every half hour and then to
indicate that they had done so on a prison log sheet;
three out of the four men's cells were monitored by
video equipment;*fn25 lastly, as opposed to
being housed within the lockup, detainees whom
officers suspected of being suicidal were transported
to the Community Medical Center for observation.
Pifcho, p. 17.
In concluding that the City of Scranton was not deliberately
indifferent with respect to the policies in place for monitoring
inmates, the Pifcho court stated:
Our holding today should not be read as a vindication
of every aspect of the policies or training that the
City of Scranton has provided to its officers.
However, the City's breaches, including the absence
of a camera in one of four cells, and the apparent
laxness in enforcing the cell check policy, amount to
simple negligence and are insufficient to sustain a
claim alleging violations of constitutional rights.
Pifcho, p. 21.
The facts of the instant action establish that the City of
Scranton has in place policies with respect to the monitoring of
inmates. The fact that the individual officers may not have
followed those policies or that the City did not strictly enforce
the policies does not render the policies themselves
unconstitutional, nor does it establish deliberate indifference
on the part of the City. Therefore, the defendants' motion for
summary judgment will also be granted in this respect.
The plaintiff next argues that the City of Scranton was
deliberately indifferent in that it failed to train its police
officers to identify detainees at increased risk for suicide and
to properly monitor detainees in their cells.*fn26 To this extent, "[g]eneric claims of inadequate training are not
enough; the plaintiff must identify specific training that the
defendant municipality did not give, and must explain how the
lack of training actually `caused' the decedent's suicide. The
causation standard requires more of the plaintiff than simply
`point[ing] to something the [municipal defendant] `could have
done' to prevent the unfortunate incident.' Rather the alleged
failure to train must itself have been `closely related to the
ultimate injury.' Herman v. Clearfield County, 836 F.Supp 1178,
1187-88 (W.D.Pa. 1993) (internal citations omitted). Moreover, it
is not enough to suggest "that the [municipality's] employees
could have been better trained or that additional training was
available that would have reduced the overall risk of
constitutional injury." Colburn II, 946 F.2d at 1030.
In Woloszyn v. County of Lawrence, 396 F.3d 314 (3d Cir.
2005), the Third Circuit reiterated the standard of municipal
liability with respect to a failure to train claim. In doing so,
the court noted that a municipality is only liable for failing to
train when that "failure amounts to `deliberate indifference to
the [constitutional] rights of persons with whom the police come
in contact'." Id. at p. 324 (citing Colburn v. Upper Darby
Township, 946 F.2d 1017, 1028 (3d Cir. 1991) ("Colburn II")
(quoting City of Canton, 489 U.S. at 388)).
Only where a municipality's failure to train its
employees in relevant respect evidences a "deliberate indifference" to the rights of its inhabitants can
such a shortcoming be properly thought of as a city
"policy or custom" that is actionable under § 1983 . . .
Only where a failure to train reflects a
"deliberate" or "conscious" choice by a municipality
a "policy" as defined by our prior cases can a
city be liable for such a failure under § 1983.
Id. (citing City of Canton, 489 U.S. at 389). Therefore, not
all failures or lapses in training will support liability under §
1983. Moreover, "the identified deficiency in [the] training
program must be closely related to the ultimate [constitutional]
injury." Id. (citing Colburn II, 946 F.2d at 1028 (quoting
City of Canton, 489 U.S. at 391)). In City of Canton, the
Court emphasized that a plaintiff asserting a failure to train
theory is "required to prove that the deficiency in training
actually caused [the constitutional violation, i.e.,] the [police
custodian's] indifference to her medical needs." Id. (quoting
City of Canton, at 391).
The Woloszyn court set forth the following with respect to
liability for a failure to train claim in the context of a prison
City of Canton teaches that . . . [i]n a prison
suicide case, [under § 1983] . . . the plaintiff must
(1) identify specific training not provided that
could reasonably be expected to prevent the suicide
that occurred, and (2) must demonstrate that the risk
reduction associated with the proposed training is so
great and so obvious that the failure of those
responsible for the content of the training program
to provide it can reasonably be attributed to a
deliberate indifference to whether the detainees
succeed in taking their lives.
Woloszyn, 396 F.3d at 325 (citing Colburn II,
946 F.2d at 1029-30).
The plaintiff in this case must establish that Ms. Cruise's
rights were violated as a result of a City of Scranton official
policy or custom not to train its police officers, which policy or custom that was the product
of a conscious decision not to act on a known risk of prison
suicides despite the availability of alternatives for preventing
such suicides. Simmons, 947 F.2d at 1064. The plaintiff must
also establish that the City of Scranton's alleged policy or
custom actually caused Ms. Cruise's suicide. Id. at 1067.
To the extent that the plaintiff argues that the City was
deliberately indifferent in failing to train its police officers
to identify detainees at risk for suicide, even if the plaintiff
had identified the specific training not provided by the City,
she has failed to establish the requisite causal connection.
Specifically, there is no evidence in the record before the court
that, even if the officers who came in contact with Ms. Cruise
had been trained in screening for suicidal detainees, they could
have prevented Ms. Cruise's suicide. As previously discussed,
there is no evidence in the record that Ms. Cruise exhibited
manifestations of having suicidal tendencies. The plaintiff has
produced no evidence to raise a material issue of fact as to
whether a properly trained police officer "would have known, or
would have to have been willfully blind not to have noticed, that
[Ms. Cruise] posed a strong risk of suicide," given that she
showed no signs of suicidal ideation. See Bowen v. City of
Manchester, 966 F.2d 13, 20 (1st Cir. 1992). To this extent,
the defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted.
Finally, with respect to the plaintiff's claim that the City
was deliberately indifferent in failing to train its police
officers in properly monitoring detainees, the plaintiff has
failed to identify any specific training which the City was aware of, but did not give, which would have prevented the suicide of
Ms. Cruise. The plaintiff has provided an expert report, in which
the expert concludes that the Scranton Police Department had
inadequate written rules and procedures with respect to, among
other things, staff training and supervision of detainees. The
expert further concludes that there is no evidence from his
review of the evidence in the record*fn27 that members of
the Scranton Police Department received any training with respect
to the proper care and custody of inmates. The report goes on to
criticize the policies and procedures which were in place for
monitoring inmates,*fn28 but he never sets forth the
specific training which the City could have provided, but
consciously chose not to provide. To this extent, the plaintiff
has not met the requirements of establishing a failure to train
claim with respect to the monitoring of detainees. Therefore, the
defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted in this
As noted by the court in Pifcho, this decision is by no means
"a vindication of every aspect of the policies or training that
the City of Scranton has provided to its officer." It goes without saying that the
death of Deborah Cruise is a tragedy beyond comprehension for her
family. In a perfect world her suicide never would have occurred.
However, based upon the record before the court, the plaintiff
has failed to establish more than negligence against the
defendants, which can not sustain a claim pursuant to § 1983 with
respect to the policies and training of officers by the City.
On the basis of the foregoing, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:
(1) the defendants' motion for summary judgment,
(Doc. No. 41), is GRANTED; and,
(2) the clerk of courts is directed to close the
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