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Bronson v. Overton

April 14, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter.



A. Relevant Procedural and Factual History

On February 19, 2008, Plaintiff Purcell Bronson, a prisoner formerly incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Albion, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Albion"),*fn1 filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the following Defendants: Maxine Overton, Health Care Administrator at SCI-Albion ("Overton"); Mark Baker, M.D., a physician under contract to perform medical services for inmates at SCI-Albion ("Baker"); Raymond Sobina, Superintendent at SCI-Albion ("Sobina"); and Cindy Watson, Chief Grievance Officer at the Secretary's Office of Inmate Grievances and Appeals, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("Watson"). [Document # 3]. Plaintiff subsequently filed an amended complaint [Document # 16] on May 21, 2008, and a second amended complaint [Document # 49] on July 30, 2008.

Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from various physical ailments, including "right knee tendon/ligament tear, relapse of ankle surgery, system-wide arthritis and painful muscle cramps." (Document # 3, Complaint, at Section IV.C.1). Plaintiff claims that, on November 8, 2007, Defendant Baker told Plaintiff that he would order a blood test for Plaintiff and that, once the test results came back, he would discuss the results with Plaintiff and address his medical concerns; however, Defendant Baker failed to do so. (Id. at Section IV.C.2). Plaintiff alleges that he then submitted sick call slips on November 28 and 29, requesting a physical examination by a doctor, but the slips were not processed. (Amended Complaint at ¶ 3). As a result, Plaintiff filed a grievance concerning the failure to respond to his sick call slips, to which Defendant Overton responded that no requests had been received from Plaintiff since he was last seen by Defendant Baker on November 8, 2007. (Id. at ¶ 4). Plaintiff claims that his "medical health has deteriorated" as a result of Defendants' deliberate indifference to his medical needs in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. In addition, Plaintiff claims that "Defendants acted with conspiratorial intent to deprive Plaintiff of medical treatment in retaliation for his civil suits against their co-workers." (Id. at ¶ 9). Plaintiff also claims that he was transferred from SCIAlbion to SCI-Mahanoy on July 21, 2008, in retaliation for the filing of this lawsuit. As relief for his claims, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages, as well as declaratory and injunctive relief requiring Defendants to provide him with medical treatment, and further requiring his transfer back to SCI-Albion.

On September 5, 2008, Defendant Baker and Defendants Overton, Sobina and, Watson, filed motions to dismiss [Document # 54 and 56, respectively], asserting that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, and in any event, has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Plaintiff has filed a brief in opposition to Defendants' motions. This matter is now ripe for consideration.*fn2

B. Standard of Review

1. Motion to Dismiss

Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that a pleading must set forth a claim for relief which contains a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. A motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976). The issue is not whether the plaintiff will prevail at the end but only whether he should be entitled to offer evidence to support his claim. Neitzke; Scheuer v. Rhodes, 419 U.S. 232 (1974). As the United States Supreme Court recently held in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, ___ U.S. ___, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (May 21, 2007), a complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12 (b)(6) if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at ___, 1974 (rejecting the traditional 12 (b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)). The court must accept as true all allegations of the complaint and all reasonable factual inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Securities, Inc., 764 F.2d 939, 944 (3d Cir. 1985). The Court, however, need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts as set forth in the complaint. See California Pub. Employee Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004) citing Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Nor must the court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual allegations. Twombly, ___ U.S. ___, 127 S.Ct. at 1965 citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, ___ U.S. ___, 127 S.Ct. at 1965. Although the United States Supreme Court does "not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, [the Court does require] enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at ___, 1974.

2. Pro Se Pleadings

Pro se pleadings, "however inartfully pleaded," must be held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers" Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-521(1972). If the court can reasonably read pleadings to state a valid claim on which the litigant could prevail, it should do so despite failure to cite proper legal authority, confusion of legal theories, poor syntax and sentence construction, or litigant's unfamiliarity with pleading requirements. Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364 (1982); United States ex rel. Montgomery v. Bierley, 141 F.2d 552, 555 (3d Cir. 1969)(petition prepared by a prisoner may be inartfully drawn and should be read "with a measure of tolerance"); Smith v. U.S. District Court, 956 F.2d 295 (D.C.Cir. 1992); Freeman v. Department of Corrections, 949 F.2d 360 (10th Cir. 1991). Under our liberal pleading rules, a district court should construe all allegations in a complaint in favor of the complainant. Gibbs v. Roman, 116 F.3d 83 (3d Cir.1997). See, e.g., Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996)(discussing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard); Markowitz v. Northeast Land Company, 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990)(same). Because Plaintiff is a pro se litigant, this Court will consider facts and make inferences where it is appropriate.


A. Exhaustion

1. Exhaustion Requirement of the Prison ...

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