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Rashe T. Bellmon

September 10, 2012

RASHE T. BELLMON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
:
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA; POLICE OFFICER DAVID RICHARDSON; POLICE OFFICER CHRISTOPHER ROMMEL; AND LOUIS GIORLA, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Before the Court is the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 10). For the reasons set forth in this Memorandum, the Defendants' Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

I. BACKGROUND

Officers David Richardson and Christopher Rommel are police officers for the City of Philadelphia (the "City"), and Louis Giorla is the Prison Commissioner of the City (collectively, the "Defendants"). The gravamen of the Plaintiff's claims against the Defendants is that Officers Richardson and Rommel deliberately struck him with a police patrol car while the Plaintiff fled from them on foot on a snowy December night in 2008. Based on this conduct, the Plaintiff brought this action, principally asserting a Fourth Amendment excessive force claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law claims for assault and battery and negligence.

On December 7, 2008, Officers Richardson and Rommel were patrolling near the intersection of Pratt Street and Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia; Officer Richardson drove. (Def.'s Stmt. of Undisputed Facts ¶¶ 1-2.) The two officers heard a "Flash" radio call announcing that a maroon stolen Chevrolet Lumina was driving in the area. (Richardson Dep. at 8:18-10:4 (Nov. 28, 2011).) When the officers observed an automobile matching this description driving in the area, they followed it. Id. at 11:7-13:14. The officers turned from Pratt Street onto Griscom Street, heading south. Id. at 49:10-50:4. The accounts of the incident then diverge.

According to the officers, they confirmed, through radio contact with their dispatcher, that they were following the Lumina mentioned in the "Flash," and Officer Richardson activated the dome lights of the patrol car in an attempt to stop the Lumina. Id. at 14:24-15:5, 17:5-23. The Lumina then sped away. Id. at 19:22-20:9. The officers pursued it with lights and sirens activated. Id. at 50:2-4. The Lumina reached a high rate of speed, almost collided with a police van, and ultimately crashed into a house at the intersection of Griscom Street and Ruan Street. Id. at 20:17-27:21. The Plaintiff, the driver of the Lumina, tried to run away on foot, and the officers pursued him in the patrol car. Id. at 30:11-31:23. Officer Richardson drove ahead of the Plaintiff so as to let Officer Rommel out of the patrol car in front of the Plaintiff. Id. at 32:13-16; (Rommel Dep. at 20:11-21 (Nov. 28, 2011)). Officer Richardson attempted to stop the patrol car in an area where there were no parked cars (Rommel Dep. at 23:24-24:5), but, as a result of slippery road conditions, Officer Richardson lost control of the patrol car and accidentally struck both the Plaintiff and a building with it (Richardson Dep. at 32:17-34:23 (Nov. 28, 2011); Rommel Dep. at 20:22-21:11 (Nov. 28, 2011)).

According to the Plaintiff, he borrowed a Chevrolet Lumina from a friend; despite not having a driver's license, he intended to drive to a local store in order to purchase drug paraphernalia. (Bellmon Dep. at 53:19-56:20 (Jan. 27, 2012).) This Lumina was parked on Griscom Street. Id. at 58:12-16. The Plaintiff got into this automobile, pulled into traffic heading south on Griscom Street, and noticed a car behind him. Id. at 56:21-59:12. The car following the Plaintiff did not have its lights on, and the Plaintiff did not know if it was a police car or a civilian car. Id. at 59:6-60:6. The car following him then illuminated blinking white lights in its front, id. at 60:15-61:10, but activated neither blue and red lights nor sirens, id. at 70:14-71:11, 90:9-20. The Plaintiff, believing that the occupants of the car following him would try to rob or attack him, sped up, but "wasn't going that fast." Id. at 61:11-65:6. When the Plaintiff reached the intersection of Griscom Street and Ruan Street, the Plaintiff braked, skidded, and collided with a house. Id. at 76:3-77:24. The Plaintiff ran away down the sidewalk on Ruan Street. Id. at 78:12-79:5. Parked cars separated the sidewalk from the roadway. Id. at 66:12-21; (Richardson Dep. at 31:4-21 (Nov. 28, 2011).) As the Plaintiff passed over the driveway to a garage on Ruan Street, the Plaintiff heard a car accelerate, then felt a car strike him and propel him into the air. (Bellmon Dep. at 86:1-87:11 (Jan. 27, 2012).) When the Plaintiff landed, he injured his leg, then saw police officers and a police car nearby. Id. at 87:1-88:13. The Plaintiff told the officers that he thought he had broken his leg, but the officers swore at him, accused him of lying, and told him he would go to jail. Id. at 94:10-95:5, 100:2-101:5. A police van then took the Plaintiff to Frankford Hospital. Id. at 95:7-16.

Plaintiff commenced the present action against the Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment claims for deprivation of his due process and equal protection rights and Fourth Amendment claims for excessive force (Count I) (Compl. ¶¶ 31-37), as well as claims for violations of the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions based on false arrest and false imprisonment (Count IV) (Compl. ¶¶ 54-57), and malicious prosecution (Count V) ((Compl. ¶¶ 58-61). The Plaintiff also asserts state law claims for assault and battery (Count II) (Compl. ¶¶ 38-45), and negligence (Count III) (Compl. ¶¶ 46-53).

After the Defendants moved for summary judgment, the Plaintiff, in his Response, represented that he only contested the Defendants' Motion with respect to his Fourth Amendment excessive force claim in Count I and his state law claims for assault and battery and negligence in Counts II and III. (Pl.'s Response at 4.) The Plaintiff's Response also referred to a sixth count of the complaint, which purportedly alleges "Monell claims against all defendants." Id. Although the Plaintiff's complaint contains no such sixth count and does not expressly invoke the doctrine of Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978) (see generally Compl.), the Court construes the Plaintiff's naming of the City of Philadelphia as a Defendant and assertion of claims against the City as stating Monell claims.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Upon considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court shall grant the motion "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). In making this determination, "inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts . . . must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted). "[T]here is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The party opposing summary judgment "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the . . . pleading; its response, by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule, must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001) (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Uncontested Claims

The Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all of the

Plaintiff's claims. The Plaintiff does not oppose the Defendants' Motion with respect to Counts IV and V of his complaint or with respect to his due process and equal protection claims in Count I. (Pl.'s Response at 4.) Accordingly, summary judgment for all of the Defendants is proper on the claims pleaded in Counts IV and V of the complaint, for violations of the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions based on false arrest, false imprisonment, and ...


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