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Reynolds v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority

United States District Court, Third Circuit

July 31, 2013

LISA REYNOLDS, as Administrator of the Estate of LEONARD SEDDEN, deceased, on behalf of said decedent's heirs-at-law and next of kin and in her own behalf Plaintiffs,


PETRESE B. TUCKER, District Judge.

Presently before the Court is Defendant's, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority ("SEPTA"), Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 4), Plaintiff's, Lisa Reynolds ("Reynolds"), Response in Opposition thereto (Doc. 7), and Defendant's Reply (Doc. 11). For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion is GRANTED.


This action arises from the death of Leonard Sedden ("Mr. Sedden") while he was aboard a SEPTA bus. On April 11, 2010, at approximately 4:00 a.m., Mr. Sedden was a lawful and proper passenger aboard a SEPTA "night owl" bus traveling from the 69th Street Transportation Center to the Frankford Transportation Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania when the SEPTA driver noticed Mr. Sedden lying in urine, covered in drool and largely unresponsive. Shortly thereafter, the bus driver contacted SEPTA's control station to inform a dispatcher of Mr. Sedden's condition. The dispatcher instructed the driver to proceed with her route. During the route, the bus was stopped at 15th and Market Street, where a SEPTA supervisor boarded the bus and observed Mr. Sedden's condition. The supervisor observed Mr. Sedden breathing and sitting upright and instructed the driver to proceed with her regular schedule. At approximately 5:30 a.m., the bus arrived at Frankford Transportation Center where SEPTA police pronounced Mr. Sedden dead. (Compl. ¶¶ 3-8.)

Plaintiff, Lisa Reynolds, as the Administrator of Decedent's Estate and on behalf of Decedent's heirs and next of kin and on her own behalf, commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, on February 3, 2012, in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.[1] On February 27, 2012, Defendant removed the action to this Court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. Defendant filed this Motion to Dismiss on March 5, 2012. Plaintiff filed a Response to the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss on March 20, 2012. Thereafter, Defendant filed a Reply brief on June 28, 2012. The Court will now address Defendant's pending Motion to Dismiss.


In considering a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim the Court should consider a two-part analysis. First, the Court "must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions." Fowler v. UPMC, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009), citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Next, the Court "must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a plausible claim for relief.'" Id. at 211, quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. To be "plausible, " a claimant's factual allegations must "permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct." Id. That is, "a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief, " it "has to show' such an entitlement with its facts." Id. If the court can only infer the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint must be dismissed because it has alleged, but has failed to show, that the pleader is entitled to relief. Id.


A. Plaintiff's Claim for Relief Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983

A claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 provides relief for the violation of rights secured by the United States Constitution and other federal laws. Kopec v. Tate, 361 F.3d 772, 775-76 (3d Cir. 2004). Section 1983 provides, in relevant part, the following:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit inequity, or other proper proceeding for redress [.] 42 U.S.C.A. §1983.

To successfully establish a claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff must show: 1) the deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or other federal law; and 2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. See Collins v. City of Harker Heights, 503 U.S. 115, 120 (1992). In support of their §1983 claim Plaintiff advances three theories of liability. First, Plaintiff alleges that SEPTA maintained a policy or custom of continuing services while a passenger was in need of medical attention. Second, Plaintiff alleges SEPTA failed to render emergency services for Mr. Sedden. Lastly, Plaintiff alleges a "state-created" danger as a result of SEPTA's policy to continue service regardless of a passenger's medical emergency. (Doc. 7 at 5). While SEPTA argues Mr. Sedden was not deprived of a constitutional right, the parties do not dispute that SEPTA and its agents were acting under color of state law.

1. SEPTA's Policy of Declining to Provide Emergency Services to a Passenger

The Supreme Court has held that §1983 applies to municipalities and other local government units. See Monell v. Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). To establish a § 1983 claim against a municipality a plaintiff must identify either a "policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision officially adopted or promulgated by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, " or "constitutional deprivations visited pursuant to governmental custom' even though such a custom has not received formal approval through the government's official decision-making channels." Id. at 659. Next, the plaintiff must identify a direct causal link between the actions of the municipality and the deprivation of federal rights. Board of the Cnty Comm'rs of Bryan Cnty v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 404 (1997); see also Bielevicz v. Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845, 850 (3d Cir. 1990) (holding ...

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