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Schneller v. Fox Subacute at Clara Burke

June 25, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stengel, J.


Four years after the death of his elderly mother on March 31, 2002, James D. Schneller and allegedly three other plaintiffs*fn1 filed a pro se actionagainst several defendants*fn2 whom he claims are legally responsible. The genesis of the case appears to be medical and legal malpractice as a result of the allegedly negligent services rendered to Mr. Schneller's parents during the last few months of their lives. I dismissed the case based on lack of jurisdiction before service was perfected. See Schneller, et al. v. Fox Subacute at Clara Burke, et al., No. 06-1504, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21054, *7-8 (E.D. Pa. April 18, 2006). On appeal, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the dismissal holding that the plaintiff should have been given an opportunity to amend his complaint. Schneller, et al. v. Fox Subacute at Clara Burke, et al., 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 8777, *2 n.1 (3d Cir. 2008). On December 5, 2008, Mr. Schneller filed an amended complaint which added a count for injunctive relief. See Document #33.

There are four groups of defendants*fn3 which have filed motions to dismiss. For the following reasons, I will grant the motions to dismiss in their entirety.


In October 2004, Mr. Schneller began a series of actions against the defendants in the Courts of Common Pleas of various counties within the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The cases were dismissed through entries of judgment non pros for failure to file Certificates of Merit as required by Rule 1042.3 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure. Mr. Schneller unsuccessfully attempted to re-open the cases and/or strike the judgment of non pros. He then appealed this case to the Pennsylvania Superior Court which affirmed without an opinion. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied his petition for allowance of appeal. Finally, the United States Supreme Court denied the plaintiff's petition for writ of certiorari. Schneller v. Fox Subacute at Clara Burke, et al., 128 S.Ct. 56 (2007).

The eighty-two (82) page amended complaint contains six-hundred thirty-two (632) paragraphs purporting to provide the basis of the plaintiff's twenty-eight (28) claims: Count 1A -- Violation of the Assisted Suicide Funding Restriction Act of 1997 Count 1B -- Civil Action for Deprivation of Rights Count 1C -- Conspiracy to Interfere with Civil Rights -- Depriving Persons of Rights and Privileges Count 1D -- Conspiracy to Interfere with Civil Rights -- Obstructing Justice and Intimidating Parties Count 1E -- Neglect to Prevent Deprivation of Rights and Conspiracy for Deprivation of Rights -- Failure to Warn Count 2 -- Breach of Contract Count 3 -- Breach of Contract Count 4 -- Fraudulent and Negligent Inducement of Contracts Count 5 -- Deprival of Due Process, Negligence and Intentional Tort by Government Agency Count 6 -- Wrongful Death Count 7 -- Survival Count 8 -- Intentional Tort -- Abuse of Power of Attorney and Advance Health Directive Count 9 -- Negligence Per Se (violation of sixty-five state and federal statutes) Count 10 -- Battery Count 11 -- Battery -- Lack of Informed Consent Count 12 -- Survival -- Negligent and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Count 13 -- Survival Action -- Damages to Estate of Deceased Count 14 -- Survival -- Punitive Damages Count 15 -- Negligence and Intentional Tort By Licensed Medical Defendants Count 16 -- Negligence and Intentional Tort Against Legal Professional Defendants Count 17 -- Fraud and Intentional Misrepresentation Count 18 -- Conspiracy Count 19 -- Breach of Confidential Relationship Count 20 -- Negligent and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Count 21 -- Tortious Interference with Present and Prospective Economic Advantage Count 22 -- Tortious Interference with Inheritance Count 23 -- Punitive Damages Count 24 -- Injunctive relief to restrain various defendants from the unscrupulous decisions to end life, or to deny the rights granted by law.

Mr. Schneller also alleges violations of various Long Term Care Facility regulations, including: 42 C.F.R. § 483.10, 42 C.F.R. § 483.15, and 42 C.F.R. § 483.25.*fn4

See Am. Compl. ¶ 21.


A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted examines the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). The factual allegations must be sufficient to make the claim for relief more than just speculative. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). In determining whether to grant a motion to dismiss, a federal court must construe the complaint liberally, accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Id.; see also D.P. Enters. v. Bucks County Cmty. Coll., 725 F.2d 943, 944 (3d Cir. 1984).

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a plaintiff to plead in detail all of the facts upon which he bases his claim. Conley, 355 U.S. at 47. Rather, the Rules require a "short and plain statement" of the claim that will give the defendant fair notice of the plaintiff's claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Id. The "complaint must allege facts suggestive of [the proscribed] conduct." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Neither "bald assertions" nor "vague and conclusory allegations" are accepted as true. See Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997); Sterling v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transp. Auth., 897 F. Supp. 893 (E.D. Pa. 1995). The claim must contain enough factual matters to suggest the required elements of the claim or to "raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" those elements. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

A case may be also dismissed under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(h)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "[w]henever it appears by suggestion of the parties or otherwise that the court lacks jurisdiction of the subject matter. . . ." FED.R.CIV.P. 12(h)(3). Alternatively, a court choosing not to grant a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction may, under Rule 12(e), grant a motion for a more definitive statement if "a pleading to which a responsive pleading is permitted is so vague or ambiguous that a party cannot reasonably be required to frame a responsive pleading. . . ." FED.R.CIV.P. 12(e).

Moreover, courts must liberally construe pro se complaints and "apply the applicable law, irrespective of whether [the] litigant has mentioned it by name." Higgins v. Beyer, 293 F.3d 683, 688 (3d Cir. 2002). Thus, a plaintiff's complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to a less stringent standard than a formal pleading drafted by an attorney. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976).


A. Non-Commonwealth Defendants -- ...

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