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Maria Lisa Collazo v. the County of Lancaster

August 31, 2012

MARIA LISA COLLAZO,
v.
THE COUNTY OF LANCASTER, LANCASTER COUNTY PRISON BOARD, LANCASTER COUNTY PRISON, AND JANE DOES 1-16, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James Knoll Gardner United States District Judge

OPINION

This matter is before the court on the Motion for Summary Judgment Pursuant to Fed.R.C.P. 56 of Defendants The County of Lancaster, Lancaster County Prison Board and Lancaster County Prison filed May 2, 2012 ("Defendants' Summary Judgment Motion"). *fn1 Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to the Motion for Summary Judgment Filed by Defendants County of Lancaster, Lancaster County Prison Board and Lancaster County Prison was filed May 17, 2012 ("Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law"). *fn2

Plaintiff filed a corrected version of her memorandum of law on May 22, 2012.

SUMMARY OF DECISION

For the reasons expressed below, I grant Defendants' Summary Judgment Motion. I grant Defendants' Summary Judgment Motion because defendants do not need reasonable suspicion that an individual is concealing weapons or contraband before subjecting that individual to a strip search upon admission to the general population of a prison.

Although there are disputes of fact, I also grant Defendants' Summary Judgment Motion because I conclude that the disputed facts are not material to the legal claims before the court concerning the liability of the municipality for plaintiff's alleged injuries. The factual disputes concern whether all of the blinds were closed during plaintiff's strip searches and whether corrections officers touched plaintiff during any of the strip searches.

These facts are not material because a municipality can be liable pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 only when plaintiff's injuries were caused by a custom or policy of the municipality, and here plaintiff has provided no proof that such custom or policy exists. Thus, I conclude that there are no genuine issues of material fact to preclude granting summary judgment.

Finally, I dismiss all claims against defendants Jane Does 1-16 because plaintiff has not sought leave to amend her complaint to substitute any specific named individuals for the sixteen unnamed Jane Does, and because discovery is closed.

JURISDICTION This court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because plaintiff's complaint alleging that defendants violated her federal Constitutional rights was brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and thus poses a federal question.

VENUE Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2) because a substantial part of the events giving rise to this cause of action occurred in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which is located in this judicial district.

PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS

Plaintiff Maria Lisa Collazo brings this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In Count I of her two-count complaint, titled "42 U.S.A. [sic] § 1983", plaintiff alleges that defendants The County of Lancaster, Lancaster County Prison Board, Lancaster County Prison, and Jane Does 1-16 violated her right under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Consti- tution to be free from unreasonable searches by subjecting plaintiff to a strip search without reasonable suspicion. *fn3

By my Order dated April 4, 2011 and filed April 6, 2011, I granted defendants' motion to dismiss, and dismissed, Count II, titled "STATE CONSTITUTIONAL TORT" from plaintiff's complaint. In Count II plaintiff alleges that defendants violated her rights under Article 1, §§ 1 and 8 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania statutory law. *fn4

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff initiated this action on December 2, 2010 by filing a Complaint for Deprivation of Legal Rights against defendants The County of Lancaster, Lancaster County Prison Board, Lancaster County Prison and Jane Does 1-16 in the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County ("Complaint"). The Complaint alleges that defendants violated plaintiff's civil rights by conducting multiple illegal strip searches during plaintiff's two incarcerations at Lancaster County Prison in 2008.

Defendants removed this action to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on December 2, 2010.

On December 13, 2012, defendants filed in a single document a motion to dismiss Count II of plaintiff's Complaint and a motion for sanctions. By my Order dated April 4, 2011 and filed April 6, 2011, I granted defendants' motion to dismiss Count II and denied their motion for sanctions.

The Answer and Affirmative Defenses of Defendants County of Lancaster, Lancaster County Prison Board, and Lancaster County Prison to Plaintiff's Complaint for Deprivation of Legal Rights was filed April 14, 2011.

By my Rule 16 Status Conference Order dated August 4, 2011 and filed August 10, 2011 I set a February 10, 2012 discovery deadline.

On May 2, 2012 Defendants' Summary Judgment Motion was filed. On that date, defendants also filed a Statement of Undisputed Facts in Support of the Motion for Summary Judgment Pursuant to Fed.R.C.P. 56 of Defendants County of Lancaster, Lancaster County Prison Board and Lancaster County Prison.

Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law was filed on May 17, 2012. A corrected version of Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law was filed May 22, 2012.

On June 25, 2012, Defendants' Reply to Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment was filed. Plaintiff's Surreply to Defendants' Reply That Defendants Filed in Support of Their Motion for Summary Judgment was filed on July 17, 2012 ("Plaintiff's Surreply").

To date, plaintiff has not requested leave to amend her Complaint to replace defendants Jane Does 1-16 with any specific named individuals.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must determine whether "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). See also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2509-2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202, 211 (1986); Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation v. Scottsdale Insurance Company, 316 F.3d 431, 443 (3d Cir. 2003).

Only facts that may affect the outcome of a case are "material". Moreover, all reasonable inferences from the record are drawn in favor of the non-movant. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. at 2513, 91 L.Ed.2d at 216.

Although the movant has the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of genuine issues of material fact, the non-movant must then establish the existence of each element on which it bears the burden of proof. See Watson v. Eastman Kodak Company, 235 F.3d 851, 857-858 (3d Cir. 2000).

Parties cannot avert summary judgment with speculation or by resting on the allegations in their pleadings; rather, they must present competent evidence from which a jury could reasonably find in their favor. Ridgewood Board of Education v. N.E. for M.E., 172 F.3d 238, 252 (3d Cir. 1999); Woods v. Bentsen, 889 F.Supp. 179, 184 (E.D.Pa. June 14, 1995) (Reed, Jr., J.).

FACTS

Based upon the pleadings, record papers, exhibits, and the parties' statements of undisputed facts, the relevant facts, viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, as required by the forgoing standard of review, are as follows.

Plaintiff Maria Lisa Collazo is an adult individual who resides in New Holland, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. *fn5 Defendants are the County of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Lancaster County Prison Board, Lancaster County Prison, and Jane Does 1-16.

Plaintiff was incarcerated twice in 2008: from August 12, 2008 to early September 2008 and from late September 2008 until October 2008. *fn6 On August 12, 2008 plaintiff was arrested on a bench warrant for ...


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