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Humphrey v. Doe

April 20, 2010

WALTER HUMPHREY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
"JOHN DOE OFFICER ONE," "JOHN DOE OFFICER TWO," "JOHN DOE PRISONER TRANSPORT COMPANY," AND DAUPHIN COUNTY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane

MEMORANDUM

Pending before the Court is Defendant Dauphin County's motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 17) and three different motions by Plaintiff Walter Humphrey for leave to file amended complaints (see Doc. Nos. 22, 24, 30). The Court will grant Dauphin County's motion to dismiss and will also allow Plaintiff leave to file his fourth amended complaint.

I. Background

Plaintiff Walter Humphrey, now a prisoner at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tucson, Arizona, filed a civil rights complaint in this Court on August 31, 2009. (Doc. No. 1.) On September 22, 2009, Plaintiff filed his first amended complaint. (Doc. No. 9.) On October 8, 2009, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis and directed that Defendants be served with a copy of the complaint. (Doc. No. 14.)

On October 28, 2009, Dauphin County filed its motion to dismiss and brief in support. (Doc. Nos. 17, 18.) On November 23, 2009, Plaintiff filed a motion for extension of time to file a brief in opposition to the motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 20.) That same day, the Court granted the extension in time to file an opposition brief, and ordered that Plaintiff should have until December 18, 2009, to answer the motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 21.)

On December 28, 2009,*fn1 Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. (Doc. No. 22.) In it, Plaintiff averred that "the proposed Second Amended Complaint sets forth additional facts that adequately respond to the concers [sic] raised in the motion and more accurately present [sic] to the court the controversy between the parties." (Id. at 2.) On December 28, 2009, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file a third amended complaint. (Doc. No. 24.) In that amendment, Plaintiff sought to change the identification of Defendant "John Doe Prisoner Transport Company" to TransCor America, LLC, of Nashville, Tennessee. (Id. at 1.) On December 28, 2009, Dauphin County filed responses opposing Plaintiff's motions for leave to amend. (Doc. Nos. 26, 27.) On January 26, 2010, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file his fourth amended complaint. (Doc. No. 30.) In it, Plaintiff seeks to replace TransCor America, LLC, with U.S. Prisoner Transport, and to replace the unnamed officers with Officer Carlos Hilerio and Officer R. Serrano. (Id. at 1.) Plaintiff avers that this motion is made on the grounds that he was unaware of these facts until they were disclosed to him during discovery. (Id.) On January 27, 2010, Dauphin County filed a response opposing the motion for leave to amend. (Doc. No. 33.)

II. Standard of Review

In analyzing a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), "courts '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.'" Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)). The plaintiff still must provide more than a formulaic recitation of a claim's elements that amounts to mere labels and conclusions. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Additionally, the complaint's "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. (citation omitted). "This does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234 (internal quotations and citations omitted).

Additionally, pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Pro se litigants are to be granted leave to amend, unless such an amendment would be inequitable or futile. Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 235 (3d Cir. 2004). Such leave is properly declined where the complaint sets forth facts which affirmatively demonstrate that the plaintiff has no right of recovery. Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002).

The Third Circuit has outlined the analysis a district court should undergo in determining whether the pleading standard has been met:

[W]hen presented with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, district courts should conduct a two-part analysis. First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The District Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Second, a District Court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief." In other words, a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to "show" such an entitlement with its facts.

Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (citations omitted).

III. Discussion

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals requires that district courts allow plaintiffs in civil rights cases leave to amend their complaints prior to dismissal, unless doing so would be inequitable or futile. Fletcher-Harlee Corp. v. Pote Concrete Contractors, 482 F.3d 247, 252-53 (3d Cir. 2007); Alston, 363 F.3d at 235. Therefore, the Court will examine Dauphin County's motion to dismiss in the context of Plaintiff's most ...


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