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Bush v. East Goshen Township

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 16, 2018

MARY BUSH, Plaintiff,
v.
EAST GOSHEN TOWNSHIP., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          GENE E.K. PRATTER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pro se plaintiff Mary Bush wants to pursue a full panoply of claims against East Goshen Township, Sgt. James Renegar, and Sgt. Ted Lewis after they arrested her in January 2016. She alleges that the officers falsely arrested her, used excessive force, took her belongings, and either negligently and/or intentionally inflicted emotional distress. She further alleges that East Goshen Township is liable for the actions of its officers. The defendants moved to dismiss all of Ms. Bush's claims except for her § 1983 excessive force claim against Sgt. Renegar.

         The Court dismisses most of Ms. Bush's claims, including all of her claims against East Goshen Township and Sgt. Lewis. Ms. Bush's only surviving claims are against Sgt. Renegar for § 1983 excessive force (Count I), assault and battery (Count V), and conversion (Count XII).

         Background

         Mary Bush's mother has been a resident at Park Lane, an assisted living facility in West Chester, PA, since November 2015. Ms. Bush regularly visits her mother and consistently has worried about her mother's health and care at the facility. Ms. Bush repeatedly complained to the Westtown East Goshen Police Department, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and Adult Protective services on behalf of her mother.

         On January 27, 2016, Ms. Bush visited her mother at Park Lane. When she entered the locked ward, Ms. Bush saw her mother “with a bandaged hand and not looking well.” Compl. ¶ 20. Ms. Bush claims that Park Lane administrator Kimberly Goodall then verbally attacked her without provocation.

         Ms. Bush called the Westtown East Goshen Police Department, which dispatched Sgt. James Renegar. After Sgt. Renegar arrived, Ms. Bush noticed her mother slipping out of a wheelchair. As Ms. Bush went to help her mother, she claims that Sgt. Renegar threatened her and said, “I've heard about you, your name has come up.” Compl. ¶ 22. Park Lane staff asked Sgt. Renegar to remove Ms. Bush from the property.

         Ms. Bush says that she left Park Lane on her own accord while Sgt. Renegar followed her. She called 911 again and asked for a wellness check for her mother. Ms. Bush also told the 911 operator that “a man, ” referring to Sgt. Renegar, was following her. She says that Sgt. Renegar then lunged at her, grabbed her phone, and twisted her arm. He threw her phone into a snow embankment and “full body slammed” Ms. Bush while threatening to shoot or Taser her. Compl. ¶ 25.

         Sgt. Ted Lewis, another defendant, arrived during the altercation. He and Sgt. Renegar placed Ms. Bush in the back of Sgt. Lewis' car. Sgt. Renegar took Ms. Bush's handbag, which had her wallet with $1, 000 in cash in it, and put it in his car. The officers then told Ms. Bush that she was under arrest.

         Ms. Bush told the officers that she was injured and they took her to Chester County Hospital. As the officers brought Ms. Bush into the hospital, she claims they slammed her against the police car, causing a “bone bruise, cuts, bruises, and a concussion which resulted in permanent nerve damage.” Compl. ¶ 32.

         When the hospital discharged Ms. Bush, Sgt. Lewis put her in handcuffs and Sgt. Renegar allegedly threatened her and said, “you're not gonna get out of this; we know all the judges.” Compl. ¶ 35. Ms. Bush was charged with, and later convicted of, resisting arrest, criminal trespass, and disorderly conduct.

         Procedural History

         Ms. Bush makes a variety of claims against the defendants, seeking a declaratory judgment, damages, punitive damages, and costs. They are:

1. Count I - § 1983 Excessive Force (v. Sgt. Renegar)
2. Count II - Abuse of Process (v. East Goshen Twp.)
3. Count III - Abuse of Process (v. Sgts. Renegar and Lewis)
4. Count IV - Monell Liability (v. East Goshen Twp.)
5. Count V - Assault and Battery (v. Sgt. Renegar)
6. Count VI - Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (v. East Goshen Twp.)
7. Count VII - Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (v. Sgts. Renegar and Lewis)
8. Count VIII - Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (v. East Goshen Twp.)
9. Count IX - Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (v. Sgts. Renegar and Lewis)
10. Count X - False Arrest (v. Sgt. Renegar)
11. Count XI - Perjury (v. Sgt. Renegar)
12. Count XII - Theft (v. Sgt. Renegar)
13. Punitive Damages (v. All Defendants)

         The defendants moved to dismiss all of Ms. Bush's claims with the exception of the claim for excessive force against Sgt. Renegar.

         Legal Standard

         At the outset, the Court notes that Ms. Bush's pro se pleading must be “liberally construed.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); see also Bieros v. Nicola, 839 F.Supp. 332, 334 (E.D. Pa. 1993). Due to an “understandable difference in legal sophistication, ” pro se litigants such as Ms. Bush are held to a “less exacting standard” than trained counsel. Lopez v. Brown, No. 04-6267, 2005 WL 2972843 (D.N.J. Nov. 4, 2005) (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972)). The Court stands prepared to “apply the applicable law, ...


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