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Clinkscale v. Temple University

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

October 7, 2019

TEMPLE UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants.


          ROBRENO, J.

         Plaintiff Cecilia Clinkscale filed this civil rights action along with an application to proceed in forma pauperis. Named as Defendants are: (1) Temple University; (2) Temple University Health System; (3) Temple University Hospital; (4) Temple University Episcopal Hospital; (5) “Temple University Campus Police (Three Known and Five Unknow Officers);” (6) Allied Universal; (7) Philadelphia Police Department; (8) City of Philadelphia; and (9) Keystone First. For the following reasons, the Court will grant Clinkscale leave to proceed in forma pauperis, dismiss her Complaint with prejudice as to two named Defendants and as to certain claims, dismiss her other claims without prejudice, and grant her leave to file an amended complaint.

         I. FACTS [1]

         Clinkscale asserts that she was physically assaulted by four to eight uniformed, male police officers at Paley Library on the Temple University campus on March 10, 2017. (ECF No. 2 at 4.) Prior to the assault, she had been harassed by Temple University police officers and security officers employed by Defendant Allied Universal[2] for nearly three years. (Id.) She sustained numerous blows during the assault to her head, face, neck, torso, and extremities, and lost consciousness. (Id.) The asserts that the officers “escalate[d] the matter to higher ranking personnel” and, instead of taking her to her doctor at Temple University Hospital as she requested, an unnamed Corporal on duty directed the police officers to take her to Temple University Episcopal Hospital (“Episcopal”) against her will. (Id.) At Episcopal, Clinkscale claims she was physically assaulted again by Temple University police officers, a female Allied security officer, and nursing staff because she refused to be medicated. (Id.) She was thrown on a bed in an isolation room during which she landed on her head and her upper neck slammed against a metal restraining beam. (Id.) She blacked out and suffered from blurred vision for one month. (Id.) Clinkscale asserts that Episcopal Hospital had no basis to detain or medicate her, which was done at the directions of staff psychiatrists, psychologists and her primary care physician. (Id. at 4-5.)

         Clinkscale was released after five hours and sought treatment at Lankenau Hospital. While there, two male unidentified Philadelphia police officers told her that investigators assigned to her assault claim would contact her. (Id. at 5.) In May 2017, she attempted to obtain a police report of her assault but was told that no such report existed, and no 911 call existed documenting the hospital visit. (Id.) She asserts that police reports have been lost or altered, medical records and diagnostic reports were tampered with and stolen causing a delay in her receiving treatment, and she has been subject to continued harassment by employees of Allied. (Id.) Finally, Clinkscale alleges that Defendant Keystone First repeatedly delayed or denied her tests that she required and that its employees told her that medical records may have been destroyed. (Id.)

         Clinkscale asserts claims against all Defendant pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. While she does not differentiate which Defendants she seeks to sue for each claim, she asserts constitutional claims based upon illegal search and lack of probable cause, due process violations, violation of her “right to trial before accusers/assailants, ” excessive force, cruel and unusual punishment, and infliction of emotional distress.[3] She seeks money damages and unspecified equitable relief. (Id. at 6.)


         The Court grants Clinkscale leave to proceed in forma pauperis because it appears that she is incapable of paying the fees to commence this civil action. Accordingly, 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. Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), see Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999), which requires the Court to determine whether the complaint contains “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). Conclusory allegations do not suffice. Id. As Clinkscale is proceeding pro se, the Court construes her allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).

         Moreover, Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a complaint to contain “a short a plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” A district court may sua sponte dismiss a complaint that does not comply with Rule 8 if “the complaint is so confused, ambiguous, vague, or otherwise unintelligible that its true substance, if any, is well disguised.” Simmons v. Abruzzo, 49 F.3d 83, 86 (2d Cir. 1995) (quotations omitted). This Court has noted that Rule 8 “requires that pleadings provide enough information to put a defendant on sufficient notice to prepare their defense and also ensure that the Court is sufficiently informed to determine the issue.” Fabian v. St. Mary's Med. Ctr., Civ. A. No. 16-4741, 2017 WL 3494219, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 11, 2017) (quotations omitted).


         “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). The “under color of state law” requirement means that “a plaintiff seeking to hold an individual liable under § 1983 must establish that she was deprived of a federal constitutional or statutory right by a state actor.” Kach v. Hose, 589 F.3d 626, 646 (3d Cir.2009).

         A. Claims Against the City of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Police Department

         Clinkscale has named the City of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Police Department as Defendants. The only factual allegation involving them, however, is that, while Clinkscale was at Lankenau Hospital, two male unidentified Philadelphia police officers told her that investigators assigned to her assault claim would contact her, and that police reports have been lost or altered.

         A municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978). Rather, to plead a basis for municipal liability under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that the municipality's policy or custom caused the violation of his constitutional rights. Id. at 694. “To satisfy the pleading standard, [the plaintiff] must . . . specify what exactly that custom or policy was.” McTernan v. City of York, PA, 564 F.3d 636, 658 (3d Cir. 2009). “‘Policy is made when a decisionmaker possess[ing] final authority to establish municipal policy with respect to the action issues an official proclamation, policy, or edict.'” Estate of Roman v. City of Newark, 914 F.3d 789, 798 (3d Cir. 2019) (quoting Andrews v. City of Philadelphia, 895 F.2d 1469, 1480 (3d Cir. 1990)). “‘Custom, on the other hand, can be proven by showing that a given course of conduct, although not specifically endorsed or authorized by law, is so well-settled and permanent as virtually to constitute law.'” Id. (quoting Bielevicz v. Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845, 850 (3d Cir. 1990)). A plaintiff illustrates ...

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