Wednesday, September 23, 2009

No Claim for Respondeat Superior Liability Against Municipality Under Section 1983 Civil Rights Action

In the recent case of Binder v. Kenderski, 2009 WL 2929778, PICS Case No. 09-1554 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 4, 2009 Stengel J), the Eastern District Federal Court of Pennsylvania again confirmed that there is no respondeat superior liability against a municipality under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This has been a rule of law since at least the 1992 United States Supreme Court case of Monell v. New York City Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-92, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1992)

In this case, an Allentown police officer responded to an emergency call at a convenience store where he found the bloodied plaintiff sitting in front of the store asserting that he had been assaulted by another customer. The officer allegedly ignored the plaintiff's complaints and, instead, asked her if she had been drinking. He told her not to drive home. The officer allegedly did not do anything in terms of capturing any assailant or calling for medical help for the plaintiff.

Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff began to drive home and was pulled over by the same officer, who allegedly was waiting for her to drive away. The plaintiff was charged with driving under the influence.

The refused to submit to a blood test, and as a result, automatically lost her license for a year under the appliable law. However, the charges of DUI were later withdrawn at a preliminary hearing.

The pro se plaintiff later filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the officer and the city of Allentown for civil rights violations, including allegations of false imprisonment. The city moved to dismiss.

The court found that there is no respondeat superior liability against a municipality under section 1983. Any state claims asserted against the city in the Complaint were found to be barred by the Pennsylvania Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act, as the complaint did not allege a negligent act within any of the eight exceptions of that Act. As such, the claims against the city were dismissed.

A copy of this opinion can be secured, for a small fee, from the Pennsylvania Law Weekly's Instant Case Service by calling 1-800-276-7427.

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