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Michael Williams v. Jeffrey A. Beard

February 23, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Caldwell)


I. Introduction

Michael Williams, an inmate at the Dallas State Correctional Institution (SCI- Dallas), in Dallas, Pennsylvania, filed this civil rights action alleging defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. Williams suffers from a "nervous medical condition" and fell from his top bunk after receiving a new medication that made him sleepy and dizzy. He injured his head and back in the fall and continues to suffer from his injuries. Plaintiff claims defendants continue to deny him adequate care for his ongoing medical problems. Named as defendants are the following Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) employees: former Secretary Jeffrey Beard; SCI-Dallas Superintendent Klopotoski; and unidentified "Medical Services" employees. Doc. 1, Compl.

Presently before the Court is defendants' Motion to Dismiss (doc. 14) based on defendants' lack of personal involvement in the claim. For the following reasons, defendants' motion to dismiss will be granted, but Williams will be given the opportunity to file an amended complaint.

II. Standard of Review

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). Nevertheless, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions" or "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, U.S. , , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege sufficient facts "to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). If a party does not "nudge [his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, [the] complaint must be dismissed." Id.

Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007); Mitchell v. Horn, 318 F.3d 523, 529 (3d Cir. 2003). Pro se litigants are to be granted leave to file a curative amended complaint "even when a plaintiff does not seek leave to amend," unless such an amendment would be inequitable or futile. Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 235 (3d Cir. 2004). However, a complaint that sets forth facts which affirmatively demonstrate that the plaintiff has no right to recover is properly dismissed without leave to amend. Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 2002).

III. Background

Plaintiff alleges he entered the DOC suffering from a "medical nervous condition." Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 1. At all times relevant to this action, and over his objections, Williams was assigned a top bunk at SCI-Dallas. Id. On March 23, 2008, he went to sick call "to see about his medical condition and was issued a different medication" by an unknown medical staffer. Id. ¶ 3. He was advised by the medical provider that the "new medication . . . will make him sleepy and dizzy." Id. The following day, at approximately 3:00 a.m., Plaintiff fell out of the top bunk onto the cement floor, cracking his head open and injuring his lower back. Id. ¶ 4. His cellmate immediately called for officer assistance. Id. Placing Williams on a stretcher, prison officials rushed him to the prison hospital, and later transferred him by ambulance to the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. Id. ¶¶ 4-5. Williams was treated for trauma, given X-rays, and had three staples placed in his scalp to close the wound. Id. ¶ 5.

Williams continues to suffer pain from the injuries. He faults defendants for exposing him to unsafe living conditions by assigning him to a top bunk, knowing about his nervous condition and that the medication he was prescribed would make him dizzy and sleepy. Id. ¶

Attached to the complaint is Plaintiff's December 28, 2009, Grievance (no. 302112), seeking financial reimbursement for his injuries and ongoing pain and suffering. Id. at p. 5.*fn1 On January 4, 2009, the Grievance Coordinator rejected and returned the grievance to Williams as it was not filed within the time prescribed by the DOC grievance policy. Id. at p. 6. Plaintiff appealed the dismissal of his grievance. Id. at p. 7.

IV. Discussion

To state a viable § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must plead two essential elements:

(1) the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and (2) the conduct deprived the plaintiff of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Natale v. Camden County Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 580-81 (3d Cir. 2003). Personal involvement in the alleged wrongdoing is necessary for the imposition of liability in a civil rights action. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 353 (3d Cir. 2005); Sutton v. Rasheed, 323 F.3d 236, 249-50 (3d Cir. 2003). A supervisory defendant may be liable if he directed, or knew of and acquiesced in, the deprivation of a plaintiff's constitutional rights. Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207-08 (3d Cir. 1988). A civil rights complaint is adequate if ...

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