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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 Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 165.) For the following reasons, the Motion will be denied.


On July 24, 2006, Plaintiff Lee Bowers ("Plaintiff") 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.) Plaintiffs demanded a jury trial. (See id.) At the same time, Plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction seeking to correct conditions at the Philadelphia Police Administration Building ("PAB"), at the intake unit of the Philadelphia Prison System ("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 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.)

We held a four-day evidentiary hearing on prison conditions from October 3, 2006, through October 6, 2006. (See Doc. No. 94 at 8 n.7.) We also toured the intake unit at CFCF, the holding cells at the PAB, and the holding cells in the 9th Police District. (Id. at 1.) Based on the evidence and testimony presented at the preliminary injunction hearing and on our tour of the prison facilities, we entered a Preliminary Injunction. (Doc. No. 94.) In a 73-page Memorandum and Order, dated January 25, 2007, we made extensive findings of fact and conclusions of law. (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.) The City did not appeal our grant of preliminary injunctive relief.

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. (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 (collectively, the "City").*fn1 (Doc. No. 165 at 1.) Plaintiff seeks money damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the unconstitutional conditions in the intake unit at the PPS that he was required to endure and 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.)

Plaintiff has filed the instant Motion for Partial Summary Judgment based upon the doctrine of issue preclusion. Plaintiff contends that in the January 25, 2007 Memorandum and Order, this Court determined that the conditions at the intake unit of the PPS during the period of Plaintiff's incarceration in June of 2006 were unconstitutional and that Defendants were responsible for those conditions. Plaintiff seeks partial summary judgment against Defendants on these liability issues.


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.


A. Preclusion Doctrines

Plaintiff maintains that he is entitled to partial summary judgment based on issue preclusion. Issue preclusion can occur in two ways: (1) through the application of collateral estoppel; and (2) through the law-of-the-case doctrine. Issue preclusion, or collateral estoppel, "requires separate actions." United States v. Sherman, 912 F.2d 907, 909 (7th Cir. 1990); see also Montana v. United States, 440 U.S. 147, 153 (1979) ("Under collateral estoppel, once an issue is actually and necessarily determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, that determination isconclusive in subsequent suits based on a different cause of action involving a party to the prior litigation."). "Or as the Supreme Court put it in Ashe v. Swenson,'when a[n] issue of ultimate fact has once been determined by a valid and final judgment, that issue cannot again be litigated between the same parties in any future lawsuit.'" Sherman, 912 F.2d at 907 (citing Ashe, 397 U.S. 436, 443 (1970)); see also Reazzonico v. H & R Block, Inc., 182 F.3d 144, 148 (2d Cir. 1999) (noting that "[r]es judicata [including its'issue preclusion prong'] does not speak to direct attacks in the same case, but rather has application [only] in subsequent actions."); Studiengesellschaft Kohle mbH v. Eastman Kodak Co., 713 F.2d 128, 131 (5th Cir. 1983) (holding that "issue preclusion is applicable only in subsequent actions, not within the same action").

The law-of-the-case doctrine is the framework that "applies in subsequent proceedings of the same case." Hutchins v. U.P.S., Inc., No. 01-1462, 2005 WL 1793719, at *3 (D.N.J. July 26, 2005) (citation omitted). Similar to issue preclusion, "[t]he law-of-the-case doctrine limits re-litigation of an issue once it has been decided in an earlier stage of the same litigation." Hamilton v. Leavy, 322 F.3d 776, 787 (3d Cir. 2003) (citation omitted); see also ACLU v. Mukasey, 534 F.3d 181, 187 (3d Cir. 2008) ("Under the law-of-the-case doctrine, when a court decides upon a rule of law, that decision should continue to govern the same issues in subsequent stages in the same case.") (citations omitted). The law-of-the-case doctrine does not apply if "extraordinary circumstances" warrant reconsideration of an issue decided earlier in the course of litigation. Pub. Interest Research Group of N.J., Inc. v. Magnesium Elektron, Inc., 123 F.3d 111, 116-17 (3d Cir. 1997). Extraordinary circumstances include: (1) the availability of new evidence; (2) the announcement of a supervening new law; and (3) a clearly erroneous decision that would create manifest injustice. Id. at 117; see also McDuffy v. Marsico, No. 00-0938, 2008 WL 3925167, at *3 (D. Del. Aug. 21, 2008) (noting same factors).

Plaintiff does not assert that our preliminary injunction findings are conclusive "in a subsequent action" between the parties, consistent with collateral estoppel. See Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp., 288 F.3d at 525. Rather, Plaintiff asserts that the preliminary injunction findings are conclusive "in an earlier stage of the same litigation," consistent with the law-ofthe-case doctrine. See Hamilton, 322 F.3d at 787. The law-of-the-case doctrine is the appropriate framework for deciding the instant motion. See Casilla v. N.J. State Prison, No. 05-4590, 2008 WL 4003664, at *8 n. 5 (D.N.J. Aug. 22, 2008) (noting that since the defendant sought preclusion ...

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