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Creek v. Franklin County

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 30, 2018

PATTIE K. CREEK, Administratrix of the Estate of Russell C. Hoover, Plaintiff
FRANKLIN COUNTY, et al., Defendants



         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Franklin County and the Franklin County Probation Department's motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. No. 8.) For the reasons provided herein, the Court will grant Defendants' motion to dismiss Count I of the complaint, and in light of its disposition of Count I, will decline to address Defendants' motion to dismiss as it relates to Count II of the complaint.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Pattie K. Creek, administratrix of the estate of Russell C. Hoover, brought this lawsuit on July 24, 2017 by filing a complaint against Defendants Franklin County and the Franklin County Probation Department to recover damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged deprivations of decedent Russell C. Hoover's federal civil rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and under state law for negligence. (Doc. No. 1.)

         This action concerns an alleged failure to implement the explicit terms of a court order requiring decedent Russell C. Hoover (“Russell”), to submit to a drug and alcohol evaluation as a condition of his pretrial supervised release from custody. On September 9, 2015, Russell was arrested for trespassing, a misdemeanor of the third degree, and detained at the Franklin County Jail. (Id. ¶¶ 13-16.) On November 4, 2015, Russell filed a motion to reduce his bail amount. (Id. ¶ 16.) On November 20, 2015, following a hearing on the motion to reduce bail, the presiding judge entered an order that provided, in relevant part, that:

1. The defendant's motion to reduce bail is granted . . . [;]
2. The defendant's bail is modified to $2500 unsecured with the requirement that he be eligible for pretrial release supervision.
3. Said pretrial release supervision shall include the following conditions:
(1) The defendant shall undergo a drug and alcohol evaluation and in the event the results of the evaluation recommend him for treatment he may be released only upon arrangement for and compliance with those treatment requirements.
(2) The defendant may not be released to reside with the alleged victims in this matter nor with Danial Hall and his family unless Mr. Hall specifically agrees to it with the adult probation department.
(3) The defendant shall be prohibited from consuming any alcohol or any controlled substance unless lawfully [prescribed] to him.

(Doc. No. 8-2 at 4.)[1] On November 25, 2015, Russell posted bail and was released. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 19.) Plaintiff alleges that the “above-referenced conditions to Russell's release from Defendants' custody were further memorialized in his release paperwork.” (Id. ¶ 20.) Plaintiff further alleges that, at all times relevant to Russell's release, the Franklin County Probation Department was “responsible for implementing the terms and conditions of Russell's release from Defendants' custody” as ordered by the Court of Common Pleas of Franklin County (id. ¶ 8), and was “keenly aware of [Russell's] drug issues and dependency problems” (id. ¶ 12), from previous run-ins with law enforcement. According to Plaintiff, despite Defendants' knowledge of Russell's dependency issues and the explicit conditions for release set forth in the presiding judge's order, Defendants did not require Russell to complete a drug and alcohol evaluation prior to his release from custody, and instead “simply released him to the public.” (Id. ¶ 22.) On November 28, 2015, approximately three (3) days after his release from Defendants' custody, Russell overdosed on heroin and died. (Id. ¶ 23.)

         On September 22, 2017, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint. (Doc. No. 8.) Having been fully briefed (Doc. Nos. 9, 11, 12), this matter is now ripe for disposition.


         Federal notice and pleading rules require the complaint to provide the defendant notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008). The plaintiff must present facts that, accepted as true, demonstrate a plausible right to relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Although Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires “only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” a complaint may nevertheless be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for its “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

         When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010). The Court's inquiry is guided by the standards of Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). Under Twombly and Iqbal, pleading requirements have shifted to a “more heightened form of pleading.” See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). To prevent dismissal, all civil complaints must set out “sufficient factual matter” to show that the claim is facially plausible. Id. The plausibility standard requires more than a mere possibility that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. As the Supreme Court instructed in Iqbal, “where the well-pleaded facts ...

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