PHILADELPHIA – A federal judge granted summary judgment to the City of Philadelphia last week in a wrongful death lawsuit that claims the plaintiff’s brother died while in the custody of the Philadelphia prison system due to not receiving proper medical care to treat his HIV.
Johnny Evans Marks, acting as the estate administrator for his late brother, Troy Evans Marks, filed suit in October 2013 in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, against the City of Philadelphia. However, since the case revolves around the question of constitution violations, it was removed to U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvani.
Troy Evans Marks, then an inmate in the city’s prison system, was found dead in his cell on Oct. 26, 2011. Marks’ death was ruled to be the result of internal bleeding from esophageal tears.
Marks was afflicted with several serious medical conditions, including the HIV virus, Hepatitis, hypertension and mental health issues.
According to the lawsuit, Marks was housed in the general population, rather than in a medical ward where he would be able to receive treatment for these conditions.
It was also the belief of the plaintiff that corrections guards assigned to supervise Marks were “inattentive” to the fact Marks needed urgent medical attention.
The lawsuit was initiated on the basis Marks was subjected to “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Eighth Amendment and “violations of his due process rights” under the Fourteenth Amendment, and that the city is municipally liable for failing to prevent Marks’ death.
The City of Philadelphia filed a motion for summary judgment in April, claiming the plaintiff did not prove or illustrate any evidence on the City’s part tying it to liability in Marks’ death.
In an opinion issued Monday, Senior Judge Robert F. Kelly agreed and granted the motion for summary judgment.
“Notably, the City asserts that ‘plaintiff has conducted no discovery in this entire litigation, plaintiff has not taken any depositions in this matter for fact witnesses, let alone that of a corporate designee for the City of Philadelphia and plaintiff has not even requested to see any of the Philadelphia Prison System’s written policies concerning the provision of medical care for inmates,” Kelly wrote.
The plaintiff did not refute any of these allegations, according to Kelly.
Instead, the plaintiff’s case was further predicated on the city’s production of documents which he felt showed “deliberate indifference” on the part of the city’s prison officials in three ways: “(1) The correctional officers failed to timely respond to Marks’ cellmate’s cries for medical assistance at 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m.; (2) The correctional officers failed to procure medical assistance for Marks when they first observed him to be in distress at about 7:00 a.m.; and (3) The prison failed to adequately supervise the known medical condition, especially given the report by Marks on the evening prior to his death that he was vomiting blood.”
Citing Monell, Kelly stated a municipality cannot be held liable for the tortious actions of someone in its employ – only “when execution of a government’s policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury that the government as an entity is responsible.”
Kelly found the plaintiff’s complaint did not meet the burden of proof in this regard.
Kelly decided the plaintiff could only rely on factual evidence or case law to support his case for a Monell claim, rather than the conclusory statements found in his complaint.
“Plaintiff has not provided any evidence in support of his Monell claim against the City. Accordingly, we find that Plaintiff has failed to bring a viable claim against the City. Consequently, the City’s Motion for Summary Judgment is granted,” Kelly said.
The plaintiff was seeking damages in excess of $50,000 in this case, plus interest, court costs, attorney’s fees, statutory liquidated damages and any other relief the Court deemed just or appropriate.
The plaintiff was represented by Stewart C. Crawford, Jr. of The Law Offices of Stewart C. Crawford & Associates, in Media.
The defendant was represented by Craig M. Straw and Dimitrios Mavroudis of the City of Philadelphia Law Department.
U.S. Eastern District Court of Pennsylvania case 2:14-cv-05168
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org