Inmate's case against Philadelphia Sheriff's Office can move forward

By Gabriel Neves | Jan 22, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- The case of a Philadelphia inmate who suffered injuries while aboard a van that crashed into a truck at a correctional facility can move forward.

U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe, on the bench of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, issued a 15-page ruling on Jan. 7 granting in part and denying in part a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Farhad Simpson against the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office, City and County of Philadelphia, Sheriff Jewell Williams, and Sheriff's Officer John Doe who was operating Sheriff's van.

Simpson was an inmate of the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (CFCF) when the event happened.

As stated in the ruling, "on Feb. 25, 2016, PSO arrived at CFCF to transport plaintiff in one of its sheriff vans, which was being operated by an unknown PSO employee," when the employee of the sheriff's office "allegedly forced Plaintiff to sit in the back of the van without a seatbelt, handcuffed Plaintiff to another inmate, and placed Plaintiff too close to the seat in front of him, such that his knees were in an uncomfortable position."

Simpson claimed the van was in a dangerous condition, with several issues such as unusable seatbelts and inmates close together. The van driver allegedly was driving in a reckless fashion.

Simpson sued defendants, alleging negligence, recklessness, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and deliberate indifference in violation of the state and U.S. constitutions.

The court granted the motion regarding the claims of negligence, emotional distress and recklessness, while denying the constitutional violation claim.

"The employee allegedly crashed the van into a parked truck in the CFCF parking lot as a result of speeding. The collision, in combination with the way in which plaintiff was placed in the van, caused plaintiff to spring out of his seat and hit internal parts of the van, resulting in numerous severe and permanent bodily injuries and emotional distress. Plaintiff alleges that he timely served a Tort Claim Notice on defendants and properly apprised defendants of the claims in the complaint," the ruling said.

Simpson first filed a suit at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, but the defendants removed the case to the district court.

In her ruling, Rufe granted the dismissal of the negligence, recklessness, and emotional distress claims, stating that "plaintiff has not alleged that Sheriff Williams operated the vehicle, and has not cited any Pennsylvania cases that would allow the alleged acts to fit within the statute’s narrow definition as to the operation of the vehicle," adding that "factual allegations must sufficiently raise a right to relief beyond the speculative level."

In the denial of the constitutional violation, Rufe said, "Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged at this stage that Sheriff Williams had decision-making abilities to set forth the safety procedures regarding the transport of inmates."

A leave to amend was also granted.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Case No. is 18-1272.

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