Bus Company Cleared on Passenger Left to Die

     (CN) – A bus company had no duty to prevent the death of a passenger found largely unresponsive, lying in his own urine and drool, a federal judge ruled.
     Leonard Sedden was pronounced dead at 5:30 a.m. on April 11, 2010, when the “night owl” bus that the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) runs from the 69th Street Transportation Center in Philadelphia reached the end of its route at the Frankford Transportation Center.
     The bus driver had contacted a SEPTA dispatcher at about 4 a.m. to report that he found Sedden lying in urine, covered in drool and largely unresponsive.
     But the dispatcher told the driver to proceed with her route, and a SEPTA supervisor said the same upon boarding the bus at the 15th and Market Street stop. The supervisor allegedly observed Sedden breathing and sitting upright.
     Lisa Reynolds, as the administrator of Sedden’s estate and on behalf of his heirs, next of kin, and herself, sued SEPTA for violations of federal civil rights, negligence, wrongful death, and survival under state law. She seeks damages in excess of $50,000, plus punitive damages.
     Chief U.S. District Judge Petrese Tucker dismissed the federal claims and declined to exercise jurisdiction over Reynolds’ state law claims.
     “It is alleged that the driver noticed Mr. Sedden ‘lying in his own urine, was covered in drool and was largely unresponsive,'” Tucker wrote. “There is nothing in the complaint to suggest that SEPTA created this condition or made Mr. Sedden more vulnerable to the danger as the danger existed before the bus driver even noticed Mr. Sedden. Therefore plaintiff fails to establish the last condition necessary for the fourth element of the state-created danger.”
     SEPTA additionally should not face claims over its policy on responding to medical emergencies.
     “The Supreme Court clearly articulated that the due process clause does not require a state to administer aid when it would be necessary to secure life, liberty, or property interests,” Tucker wrote. “Similarly, it is evident in the 3rd Circuit that the due process clause does not guarantee a ‘federal constitutional right to rescue services, competent or otherwise.’ The death of Mr. Sedden was a tragic event and the court sympathizes with his family for their loss, however, despite this unfortunate event SEPTA did not deprive the Mr. Sedden of a constitutional right. SEPTA was under no obligation to provide rescue services to Mr. Sedden therefore SEPTA’s lack of action in this matter did not rise to a constitutional violation under §1983.”

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