Simmons v. Philadelphia, NO. 03-840, U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10201 (E.D. Pa. 2004)
On June 1, 2004, a federal district court in Pennsylvania said a patron lawsuit may go forward against Gloria Arrington (Human Resources) and the city of Philadelphia.
The patron, Carolyn Simmons, says that in 1998, when she was 15, a library security guard sexually assaulted her at the Frankford Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. She said he followed her to the downstairs restroom area of the library, seized her, and began kissing and fondling her.
Curtis Sharp, the guard, was charged with Indecent Assault and Corrupting the Morals of a Minor but died during the prosecution.
Simmons sued the city after she found out that Sharp had pled guilty to Indecent Assault upon his fourteen-year-old niece. He had left this question blank on his employment application: "Have you ever been convicted of any law violation ... other than minor traffic offenses?" Nevertheless, he was hired and assigned to the Richmond branch of the Free Library.
It did not appear that any effort was made to look into Sharp's criminal history before the assault upon Simmons.
A number of incidents occurred during Sharp's time with the Richmond library. First, a librarian claimed that Sharp's "volatile outburst" during an altercation left her frightened and unwilling to work alone with him. Memorandum from Margaret Bernardi. The next year, allegations were made that Sharp had tried to kiss a teenaged girl and made sexually inappropriate remarks to another girl. Memorandum from Matt Beatty, Library Supervisor. A month later, Sharp was transferred to the Frankford Branch.
Click below to read what the Court said Simmons must show to ultimately win her case.
The Court said that to win her claim against Arrington, Simmons will need to show that (1) the harm ultimately caused was foreseeable and fairly direct; (2) the state actor acted in a willful disregard for the safety of the plaintiff; (3) there existed some relationship between the state and the plaintiff; and (4) the state actors used their authority to create an opportunity that otherwise would not have existed for the third party's crime to occur.
To win her claim against the city, she must prove that the City's failure to consider omissions on its own Employment Application forms, and/or its failure to run independent checks on applicants' criminal backgrounds, and/or its failure to have a policy of taking employees accused of sexual improprieties out of contact with youth, constitutes a failure to act where a need to act is obvious.
Simmons v. Philadelphia, NO. 03-840 E.D. Pa. 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10201