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Estate of Viola v. Township of Bensalem

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 6, 2015

ESTATE OF RYAN VIOLA; ALICE VIOLA; and SAMUEL VIOLA, JR., Plaintiffs,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF BENSALEM; BENSALEM TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPARTMENT; and ARMOUR AND SONS ELECTRIC, INC., Defendants

Decided March 4, 2015.

For ESTATE OF RYAN VIOLA, DECEASED, BY AND THROUGH ITS CO-ADMINISTRATORS, ALICE VIOLA, SAMUEL VIOLA, JR., Plaintiffs: CHARLES L. LEONE, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICE OF LOUIS R. BUSICO, Newtown, PA.

For TOWNSHIP OF BENSALEM, BENSALEM TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPARTMENT, Defendants: DAVID J. MACMAIN, LEAD ATTORNEY, JOHN PATRICK MCAVOY, THE MACMAIN LAW GROUP LLC, MALVERN, PA; JOHN PHILIP MORGENSTERN, LEAD ATTORNEY, DEASEY MAHONEY, VALENTINI, NORTH LTD., PHILADELPHIA, PA; CHRISTOPHER C. NEGRETE, DEASEY MAHONEY VALENTINI NORTH LTD., PHILADELPHIA, PA.

For BENSALEM TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant: JOSEPH J. SANTARONE, JR., MARSHALL DENNEHEY WARNER COLEMAN & GOGGIN, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

For ARMOUR AND SONS ELECTRIC, INC., Defendant: JOHN J. DELANY, III, LEAD ATTORNEY, DELANY MCBRIDE, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

Page 467

MEMORANDUM OPINION

WENDY BEETLESTONE, J.

This case arises from the tragic death of Ryan Viola, a high school student who was struck and killed while crossing a highway on his way to his school bus stop. The dispositive issue in this case is whether the three defendants that are local government entities may be held liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on a state-created danger theory for establishing a school bus stop on a busy street and failing to provide a crossing guard.

Before the Court are the Defendants Township of Bensalem and the Bensalem Police Department's (together, the " Township" ) Partial Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint, ECF No. 6; Defendant Bensalem School District's (the " School District" ) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), ECF No. 13; and Defendant Armour and Sons Electric, Inc.'s (" Armour and Sons" ) Motion for Partial Dismissal of Plaintiffs' Complaint, ECF No. 8. For the reasons below, the Township and the School District's (together, the " Municipal Defendants" ) motions to dismiss the Section 1983 claim shall be granted, and the Court declines to exercise jurisdiction over the remaining state law counts.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Ryan Viola was a high school student who died after he was hit by a car while attempting to cross the street on his way to his school bus stop. Id. ¶ 20. Plaintiffs, Alice Viola and Samuel Viola, are Viola's parents and co-administrators of his estate. Id. ¶ 3.

Page 468

Viola's designated bus stop was located at the northwest corner of Bensalem Boulevard and Portside Drive in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Id. ¶ 10. Bensalem Boulevard is a busy street with a speed limit of forty miles per hour. Id. ¶ 24. Normally, students cross Bensalem Boulevard by pushing a button that controls the flow of traffic. Id. ¶ 16. At certain times of day, a crossing guard is also present. See id. ¶ 26. However, at the time Viola was struck, the pushbutton was broken, and there was no crossing guard on duty. Id. ¶ ¶ 22-23.

Plaintiffs allege that Viola's death could have been prevented if the Municipal Defendants had put the location of Viola's bus stop on a safer street. Id. ¶ 39. They also allege that the Municipal Defendants should have provided a crossing guard when Viola's school bus was scheduled to leave. Id. ¶ 37. Finally, they allege that Viola's death could have been prevented if the Municipal Defendants had inspected and fixed the broken pushbutton. Id. ¶ 38.

Count I of the Complaint, the only count brought under federal law, seeks recovery under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Municipal Defendants for a violation of the substantive Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment on the theory that by establishing a bus stop at a busy intersection, by approving the placement of the pushbutton and then by failing to repair it, and by failing to provide a crossing guard, the Municipal Defendants created an otherwise avoidable danger to Viola that rendered him vulnerable to the traffic accident that resulted in his death.[1] Id. ¶ 36.

All four Defendants have filed motions to dismiss or partial motions to dismiss. ECF Nos. 7, 8, 13. Plaintiffs filed memoranda ...


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