Judge tosses police brutality case against City of Phila. and officers

By Jon Campisi | Dec 21, 2012

The City of Philadelphia and a handful of police officers who were facing a federal lawsuit

 by a man who claimed he was beaten, without provocation, by the officer defendants during a post-Phillies’ play-off victory celebration have survived a motion to dismiss after the judge overseeing the case tossed the suit.

The plaintiff, Jerome Young, filed suit against the defendants in early October of last year over allegations that he was beaten with police batons while he was attempting to walk home after the home team win celebration on Oct. 22, 2009.

Young had claimed he was in the area of Frankford and Cottman avenues in Northeast Philadelphia celebrating the sports victory with thousands of other people, when, after he began to walk home, he was confronted by several police officers, who subsequently pushed him around and beat him so badly that he was unable to walk or work for several days after the incident.

Young was not officially arrested, and was released shortly after being handcuffed and held in the back of a police cruiser, court papers show.

The plaintiff was unable to identify the individual officers involved in the alleged beating, he contended upon filing his suit, because the cops, who were assigned to the so-called “Phillies Detail,” were all wearing riot gear at the time and displayed no visible police badges containing their names.

In his lawsuit, Young alleged both federal civil rights and constitutional violations as well as state-law claims of violation of custodial relationship, false imprisonment, assault, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

In his memorandum and opinion, U.S. District Judge Joel H. Slomsky, of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, wrote that the litigation must be dismissed for various reasons.

First, the jurist wrote that the law does not allow claims to proceed against unknown defendants, and in this case, the plaintiff has already admitted that he does not know the identity of the officers involved in the alleged incident.

Slomsky also wrote that federal civil rights claims against the City of Philadelphia can only move forward with evidence that a policy, practice or custom of the municipality and the police department was responsible for the actions of the individual officers.

“Plaintiff has not produced any evidence, however, that the City had a policy or practice that caused a violation of his constitutional rights,” the judge wrote. “He has not deposed any officials or employees of the City of Philadelphia to gather evidence of a custom of unconstitutional crowd control methods. Nor has Plaintiff produced any documents or testimony that would indicate the City had knowledge of inappropriate police tactics being used in situations similar to the one at issue in this case.”

As for the state law claims, Slomsky determined that the defendants are immune from suit under Pennsylvania’s Political Subdivision of Tort Claims Act, which provides municipalities and their employees with official immunity in civil actions except in certain, specifically enumerated circumstances.

The judge wrote that Young’s claims of false imprisonment, a custodial relationship violation, assault, and intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress made against the defendants in their official capacity does not fall within an exception set forth in Section 8542(b) of the Act, which deals only with “intentional acts.”

The ruling dismisses the action with prejudice and denies all other pending motions as moot.

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