Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Garcia v. City of Bucks

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 26, 2018

HAMLET GARCIA, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF BUCKS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          GERALD AUSTIN MCHUGH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a Section 1983 action brought by Plaintiff Hamlet Garcia, Jr., who is representing himself, [1] against Bucks County and its private provider of prison health services, the City of Philadelphia, and several individual defendants. His voluminous Third Amended Complaint includes twenty-seven separately styled claims. See ECF No. 13 [hereinafter “TAC” or “Complaint”]. Most of Garcia's claims are duplicative, unsupported by factual allegations, or lack a discernable legal basis. Accordingly, I will dismiss all claims against the individual defendants, the City of Philadelphia, and Bucks County's prison health provider, and most claims against Bucks County. However, Garcia has stated two plausible Monell claims against Bucks County related to overcrowding at the correctional facility and his repeated assignment to the top bunk in spite of his history of falling. I will therefore grant Defendants' pending Motions to Dismiss except as to those claims.

         I. Factual Allegations

         I have already limited the scope of Plaintiff's Complaint by dismissing all claims against his public defender, Christina King, any claim that undermines his guilty plea, and all claims arising from his arrests in December 2012 and February 2015. Order ¶¶ 1-3, Nov. 21, 2017, ECF No. 14. With that narrowing, his relevant factual allegations are as follows.

         Plaintiff Garcia was in his car when he was stopped by Philadelphia Police on December 1, 2016. TAC 11. Although the police had originally stopped him for a broken tail light, the situation apparently escalated; Officers John Doe I and II “physically assaulted” Plaintiff, and one of the officers said “he['s] going for my gun.” Plaintiff interpreted this statement as the officer's attempt “regain power” and “to establish a record that the continued use of force [was] necessary” to control Plaintiff. TAC 11-12. Although Garcia claims he had not been resisting arrest prior to the officer's statement, he also alleges that, upon hearing it, he “cooperated fully” to avoid what he feared could turn into use of deadly force by the officers. More police cars and officers appeared, including Sergeant Roe. Plaintiff asked to speak to a supervisor and informed the officers of his “reservation of rights, ”[2] at which they purportedly laughed, intimidated, and disrespected him. He was ultimately arrested on a Bucks County warrant for a probation violation and his vehicle was searched. Garcia was then taken to the Philadelphia Police 24th district, where he was forced to share a bench with other detainees or lie on the floor, and received no toilet paper, no food, and no “proper hydration” for twelve hours. TAC 12. He was then transported by Bucks County sheriffs to Bucks County.

         The next day, December 2, 2016, Garcia appeared before Judge Cepparulo and was represented, without Plaintiff's consent, by a public defender (unnamed in the Complaint). TAC 12-13. The judge decided that Plaintiff should be detained pending a hearing on his alleged probation violation-failure to pay court costs-and Plaintiff was transferred to the Bucks County Correctional Facility [hereinafter “BCCF”]. TAC 13, 17. Upon arrival, Plaintiff met with a “classification counselor” (Counselor John Doe) and told him that Plaintiff had two concerns that “need[ed] to be addressed.” The first was that Plaintiff occasionally stuttered. The second he described this way: “I twist and turn when I sleep. [Is] there any safety bar attached on the bed?” TAC 13. The counselor replied that they had none.

         For several days beginning December 2nd, Garcia was housed in a fifteen by eighteen foot “program room” with “fifteen plus inmates” and little ventilation. TAC 14. Plaintiff and the other inmates housed in the Program Room were forced to share a single toilet, not only with each other but also with “every other inmate in the housing unit, ” who frequently used the toilet.

         On or around December 8th, Plaintiff fell from the top bunk and hit the back of his head, suffering an “obvious” injury. TAC 15. Officers and a nurse were called. Officer Jane Doe said “he was faking” and told him to get up immediately, “causing him to get up before he could willingly or properly do so.” Garcia was sent to the nurse's office where he requested a second opinion from an outside facility. The nurses (Jane Does I-IV) denied the request, gave him a pill, and “[threw him] into [a] medical cage like a punished animal.” He remained on medical watch for four days with a potential concussion, contained to his cell twenty-four hours a day with no activity. Garcia contends that this violated the handbook, which says people should not be in a cell for more than twelve consecutive hours. Because Garcia had previously been told by a guard that he was not allowed to exercise, he was afraid to do so in his medical cell for fear of longer detainment. “As a result of the fall and pills” he was in a daze and slept most of the time. When Garcia told a guard (Doe VI) that he had terrible head pain after constant sleeping and inactivity, the guard said “[the danger of] sleeping on a concussion is an old myth and [Plaintiff] did not need to see a doctor.” TAC 15.

