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Peter Brinkley v. Paul Smeal

December 22, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Rambo


Plaintiff Peter Brinkley ("Brinkley"), an inmate currently confined at the State Correctional Institution at Smithfield in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Smithfield"), filed this civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on January 28, 2010. (Doc. 1.) Named as Defendants are Paul Smeal, former Superintendent at SCI-Smithfield, and Randy Lantz, former Captain at SCI-Smithfield. Brinkley claims that Defendants are responsible for injuries he sustained on January 11, 2009.

Before the court is a motion to dismiss the complaint, filed by Defendants. (Doc. 12.) Additionally, Brinkley has filed a motion for leave to amend the complaint. (Doc. 16.) For the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss will be granted and Brinkley's motion for leave to amend will be denied.

I. Background

A. Facts

In the complaint, Brinkley provides the following factual background with respect to his claim. The court notes that for purposes of disposition of the instant motion to dismiss, the factual allegations asserted in the complaint will be accepted as true and viewed in a light most favorable to Brinkley.

On January 11, 2009, at approximately 10:45 a.m., Brinkley was told by a corrections officer to go to the dining hall for the early meal lines for lunch. (Doc. 1 ¶ 1.) On that date, Brinkley was using crutches due to a dislocated left knee injury. (Id. ¶ 2.) He told the corrections officer that because the walks were icy and dangerous, he was requesting that staff arrange for a food tray to be delivered to his cellblock, as had been done at breakfast earlier that day. (Id. ¶¶ 3-4.) Brinkley's request was denied by the Shift Commander, Defendant Lantz, and Brinkley was directed to go to the dining hall if he wanted lunch. (Id. ¶¶ 5-8.) Subsequently, as Brinkley walked to the dining hall, he slipped on a patch of ice and fell, re-injuring his already damaged left knee. (Id. ¶ 9.) He was taken to the infirmary, where he remained until January 15, 2009. (Id. ¶ 11.) He claims that he suffered a sprained knee and bone bruise. (Id. ¶ 12.)

In the complaint, Brinkley claims that Defendants Smeal and Lantz are responsible for ensuring safe living conditions and maintaining safe walkways during meal line movements. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17.) He claims that a lunch tray should have been sent to him at his cellblock, just as one had been sent to him at breakfast time earlier in the day. (Id. ¶ 14.) He further claims that the walkways from his cellblock to the dining hall should have been made safe for travel. (Id. ¶ 15.)

B. Procedural History

Brinkley filed his complaint on January 28, 2010. (Doc. 1.) By order dated February 22, 2010, the court directed service on the Defendants named therein. (Doc. 7.) Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on April 1, 2010. (Doc. 12.) Prior to filing his brief in opposition to the motion to dismiss, Brinkley filed a motion for leave to amend the complaint. (Doc. 16.) He subsequently filed his brief in opposition on May 7, 2010. (Doc. 17.) Thus, the motion to dismiss is ripe for disposition.

II. Standard of Review - Motion to Dismiss

Among other requirements, a sound complaint must set forth "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). This statement must "give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). "Fair notice" in Rule 8(a)(2) "depends on the type of case -- some complaints will require at least some factual allegations to make out a showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (quotation omitted).

"[A] situation may arise where, at some point, the factual detail in a complaint is so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8." Id. A plaintiff must provide "more than labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" to show entitlement to relief. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; accord, e.g., Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231-32; Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007) (the court is not "compelled to accept unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences or a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.") (quotations and citations omitted)); Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005). See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --U.S. --, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (recognizing that Rule 8 pleading standard "does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation") (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

A defendant may attack a complaint by a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court is required to accept as true all of the factual allegations in the complaint, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 127 S. Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007), and all reasonable inferences permitted by the factual allegations, Watson v. Abington Twp., 478 F.3d 144, 150 (3d Cir. 2007), viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007). Accord Phillips, 515 F.3d at 233. 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 face," a complaint will survive a motion to dismiss. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570; Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234; Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 234 (3d Cir. 2007); Stevenson v. Carroll, 495 F.3d 62, 66 (3d Cir. 2007). See Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (explaining 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"). Further, when a complaint contains well-pleaded factual allegations, "a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to ...

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