Nicholas Malfitano Dec. 22, 2015, 9:06am


PHILADELPHIA – The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has dismissed a man’s claim of civil rights violations against the City of Philadelphia and a member of the Philadelphia Police Department.

Judge Gene E.K. Pratter wrote the Court’s decision on Nov. 30, believing plaintiff Jeffrey Hunter, after three previous attempts, still did not have enough evidence to support his allegations against the city and Officer Michael Long.

In May 2013, Hunter claimed he laid on the ground outside Mercy Hospital in Philadelphia, being in need of medical attention. When Long approached and informed him he was not allowed to do that, Hunter explained his medical situation.

In response, Hunter claimed Long lifted him off the ground by the wrists, forcefully put his hands behind his back, handcuffed him and threw him against a police car – which fractured his left ring finger in the process.

Hunter claimed when a nurse came outside to intervene and reiterated his medical state, Long replied that it was too late and Hunter was already under arrest. Hunter then alleged Long drove away from the hospital with him in his police car and released him on a street corner, without charging him with a crime. 

Hunter believed the Philadelphia Police Department does not have any policies or procedures outlining how to deal with those in need of medical attention and in its place, has adopted techniques constituting unreasonable searches and seizures. Hunter’s lawsuit alleges this same charge against the department along with a Monell violation of failure to train its officers properly.

The defendants moved to dismiss the Monell claim against the city for lack of fact-based evidence, an argument the Court found favor with.

“In responding to the motion, Mr. Hunter does not contend that an existing policy or custom led to his mistreatment, or that a particular policymaker affirmatively acted to cause his injury,” Pratter said.

Pratter added Hunter failed to back up his alleged pattern of similar behavior by the police department with a factual foundation.

“Mr. Hunter has failed to allege facts sufficient ‘to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element’ of a pattern of similar violations,” Pratter said. “Without such a pattern of similar violations, municipal decision-makers usually cannot be said to be on notice of a deficiency in their training regimen or official policies, and thus cannot be found to exhibit actionable deliberate indifference towards a plaintiff’s constitutional rights.”

On a similar note, Pratter found Hunter did not make the connection between Long’s conduct and the police department’s alleged failure to properly train its officers.

“The causal connection between the alleged lack of training and the subsequent violation is simply ‘too remote as a matter of law’ to support a finding of municipal liability because the conduct alleged, if it occurred, was patently unlawful apart from the specialized training Mr. Hunter alleges the City should have provided,” Pratter said.

The plaintiff is represented by Thomas Bruno II of Abramson & Denenberg, in Philadelphia.

The defendant is represented by Matthew K. Hubbard of the City of Philadelphia Law Department’s Office of the Solicitor, and their Civil Rights Unit.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:15-cv-02737

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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