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Murray v. Beard

March 3, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conaboy


Background Irving Murray, an inmate presently confined at the Rockview State Correctional Institution, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania (SCIRockview), initiated this pro se civil rights action. Service of the complaint was previously ordered. Two of the named Defendants are Kathleen Kennedy and Jane Davis, both of whom are employed as Physician Assistants (PA) at SCI-Rockview.

Murray's original complaint alleges that on November 25, 2004, he was punched in his left eye three times by a John Doe Defendant. As a result of his injury, Plaintiff was put on medication for two weeks. He generally adds that "K. Kennedy denies me medical sick due to my filing grievance on her, she refuses to medically treat me for my eyes or anything, same with J. Davis, denies medical care." Doc. 1, ¶ IV(2). The original complaint and accompanying supplement contain no other mention of Defendants Kennedy and Davis.

On April 18, 2005, Murray filed a document which will be construed as an amended complaint.*fn1 Therein, Plaintiff describes Kennedy and Davis as PAs who were responsible for conducting sick call in the SCI-Rockview mental health unit. See Doc. 27, ¶¶ 13-14. He adds that both Defendants are being sued in their individual capacities. Plaintiff asserts that due to depression, he attempted suicide on November 25, 2004. A number of correctional officers intervened and forced Murray to the floor. While on the floor and being handcuffed Plaintiff was allegedly punched in the left eye by an unidentified correctional officer three (3) times "causing it to bleed". Id. at ¶ 31.

On November, 29, 2004, Defendant Kennedy came to Plaintiff's cell, and after observing his eye injury had the prisoner placed on antibiotics for two (2) weeks. Plaintiff generally states that from December, 2004 to March, 2005 he was denied medical care for his left eye, damaged skin and headaches. See id. at ¶¶ 54-55. He further indicates that treatment was withheld in retaliation for his submission of institutional grievances. See id. at ¶ 57. The prayer for relief in Murray's amended complaint asserts that Davis and Kennedy were among a group of Defendants who violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment by failing to provide him with adequate medical care. See id. at Prayer for Relief, ¶ A (4).

Presently pending is Kennedy and Davis' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's action for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Doc. 36. The motion is ripe for consideration.


The moving defendants contend that they are entitled to an entry of dismissal because Murray "fails to identify any particular actions or conduct by which they are alleged to have violated Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights." Doc. 37, p. 4.

A court, in rendering a decision on a motion to dismiss, must accept the veracity of the plaintiff's allegations. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); White v. Napoleon, 897 F.2d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 1990). In Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996), the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit added that when considering a motion to dismiss based on a failure to state a claim argument, a court should "not inquire whether the plaintiffs will ultimately prevail, only whether they are entitled to offer evidence to support their claims." "[A] complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957).

"The test in reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is whether, under any reasonable reading of the pleadings, plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Holder v. City of Allentown, 987 F.2d 188, 194 (3d Cir. 1993) (citation omitted). Additionally, a court must "accept as true the factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them." Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990); Independent Enters., Inc. v. Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Auth., 103 F.3d 1165, 1168 (3d Cir. 1997). Finally, it is additionally well-settled that pro se complaints should be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). This Court will now discuss Defendants Kennedy and Davis' motion in light of the standards set forth above and Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

PA Davis

A plaintiff, in order to state a viable civil rights claim under § 1983, 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. Groman v. Township of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 638 (3d Cir. 1995); Shaw by Strain v. Strackhouse, 920 F.2d 1135, 1141-42 (3d Cir. 1990).

Civil rights claims also cannot be premised on a theory of respondeat superior. Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988). Rather, each named defendant must be shown, via the complaint's allegations, to have been personally involved in the events or occurrences which underlie a claim. See Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976); ...

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