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Womack v. Smith

December 29, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Christopher C. Conner United States District Judge

(Judge Conner)


Presently before the court are defendants D. Scott Dodrill, Harley G. Lappin, John Vanyur, Newton Kendig,*fn1 Linda Thomas and John Oliver's motions to dismiss the second amended complaint (docs. 77 and 80) with respect to plaintiff David Lee Womack's Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim. For the reasons that follow, the motions will be denied in part and granted in part.

I. Statement of Facts

We see no reason to set forth a detailed statement of facts as the facts were thoroughly addressed in our earlier decision, Womack v. Smith, No. 06-2348, 2008 WL 822114 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 26, 2008), and in the Third Circuit's opinion reversing and remanding our prior determination, Womack v. Smith, 310 F.App'x 547, 551 (3d Cir. 2009). Any new, relevant allegations pleaded in the second amended complaint will be discussed as necessary.

II. Standard of Review*fn2

Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) authorizes dismissal of a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Under Rule 12(b)(6), we must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008)). While a complaint need only contain "a short and plain statement of the claim," Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), and detailed factual allegations are not required, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d. 929 (2007), a complaint must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955 at 1974. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, - - - U.S. - - - -, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965.) "[L]abels and conclusions" are not enough, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65, and a court "'is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'" Id., 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (quoted case omitted).

In resolving the motion to dismiss, we thus "conduct a two-part analysis." Fowler, supra, 578 F.3d at 210. First, we separate the factual elements from the legal elements and disregard the legal conclusions. Id. at 210-11. Second, we "determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "'plausible claim for relief.'" Id. at 211 (quoted case omitted).

When appropriate, we may also rely on public records, such as court filings. See Churchill v. Star Enterprises, 183 F.3d 184, 190 n.5 (3d Cir. 1999)(citing Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. v. White Consolidated Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993)). The court may also consider "documents whose contents are alleged in the complaint and whose authenticity no party questions," even though they "are not physically attached to the pleading..." Pryor v. National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 288 F.3d 548, 560 (3d Cir. 2002).

III. Discussion

A. Statute of Limitations and Relating Back

In a Bivens action, federal courts must apply the statute of limitations for analogous state actions. Napier v. Thirty or More Unidentified Federal Agents, Employees, or Officers, 855 F.2d 1080, 1088 n.3 (3d Cir. 1988). The governing law here is Pennsylvania's two-year statute of limitations. 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5524. The statute begins to run when the plaintiff knew or should have known of the violation of his rights. Bougher v. Univ. of Pittsburgh, 882 f.2d 74, 80 (3d Cir. 1989)(in the context of a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 allows amendments to a complaint to relate back to an original complaint.*fn3 Rule 15(c) provides, in relevant part:

(1) When an Amendment Relates Back. An amendment to a pleading relates back to the date of the original pleading when: ...

(B) the amendment asserts a claim or defense that arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out--or attempted to be set out--in the original pleading; or

(C) the amendment changes the party or the naming of the party against whom a claim is asserted, if Rule 15(c)(1)(B) is satisfied and if, within the period provided by Rule 4(m) for serving the summons ...

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