Sparks v. Susquehanna County et al

Filing 112

MEMORANDUM and ORDER GRANTING 89 95 DFT'S MOTIONS in Limine to the extent that pltf's potential recovery for lost social security income shall be reduced by the cost of her maintenance.Signed by Honorable James M. Munley on 7/17/09. (sm, )

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA DOLORES B. SPARKS, Plaintiff, : No. 3:05cv2274 : : (Judge Munley) : v. : : SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY, : WILLIAM BRENNAN, : SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY PRISON : BOARD, : HASSAN KHALIL, and : JOANN WISER, : Defendants : :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: M E M O R AN D U M B e fo re the court are the defendants' motions in limine. Having been fully b rie fe d , the matters are ripe for disposition. B a c k g ro u n d T h is suit arises out of the death of Beth Ann Croasdale ("Decedent") at the S u s q u e h a n n a County Correctional Facility ("SCCF") on April 2, 2004. On that day, C ro a s d a le suffered a severe asthma attack; she was transported from the prison to a lo c a l hospital and was pronounced dead. The deceased was admitted to the SCCF in January 2004 for operating a vehicle with a suspended or revoked license. (A m e n d e d Complaint (hereinafter "Cmplt") (Doc. 33) at ¶ 11). On the day she died, C ro a s d a le remained incarcerated at the SCCF. (Statement of Material Facts of D e fe n d a n ts Susquehanna County; W illia m Brennan; Susquehanna County Prison B o a rd ; Joann W ise r and Carole Smalacombe (Doc. 67) (hereinafter "County D e fe n d a n ts ' Statement") at ¶ 2). Plaintiff alleges in part that the defendants failed to p ro vid e Croasdale with access to Albuterol and a nebulizer, the device she used to d e live r the medication she needed to control her severe asthma, and that her death w a s thus the result of defendants' deliberate indifference to Croasdale's serious m e d ica l need. (Id. at ¶ 4). She also alleges that Defendant Dr. Hassan Khalil, a p h ys ic ia n employed by the prison, evidenced both deliberate indifference and m e d ica l malpractice in his treatment of her. Plaintiff filed her initial complaint (Doc. 1) in this court on November 2, 2005. After the parties engaged in some initial discovery and the defendants filed answers o r motions to dismiss the complaint, the court granted plaintiff's motion to file an a m e n d e d complaint and add an additional party. (See Doc. 31). After plaintiff filed th is amended complaint, Defendant Dr. Khalil filed a motion to dismiss that complaint (D o c . 36). The court denied this motion on March 21, 2007. (See Doc. 55). After th e close of discovery, both Dr. Khalil and the county defendants filed motions for s u m m a ry judgment (Docs. 64, 66). The court granted these motions in part and d e n ie d them in part on April 3, 2009 (Doc. 86). The court then scheduled a pre-trial c o n fe re n c e , and the parties filed motions in limine and briefs related to them. On J u n e 5, 2009, the court issued an opinion denying the motions in limine each party file d . (Doc. 106). At the pre-trial conference, the court ordered the parties to brief 2 th e issue of whether an award for the decedent should be reduced by personal m a in te n a n c e expenses plaintiff would have incurred during her lifetime. The parties d id so, bringing the case to its present posture. J u r i s d ic t i o n A s this complaint was filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the court has ju ris d ic tio n pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original ju ris d ic tio n of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the U n ite d States."). The court has supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state-law c la im s pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) ("In any civil action of which the district c o u rts have original jurisdiction, the district courts shall have supplemental ju r is d ic tio n over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such o rig in a l jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article II of the United States Constitution."). Discussion D e fe n d a n ts both argue that plaintiff's potential recovery from her social s e c u rity disability benefits should be reduced by the cost of her maintenance. They c o n te n d that under Pennsylvania law, the court would be granting a windfall to the e s ta te if it did not subtract from that recovery the cost of personal maintenance. The c o u rt agrees. Damages awarded in a survival action like this one "include the d e c e d e n t's pain and suffering, the loss of gross earning power form the date of injury u n til death, and the loss of [her] earing power­less personal maintenance expenses, 3 fro m the time of death through his estimated working life span." Kiser v. Schulte, 6 4 8 A.2d, 4 (Pa. 1994). The court ruled earlier that plaintiff may recover for her lost s o c ia l security income in this action. That recovery, however, must be limited by her m a in te n a n c e costs. At the time of trial, plaintiff must introduce evidence that e s ta b lis h e s her lost income from social security minus a reasonable maintenance c o s t, defined as "`the sum which a decedent would be expected to spend, based on h is station in life, for food, clothing, shelter, medical attention and some recreation." Borman v. Raymark Industries, Inc., 960 F.2d 327, 336 (3d Cir. ) (quoting McClinton v. W h ite , 444 A.2d 85, 89 (Pa. 1982)). Conclusion F o r the reasons stated above, the parties' motions in limine will be granted. An appropriate order follows. 4 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA DOLORES B. SPARKS, Plaintiff, : No. 3:05cv2274 : : (Judge Munley) : v. : : SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY, : WILLIAM BRENNAN, : SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY PRISON : BOARD, : JOHN DOES 1-10, : HASSAN KHALIL, and : JOANN WISER, : Defendants : :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: ORDER AN D NOW, to wit, this 17th day of July 2009, the defendant's motions in limine (D o c s . 89, 95) are hereby GRANTED to the extent that plaintiff's potential recovery fo r lost social security income shall be reduced by the cost of her maintenance. BY THE COURT: s / James M. Munely JUDGE JAMES M. MUNLEY U n it e d States District Court 5

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