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Murray v. Beard

March 24, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conaboy


Background This pro se action was filed by Irving Murray, an inmate presently confined at the Rockview State Correctional Institution, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania (SCI-Rockview). By Memorandum and Order dated March 3, 2006, this Court granted Defendants Kathleen Kennedy and Jane Davis' motion to dismiss. On March 10, 2006, a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Thomas Radecki, M.D., Robyn Johns, Ph.D., and Darlene Kenney, R.N was granted.

The remaining Defendants (hereinafter Corrections Defendants) are Secretary Jeffrey Beard of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) and the following SCI-Rockview employees: Superintendent Franklin Tennis, Deputy Superintendent Joel Dickson, Captain Lynn Eaton, Nursing Director Amy Crissitello, Lieutenant Shultz, Sandy Kibler, R.N., Medical Doctor Fred Maue, Psychologist John Walmer, Ph.D., Health Care Administrator Richard Ellers, Nurse Pat Moyer, John Kertis, Deputy Warden Ray Coffman, Brad Norris, Major George Snedeker, Lieutenant Knauff, Correctional Officers Peters, Hagg, D. Smith, and John Doe.*fn1 See Doc. 1, p. 1.

Murray's original complaint, accompanying addendum, and the amended complaint are set forth in a rambling, at times indiscernible manner. It is sometimes difficult to ascertain the nature of Plaintiff's allegations due to his admitted mental health problems and pro se status. However, his pleadings will be afforded liberal treatment.

Murray's original complaint initially alleges that on November 25, 2004, he was punched in his left eye three (3) times by a John Doe Defendant. Defendants Kertis and Smith purportedly participated in that assault. As a result of his injury, Plaintiff was put on medication for two weeks. Captain Eaton purportedly attempted to cover up the attack by failing to review and preserve videotape evidence. It is next asserted that Defendants Dickson, Snedeker and Tennis failed to discipline the correctional officers who assaulted Murray. Plaintiff adds that Defendants Crissitello and Norris told him that he "kinda asked for that punch in the eye." Doc. 1, ¶ IV(4)).

An addendum accompanying the original complaint lists the following SCI-Rockview officials presumably as Additional Defendants, Correctional Officers Scott Dale, Scott Kliefelter, T. Watson, Stephen Glunt, and D.J. Frank and D. McKissick, R.N. Plaintiff's supplement indicates that he was subjected to a retaliatory denial of access to a box of his legal materials while in the SCI-Rockview Mental Health Unit. It claims in part that Nurse McKissick told Plaintiff that his legal materials could be taken away at any time and written requests sent to Defendants Dickson and Tennis regarding his missing legal materials were apparently unsuccessful. Murray adds that he showed Defendants Frank, Kliefelter, Smith, Knauff, Crissitello and McKissick a portion of his Jailhouse Lawyers Manual, in an apparent attempt to establish that he was being improperly denied access to his legal materials.

Plaintiff next indicates that Nurse Moyer acted improperly by concurring with Doctor Kevin Burke's assessment that he was not a candidate for Interferon therapy.*fn2 Nursing Director Cristello and CO Kliefelter allegedly told Murray that they understood why he would want to have the Interferon Therapy, while Health Care Administrator Ellers notified him that he would get the treatment if he met treatment criteria.

On April 18, 2005, Plaintiff submitted a document which this Court previously construed as being an amended complaint. See Doc. 27. The amended complaint seeks relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims and also raises pendent state law tort claims. The previously named Correctional Defendants listed as Defendants therein are Beard, Dickson, Moyer, Ellers, Coffman, D. Smith, Kertis and John Doe. Added as Corrections Defendants are Hearing Examiner Jay Stidd, Lieutenant Schultz, and Correctional Officer Peters.

Murray reiterates his prior allegation of being assaulted on November 25, 2004, adding that on said date he attempted to hang himself with a bed sheet. Correctional Officers Smith and Kertis entered his cell and untied him. Defendant Peters also arrived and offered assistance. Plaintiff then climbed on top of a desk in his cell. When other correctional staff including Defendant John Doe arrived, Murray dove off in "an attempt to commit suicide." Doc. 27, ¶ 27. The Plaintiff was held down on the floor. While Correctional Officer John Doe was attempting to handcuff Plaintiff, said officer allegedly punched him three (3) times in the left eye.

Defendant Smith denied seeing any punches and Nurse Moyer stated that she could not see anything wrong with Murray's eye.

However, Lieutenant Schultz purportedly apologized for the use of force and requested that photographs be taken of the prisoner's eye.*fn3

On November 29, 2004, Correctional Officer Hagg handcuffed Plaintiff while he was examined by Physician's Assistant Kathleen Kennedy. From November 29 to December 3, 2004 Plaintiff was allegedly denied writing materials and grievance forms by unidentified persons. His next claim is that he was not provided with needed medical care by Snedeker, Coffman, Ellers, Moyer, Cristello, Mauve, and Symons. Murray also alleges that his due process rights were violated during institutional disciplinary proceedings by Defendants Stidd and Tennis. The amended complaint seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive and declaratory relief.


The Corrections Defendants contend that they are entitled to an entry of dismissal because: (1) there are no allegations that Defendants Beard, Dickson, Tennis, Maue, Walmer, Watson, Snedeker, Dale, Kliefelter, Eaton, Glunt, Ellers and Frank had personal involvement in any unconstitutional acts; (2) there are no specific allegations regarding the alleged use of excessive force, (3) the allegations do not sufficiently support a claim of deliberate indifference to a serious medical need; and (4) a viable retaliation claim has not been raised.

Standard of Review

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 the Corrections Defendants' motion in light of the standards set forth above and Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Personal Involvement

The Corrections Defendants' initial argument is twofold. First, they contend that Defendants Watson, Dale, Glunt, and Frank are entitled to dismissal because other than being listed as Defendants they are not mentioned at all in the complaint. Second, they argue that Murray has not alleged any personal involvement in constitutional misconduct by Defendants Beard, Tennis, Dickson, Maue, Walmer, Eaton, Snedeker, Kliefelter, and Ellers.

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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