You see ambulances racing around, paramedics dashing back and forth, firefighters bursting into burning buildings, and all of this would lead you to think that city and state governments are required to come to the aid of their citizens, wouldn't it?
Sorry, it's just not so, Chief Philadelphia U.S. District Judge Petrese Tucker ruled in the case of the late Leonard Sedden, Courthouse News Service reported.
It seems that Sedden was riding the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) "night owl" bus on April 11, 2010, from downtown Philadelphia to the Frankford Transportation Center, which was, for him, both the literal and figurative end of the line.
Around 4 a.m., the bus driver had called her dispatcher to report that Sedden was unresponsive, lying in urine and covered with drool. A SEPTA supervisor boarded the bus and claimed to have found Sedden sitting up and breathing.
Sued for negligence
But by 5:30 a.m., when the bus rolled into Frankford, Sedden was pronounced dead. His family sued SEPTA for negligence, wrongful death and violation of Sedden's civil rights.
But the judge ruled that SEPTA had done nothing to create the conditions that led to Sedden's death and, further, that SEPTA should not have to 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," Judge 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.'"
"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," she concluded.