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Brazzell v. Allentown Police Department

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 15, 2017



          LEESON, JUDGE

         Plaintiff Robert Brazzell brings this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on an incident in which he was forcibly taken to a hospital by police officers and administered medication without consent. Plaintiff seeks to proceed in forma pauperis. For the following reasons, the Court will grant plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis and dismiss his complaint without prejudice to plaintiff filing an amended complaint.

         I. FACTS [1]

         Plaintiff alleges that on November 7, 2015, officers of the Allentown Police Department arrived at his home in response to a call about a dispute involving plaintiff. Plaintiff was yelling at a neighbor who had complained about plaintiff's dog barking. After police arrived, plaintiff got into a disagreement with one of the officers. The officers left and subsequently returned, arrested plaintiff, and took him to St. Luke's Hospital where a nurse injected him with something that put him to sleep even though he did not consent to the administration of medication. When plaintiff woke up, he was in pain on his left side.

         Based on those events, plaintiff initiated this civil rights action against the Allentown Police Department, St. Luke's Hospital, and the “Philly Phyc Ward.” He seeks $300 million in damages.


         Plaintiff is granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis because it appears that he is unable to pay the costs of filing suit. As plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) applies, which requires the Court to dismiss the complaint if it fails to state a claim. To survive dismissal, 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) (quotations omitted). “[M]ere conclusory statements[] do not suffice.” Id. As plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court construes his allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).


         The Court understands plaintiff to be bringing Fourth Amendment claims based on his arrest and Fourteenth Amendment claims based on the fact that he was administered medication without consent. See Washington v. Harper, 494 U.S. 210, 229, 110 S.Ct. 1028, 1041, 108 L.Ed.2d 178 (1990) (“The forcible injection of medication into a nonconsenting person's body represents a substantial interference with that person's liberty.”); Orsatti v. N.J. State Police, 71 F.3d 480, 482 (3d Cir. 1995) (“[T]he Fourth Amendment prohibits a police officer from arresting a citizen except upon probable cause”). “To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). To state a basis for municipal liability under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that the municipal defendant's policies or customs caused the alleged constitutional violation. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). The plaintiff “must identify [the] custom or policy, and specify what exactly that custom or policy was” to satisfy the pleading standard. McTernan v. City of York, 564 F.3d 636, 658 (3d Cir. 2009).

         Here, plaintiff does not allege that the deprivation of his rights stemmed from a policy or custom of the defendants. He alleges that he was improperly arrested by an officer of the Allentown Police Department and injected by a nurse at St. Luke's Hospital without consent, but he does not allege that those individuals' conduct stemmed from a policy of the Allentown Police Department or St. Luke's Hospital. Accordingly, plaintiff has not stated a claim against those defendants.[2] See Doby v. DeCrescenzo, 171 F.3d 858, 867 (3d Cir. 1999). Furthermore, it is not clear why plaintiff named “Philly Phyc Ward” as a defendant, because nothing in his affidavit or complaint explains how that defendant is involved in the events giving rise to his claims.


         For the foregoing reasons, the Court will dismiss the complaint. However, plaintiff will be given an opportunity to file an amended complaint in the event he can cure the defects in his claims. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 114 (3d Cir. 2002). An appropriate order follows.


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