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Robinson v. Beard

July 22, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Buckwalter S. J.


Currently before the Court is Defendant Felipe Arias, M.D.'s Motion to Dismiss the Complaint of Harvey Miguel Robinson, Jr. (Doc. No. 15), and Plaintiff's Response (Doc. No. 24). Additionally before the Court is Defendant Jeffrey A. Beard's Motion to Dismiss the Complaint of Harvey Miguel Robinson (Doc. No. 16), and Plaintiff's Response (Doc. No. 26). For the following reasons, the Court grants both Motions to Dismiss with prejudice.


Plaintiff Harvey Miguel Robinson, Jr., a prisoner at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford ("Graterford"), filed this section 1983 action seeking damages, a declaratory judgment, and injunctive relief based on the use of excessive force, the denial of due process, the delaying/denying of medical care, and the violation of his Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

On July 3, 2006, Corrections Officer Toms went to Plaintiff's cell and asked him to get dressed so that he could escort Robinson to the law library. (Pl.'s Resp. Def. Beard's Mot. Dismiss, Ex. A, 1.) Plaintiff alleges that when he reached down for his socks and shoes, he was grabbed by his upper body and pulled out of his cell, upon which he was handcuffed, kicked, and punched by Toms and Corrections Officers Beretsky and Wilcox. ( Id.) After this altercation, Corrections Officers Carlson and Weaver escorted Plaintiff to the prison medical center. ( Id. at 2.) Upon returning to his cell from the medical center, Plaintiff received two falsified misconduct reports, one from Toms and another from Corrections Officer Frushon. (Id.) The reports stated that Toms and Frushon arrived at Plaintiff's cell to escort him to the library, handcuffed Plaintiff, when he "slipped the handcuffs" and attempted to hit Toms in his head and body. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that these reports have been falsified to cover up the fact that he was assaulted. (Id. at 3.)

Plaintiff alleges that he has been denied, for well over a month, all of his needed legal material and religious material which has interfered with his ability to correspond with his attorneys, family members, and supporters. (Id.) He also claims to have been denied/delayed medical treatment. (Id.) Despite that claim, he acknowledges that when he submitted numerous medical call slips after the altercation, he "was seen by/and spoke directly to Defendant Arias." (Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 20.) As time passed and his nervous system condition worsened, Plaintiff says he continued to submit sick call slips. (Id. ¶ 31.) On December 1, 2006, during a "doctor line" visit with Defendant Arias, Plaintiff was approved for an MRI on his upper spine. (Id. ¶ 32.) Dr. Arias explained to Plaintiff that the MRI showed that he had two ruptured disks and a fractured vertebrae, and he ordered additional tests to measure nerve damage. (Id. ¶ 36.) Plaintiff was taken to a private doctor's office, where nerve conduction studies were performed to measure nerve damage. (Id. ¶ 41.) Plaintiff claims that "because of the complete deliberate indifference exercised by Defendant[] . . . Dr. Arias, to Plaintiff's condition and obviously serious medical needs . . . Plaintiff's condition drastically worsened . . . to the point where it had an almost crippling affect on Plaintiff's walking and all around common and everyday practices." (Id. ¶ 53.) Plaintiff contends that Defendant Arias' decisions, along with those of Defendants DiGuglielmo, Knauer, Stanishefski, constituted deliberate indifference and were "completely medically unacceptable in theory and practice, and in total contrast with any/and all acceptable medically professional judgment, practice, and standards." (Id. ¶ 54.)


Under Rule 12(b)(6), a defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that the plaintiff has not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6); see also Hedges v. U.S., 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). In Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007), the Supreme Court recognized that "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 1965. Following Twombly, the Supreme Court subsequently defined a two-pronged approach to a court's review of a motion to dismiss. "First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Thus, although "[r]ule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era . . . it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions." Id. Second, the Supreme Court emphasized that "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id. "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will, as the Court of Appeals observed, be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. Where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged, but not shown, an entitlement to relief. Id. see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (holding that (1) factual allegations of complaint must provide notice to defendant; (2) complaint must allege facts suggestive of the proscribed conduct; and (3) the complaint's "'factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" Id. at 234 (quoting Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965).

Notwithstanding these new dictates, the basic tenets of the Rule 12(b)(6) standard of review have remained static. Spence v. Brownsville Area Sch. Dist., Civ. A. No. 08-626, 2008 WL 2779079, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Jul. 15, 2008). The general rules of pleading still require only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, not detailed factual allegations. Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231. Further, the court must "accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006). Finally, the court must "determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Pinkerton v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002).

The United States Supreme Court has unanimously held that a pro se complaint, "however inartfully pleaded," must be held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers" and can only be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it appear "beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.'" Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957).)


A. Motion to Dismiss of Dr. Felipe Arias

Plaintiff filed this section 1983 action against Defendant Dr. Felipe Arias contending that he received inappropriate medical care as a prisoner from Dr. Arias in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights.

Even applying the liberal pro se standard, Robinson's claims against Dr. Arias, both in his capacity as treating physician and as medical director of the Corrections Department, are not cognizable under Section 1983. In Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976), the plaintiff, a prisoner, was injured while working for the prison. Id. at 100. Immediately after the injury, he was treated by a physician, given pain relievers and muscle relaxants, and was directed to refrain from additional manual labor. Id. at 100-101. Upon telling prison officials about the physician's advice, the plaintiff was placed in ...

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