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Bowers v. City of Philadelphia

December 12, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Surrick, J.


Presently before the Court is the City's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 164). For the following reasons, the Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.


Plaintiff Lee Bowers ("Plaintiff") alleges overcrowding and unconstitutional conditions of confinement in the Philadelphia Prison System (the "PPS"). The City of Philadelphia (the "City") has been dealing with the overcrowding conditions in the PPS for decades. In a Memorandum Opinion, dated January 25, 2007, we noted that "it is clear that overcrowding and its consequences have plagued the PPS at-large and its intake units, in particular, for years." (Doc. No. 94 at 6.) We recounted the long history of court involvement in the overcrowding crisis in Philadelphia's prisons that began in 1971, continued through the 1980s, and did not end until a court-approved final settlement agreement in 2000. The settlement was approved because the City promised to limit the prison population and/or create additional housing space for an inevitably increasing population. See Harris v. City of Phila., No. 82-1847, 2000 WL 1239948, at *18-19 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 30, 2000). Six years after the settlement and the City's promises to take action, the Complaint was filed in this case raising nearly identical claims of unsafe and unsanitary conditions resulting from overcrowding. The prison population has continued its pattern of growth from roughly 7,000 inmates in 2000, see id. at *5, to nearly 9,000 inmates in January of 2007 when we issued the Memorandum. (See Doc. No. 94.) The total capacity of the PPS is 8,948. (Prelim. Hr'g Ex. P-13.) There is an expected minimum yearly increase in the prison population of three percent, and every summer between the months of May and October there is a spike in the prison population. (Prelim. Hr'g Ex. P-5; Prelim. Hr'g Tr., Oct. 4, 2006, morning session, at 95.) The growth in the prison population and the annual spikes in the population have been entirely predictable. Nevertheless, as we noted in the Memorandum, the City appears to have taken no steps to substantially increase the inmate capacity of the prison system.

Most recently, in April of this year another lawsuit was filed alleging unconstitutional conditions at the PPS. See Williams v. City of Phila., No. 08-1979 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 28, 2008). The Complaint in Williams alleges that the prison population is now more than 9,300 inmates and that as a result of the overcrowded conditions inmates are being subjected to dangerous, unsanitary, degrading, and cruel conditions of confinement. The Complaint further alleges that prison authorities are attempting to alleviate some of the problems caused by overcrowding by "triple-celling" inmates, that is, placing three inmates in a jail cell that was designed for only two. In the January 25, 2007 Memorandum, we discussed the practice of triple-celling and warned that the practice was problematic and certainly was not a permanent solution to the overcrowding problem. (See Doc. No. 94 at 53.)


Plaintiff alleges that he suffered injury at the PPS as a result of the overcrowded conditions in the intake center from June 23, 2006, through June 26, 2006. (Doc. No. 34 ¶¶ 21- 24, 26-28.) On July 24, 2006, Plaintiff and others filed a class action Complaint against Defendants City of Philadelphia; Leon A. King, II, individually and in his official capacity as Commissioner of the Philadelphia Prisons; Sylvester Johnson, individually and in his official capacity as Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department; and John Doe and Richard Roe, unknown Prison and Police Officials and Officers, in their individual capacities. (Doc. No. 1.) At the same time, Plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction seeking to correct conditions at the Philadelphia Police Administration Building ("PAB"), the intake unit of the PPS, and at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility ("CFCF"). (Doc. No. 2.) Plaintiffs sought relief in the form of a judgment declaring that the practices, policies, and conditions as alleged in the Complaint are unconstitutional, and a permanent injunction prohibiting the continuation of such unconstitutional conditions. (Id.) Plaintiffs also sought compensatory and punitive damages. (Id.)

On September 13, 2006, Plaintiffs filed an amended Complaint. (Doc. No. 34.) The amended Complaint contains two counts. Count I alleges violations of the Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment right "to be free from deprivations of liberty without due process of law, to access to counsel, to a speedy trial, to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, and to the provision of necessary medical care." (Id. ¶ 49.) Count II alleges violations of the right to be free of deprivations of liberty without due process of law under the Pennsylvania Constitution. (Id. ¶ 51.) In addition, Count II alleges state law claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and recklessness. (Id.)

On January 25, 2007, we entered a Preliminary Injunction. (Doc. No. 94.) We made findings of fact and conclusions of law based upon the evidence and testimony presented at the evidentiary hearing as well as tours that we conducted of the prison facilities. (Id. at 3.) We stated that the conditions that existed in the intake unit at CFCF, in the detention unit of the PAB, and in the holding cells in the Philadelphia Police Districts during the summer of 2006 violated Plaintiffs' constitutional rights. (Doc. No. 94.) We issued an Order detailing the unconstitutional conditions that we found, which included the holding of post-arraignment detainees for days in holding cells in numbers that far exceeded the capacity of the cells, the failure to provide beds and bedding, the failure to provide materials for personal hygiene, the failure to provide for the medical needs of detainees, the failure to timely classify detainees in the intake unit at the CFCF, and the lack of fire safety protection at the PAB and in the Police Districts. (Id.) We ordered the City to take immediate affirmative steps to redress these conditions. (Id.)

On August 30, 2007, Plaintiffs and Defendants moved jointly to terminate the preliminary injunction so that the parties could enter into a private settlement agreement that would continue the monitoring of the prisons without federal court supervision. (Doc. No. 148.) On October 10, 2007, we granted that joint motion, terminated the preliminary injunction, and dismissed the class claims. (Doc. No. 151.) After the October 10, 2007 Order, the only claims remaining were the § 1983 damages claims and the state law claims of the individual Plaintiffs. At this point, the only claims that remain are the § 1983 claims and the state law claims asserted by Plaintiff Lee Bowers against Defendants City of Philadelphia and Commissioner King in his official capacity.*fn1 (Doc. No. 165 at 1.) Plaintiff seeks money damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the unconstitutional conditions in the intake center of the PPS that caused him to suffer a blood clot in his left leg. (See Doc. No. 1; Doc. No. 34 ¶ 29; Doc. No. 164 at 1.) Defendants have moved for summary judgment on Plaintiff's amended Complaint in its entirety. (Doc. No. 164.) Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to identify an official policy of the City that caused detainees in the prison system to be subjected to unconstitutional conditions. Defendants argue that Plaintiff cannot identify a custom, policy, or practice of the City that violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights or to which the City was deliberately indifferent. Defendants argue that there is no basis upon which to impose municipal liability on the City.


Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists only when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating that there are no facts supporting the nonmoving party's legal position. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-24 (1986). Once the moving party carries this initial burden, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); see also Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (explaining that the nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts"). "The nonmoving party . . . 'cannot rely merely upon bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions' to support its claim." Townes v. City of Phila., No. 00-0138, 2001 WL 503400, at *2 (E.D. Pa. May 11, 2001) (quoting Fireman's Ins. Co. v. DeFresne, 676 F.2d 965, 969 (3d Cir. 1982)). Rather, the party opposing summary judgment must go beyond the pleadings and present evidence through affidavits, depositions, or admissions on file to show that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. When deciding a motion for summary judgment, we must view facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Siegel Transfer, Inc. v. Carrier Express, Inc., 54 F.3d 1125, 1127 (3d Cir. 1995). However, we must not resolve factual disputes or make credibility determinations. Siegel Transfer, 54 F.3d at 1127.


Plaintiff alleges a federal constitutional claim under Monell v. New York City Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). Plaintiff also alleges state law claims under the Pennsylvania Constitution and under theories of intentional ...

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