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Ogden v. Huntingdon County

August 15, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Conner)


Presently before the court is the motion of defendants Huntingdon County, Huntingdon County Prison, and Warden Duane Black (collectively "the Huntingdon County defendants") to dismiss the § 1983 claims asserted against them by plaintiff Timothy Allen Ogden ("Ogden"). For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.

I. Statement of Facts*fn1

The dispute in this case centers around physical injuries that Ogden suffered at the hands of another inmate while incarcerated at the Mifflin County Correctional Facility. The defendants in this case are Mifflin County, the Mifflin County Correctional Facility, Warden Bernie J. Zook, Deputy Warden James Crisswell, Corrections Officer Weaver (collectively "the Mifflin County defendants"), and the Huntingdon County defendants.

The facts leading up to Ogden's incarceration at the Mifflin County Correctional Facility are critical to his claims against the Huntingdon County defendants. On March 26, 2005, while on parole, Ogden was arrested for driving under the influence in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, and transported to the Huntingdon County Prison. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 13-14.) Due to overcrowding in the Huntingdon County Prison, Ogden was transferred to the Mifflin County Correctional Facility in May 2005, pursuant to an agreement between the two institutions. (Id. ¶¶ 15-18.) Ogden alleges that after this transfer, he was in the "mutual custody" of Huntingdon and Mifflin counties. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.)

On June 17, 2005, while in the Mifflin County Correctional Facility, Ogden was "viciously attacked" by an fellow inmate named Justin Herb ("Herb"). (Id. ¶ 19.) Ogden suffered "severe and serious injuries to his face, neck, head, brain, spinal cord, and various other parts of his person" and was life-flighted to a hospital where he received life-sustaining medical treatment. (Id. ¶¶ 20-21.) Ogden alleges that prior to the attack, Herb had exhibited "violent, vicious and abhorrent behavior" and had "continuously provoked confrontations, caused continuous disruptions and continuously disregarded all rules set forth" by the Mifflin County Correctional Facility. (Id. ¶¶ 22-23, 25.) Ogden further alleges that the Mifflin County defendants knew of Herb's behavioral problems prior to the attack, but took no action to punish him or to segregate him from the inmate population. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 28-29.) Finally, Ogden contends that the Huntingdon County defendants were aware of the Mifflin County defendants' policy of "placating rather than punishing violent and disruptive inmates" when Ogden was transferred to Mifflin County Correctional Facility. (Id. ¶ 50.)

On November 29, 2006, Ogden filed the instant action, asserting a claim of cruel and unusual punishment pursuant to the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (See Doc. 1.) The Huntingdon County defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss, arguing that Ogden has failed to establish that they were deliberately indifferent to any serious risk of harm that Ogden faced in the Mifflin County Correctional Facility. (See Doc. 6.) The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

II. Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of claims that fail to assert a basis upon which relief can be granted. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6).

In the context of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept as true all of the factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom. Langford v. City of Atlantic City, 235 F.3d 845, 847 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996)). Although the court is generally limited in its review to the face of the complaint, it "may also consider matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case." Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994); see also In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997).

Federal notice pleading rules do not require plaintiffs to allege affirmatively every aspect of their claims, but only to present sufficient facts to allow the opposing party to conduct discovery and prepare a defense. See FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a) (stating that the complaint should include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief"); see also Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Thus, courts should not dismiss a complaint 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." Id.; see Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002). Under this liberal pleading policy, courts should generally grant plaintiffs leave to amend their claims before dismissing a complaint that is merely deficient. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002); Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 116-17 (3d Cir. 2000).

III. Discussion

Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code offers private citizens a means of redress for violations of federal law by state officials. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the ...

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