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Collins v. Walsh

September 22, 2010


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


Frederick Collins ("Collins"), an inmate confined at the State Correctional Institution at Dallas ("SCI-Dallas"), Pennsylvania, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The matter proceeds on the original complaint and three (3) supplements thereto. (Doc. Nos. 1, 4, 18, 20.) Named as Defendants are Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC") employees Jeffrey Beard, Secretary, and Dorina Varner, Chief Grievance Officer. Also named are the following SCI-Dallas employees: Jerome Walsh, Superintendent; Vincent Mooney, Deputy Superintendent; Rebecca Mooney, Program Supervisor; Ann Chiampi, School Principle; Lieutenant Patterson; and Correctional Officers Bath, Romonoski and Salsman. Presently before the Court for consideration is Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint. (Doc. No. 14.) For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.*fn1.

I. Background

In the complaint Collins alleges that on June 8, 2009, Defendant Salsman requested oral sex from him in the staff bathroom on A-Block. Collins did not oblige, but rather called a sexual harassment hotline to report the incident. When Collins was later called to the security office to investigate the claim, he was asked to recant his claim, but refused to do so. On June 13, 2009, Collins filed a grievance with regard to the incident that was later denied by Defendant Patterson. His appeal from this decision was also denied. Collins states he thereafter pursued an appeal to the Central Office, as well as wrote letters to Defendant Beard and the Pennsylvania Ethics Commission.

In this action Collins challenges the denial of his grievance and the appeals therefrom. He also claims he was subjected to retaliation due to the claims he made against Salsman. In particular, he states that Salsman retaliated against him when he moved him from A-Block to B-Block, and also when he was denied a job. He further claims that he was retaliated against for calling the hotline by Defendant Romonoski, who issued a false misconduct report against him in August of 2009 for fighting with an unknown inmate. Collins claims he was never in any such fight, and that when taken to the infirmary there was no evidence that he had been in a fight. Following a hearing, he was found guilty of the misconduct, and sanctioned to 30 days in the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU").

Collins also alleges that while confined in the RHU, Defendants Bath and other RHU officers subjected him to cruel and unusual conditions. He states that these conditions led to the suicide of another inmate confined in the RHU. Collins specifically alleges that he was not fed, and that he was repeatedly told to kill himself. He states that following his release from the RHU the retaliation continued when his library privileges were suspended. As relief he seeks monetary damages.

Defendants have filed a motion pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) wherein they seek to dismiss (1) all claims against Defendants for monetary damages in their official capacities; (2) any claims against Defendants Beard, Patterson, Mooney, Mooney, Chiampi, Varner and Walsh due to Plaintiff's failure to allege any personal involvement; and (3) the Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim against Defendant Bath on the basis that it is conclusory.

II. Discussion

A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the claims alleged in the complaint. Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the court must accept as true the factual allegations in the complaint, and construe any inferences to be drawn from the allegations in Plaintiff's favor. See Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007)(quoting Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005)). "The assumption of truth does not apply, however, to legal conclusions couched as factual allegations or to '[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.'" Marangos v. Swett, 341 Fed. Appx. 752, 755 (3d Cir. June 25, 2009)(citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949-50 (2009)). In considering a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain enough "facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)), and the factual allegations "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted); accord Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1953. The facts plead must offer more "than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Id., 120 S.Ct. at 1949 (internal quotations and citations omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Further, a district court should provide leave to amend "when amendment could cure the deficiency and would not be inequitable." Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 2002). A complaint that does not establish entitlement to relief under any reasonable interpretation is properly dismissed without leave to amend. Id. at 106.

B. Analysis

1. Claims against Defendants in their official capacities

Defendants seek the dismissal of all claims for monetary damages set forth against them in their official capacities. The Court agrees that these claims are subject to dismissal. Unless consented to by the state, the Eleventh Amendment prevents suits from being brought in federal court against a state or one of its agencies or departments for money damages. Pennhurst v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 99-100 (1984). A suit brought against an individual acting in his or her official capacity is similarly deemed to be a suit ...

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