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Velykis v. Shannon

October 30, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: William W. Caldwell United States District Judge


I. Introduction

The pro se plaintiff, Matthew Velykis, an inmate at SCI-Frackville, filed this civil-rights action against defendants, Robert Shannon, Frackville's superintendent; M. Barnes, captain of the guards; officer Allen, sergeant of the guards; and correctional officer Price. The case is based on defendant Allen's alleged intentional act of slamming a van door on Plaintiff's head. Pendent state-law claims are also asserted. The defendants are sued in their official and individual capacities.

Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The motion makes the following arguments. First, Plaintiff has failed to allege any personal involvement of defendants Shannon and Barnes in the conduct causing him injury.

Second, the claims against the defendants in their official capacities are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Third, the state-law claims are barred by sovereign immunity.

II. Standard of Review

In considering the defendants' motion to dismiss, we must accept as true the factual allegations in the complaint and construe any inferences to be drawn from them in Plaintiff's favor. See Mariana v. Fisher, 338 F.3d 189, 195 (3d Cir. 2003). We may dismiss a complaint under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) only if it is clear that no relief could be granted to Plaintiff under "any set of facts that could be proven consistent with the allegations." Ramadan v. Chase Manhattan Corp., 229 F.3d 194, 195 (3d Cir. 2000). Additionally, "'however inartfully pleaded,' the 'allegations of [a] pro se complaint [are held] to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Mitchell v. Horn, 318 F.3d 523, 529 (3d Cir. 2003)(quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 596, 30 L.Ed.2d 652, 654 (1972)) (brackets in Mitchell).

III. Background

Plaintiff alleges the following. On August 10, 2005, defendants Allen and Price transported Plaintiff from SCI- Frackville to SCI-Mahanoy to receive medical treatment. (Doc. 11, Am. Compl. ¶ 9.) Handcuffed and shackled, he was ordered to exit the transportation van. (Id. ¶ 10.) Without assistance, Plaintiff "attempted" to do so "without falling over." (Id. ¶ 10.) "While bent over exiting the van head first, defendant Allen, without forewarning to Plaintiff, slammed the van door shut on Plaintiff's head." (Id. ¶ 12.) Allen did so "purposely." (Id. ¶ 21.) While Plaintiff was resting on the van's running board, Allen stated to Price, "Well, at least we know he can take a shot." (Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff was taken to SCI-Mahanoy's medical department, and three stitches were used on the wound. (Id. ¶ 16.) An unknown Mahanoy lieutenant asked why Plaintiff was bleeding, and Allen joked, "We had to shoot him on the way over." (Id. ¶ 15.) The three correctional officers laughed. (Id.)

Velykis alleges the following as to each defendant's liability. Allen's conduct violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments and was also a battery under state law. (Id. ¶ 21.) Defendant Price's "actions and/or inactions . . . in failing to assist Plaintiff in exiting the van thereby exposing him to harm" violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights and was also a battery under state law. (Id. ¶ 22.) Defendant Barnes's conduct in failing to adequately monitor or train Price and Allen, and by failing to investigate or remedy the abuse inflicted by Allen and Price on Plaintiff violated Plaintiff's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Id. ¶ 23.) Similarly, Superintendent Shannon's failure to properly train, supervise and monitor Price and Allen, as well as his failure to implement policies to prevent the abuse alleged in Velykis's complaint violated Plaintiff's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Id. ¶ 24.) Finally, Velykis avers that the actions/inactions of Barnes and Superintendent Shannon constituted state-law claims of willful neglect, negligence, misfeasance and nonfeasance. (Id. ¶¶ 23 and 24.) All defendants are alleged to have acted "within the course and scope of their employment . . . . and under color of state law." (Id. ¶ 8).

IV. Discussion

A. The Federal Claims Against Defendants Barnes and Shannon Are Dismissed for Failure to Allege Personal Involvement

In moving to dismiss the federal claims against Barnes and Shannon, Defendants argue that Plaintiff had to demonstrate their "personal involvement in the alleged wrongs," Rode v. Dellaciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988), some form of "personal direction" or "actual knowledge and acquiescence," id., but has not made the necessary averments. They point out that it is not enough to allege a mere failure to train, supervise or discipline. See Chinchello v. Fenton, 805 F.2d 126, 133-34 (3d Cir. 1986).

Plaintiff does not contest this argument, conceding that the federal claims against these defendants are properly dismissed for lack of personal involvement. Plaintiff does request that the dismissal be without prejudice to reasserting the claims if, during discovery, evidence becomes available to support an action against Barnes and Shannon. If discovery ...

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