         During his time in the medical wing, Garcia sent a letter to “the administration” complaining about his poor housing, safety, and health. The next day, Plaintiff was placed in solitary confinement on psychiatric watch, which he perceived as a punitive response to his grievance letter. TAC 16, 32. On December 12th, a doctor (Jane Doe) asked him whether he was going to hurt himself. He said no, and she released him from psychiatric watch back to the program room, where he was again assigned to a top bunk despite his request for a bottom bunk. TAC 16. Around December 16th, Garcia was “finally placed in a proper cell.” TAC 16. For a third time, his request for a bottom bunk was denied.

         At one point, Garcia alleges he was attacked by two inmates and received another head injury. Guards stationed on the “top floor” witnessed the attack, and it took them about thirty seconds to stop it. Staff were either “powerless to intervene” sooner or “failed to do so.” TAC 16.

         On December 17th, Plaintiff was awoken by an officer, who led him to two sergeants (Roes I and II). The sergeants asked Garcia about his beliefs and explained that he had been identified as a Sovereign Citizen by his “autograph.”[3] They reminded him that “recruiting [was] against policy” and said that a warning against recruitment was “standard procedure.” TAC 16.

         After almost three weeks of incarceration, Garcia appeared for a hearing on his alleged violation of probation. Plaintiff remained unable to pay his outstanding court costs, but one of his family members volunteered to pay. Plaintiff pled guilty, his family paid the costs, and he was released. As a result of the conditions of his confinement in Bucks County, Plaintiff identifies the following physical and emotional injuries: head trauma and injury, physical pain and suffering, humiliation, fear, embarrassment, and other emotional trauma. TAC 30, 33.

         Plaintiff now brings more than two dozen claims, most sounding in § 1983, against Defendants Bucks County, the City of Philadelphia, Bucks County Sheriff Edward Donnelly, three Bucks County Commissioners, the Bucks Department of Correction, Bucks County's Director of Correction, Director of Personal Health, Director of Mental Health, and Warden, public defender Christina King, Bucks County's prison health provider, CFG Health Systems, LLC [“CFG”], unnamed doctors, nurses, corrections officers, and sergeants at BCCF, and unnamed officers and sergeants of Philadelphia. Plaintiff sues all individual defendants in their personal and official capacities, except Sheriff Donnelly, who is named only in his official capacity. Four Motions to Dismiss are pending, filed by CFG (ECF No. 19), Bucks County for the Department of Correction and Sheriff Donnelly (ECF No. 20), the individual named defendants (ECF No. 21), and the City of Philadelphia (ECF No. 29).

         II. Standard

         Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), which provides for dismissal where the plaintiff has “fail[ed] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The Rules of Civil Procedure require a plaintiff to present “only a short and plain statement” of his claim in order to give the defendant “fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) and Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). In considering a 12(b)(6) motion, the court must separate the factual and legal elements of a claim, accept all well-pleaded facts as true, and disregard any legal conclusions. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). The court must then draw “all reasonable inferences” and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007). If the plaintiff has pled facts that allow the court to reasonably infer that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, the claim is “plausible on its face” and the motion must be denied. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Palakovic v. Wetzel, 854 F.3d 209, 219 (3d Cir. 2017).

         III. Discussion

         Most of Plaintiff Garcia's claims must be dismissed as barred by my previous Order, impermissible attempts to impose § 1983 liability on the City of Philadelphia and Bucks County through vicarious liability, unsupported by facts sufficient to state a claim, or not based on a cognizable legal theory. Pursuant to my Order of November 21, 2017, ECF No. 14:

• Plaintiff s Ninth Claim against public defenders Christine King and John Doe is dismissed with prejudice because public defenders are not state actors for purposes of § 1983. Order, ECF No. 14 (citing Polk Cty. v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325 (1981)).
• To the extent that any of Plaintiff s claims relate to his arrests in December 2012 or February 2015, those claims are dismissed ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.