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Lewis v. City of Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

April 8, 2014

JAMES A. LEWIS, , Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, , Defendants.

MEMORANDUM RE: THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

MICHAEL M. BAYLSON, District Judge.

I. Introduction

This action involves claims under § 1983 and state law related to various police officers' arrest of Plaintiffs on September 2, 2011. Defendant, the City of Philadelphia (the "City"), moved for summary judgment, claiming that Plaintiffs have failed to adduce sufficient evidence showing that the City should be held liable for Plaintiffs' claims. For the following reasons, this Court GRANTS the City's Motion for Summary Judgment with respect to Plaintiffs' state law claims, and DENIES the City's Motion for Summary Judgment with respect to Plaintiffs' § 1983 claim.

II. Background

Plaintiffs filed their Complaint on May 9, 2013. ECF 1. Plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages related to the following causes of action: civil rights violation (Count I), assault and battery (Count II), false imprisonment (Count III), malicious prosecution (Count IV), defamation (Count V), intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count VI), invasion of privacy (Count VII), civil conspiracy (Count VIII), and loss of consortium (Count IX). Id . The Complaint names the City of Philadelphia, Lieutenant Jonathan Josey, Officer Paul Groves, Officer Curt McKee, Officer Timothy Coleman, and Officer Timothy Murphy as Defendants. Id.

Defendants answered Plaintiffs' Complaint on June 12, 2013. ECF 4.

Following discovery, on January 31, 2014, the City of Philadelphia ("the City") moved for summary judgment. ECF 16. Plaintiffs responded to the City's motion on February 12, 2014. ECF 17.

The parties do not dispute the majority of facts material to this Motion for Summary Judgment. On September 2, 2011, Plaintiff James A. Lewis ("Lewis Sr.") was driving a Bentley on the 600 block of Erie Avenue in Philadelphia. ECF 16 (The City's Mot. for Summ. J.), Statement of Undisputed Facts ("SUF") ¶ 1. Meanwhile and nearby, Plaintiff James A. Lewis II ("Lewis II") was driving a 2011 Chevrolet Silverado ("Silverado") with passengers, Plaintiffs Marquis J. Lewis and Lyric L. Lewis. Id . ¶ 3. Defendant Josey stopped Lewis Sr. for a vehicle investigation. Id . ¶ 2. Lewis II parked the Silverado behind Josey's car. Id . ¶ 4. Defendant Josey approached the driver's side door of the Silverado and ordered Lewis II to move the vehicle. Id . ¶ 5.

At that time, Lewis exited the Bentley and approached and spoke with Josey. Id . ¶¶ 6, 8. Josey instructed Lewis to return to his vehicle, but Lewis Sr. continued to speak to Josey. Id . ¶¶ 9-11. Josey also instructed Lewis II to move the Silverado from its parking spot, to which Lewis II responded that he would not leave the scene. Id . ¶¶ 12-14. Josey then grabbed Lewis Sr. and attempted to arrest him for disorderly conduct, striking him numerous times with his asp.[1] Id . ¶¶ 15-16. Lewis Sr. picked up the asp and threw it away. Id . ¶ 17. Lewis II then exited the Silverado. Id . ¶ 18. A number of other police officers then arrived on the scene, at which point Lewis Sr., Lewis II, Marquis Lewis, and Lyric Lewis were arrested and taken into custody.

Plaintiffs set forth a "Statement of Additional Facts Precluding Summary Judgment" consisting of 65 paragraphs, to which the City did not respond.[2] ECF 17 (Pls.' Opp'n to the City's Mot. for Summ. J.) at 6-17. For purposes of deciding the present Motion, the material facts set forth in this statement detail the history of complaints regarding Josey's conduct. Plaintiffs cite to Josey's Concise Officer History, [3] which states that Josey's history included 12 citizen complaints, 6 internal affairs investigations, 6 off-duty investigations, and 8 police firearm discharge investigations. ECF 17 at 15 (citing ECF 17, Ex. B (Concise Officer History report)). Plaintiffs additionally show that the City never required Josey to undergo any special training on use of excessive force based on the deposition testimony of Josey. Id . at 16 (citing Josey Dep. 25:12-21). Plaintiffs also rely on a September 30, 2012 incident involving Josey's arrest of a woman during the Puerto Rican Day parade celebration. Id . As in the present case, Plaintiffs state, Josey claimed that he was trying to arrest the woman for disorderly conduct. Id . at 17 (citing ECF 17, Ex. I (Commonwealth v. Josey, MC-51-CR-0046885-2012 (Pa. D. Feb. 12, -), Tr. at 89:9-14)). Although Josey was prosecuted for his conduct and terminated, he was later reinstated and remains actively employed by the City's Police Department. Id .; Josey Dep. at 14:19-15:23, 21:14-22:9.

III. Parties' Contentions

The City moves for summary judgment, contending that Plaintiffs have not offered any evidence regarding the customs, policies, and practices of the City and, therefore, cannot establish that the City should be held liable for Plaintiffs' alleged injuries. The City argues that Plaintiffs have offered no evidence showing that the City made a conscious decision, or acted with deliberate indifference, in violation of Plaintiffs' constitutional rights. The City contends that Plaintiffs have failed to show that the City was aware of a need for improved training, supervision, or discipline. The City also argues that Plaintiffs failed to identify training that should have been offered and that would have prevented the deprivation of Plaintiffs' constitutional rights. Moreover, the City argues that Plaintiffs have not offered evidence showing that any alleged violation of their civil rights occurred as a result of an officially adopted policy or custom. Without such evidence, the City argues, Plaintiff cannot hold the City liable for an alleged failure to train, supervise, or discipline.

The City also moves for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' causes of action sounding in tort (Counts II-IX), arguing that the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act ("Tort Claims Act") provides broad immunity to the City against tort claims.[4] ECF 16 at 14-15 (citing 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8541 et seq.). The City contends that the Tort Claims Act provides immunity for all tort claims except in a number of limited instances, none of which apply to Plaintiffs' claims.

Plaintiffs respond by arguing that the evidence shows that City policymakers knew or should have known of systematic deficiencies in the disciplining and supervision of Philadelphia police officers because of the long history of complaints of verbal and physical abuse by police officers, particularly Defendant Josey. Plaintiffs argue that the long history of complaints against Defendant Josey resulted in the policymakers' constructive knowledge of constitutional violations. Moreover, Plaintiffs argue that the evidence shows that the City failed to meaningfully respond to complaints, ...


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