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Phillip anderson v. City of Philadelphia

March 14, 2013

PHILLIP ANDERSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

I.INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Phillip Anderson initiated this civil rights lawsuit against Defendants City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, and Philadelphia Police Officers Adrian Ryan and Gerald Rahill based on events that took place during the early afternoon of June 22, 2010. Plaintiff claims to have been the victim of an unlawful search and seizure conducted by Officers Ryan and Rahill, which left him bruised, battered, and in need of costly medical care. According to Plaintiff, this encounter was racially motivated and consistent with racially discriminatory policies and practices of the Philadelphia Police Department.

Plaintiff filed a thirteen-count Complaint against the four Defendants*fn1 seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, $150,000 in compensatory damages on each count, and a minimum of $500,000 in punitive damages. Before trial, Plaintiff withdrew all claims against the City of Philadelphia and Police Commissioner Ramsey.

At the conclusion of trial, the jury found against Plaintiff on the federal claim of use of excessive force and on the state law claim of assault and battery. The jury found in favor of Plaintiff on the Fourth Amendment claim of unreasonable seizure and on the state law claim of false arrest. The jury awarded him $1 in nominal damages.

As the prevailing party in a federal civil rights action, Plaintiff now moves for attorneys' fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988 and for costs. For reasons that follow, the Court will deny Plaintiff's Motion for an Award of Attorney's Fees and Interest (Doc. No. 40) and will grant Plaintiff's request for costs (Doc. Nos. 39 and 51).

II.FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On June 22, 2010, Plaintiff, a Hispanic male, was waiting for the mid-afternoon bus at the corner of 9th and Erie Streets in Philadelphia when he was suddenly struck by a Philadelphia Police patrol car being driven by Officers Adrian Ryan and Gerald Rahill. (Doc. No. 1 at 5-6.) After he was pinned against a wall with the car, Plaintiff claimed the officers beat him with their "night sticks and fists" without being provoked. (Id. at 6-7.) As he was lying helpless on the ground, they tazed him and sprayed mace in his eyes. (Id. at 7.) Plaintiff was then briefly detained at the scene, forced to sign a citation - which, he later learned, was for disorderly conduct - and purportedly left "humiliated, crying, bleeding and injured on the street." (Id. at 6.) On his own, Plaintiff went to Temple University Hospital for emergency medical treatment. (Id. at 8.) Once released from the hospital, Plaintiff reported the incident at the local police station and, ultimately, met with Internal Affairs, which is responsible for investigating citizen complaints of officer misconduct. (See id. at 8-10.) Internal Affairs never followed up with Plaintiff about whether an investigation was initiated and, if so, what was the outcome. (Id. at 10.)

Eventually, Plaintiff was provided with a copy of the citation prepared by Officers Ryan and Rahill, which contained a factual narrative that, according to Plaintiff, was vastly different from what he had experienced that afternoon. (Id. at 11.) First, the citation noted that Officers Ryan and Rahill were directed to 9th and Erie Streets based on a radio call informing them that a Hispanic male wearing a black shirt and blue shorts was standing on the corner with a knife to his own throat. (Id.) Second, the citation described the officers' initial encounter with Plaintiff as merely a question and answer session. (Id.) Third, the citation noted that Plaintiff had jumped on the roof of the patrol car, screaming and striking the windshield with his hands. (Id.)*fn2 When the officers attempted to detain him, he took a "fighting stance," which forced them to use pepper spray. (Id. at 11-12.) Finally, the citation stated that Plaintiff was transported by Officers Ryan and Rahill to Episcopal Hospital for medical treatment, instead of, as Plaintiff contended, that they left him bruised and battered on the street and forced to find his own medical care. (Id. at 12.)*fn3

On July 22, 2011, Plaintiff filed the instant civil rights action against Defendants City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, and Philadelphia Police Officers Ryan and Rahill. (Id.) Plaintiff claimed that the illegal search and seizure and use of excessive force by Officers Ryan and Rahill, their subsequent fabrication of events and the lack of any internal investigation into his complaint, were consistent with the Philadelphia Police Department's long history of discriminatory policies and practices aimed at racial minorities in the City of Philadelphia. (See id. at 13-27.) The Complaint alleged the following violations:

Count I - 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against all Defendants, for unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment.

Count II - 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against all Defendants, for implementing and enforcing an unconstitutional racially-based search and seizure policy under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Count III - 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Defendants City of Philadelphia and Police Commissioner Ramsey, for failure to properly train officers under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Count IV - 42 U.S.C. § 2000(D) et seq., against Defendant City of Philadelphia, for discrimination based on race in law enforcement activities.

Count V - 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Defendant City of Philadelphia and Police Commissioner Ramsey, for denial of due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment for failure to properly process Plaintiff's complaint filed with the police department.

Count VI - Assault and Battery, against Officer Ryan, for operating the patrol car.

Count VII - Assault and Battery, against Officer Ryan, for using excessive force.

Count VIII - Assault and Battery, against Officer Rahill, for ...


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