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Burella v. City of Philadelphia

January 15, 2010

JILL BURELLA, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF BETH ANN BURELLA, DANIELLE BURELLA AND NICHOLAS BURELLA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Jill Burella filed this action against Defendants City of Philadelphia ("City") and police officers Robert Reamer, Charles Bloom, and Francis Gramlich ("Individual Defendants") in February 2000, alleging violations of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Pennsylvania state law.*fn1 Now before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Certify the Court's Interlocutory Order of September 30, 2009 for Appeal.*fn2 For reasons set forth below, the Motion is denied.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This case arises from the events of January 12, 1999, when Plaintiff's deceased husband George Burella ("Decedent"), intentionally shot and seriously injured Plaintiff and then shot and killed himself. On September 30, 2009, the Court issued a Memorandum Opinion*fn3 to address Defendants' Second Motion for Summary Judgment. The Court herein recites pertinent parts of said Opinion to establish relevant factual and procedural background:

At the time of the shooting, Decedent was a ten-year veteran of the City Police Department, and he and Plaintiff had three young children, an eleven-year-old daughter, Beth Ann, and six-year-old twins, Nicholas and Danielle...

Decedent had emotionally and physically abused Plaintiff for years prior to the shooting. The abuse began in 1996....[I]n February of 1996, Decedent was convicted of disorderly conduct for stalking Plaintiff at her workplace and assaulting her male co-worker whom he suspected was having an affair with her. One month later,...Decedent attempted suicide by overdosing on Tylenol tablets. He survived and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital where he was diagnosed with depression after admitting to fighting with and pushing Plaintiff, as well as having minor gambling problems.

While Decedent was in the hospital, he was visited by Michael Conly, a representative of the City Police Department's Employee Assistance Program ("EAP"), a program designed to assist officers in obtaining help with personal problems. EAP notified the City Medical Department, which placed Decedent on restricted duty and referred him to City doctors for psychological treatment. The doctors eventually cleared him to return to full active duty in August 1996, provided he be evaluated every four months for a period of one year. Decedent was not re-evaluated...

Decedent's violence towards his wife continued over the next several years and escalated in 1998...

In early June 1998, Plaintiff contacted the City Police Department's Internal Affairs Division to report the abuse. Afterwards, Decedent contacted and reported to EAP on June 15, 1998. He admitted to striking Plaintiff and was referred to a financial counselor, the legal aid committee as well as a support group to help with his pre-existing gambling problem.

Later that month, on June 26, 1998, Decedent assaulted Plaintiff and another man at a local bar. Witnesses called 9-1-1, but Decedent left the bar before police officers arrived. When he got home, he phoned Plaintiff and threatened to shoot their son Nicholas if she did not immediately return to the house. After calling 9-1-1, Plaintiff rushed home, where her husband, who was armed with a gun, threatened to shoot her. Before the matter worsened, City police officers arrived. Decedent initially refused the officers' order to surrender, but did so after the officer in charge agreed to report the incident as a domestic disturbance, rather than a more serious offense. Defendant Reamer was one of the officers who arrived at the scene.

After the police officers left, Decedent began beating Plaintiff on their front lawn. Her parents arrived and took her to their house, but Decedent followed them there. Once at her parents' house, Plaintiff tried to call 9-1-1, but Decedent wrestled the phone from her and told the operator that he was a police officer and that everything was under control. As a result, the operator did not instruct police to respond to the situation. Three days later, Plaintiff contacted EAP to report the incident, but EAP failed to notify Internal Affairs and the incident was never investigated.

On July 13, 1998, Decedent called Plaintiff at her place of work in Upper Southampton Township and threatened to kill her. Upper Southampton police officers were called and arrived in time to witness Plaintiff receiving several more threatening phone calls from her husband. The officers called Defendant Bloom, Decedent's commanding officer, to inform him of the incident.

Defendant Bloom became directly involved in the situation on August 13, 1998, when Northampton police officers arrested Decedent for assaulting Plaintiff in Bucks County. The officers released Decedent into the custody of Defendant Bloom, who escorted him home. Three days later, on August 16, Decedent called Plaintiff while she was visiting his parents with the children and again threatened to kill her. When he went to his parents' house, Northampton police officers responding to an emergency call escorted him to his car, unloaded his firearm and placed it in the trunk of the car. Shortly thereafter, officers found him driving in the vicinity of the house with his gun re-loaded and placed on the backseat of his car. Officers took him to a local hospital, but he was released shortly thereafter when his family declined to have him committed for fear that he would lose his job. After being notified of the incident, Defendant Bloom ordered Decedent to submit to a psychiatric evaluation.

Later that month, on August 20, 1998, Decedent admitted himself to a psychiatric hospital. He left on August 24, 1998, after four days of treatment, only to return later that day. He was discharged on August 25, 1998 with a diagnosis of explosive personality disorder and a guarded prognosis. Several days later, City psychologists examined Decedent and concluded that he should be monitored for the next two years. After one follow-up appointment with City ...


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