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Zahner v. City of Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

January 18, 2017

EMMA ZAHNER
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, et al.

          MEMORANDUM RE: DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

          Baylson, J.

          I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Emma Zahner alleges that she was involuntarily and erroneously incarcerated, in violation of her Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Defendant Jan Lamper (“Lamper”), the only remaining defendant in the case, now moves for judgment on the pleadings with respect to Count Five, the only remaining Count in this case, alleging a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Lamper. (ECF 24, “Def.'s Mot.”).

         For the reasons stated below, Lamper's Motion will be DENIED.

         II. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed this action in the Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County on May 11, 2016, (ECF 1, Ex. A “Amended Complaint”), which defendants City of Philadelphia and Terence Clark (together, the “City Defendants”) timely removed on May 27, 2016. (ECF 1, Notice of Removal). Defendants Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Robert Smith and Lamper (together, the “Corrections Defendants”) consented to the removal. (Id. at 2).

         On May 31, 2016, both the City Defendants and the Corrections Defendants moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint. (ECF 3, 4). On June 30, 2016, this Court Ordered as follows: (1) Counts One, Two and Four would be dismissed without prejudice, and with leave to file a Second Amended Complaint; (2) Counts Three and Six would be dismissed with prejudice; and (3) the motion to dismiss Count Five was denied. (ECF 10); Zahner v. City of Philadelphia, No. CV 16-2635, 2016 WL 3569255, at *1 (E.D. Pa. July 1, 2016), appeal dismissed (Oct. 27, 2016).[1]

         On July 12, 2016, Plaintiff filed the Second Amended Complaint (ECF 11), which contained all of the Counts originally contained in the Amended Complaint. On July 13, 2016, the City Defendants moved to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint, and on July 25, 2016, the Corrections Defendants did the same. (ECF 12, 14). On August 18, 2016, the Court granted both motions, and ordered that Counts One, Two, Three, Four and Six would be dismissed, this time with prejudice.[2] (ECF 18); Zahner v. City of Philadelphia, No. CV 16-2635, 2016 WL 4409105, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 18, 2016). Because the defendants had not challenged Count Five of the Second Amended Complaint, the Court ordered that the case would continue against Lamper only. (Id.).

         On September 16, 2016, Lamper filed an Answer to the allegations contained in Count Five of the Second Amended Complaint (ECF 21), and on October 27, 2016, Lamper filed the instant Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. On November 4, 2016, Plaintiff filed an Opposition to Lamper's Motion (ECF 26, “Pl.'s Opp'n”), to which Lamper filed a reply brief on November 7, 2016 (ECF 27, “Def.'s Reply Br.”).

         III. Factual Background

         The following facts are taken from the Second Amended Complaint, and are accepted as true for purposes of the pending motion. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); United States Express Lines, Ltd. v. Higgins, 281 F.3d 383, 388 (3d Cir. 2002). Lamper is an employee of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”) and serves as a supervisor of the Intermediate Punishment Program at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institute-Muncy (“Muncy”), a Pennsylvania state prison. (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 11). On January 5, 2012, Plaintiff received a 2-year state intermediate sentence for drug related offenses. (Id. ¶ 13). In May 2013, Plaintiff absconded from Gaudenzia Addiction Treatment and Recovery Center, where she was serving part of her 2-year sentence. (Id. ¶¶ 13-15). On March 10, 2014, Plaintiff “surrendered herself” to Judge Rayford A. Means of the Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County. (Id. ¶ 17). That same day, Judge Means revoked the state intermediate sentence, and ordered a new sentence of 18 months of telephone reporting. (Id. ¶ 18). Also that day, “representatives” of the DOC wrote a letter “censuring Judge Means” for revoking the state intermediate sentence and “informing Judge Means that the [DOC] intended to detain [Plaintiff] notwithstanding his Order.” (Id. ¶ 19-21). According to Plaintiff, Lamper “directed, encouraged, approved, condoned, acquiesced or otherwise ratified” the contents of that letter. (Id.).

         On December 23, 2014, Plaintiff was (1) arrested by Philadelphia law enforcement for absconding from Gaudenzia, (2) charged by the Philadelphia District Attorney with 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 5121, an escape violation, and (3) detained at Riverside (a City of Philadelphia prison). (Id. ¶¶ 24-25). The Judge hearing the case set bail at $50, 000. (Id. ¶ 25). That day, the DOC also issued a detainer requesting that Plaintiff be detained until she can be returned to the custody of the DOC. (Id. ¶ 27). According to Plaintiff, Lamper “directed, encouraged, approved, condoned, acquiesced or otherwise ratified” the issuance of the detainer, (id.), and “representatives” of the DOC notified employees at Riverside about the detainer (id.).

         On March 17, 2015, the judge hearing Plaintiff's escape violation case issued an order changing Plaintiff's bail terms to unsecured bail in the amount of $50, 000 (the “March 17, 2015 Order”). (Id. ¶ 32). Despite this modification, Plaintiff remained incarcerated at Riverside from March 17 through June 29, 2015, and then was transferred to Muncy from June 29 through July 2, 2015.[3] (Id. ¶¶ 33, 38, 39, 42).

         According to Plaintiff, Lamper “deliberately chose” not to follow the March 17, 2015 Order, which, inferably, would have allowed Plaintiff to be released on her signature, but for the DOC detainer. (Id. ¶¶ 124, 126). Lamper also (1) “facilitated the transfer of the custody of [Plaintiff] from [Riverside] to [Muncy] under the false pretense” of the DOC's detainer (id. ¶ 127); (2) was “notified” of the March 17, 2015 Order on June 30, 2015, by telephone, and again on July 1, 2015, by written ...


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