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Bailey v. City of Allentown

United States District Court, Third Circuit

August 13, 2013

MICHAEL JAKE BAILEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF ALLENTOWN, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

MITCHELL S. GOLDBERG, Judge.

Pro se Plaintiff, Michael Jake Bailey, has brought suit against the City of Allentown, the Allentown Police Department and Officer Scott Magill of the Allentown Police Department, for actions allegedly taken by Officer Magill during Plaintiff's arrest for assault. Plaintiff alleges that just after his arrest, Officer Magill provided Sirena Tirado, Plaintiff's girlfriend at the time, with access to his apartment without his consent. As a result, Plaintiff claims that Tirado was able to steal his personal property while he was incarcerated. Plaintiff's amended complaint asserts numerous claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the Fourth and Eighth Amendments and the state-created danger doctrine, as well as Monell liability. On November 27, 2012, the Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion will be granted.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY[1]

On December 24, 2009, Plaintiff was involved in a physical altercation with Sirena Tirado within his apartment. (Pl.'s Dep., Doc. No. 50-3, Ex. B, p. 83.) After Tirado ran out of the apartment, she and Plaintiff placed separate phone calls to 911. Officer Scott Magill of the Allentown Police Department responded to these calls. (Defs.' Stat. Facts, Doc. 50-2, at ¶¶ 9-11.) After speaking with Officer Magill about the altercation, Plaintiff advised Magill that Tirado did not reside in his apartment and requested that he remove her from the premises. (Pl.'s Stat. Facts, Doc. 51, at ¶ 3.) Tirado, on the other hand, informed police that she resided in the apartment. (Defs.' Stat. Facts, Doc. 50-2, at ¶ 16.) Evidence of the struggle within the apartment corroborated the version of events reported by Tirado, leading the police to believe that she indeed lived in the apartment.[2] (Id. at ¶¶ 17-22, 28.) Officer Magill arrested Plaintiff for assault, searched his pockets, retrieved his keys and gave them to Tirado. (Pl's Stat. Facts, Doc. 51, at ¶ 5.) Plaintiff claims that Officer Magill's actions allowed Tirado to return to his apartment and burglarize his home, stealing all of his belongings. (Id. at ¶ 8; Defs.' Stat. Facts, ¶ 34.) On June 2, 2010, Plaintiff pled guilty in the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County to assault and making terroristic threats.

Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on September 22, 2011, asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of the Fourth[3] and Eighth[4] Amendments, the state-created danger doctrine, and municipal liability pursuant to Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New York , 436 U.S. 658 (1978). On November 27, 2012, Defendants Officer Magill, Allentown Police Department and the City of Allentown filed a motion for summary judgment. The motion is now fully briefed and ready for disposition.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that judgment is appropriate as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once a properly supported motion for summary judgment has been made, the burden shifts to the non-moving party, who must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). An issue is "genuine" if a reasonable jury could rule in favor of the non-moving party based on the evidence presented. Kaucher v. Cnty. of Bucks , 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006). The non-moving party cannot avert summary judgment with speculation or conclusory allegations, but rather must cite to the record. Ridgewood Bd. of Educ. v. N.E. for M.E. , 172 F.3d 238, 252 (3d Cir. 1999); FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c).

On a motion for summary judgment, the court considers the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Anderson , 477 U.S. at 256. Courts may not make credibility determinations at the summary judgment stage. Boyle v. Cnty. of Allegheny, Pa. , 139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir. 1998) (citing Petruzzi's IGA Supermarkets, Inc. v. Darling-Delaware Co., Inc. , 998 F.2d 1224, 1230 (3d Cir. 1993) cert. denied, 510 U.S. 994 (1993)). "While the pleadings of pro se litigants are held to less stringent standards than those drafted by lawyers, a pro se plaintiff must still meet the above standard to survive a motion for summary judgment." Gyamfi v. Wendy's Int'l, 2011 WL 308652, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 31, 2011).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Qualified Immunity

Defendants argue that Officer Magill is entitled to qualified immunity for his actions outlined in the amended complaint because a reasonable police officer placed in the same situation would not have had reason to believe that his actions violated any clearly established right, and the Constitution does not provide an affirmative obligation for Officer Magill to protect against property crimes committed by third parties. (Mot. for Summ. J., pp. 5, 15.)

Government officials are extended qualified immunity in section 1983 actions "insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Messerschmidt v. Millender , 132 S.Ct. 1235, 1244 (2012) (quoting Pearson v. Callahan , 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009)). "[W]hether an official protected by qualified immunity may be held personally liable for an allegedly unlawful official action generally turns on the objective legal reasonableness' of the action, assessed in light of the legal rules that were clearly established' at the time it was taken." Id . at 1245 (quoting Anderson v. Creighton , 483 U.S. 635, 639 (1987)). A court must engage in a two-part inquiry to determine if qualified immunity applies: (1) "whether the facts that a plaintiff has alleged or shown make out a violation of a constitutional right"; and (2) "whether the right at issue was clearly' established at the time of defendant's alleged misconduct." Pearson v. Callahan , 555 U.S. 223, 232 (2009) (citing Saucier v. Katz , 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001)).

1. Violation of a Constitutional Right - The State Created Danger Doctrine

In DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services , 489 U.S. 189 (1989), the United States Supreme Court held that a state does not have an affirmative obligation to protect its citizens' life, liberty and property from private invasion under the Due Process Clause. However, when a state takes a person into custody, it assumes an affirmative duty to protect him from harm. Id . at 199-200. The principle derived from this statement has developed into what is known as the state-created danger doctrine. A state-created danger exists "when state authority is affirmatively employed in a manner that injures a citizen or renders him more vulnerable to injury from another source than he or she would have been ...


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