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Capozzi v. Northampton County

September 3, 2009


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


Before the Court are two Motions to Dismiss the Complaint filed by Plaintiff Frank J. Capozzi: one motion filed by Defendants PrimeCare Medical, Inc. ("PrimeCare"), Todd Haskins and Amelia Caputo (jointly "Medical Defendants") (Docket No. 12); and a second motion filed by Defendants Todd Buskirk and Northampton County Department of Corrections (jointly "Prison Defendants") (Docket No. 18). All events relevant to this action occurred while Plaintiff was an inmate at Northhampton Department of Corrections (Northampton DOC). Northhampton DOC employs Defendant PrimeCare to render medical care to inmates. (Am. Compl. ¶ 6.) Defendant Todd Haskins is Director of Healthcare Solutions for Northampton DOC. (Id.) Defendant Amelia Caputo handles medical grievances as an administrator at the Northampton DOC. (Id.) Defendant Todd Buskirk is Director of Corrections at Northampton DOC. (Id.)

Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and did not file a response to the Motion to Dismiss. Nevertheless, the Court will evaluate the allegations set forth in Plaintiff's Complaint. Plaintiff alleges Defendants violated his constitutional rights and that he is entitled to relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because Defendants (1) failed to evaluate for violent tendencies the cellmate who attacked Plaintiff and (2) were negligent in treating Plaintiff's injuries.*fn1 For the reasons stated below, the Court will grant the Motions to Dismiss filed by the Medical and Prison Defendants.*fn2


A. The Attack and Subsequent Medical Treatment

The facts contained in Plaintiff's complaint are sparse. On February 2, 2006, inmate Karl Kreidler attacked Plaintiff, his cellmate, at Northampton County Department of Corrections ("Northampton DOC"). (Am. Compl. at ¶ 9.) The attack arose from a dispute over Plaintiff's television. (Id.) Plaintiff sustained injuries to his face as a result of the attack. (Id.) Dr. Sprague treated Plaintiff's nose, facial bone and eye. (Id. at ¶ 6.) Plaintiff filed grievances with the Office of the Secretary for Grievances in Harrisburg, Pa. to receive further medical care for his nose.*fn4 (Id. at ¶ 5.) Defendant PrimeCare did not provide any additional treatment. (Id.) Before this incident, prison officials, not identified by Plaintiff, conducted a psychological evaluation of Kreidler and cleared him for work release. (Id. at ¶ 9.)

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed his Complaint against the above Defendants on February 5, 2008 in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. On March 18, 2008, the action was transferred to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.*fn5 Former Chief Judge James Giles, to whom this case was previously assigned, issued an Order on April 18, 2008 granting Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed in forma pauperis and affording Plaintiff thirty days to file an Amended Complaint in compliance with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 and 15. (Docket No. 2.) Plaintiff did not respond to the Order to file an Amended Complaint for almost a year. On February 22, 2009, this Court, to whom this case was transferred, entered an Order to Show Cause as to why the case should not be dismissed. (Docket No. 5.) On March 3, 2009, Plaintiff filed a response to the Show Cause Order stating that he had not received any of the Court's Orders because he had not provided his new address. (Docket No. 6.) The Court found that there was cause to allow Plaintiff to continue the suit (Docket No. 7). Plaintiff then filed his Amended Complaint (Docket No. 8). Both sets of Defendants filed Motions to Dismiss to which Plaintiff has not responded.


A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

Medical and Prison Defendants have moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12 (b)(6). The motion to dismiss standard has undergone recent transformation, culminating with the Supreme Court's Opinion in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009). After Iqbal, it is clear that "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice" in defeating a motion to dismiss. Id. at 1949; see also Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). Applying this principle of Iqbal, the Third Circuit in Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, No. 07-4285, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 18626, (3d Cir. Aug. 18, 2009), articulated a two part analysis that District Courts in this Circuit must conduct in evaluating whether allegations in a complaint survive a motion to dismiss. First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated, meaning "a District Court must accept all of the complaints well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions." Id. at *17. Second, the Court must determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint demonstrate that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief." Id. In other words, a complaint must do more than allege a plaintiff's entitlement to relief; it must "show" such an entitlement with its facts. Id. (citing Phillips v. County of Allegheny 515 F.3d 224, 234-35 (3d Cir. 2008). "Where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged--but it has not 'shown'-- 'that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Iqbal, 129 S Ct. at 1950. This "plausibility" determination under step two of the analysis is a "context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

In conducting this two step analysis, the Court, in addition to reviewing the Complaint, may also review documents attached to the Complaint and matters of public record. Lum v. Bank of America, 361 F.3d 217, 221 n. 3 (3d Cir. 2004). The Court may also take judicial notice of a prior judicial opinion. McTernan v. City of York Pennsylvania, No. 07-2670, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 18942, at *8 (3d Cir Aug. 24, 2009).

B. Failure to Protect

The Court will first evaluate Plaintiff's ยง 1983 claim to the extent it alleges Defendants failed to protect Plaintiff from a known risk in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. The risk that Plaintiff alleges is the risk he ...

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