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OCASIO v. COUNTY OF DAUPHIN

September 1, 2005.

ANGEL R. OCASIO, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF DAUPHIN, PA, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge

MEMORANDUM

I. Introduction

Plaintiff, Angel R. Ocasio, formerly*fn1 an inmate at the Dauphin County Prison in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, commenced this pro se civil rights action with a complaint filed pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Named as Defendants are Dauphin County, Pennsylvania; Dauphin County Prison ("DCP"); Prime Care, Inc.; and DCP Warden, D. Derose. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants exposed him to unhealthy prison conditions and that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment proscription of cruel and unusual punishment.

  Presently before the Court is the motion of Prime Care, Inc. (Doc. 16) to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint, and the motion for summary judgment (Doc. 19) filed by Dauphin County and Warden DeRose. The motions have been briefed, and they are ripe for disposition. For the following reasons, the motions will be granted, and the complaint will be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 as it relates to DCP.

  II. Background

  Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from a "chronic skin condition that [had] not been taken care of appropriately" (Doc. 1 at 2) while he was incarcerated in DCP (December 9, 2003 to July 27, 2004). He claims that although he was treated for his condition (acute contact dermatitis (Doc. 18 at ¶ 2)), it was allowed to "worsen and develop to a painful internal infection without consulting a specialist." (Id.) He also alleges that conditions at DCP are "horrendous[:] paint chips and peeling paint abound, . . . dust & dirt are everywhere, . . . [a]t times the drinking water comes out yellow and there is a big problem with mice, roaches & other rodents at [DCP]." (Doc. 1 at 3, Attachment B). For relief he seeks: (1) cessation of deductions from his prison account for room and board; (2) monetary damages in the amount of $250,000.00, together with legal fees and payment of medical bills; and (3) injunctive relief*fn2 in the form of "independent analysis of the environmental conditions at [DCP]. . . ." (Doc. 1 at 4.)

  III. Discussion

  A. Motion to Dismiss Prime Care, Inc.

  Defendant, Prime Care, Inc., has filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint (Doc. 16). The motion is based, in part, upon a contention that there are no specific allegations of wrongdoing by Primecare, Inc., and § 1983 liability may not be premised on a theory of respondeat superior. The Court agrees.

  1. Motion to Dismiss Standard

  In rendering a decision on a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept the Plaintiff's allegations as true. White v. Napoleon, 897 F.2d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 1990). In Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996), the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit added that when considering a motion to dismiss, based on a Rule 12(b)(6) argument, a court should "not inquire whether the plaintiffs will ultimately prevail, only whether they are entitled to offer evidence to support their claims." Moreover, a motion to dismiss may only be granted if there is no reasonable reading of the facts that would entitle Plaintiff to relief. Lum v. Bank of America, 361 F.3d 217, 223 (3d Cir. 2004). The Court should consider the allegations in the complaint, the exhibits attached thereto, matters of public record, and "undisputedly authentic" documents. See Angstadt v. Midd-West School Dist., 377 F.3d 338, 342 (3d Cir. 2004). A complaint that does not establish entitlement to relief under any reasonable interpretation is properly dismissed without leave to amend. Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 2002). However, the Court is mindful that pro se complaints are to be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).

  2. Deliberate Indifference

  In order to state a viable § 1983 claim, a Plaintiff must plead two essential elements: (1) that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law, and (2) that said conduct deprived the Plaintiff of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Nicini v. Morra, 212 F.3d 798, 806 (3d Cir. 2000). The Constitutional issue implicated in this case is the Eighth Amendment requirement that prison officials provide adequate medical care to inmates, and make reasonable efforts to assure prisoner health and safety. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). That duty is violated when prison officials know of and disregard an excessive risk to inmate health or safety. Id. at 837. Not every illness or injury enjoys constitutional protection; only serious medical needs or injuries will give rise to constitutional scrutiny. Gerber v. Sweeney, 292 F.Supp.2d 700, 706 (E.D. Pa. 2003).

  In Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976), as here, the prisoner/plaintiff claimed that inadequate medical treatment violated his Eighth Amendment protection from cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court acknowledged that the government has an obligation to provide medical care to its prisoners, but held that a constitutional violation does not occur unless the Plaintiff can show Defendants had a "deliberate indifference to serious ...


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