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Dickson v. SCI-Greensburg

November 8, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Francis X. Caiazza U.S. Magistrate Judge

Re ECF No. 28

Magistrate Judge Francis X. Caiazza


Chad B. Dickson, ("Plaintiff"), is currently serving sentences in the Department of Corrections at SCI-Retreat. Plaintiff was incarcerated at SCI-Greensburg during the events that give rise to this civil rights lawsuit. Plaintiff has filed a civil rights complaint against four Defendants, all but one of whom, i.e., SCI-Greensburg, are employed by the Department of Corrections ("DOC") and were employed at SCI-Greensburg. All Defendants are represented by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office. The Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

Plaintiff's pro se complaint essentially alleges one incident that gives rise to this case. Plaintiff alleges that on August 2, 2006, he was assaulted by inmate Casey Pelton in the Restrictive Housing Unit (RHU) yard at SCI-Greensburg. ECF No. 27 at 2 to 3.*fn1 While in the RHU, inmates exercise in individual cages outside. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Sgt. Nelson ordered Defendant Corrections Officer ("CO") Peterson to open the cages simultaneously and send the inmates up to return to their cells.Plaintiff claims that himself, Pelton, and three other inmates were ordered out of their cages and were standing on the walk with only CO Peterson present. Plaintiff claims that Pelton walked past the CO, then slipped out of his handcuffs and kicked and struck Plaintiff with his fists and the handcuffs in the face and head until Defendants Nelson and Peterson among others helped pull Pelton off of him. In the original complaint, Plaintiff made it seem like the Defendants simply failed to protect Plaintiff from another unanticipated inmate assault. After the Defendants had filed a motion to dismiss, which essentially showed that such a scenario failed to state a claim of deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's safety, Plaintiff filed the second amended complaint wherein he added allegations that made it appear that the assault was pre-arranged among the defendants and inmate Pelton. See, e.g., ECF No. 27 at 3 ("Information from the other inmates was provided to Plaintiff that, the assault was pre arranged as they over heard conversation from Pelton and Pelton[']s cellmate and Sgt. Nelson. . . . . Sgt. Nelson was fully aware of the threats [allegedly made by Pelton toward Plaintiff] and allowed and assisted Pelton to attack Plaintiff.")(capitalization changed). Plaintiff states that he sustained cuts to his head and knees, a bruised knee and side rib area, and two lumps on his head.

Plaintiff has also named SCI-Greensburg and Superintendent Wakefield as Defendants. Superintendent Wakefield was not present during the assault on the Plaintiff. Plaintiff does, in conclusory fashion, allege that Defendant Wakefield failed to train and properly supervise the other Defendants. ECF No. 27 at 3.

Plaintiff brings suit based on the foregoing under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and his Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated.

Standard of Review and the PLRA

As the United States Supreme Court recently held in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), a complaint may be properly dismissed pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570 (rejecting the traditional "no set of facts" 12(b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). Under this standard, the court must, as a general rule, accept as true all factual allegations of the Complaint and all reasonable inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Securities, Inc., 764 F.2d 939, 944 (3d Cir. 1985).

The question to be resolved is: whether, taking the factual allegations of the complaint, and taking all reasonable inferences to be drawn from them, are the "factual allegations ... enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true even if doubtful in fact[.]" Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Or put another way, a complaint may be dismissed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570.

Furthermore, because Plaintiff was, at the time of the filing of this civil action, a prisoner and because he named governmental entities or employees thereof as defendants, the screening provisions of the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") found at 28 U.S.C. § 1915A apply herein. In addition, because he complains about "prison conditions," the screening provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1997e apply, as do the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), given that he was granted in forma pauperis status to pursue this suit. The court's obligation to dismiss a complaint under the PLRA screening provisions for complaints that fail to state a claim is not excused even after defendants have filed a motion to dismiss. See, e.g., Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126 n.6 (9th Cir. 2000). Hence, if there is a ground for dismissal, which is not relied upon by a defendant in a motion to dismiss, the court may nonetheless sua sponte rest its dismissal upon such ground pursuant to the screening provisions of the PLRA. See Lopez; Dare v. U.S., CIV .A.06-115E, 2007 WL 1811198, at *4 (W.D.Pa. June 21, 2007), aff'd, 264 Fed.Appx. 183 (3d Cir. 2008).

Lastly, because Plaintiff is pro se, courts accord an even more liberal reading of the complaint, employing less stringent standards when considering pro se pleadings than when judging the work product of an attorney. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972).

All parties have consented to the plenary exercise of jurisdiction by the undersigned. ECF Nos. 4 & 24. Due to the untimely passing of Chief Magistrate ...

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