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Matthew Lee Pumphrey v. Major Smith

December 2, 2010

MATTHEW LEE PUMPHREY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MAJOR SMITH, JEFF RUDITIS, AND FOSTER LYLES MAGISTRATE JUDGE BAXTER DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Susan Paradise Baxter United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

M.J. Susan Paradise Baxter*fn1

On March 15, 2010, Plaintiff, an inmate incarcerated at Venango County Prison, initiated this pro se action, raising civil rights claims arising out of his incarceration at Venango County Prison.

I. Relevant Procedural History

On August 28, 2009, Plaintiff alleges that he fell while trying to get into the top bunk by climbing on a desk chair as a step. Plaintiff alleges that at the time of the occurrence, he had an injured knee. ECF No. 3, page 2. Plaintiff exhausted his complaint through the prison grievance process,*fn2 requesting that ladders be installed in each cell for inmate safety. The grievance response and appeals noted that ladders were not required by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.*fn3

Plaintiff names three defendants in this action. Defendant Major Smith is the superintendent/warden of Venango County Prison. Defendants Jeff Ruditis and Foster Lyles are correctional officers at Venango County Prison. Plaintiff seeks relief against each Defendant in their official and individual capacities.

Defendants have filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. ECF No. 20. Plaintiff has filed a brief in opposition. ECF No. 23. This motion is ripe for disposition by this Court.

II. Standards of Review

A) Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings 12(c)

Defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) provides that, "after the pleadings are closed but within such time as not to delay the trial, any party may move for judgment on the pleadings. If, on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56 ...." Therefore, a party may move for judgment on the pleadings once pleadings are closed, but within such time as to not delay trial.

The standard of review for a motion for judgment on the pleadings is identical to that of a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Turbe v. Gov't of Virgin Islands, 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991). The Court will accept the factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences presented in the pleadings in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Lum v. Bank of America, 361 F.3d 217, 223 (3d Cir. 2004) citing Moore v. Tartler, 986 F.2d 682, 685 (3d Cir. 1993). If the facts alleged are sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level" such that the plaintiff's claim is "plausible on its fact," a complaint will survive a motion to dismiss. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), or a motion for judgment on the pleadings, Turbe, 938 F.3d at 428. The only difference is that on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court reviews not only the complaint, but also the answer and written instruments attached to the pleadings. 2 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore's Federal Practice -Civil ¶ 12.38 (2010). The court should consider the allegations in the pleadings, the attached exhibits, matters of public record, and "undisputedly authentic" documents if plaintiff's claims are based on such documents. See Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus. Inc., 998 F.3d 1192, 1196-97 (3d Cir. 1993).

B) Motion to dismiss pursuant to 12(b)(6)

A motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). A complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12 (b)(6) if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570 (rejecting the traditional 12 (b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)). See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009) (specifically applying Twombly analysis beyond the context of the Sherman Act).

A Court need not accept inferences drawn by a plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts as set forth in the complaint. See California Pub. Employee Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004) citing Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Nor must the Court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). See also McTernan v. City of York, Pennsylvania, 577 F.3d 521, 531 (3d Cir. 2009) quoting Iqbal, U.S. at ___, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 ("The tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions."). A plaintiff's factual allegations "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, citing 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure ยง 1216, ...


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