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Brautigam v. Fraley

February 4, 2010

LINDA BRAUTIGAM, AS ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF CURTIS BRAUTIGAM : (DECEASED); LINDA BRAUTIGAM, INDIVIDUALLY; AVICHAI BRAUTIGAM, A MINOR BY AND THROUGH HIS MOTHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, LINDA BRAUTIGAM; ASHER BRAUTIGAM, A MINOR BY AND THROUGH HIS MOTHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, LINDA BRAUTIGAM; AND ARIEH BRAUTIGAM, A MINOR BY AND THROUGH HIS MOTHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, LINDA BRAUTIGAM, PLAINTIFFS
v.
WILLIAM FRALEY AND KIRK PERKINS, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Sylvia H. Rambo

MEMORANDUM

This is a civil rights case brought by Plaintiff Linda Brautigam on her own behalf, on behalf of the estate of her deceased husband, and on behalf of her minor children. Plaintiffs' claims were brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Pennsylvania State Constitution, the Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act, 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 8301 et seq., and the Pennsylvania Survival Act, 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 8302 et seq. All of Plaintiffs claims stem from a common nucleus of operative facts, as described more fully below.

Before the court are motions by the Defendants William Fraley and Kirk Perkins. Both Defendants argue that all of the state law claims must be dismissed because they are entitled to statutory sovereign immunity as to these claims. (Docs. 14, 17). For the reasons set forth below, the court finds that Defendants are entitled to statutory immunity pursuant to 1 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 2310 as to Plaintiffs' state law claims.

I. Background

A. Facts

The following facts are taken directly from Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint. On or about March 14, 2008, Curtis Brautigam, suffering from bacterial meningitis, collapsed on the floor of his bedroom at his home in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 5, Amend. Compl. ¶ 10.) At the time, he was responsible for overseeing his children while his wife was on vacation. (Id.) When Linda Brautigam left for vacation her husband was not ill. (Id.)

At approximately 5:00 p.m. that day, Annette Feie called 911 after she discovered Plaintiff Arieh Brautigam, a minor, walking in Southampton Township, Cumberland County, approximately three miles from his home. (Id., ¶ 11.) Defendant Kirk Perkins, a trooper with the Pennsylvania State Police, responded to the emergency call, and was told by Arieh Brautigam that his mother was out of the country on a trip and that his father, Curtis Brautigam had become blind, was urinating on himself, and that something was wrong at home. (Id., ¶ 12.) Defendant Perkins drove Arieh Brautigam back to his home, entered the Plaintiffs' residence and discovered Avichai and Asher Brautigam, both minors, unattended by a parent or guardian in the living room watching television. (Id., ¶ 13.) Defendant Perkins then entered Curtis Brautigam's bedroom and discovered him lying face down on the floor; Perkins called out to Curtis Brautigam, who raised his head up from the floor, moaned and then collapsed back onto the floor again. (Id., ¶ 14.)

Defendant Perkins left Curtis Brautigam incapacitated on the floor of his bedroom, and returned to the living room where the three minor children were watching television. (Id., ¶ 15.) Defendant Perkins asked the children if they needed anything, and after receiving a negative response, he left the house. (Id.) Defendant Perkins did not seek medical attention for Curtis Brautigam. (Id.)

The next morning, March 15, 2008, after the three minor children could not awaken their father, Arieh Brautigam called 911 for emergency assistance. (Id., ¶ 17.) Curtis Brautigam was taken to the Chambersburg Hospital where he died on March 17, 2008, from complications associated with bacterial meningitis. (Id., ¶¶ 17-18.) Plaintiffs allege that Curtis Brautigham would not have died had Defendant Perkins sought medical help for him on March 14, 2008. (Id., ¶ 29.) Plaintiffs further allege that had Defendant William R. Fraley, a Captain of the Pennsylvania State Police, provided proper instruction and training to the police officers under his supervision, including Defendant Perkins, Curtis Brautigam would not have been deprived of access to prompt medical care and treatment.

B. Procedural History

Plaintiffs filed their original complaint on September 4, 2009, (Doc. 1), and an Amended Complaint on October 7, 2009, (Doc. 5). Defendant Fraley filed an Answer with affirmative defenses on October 14, 2009. (Doc. 12.) On October 30, 2009, Defendant Fraley filed a motion for partial judgment on the pleadings, (Doc. 14), and a brief in support on November 2, 2009, (Doc. 15). In his motion, Defendant Fraley asserts that Plaintiffs fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted as to their state claims-Counts V, IX, X, and XI-because he is entitled to statutory sovereign immunity. Plaintiffs filed their brief in opposition to Defendant Fraley's motion on November 11, 2009. (Doc. 16.) A reply brief was filed on November 16, 2009. (Doc. 21.)

On November 12, 2009, Defendant Perkins filed a motion to dismiss Counts IV, V, VII, VIII, and XI of Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and brief in support. (Docs. 17-18.) These counts are Plaintiffs' state law claims against Defendant Perkins. The basis of Defendant Perkins' motion is the same as Defendant Fraley's, namely, that Defendant Perkins is entitled to statutory sovereign immunity. Plaintiffs filed a brief in opposition on November 24, 2009. (Doc. 24.) A reply brief was filed on November 25, 2009. (Doc. 25.)

II. Legal Standard

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), once the pleadings are closed a party may move for judgment on the pleadings "within such time as to not delay the trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c).*fn1 The standard of review for a motion for judgment on the pleadings is identical to that of the motion to dismiss under Federal Rule 12(b)(6). Turbe v. Gov't of Virgin Islands, 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991) (citations omitted). The only notable difference between these two standards is that the court, for a motion on the pleadings, reviews not only the complaint but also the answer and written instruments attached to the pleadings. 2 MOORE'S FEDERAL PRACTICE CIVIL § 12.38 (2004). Despite this difference, courts in this circuit have consistently stated that the distinction between the two standards is "merely semantic." Christy v. We The People Forms & Serv. Ctrs., 213 F.R.D. 235, 238 (D.N.J. 2003); see Smith v. City of Philadelphia, 345 F. Supp. 2d 482, 485 (E.D. Pa. 2004) ("A motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) is treated using the same ...


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