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Woolley v. Commonwealth

February 27, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge


I. Introduction

Plaintiff, Mark Woolley, involuntarily committed as a patient at the State Hospital in Danville ("Danville"), Pennsylvania, commenced this action with a pro se civil rights complaint filed pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA"). Defendants are the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, Danville Superintendent Paul Gritman, and Danville social worker Bonnie Barrett. Defendants were served with the complaint, they have filed an answer, and the pleadings are closed. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c).

Plaintiff claims that he is unconstitutionally detained at Danville, in violation of his constitutional rights to due process and equal protection, and he has suffered cruel and unusual treatment at Danville. He seeks injunctive release mandating his immediate release from Danville, "compensatory damages in the amount of 17,899,000.00 dollars, [and] punitive damages in the amount of 2.7 million [dollars]." (Doc. 1 at 33.) Currently pending is Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings. For the following reasons, the motion will be granted.

II. Background*fn1

Plaintiff is Involuntarily Committed to Danville Pursuant to a Civil Commitment

Order obtained in proceedings under Pennsylvania's Mental Health Procedures Act ("MHPA"), 50 Pa.C.S. § 7301, et seq. His current treatment at Danville began after he displayed aggressive behavior while a patient at Clarion Psychiatric Center, and he was taken into custody pursuant to a petition filed under § 304 (c) (50 Pa.C.S. § 7304(c)) of the MHPA. Petitioner has been hospitalized several times in the past, including stays in Pennsylvania at Clarion Psychiatric Center, The Meadows, and Warren State Hospital, as well as hospitalization in Ohio, Kansas, Colorado, and California. He has been diagnosed as having schizophrenia, paranoid type; continuous polysubstance abuse; personality disorder; hyperlipidemia; chronic headache; chronic mental illness; and "lack of insight."

During the pendency of this case, Plaintiff filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus (Doc. 22), seeking his immediate release from confinement, which was incorrectly docketed in this case. Subsequently, the Court recognized the error, and by Order dated July 19, 2004 (Doc. 31), the Court directed the Clerk of Court to strike the habeas petition from this case and enter it as a new case. The Clerk of Court complied, and the habeas petition was entered as a new case docketed as M. D. Pa. Civil Action No. 3:04-CV-1904. Thereafter, by Order dated January 3, 2006, the Court denied Plaintiff's petition for writ of habeas corpus.

III. Discussion

A. Standard for Judgment on the Pleadings

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) states, in pertinent part: "[a]fter the pleadings are closed but within such time as not to delay the trial, any party may move for judgment on the pleadings." A motion for judgment on the pleadings will not be granted unless movant clearly establishes that no material issues of fact remain unresolved, and that movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Society Hill Civic Association v. Harris, 632 F.2d 1045, 1054 (3d Cir. 1980). Courts have applied the same standard of review for a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) as they do for a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b) . See, e.g., Rose v. Bartle, 871 F.2d 331, 342 (3d Cir. 1989); Regalbuto v. City of Philadelphia, 937 F.Supp. 374, 376-77 (E.D. Pa. 1995).

In rendering a decision on a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept the Plaintiff's allegations in the complaint 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); Pension Guar. Corp. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). 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). Nevertheless, the Court is mindful that pro se complaints are to be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).

B. § 1983 Standard

Defendants allege that they are not "persons" as that term is defined under § 1983. The Court agrees. To state a viable § 1983 claim, Plaintiff must establish (1) that the alleged wrongful conduct was committed by a "person" acting under color of state law, and (2) that the conduct deprived the plaintiff of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Nicini v. Morra, 212 F.3d 798, 806 ...

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