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Stevenson v. Commonwealth

February 22, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Vanaskie



Plaintiff, Omar Trevor Stevenson, a prisoner currently confined at the York County Prison, York, Pennsylvania, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of Fourth Amendment rights in connection with his June 24, 2005, arrest by Spring Township Police Officer Dony Harbaugh and other John Doe York County Police Officers. Named as defendants are the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, York County Prison Warden Thomas Hogan, the York County Police Department, the Spring Garden Township Police Department, Office Dony Harbaugh, several John Doe Police Officers, the York County Hospital and Dr. Jane Doe of the York County Hospital.

Along with his complaint, plaintiff has submitted an application requesting leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court is authorized to dismiss a complaint brought in forma pauperis if it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. For the reasons that follow, the motion to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted and his claims against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will be dismissed as legally frivolous. Stevenson will be granted leave to file an amended complaint with respect to his claims against the Spring Garden Township and York County Police Departments, as well as the claims asserted against the York County Hospital and Dr. Jane Doe for alleged deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, the claims asserted against Officer Harbaugh and Warden Hogan in connection with the execution of a search warrant, and the malicious prosecution claim. The remainder of Stevenson's Fourth Amendment claims of false arrest, false imprisonment, unlawful search, excessive force and unlawful seizure may proceed.


According to a Probable Cause Affidavit supplied by Stevenson in connection with his complaint, on June 24, 2005, at approximately 9:47 p.m., Officer Dony Harbaugh of the Spring Garden Township Police Department was called to the Quick 6 Beer Mart on the report of an armed robbery. (Dkt. Entry 9.) An off duty police officer who was in the store during the robbery reported that two black males had just robbed the store at gunpoint and then fled in a car driven by a third black male. The off duty officer provided the license number of the getaway vehicle, which was later located by a York Area Regional Police officer. After a pursuit, the vehicle was stopped and all three occupants (including Plaintiff) fled on foot but were eventually arrested and taken into custody.

In his Complaint, Stevenson alleges that Officer Harbaugh and ten (10) John Doe officers of the York County Police Department beat him (and his co-defendants, Murray and Sanchez) when arresting him and charging him with robbery, criminal conspiracy, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and false identification to law enforcement. (Dkt. Entry 1.) He was then taken to the York County Hospital Emergency room to be treated for injuries received during the assault: a concussion; bruises on his head, neck and ribs; and a gash on his right hand. (Id.) He was examined by Dr. John Doe and Nurse Jane Doe.*fn1 He was given a tetanus shot and bandaged. He was advised that the gash on his hand did not need stitches. (Id.) He was then released to the custody of the Spring Garden Township Police Department. On June 25, 2005, Stevenson was given a video arraignment on various criminal charges before the Honorable District Justice Thomas.

Plaintiff was then transported to the York County Prison by Harbaugh and John Doe defendants. He was seen by Nurse Loop and prescribed Tylenol for a period of seven (7) days. He was placed under "medical watch supervision" in the institution's segregated housing unit and monitored every hour due to his injuries. (Id.) On June 27, 2005, a York County Prison physician medically cleared Stevenson and released him to general population. On July 3, 2005, Plaintiff was placed on a maximum security block where he suffered from continued pain from his injuries as well as nightmares and sleeplessness due to the alleged assault. (Id.) The following day Plaintiff awoke in the early morning hours due to unbearable pain in his right hand. He was immediately given ibuprofen for his pain and blood work was drawn. He was then informed that the gash on his right hand was infected and "that the infection has spread to his bone." (Id.) He was prescribed antibiotics for a period of fourteen (14) days. The next day Plaintiff reported to a John Doe York County Correctional Officer that he found blood stains on his sheet, left eyelid and forehead. He was again seen by the medical staff, and after a brief exam, "the cause for bleeding was undetermined." (Id.) Plaintiff then submitted a medical request stip to see a "mental doctor" regarding his nightmares and other problems as a result of the alleged assault. (Id.)

After viewing the store's digital surveillance recording of the robbery, and interviewing eye witnesses, Officer Harbaugh determined that Plaintiff Stevenson had been in the store during the robbery and held a gun to the head of the store clerk. (Dkt. Entry 9.) In the course of executing a search warrant of the getaway car, law enforcement officers found blood, money from the store, a mask, and a ball-cap. Based on these facts Officer Harbaugh formulated an affidavit of probable cause to support his request for a search warrant to be granted for a blood sample from Plaintiff as well as for his clothing worn at the time of the robbery that had been secured in the York County Prison property room. (Id.) On July 6, 2005, a Magistrate Judge, after finding probable cause, issued the search warrant. (Id.) Upon Officer Harbaugh's arrival at the prison that day, Plaintiff was advised by York County Prison Warden, Thomas Hogan, that he had to comply with the search warrant or face disciplinary action. (Dkt. Entry 1.) Stevenson was not given a copy of the Warrant or Affidavit of Probable Cause. Plaintiff requested the presence of an attorney while the officers obtained his personal belongings, but this request was denied by defendants. (Id.) Stevenson seeks monetary damages from each of the defendants.


A complaint filed in forma pauperis may be dismissed if it is determined that the action is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). In applying these statutory screening requirements, a court employs the standard used to analyze motions to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). See Eline v Milore, No. Civ.A. 3:05-1088, 2005 WL 1429845 at *1(M.D. Pa. 2005). Thus, the truth of the plaintiff's factual allegations is assumed and viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Gibson v. Superintendent of N.J. Dep't. of Law & Pub. Safety-Division, 411 F.3d 427, 431 (3d. Cir.2005). The court must decide "whether under any reasonable reading of the pleadings, plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Simon v. Cebrick, 53 F.3d 17, 19 (3d Cir. 1995). Pro se pleadings are to be construed liberally, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and pro se litigants are to be granted leave to file a curative amended complaint "even when a plaintiff does not seek leave to amend," unless such an amendment would be inequitable or futile. Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 235 (3d Cir. 2004). However, a complaint that sets forth facts which affirmatively demonstrate that the plaintiff has no right to recover is properly dismissed without leave to amend. Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 2002).


A. Claims against York County Hospital and Dr. Jane Doe

Stevenson was taken to the York County Hospital after his arrest and treated by a Dr. John Doe for a series of injuries. His complaint seeks recovery from a "Dr. Jane Doe" and the York County Hospital, apparently ...

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