Judge rules in favor of Phila. police officer who was sued by U.S. mail carrier

By Jon Campisi | Mar 5, 2012

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against a Philadelphia police officer that was brought by a U.S. mail carrier who alleged the cop used excessive force when attempting to prevent the postal working from traversing a roped-off accident scene.

In his lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Philadelphia on March 15, 2011, Daniel Hill stated that while delivering mail along the 5200 block of Chancellor Street back on April 18, 2009, he came across yellow caution tape that was cordoning off the scene of an earlier accident.

Hill claims that he asked the defendant in the case, a female officer identified only by her last name, Seaborn, if he could proceed under the caution tape so as to continue delivering mail.

Believing that the officer said “go,” Hill proceeded to traverse the scene, only to be “violently” and “maliciously” struck in the ribs by Seaborn, an act that caused the wind to be knocked out of Hill’s body, according to the complaint.

After striking Hill, the suit stated, Seaborn ordered the postal carrier to go back under the tape and outside of the crime scene.

Hill, who maintains he simply misunderstood Seaborn’s instruction, and probably mistook “no” for “go,” started experiencing pains and was told by his supervisors to go to the emergency room, where doctors soon discovered he had suffered from a rib contusion and fracture, the suit stated.

Court papers, however, show that Seaborn denied ever having struck Hill, claiming instead that she extended her hand, palm out, to indicate that Hill should not cross into the taped-off accident scene.

Her claim was that Hill deliberately walked into her hand.

A bench trial on the matter was convened on Feb. 17.

During the trial, court papers show, Seaborn testified that other pedestrians in the area walked around the taped-off area, unlike Hill, and also that she never told Hill he could traverse the accident scene.

In ruling in favor of the defendant, U.S. Magistrate Judge L. Felipe Restrepo wrote that it was more likely that Hill walked into Seaborn’s outstretched hand “then that he was affirmatively struck.”

“Plaintiff testified that he was looking down while traversing under the yellow caution tape, and that he felt, rather than saw, P.O. Seaborn ‘stiff-arm’ him,” the judicial order states. “P.O. Seaborn credibly testified that she did not deliver a blow to Plaintiff, but rather extended her hand, palm pointed out, to indicate that Plaintiff should stop, and Plaintiff walked into her hand.”

The judicial order also states that there was no “objective evidence showing that Plaintiff was meaningfully injured.”

The judge stated that the record showed no indication that Hill suffered a bruise or abrasion, and that, despite the claims in his lawsuit, a study of the affected area taken at Mercy Philadelphia Hospital found that Hill had no rib fractures.

“Plaintiff’s lack of significant, verifiable injury further supports the conclusion that Plaintiff walked into P.O. Seaborn’s hand, and did not sustain an affirmative blow,” the ruling states.

Prior to the ruling granting judgment to the defendant, both Hill and the City of Philadelphia, which had originally been a co-defendant in the suit, agreed to dismiss the city as an additional defendant, the order states.


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