Nicholas Malfitano Mar. 29, 2016, 9:57am


PHILADELPHIA – A Philadelphia federal court has dismissed several counts from a lawsuit alleging civil rights violations on the part of the City of Chester and two of its police officers.

On March 21, Judge Jan E. DuBois of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissed Kori Thomas’s claims of civil rights violations, the “acting within an official capacity” portion of her unconstitutional seizure, malicious prosecution and conspiracy claims with prejudice and a claim for a Monell violation without prejudice – while denying punitive damages and Fourteenth Amendment violation claims against the City of Chester, Police Officer Jamison Rogers and an unknown John Doe defendant officer.

On May 5, Thomas’s child became sick and her child could not attend school that day as a result. Thomas asked her sister-in-law if she could watch the child for the day so the plaintiff could go to classes at nursing school, where her sister-in-law resided at a home in Chester. Thomas’s child was then brought to the home in question.

After Thomas’s classes ended for the day, she returned to her sister-in-law’s house to pick up her child, and when she arrived, went to use the bathroom. While Thomas was in the bathroom, defendant police officers Rogers and Doe executed a search warrant on the property. The exact subject of the search warrant was not stated in the complaint.

When the warrant was executed, Rogers and Doe detained at least 12 people, including the plaintiff. Thomas was then arrested, taken into police custody and strip-searched. Thomas’s bail was set at $100,000 and she remained in custody for six days, until $10,000 was paid by an independent bail bondsman. On May 21, “prosecution was withdrawn against plaintiff” and “the criminal litigation resulted in plaintiff’s favor.”

Thomas then filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania alleging claims of civil rights violations versus all defendants, claims of unconstitutional seizure, malicious prosecution and conspiracy against Rogers and Doe in both their individual and official capacities, and a claim for a Monell violation against the City of Chester.

Thomas sought compensatory and punitive damages from all defendants, while the defendants sought dismissal of all allegations for failure to state a claim and the striking of the demand for punitive damages.

Thomas consented to the dismissal of Count I of her amended complaint, the “catch-all” provision of 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 – while DuBois found the “official capacity” portion of Counts II, III and IV as unnecessarily duplicative, considering a Monell claim was also included in the complaint.

“In their motion to dismiss, defendants seek dismissal of only the official capacity claims as duplicative of the Monell claims. The Court agrees with defendants and dismisses the official capacity claims against the police officer defendants with prejudice,” DuBois said.

As to the Monell claim, DuBois said that allegation must be dismissed also.

“Defendants argue that plaintiff’s Monell claim against the City must be dismissed because the complaint fails to allege facts sufficient to state a plausible claim. The Court agrees and dismisses the Monell claim without prejudice,” DuBois said.

“To satisfy the pleading standard for a Monell claim, plaintiff ‘must identify a custom or policy and specify what exactly that custom or policy was.’ In this case, plaintiff’s Monell claim fails to meet this standard,” DuBois added.

As Thomas agreed to the dismissal of the “catch-all” Count I of her amended complaint, DuBois ruled the demand for punitive damages and claim of Fourteenth Amendment due process violations would be dismissed.

Only the individual capacity of Thomas’s Counts II, III and IV against Rogers and Doe remain in this action, according to DuBois.

The plaintiff is represented by Brian J. Zeiger of Levin & Zeiger, in Philadelphia.

The defendants are represented by Nicholas A. Cummins of Bennett Bricklin & Saltzburg, also in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:15-cv-03955

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

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