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Hall v. Berdanier

June 1, 2010

ERIC HALL, PLAINTIFF
v.
EUGENE H. BERDANIER, WARDEN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caldwell

MEMORANDUM

I. Introduction

The pro se plaintiff, Eric Hall, an inmate at SCI-Coal Township, filed this action alleging various federal civil-rights and state-law claims arising from his confinement at the Schuylkill County Prison.*fn1 The complaint presents two major claims, both stemming from an altercation Plaintiff had with prison personnel on June 4, 2007. The first one is an Eighth Amendment claim for excessive force, and the second one is a malicious prosecution claim when Plaintiff was charged with two counts of aggravated harassment for allegedly spraying urine at a correctional officer and a prison nurse.

We are considering two motions. The first one, a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative for summary judgment, was filed by the eleven "Schuylkill County Prison Defendants": Eugene H. Berdanier, the prison warden; David J. Wapinsky, the deputy warden; Richard Emerick, a lieutenant; John Wowak, a corrections officer; Frank Rompalo, a corrections officer; Brian Gotshall, a corrections officer; Michael Buchanan, a corrections officer; Officer Charles Foster; Harold Poleman, a corrections officer; Rebecca Bergan, a corrections officer; and Farrone, a corrections officer. The second motion is a motion to dismiss filed by defendant, Grant F. Yoder, a City of Pottsville police officer.*fn2

In their motion, the Schuylkill County Prison Defendants make the following arguments. First, the statute of limitations bars any claim for the defendants' conduct occurring more than two years before May 29, 2009. Second, the complaint should be dismissed because Plaintiff failed to exhaust the administrative remedies under the prison's inmate grievance policy. Third, the suit should be dismissed as to defendants Emerick, Gotshall, Buchanan, Foster, Poleman, Bergan, and Farrone because they are named only in the assault claim, but they are not alleged to have had any personal involvement in the alleged assault. Fourth, the pendant state-law claims should be dismissed because the court should not exercise supplemental jurisdiction over those claims when all the federal claims have been dismissed.

II. Standards of Review

On a motion for summary judgment, summary judgment should be granted "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2). All doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact must be resolved against the moving party, and the entire record must be examined in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Wishkin v. Potter, 476 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2007).

On a motion to dismiss, "[w]e '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.'" Byers v. Intuit, Inc., 600 F.3d 286, 291 (3d Cir. 2010)(quoted case omitted). 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 has to 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, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (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).

Additionally, "'however inartfully pleaded,' the 'allegations of [a] pro se complaint [are held] to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Mitchell v. Horn, 318 F.3d 523, 529 (3d Cir. 2003)(quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 596, 30 L.Ed.2d 652, 654 (1972)) (brackets in Mitchell).

III. Discussion

A. The Motion of the Schuylkill County

Prison Defendants

1. The Limitations Defense

The Schuylkill County Prison Defendants argue that the statute of limitations bars any claim for conduct on their part that occurred before May 29, 2009, the date the complaint was filed. The defendants specifically refer to paragraphs 12 through 19 of the complaint.

The statute of limitations for filing a section 1983 action is two years. Garvin v. City of Philadelphia, 354 F.3d 215, 220 (3d Cir. 2003). This is an affirmative defense, but when it appears on the face of the complaint, a defendant may raise it by a motion to dismiss. See Benak ex rel. Alliance Premium Growth Fund v. Alliance Capital Mgmt., L.P., 435 F.3d 396, 400 n.14 (3d Cir. 2006).

The complaint does contain allegations concerning conduct by defendant Rompalo that may have occurred on or about May 25, 2009. However, we will not dismiss any claims based on a limitations defense at this stage. Plaintiff asserts that the actionable conduct is alleged to have taken place within the limitations period, but we need not accept that argument at this time. As we review the complaint, the allegations are not precise enough to say at the ...


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