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Edward Kamel Abraham, Jr. v. David Digugliemeo

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


December 10, 2010

EDWARD KAMEL ABRAHAM, JR.
v.
DAVID DIGUGLIEMEO, ET AL

The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'neill, J.

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff, a former inmate in the Pennsylvania state prison system, filed a civil rights action against prison health officials. He alleged that the officials were indifferent to his medical needs in violation of the federal and Pennsylvania Constitutions.*fn1

On May 25, 2010, I granted in part and denied in part the motion to dismiss filed by defendants Prison Health Services, Germaine and Arias.*fn2 I reserved ruling on the question of whether Article I, sections 1 or 13 of the Pennsylvania Constitution provide a private right of action for damages. I ordered the parties to submit additional briefing on that question. For the following reasons, I will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's Pennsylvania Constitutional claim.*fn3

DISCUSSION

Defendants argue that Article I, sections 1 and 13 of the Pennsylvania Constitution do not provide a private right of action for damages. They point out that most federal courts that have addressed this issue "have either rejected the claim outright or declined to exercise [supplemental] jurisdiction" over the claim. Defs.' Br. at 1. Plaintiff has not identified any Pennsylvania decision holding that either section 1 or section 13 provides a private right of action for damages.

28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) provides that the district court may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over "all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within [the court's original subject matter jurisdiction] that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of the United States Constitution." Section 1367(c)(1) allows the district court to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction "where the claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law[.]"

My review of the case law reveals that count III of plaintiff's amended complaint raises a question of state law that is novel. Neither the Pennsylvania Supreme Court nor the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit have decided whether sections 1 or 13 provide a private right of action for damages. See Kurta v. Borough of Glassport, No. 10-195, 2010 WL 1664907, at *4 (W.D. Pa. Apr. 23, 2010) ("The issue of whether the Pennsylvania Constitution, Article 1, § 1 provides a cause of action for damages is unsettled in Pennsylvania and has not been addressed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court or the Third Circuit."); Bowers v. City of Philadelphia, No. 06-3229, 2008 WL 5210256, at *8 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 12, 2008), quoting Dillon v. Homeowner's Select, 957 A.2d 772, 780 n.11 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2008) ("To date, neither Pennsylvania statutory authority nor appellate case law has authorized the award of monetary damages for a violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution."). The resolution of this question, which implicates significant questions of state constitutional law, is better left to the Pennsylvania state courts. I will thus decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over count III of plaintiff's amended complaint and dismiss that count without prejudice.

An appropriate Order follows.


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