United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
DAVID WICHTERMAN, JR., as Administrator of the Estate of Daniel Wichterman, Plaintiff,
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, CORIZON HEALTH, POLICE CORRECTIONAL OFFICER JUSTIN AVERY, POLICE CORRECTIONAL OFFICER WILLIAM GWALTHNEY, and TAIRU WAHABU, RN, Defendants.
a civil rights survival and wrongful-death action arising out
of 29-year-old Daniel Wichterman's (“Mr.
Wichterman”) death while in the custody of the
Philadelphia Police Department. Plaintiff, David Wichterman,
Jr., filed suit as Administrator of the Estate of Daniel
Wichterman against several defendants, including the City of
Philadelphia (“the City”). Plaintiff asserts a
Monell claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the
City for violation of Mr. Wichterman's Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendment rights. Presently before the Court is
the City's Motion to Dismiss. For the reasons that
follow, the Court denies the Motion.
facts as alleged in plaintiff's Complaint are as follows.
On January 30, 2015, at approximately 3:45 p.m., Philadelphia
police found Mr. Wichterman in the driver's seat of a car
that had been involved in an earlier accident in Northeast
Philadelphia. Compl. ¶ 13. Police removed Mr. Wichterman
from the vehicle and noted that he had “slow speech,
was wobbly while standing, and had trouble keeping his eyes
open.” Compl. ¶ 14. After Mr. Wichterman told the
police he had been using heroin, they arrested him for
driving under the influence. Compl. ¶¶ 15-16.
police transported Mr. Wichterman to the Police Detention
Unit (“PDU”), the only police unit in the city
which has medical staff available at all times. Compl.
¶¶ 17-18. Any person who is arrested and charged
with driving under the influence in Philadelphia is taken to
PDU for blood testing and monitoring. Compl. ¶ 20.
Wichterman arrived at the PDU at approximately 5:40 p.m.,
roughly two hours after his arrest. Compl. ¶ 32. A nurse
at the PDU, Tairu Wahabu, drew Mr. Wichterman's blood as
part of the driving under the influence investigation at 6:12
p.m. Compl. ¶ 33. A police officer, present during the
blood draw, noted that Mr. Wichterman was “observed to
have constricted pupils, slow lethargic speech and movements,
[and a] raspy voice.” Compl. ¶ 35. Despite
observing these signs, the nurse and police officer allowed
Mr. Wichterman to be placed in a cell. Compl. ¶¶
36-40. From 6:12 p.m. until approximately 8:00 p.m., Mr.
Wichterman remained in a cell, unmonitored and untreated.
Compl. ¶ 41.
Correctional Officers Justin Avery and William Gwalthney
(“officers”) went to Mr. Wichterman's cell at
approximately 8:00 p.m. to escort him to another area of the
PDU for fingerprinting. Compl. ¶ 42. Mr. Wichterman
appeared to be asleep, and the officers unsuccessfully
attempted to wake him. Compl. ¶¶ 43-44. Despite
knowing that Mr. Wichterman was arrested for driving under
the influence and admitted to using heroin, the officers left
Mr. Wichterman in his cell without seeking medical
assistance. Compl. ¶¶ 45-47. For the next two
hours, Mr. Wichterman remained in his cell, unmonitored and
untreated. Compl. ¶ 48.
10:00 and 10:15 p.m., the officers returned to Mr.
Wichterman's cell to escort another man to the restroom.
Compl. ¶ 49. That man informed the officers they should
examine Mr. Wichterman because he appeared ill. Compl. ¶
50. The officers again attempted to wake Mr. Wichterman but
were unable to do so. Compl. ¶ 51. They then summoned a
nurse on staff, who noted that Mr. Wichterman was
unresponsive and began CPR. Compl. ¶¶ 52-53. Mr.
Wichterman was transported to Hahnemann Hospital and arrived
there just after 11:00 p.m. Compl. ¶¶ 54-56. He
remained unresponsive and, shortly after 11:31 p.m., was
pronounced dead. Compl. ¶ 56. A later autopsy confirmed
that Mr. Wichterman's death was caused by “drug
intoxication.” Compl. ¶ 57.
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a
party to respond to a pleading by filing a motion to dismiss
for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted.” To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint
must allege facts that “‘raise a right to relief
above the speculative level.'” Victaulic Co. v.
Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 234 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007)). A complaint must contain “sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A district court first
identifies those factual allegations that constitute nothing
more than “legal conclusions” or “naked
assertions.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557.
Such allegations are “not entitled to the assumption of
truth” and must be disregarded. Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 679. The court then assesses “the
‘nub' of the plaintiff['s] complaint-the
well-pleaded, nonconclusory factual allegation[s]”-to
determine whether it states a plausible claim for relief.
Claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
allege that the defendant, acting under color of state law,
deprived him of a right secured by the United States
Constitution or federal law. Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v.
Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 49-50 (1999). Typically, a
prisoner challenging the conditions of his confinement or the
adequacy of his medical treatment asserts claims under the
Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual
punishment. In this case, however, the Eighth Amendment does
not apply because, at all relevant times, plaintiff was a
pretrial detainee-not a convicted prisoner. See Natale v.
Camden Cty. Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 581 (3d Cir.
2003). Instead, plaintiff's claims are evaluated, in
part, under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment, which encompasses the same standards applied under
the Eighth Amendment. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520,
538 (1979); see also Montgomery v. Ray, 145
F.App'x 738, 740 (“While the due process rights of
a pre-trial ...