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David Michael Glatts v. Superintendent Lockett; Mr. Chief Magistrate Judge Lenihan Matthews

February 28, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lisa Pupo Lenihan Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge


David Michael Glatts, ("Plaintiff") initiated this civil rights suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ' 1983 on January 12, 2009, complaining of conditions at SCI-Greensburg, where Plaintiff was housed during the events that gave rise to this lawsuit. The operative complaint, ECF No. 59, named fourteen defendants. Twelve of the defendants appear to be employees or entities of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (ADOC@), collectively, the ADOC Defendants@. The remaining two defendants are Dr. McGrath, an independent contractor-physician at SCI-Greensburg, who treated Plaintiff, and Prison Health Services, Inc. (APHS@), collectively, Athe Medical Defendants@. PHS is the independent contractor that DOC contracted with to provide medical services at SCI-Greensburg.

The Medical Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, ECF No. 65, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), arguing that Plaintiff‟s complaint failed to state a claim as to PHS because the complaint failed to allege that a PHS policy caused Plaintiff an injury. They also argued that, as to Dr. McGrath, the complaint failed to state an Eighth Amendment claim because it failed to allege that he possessed the requisite subjective mindset and that the complaint failed to allege sufficient facts to state a retaliation claim.

The DOC Defendants also filed a motion to dismiss, ECF No. 68, pointing out that because Plaintiff‟s complaint demonstrated that he was being treated by medical personnel, the DOC defendants had no reason to know that he was being deprived of any of his constitutional rights and therefore, the complaint fails to show the subjective prong on the DOC Defendants‟ part as to Plaintiff‟s Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim. The DOC Defendants also argued that Plaintiff failed to state a claim of disability discrimination under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") because the individual defendants did not constitute a "public entity," as is required to maintain liability under Title II.

Because we find that Plaintiff failed to allege a policy against PHS so as to state a claim against PHS, the complaint will be dismissed with prejudice as against PHS. Because the complaint fails to allege anything more than negligence against Dr. McGrath, the complaint will be dismissed as to him on the Eighth Amendment claim with prejudice. Because the DOC Defendants knew that Plaintiff was being treated by medical personnel and the DOC Defendants had no reason to believe that Plaintiff was being mistreated, the Eighth Amendment claim must be dismissed as against them. As to Plaintiff‟s retaliation claim against Dr. McGrath, it will be dismissed albeit without prejudice for factual insufficiency. Plaintiff‟s Title II ADA claims will be dismissed against the DOC defendants in their individual capacities but not in their official capacities. Plaintiff‟s retaliation claims against the DOC Defendants will also be dismissed against them, albeit without prejudice due to factual insufficiency.

Relevant Procedural History

Proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, Plaintiff filed his original complaint. ECF No. 4. After the Defendants filed motions to dismiss, directed to the original complaint, ECF Nos. 22 and 24, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint, ECF No. 59, which is the operative complaint. Plaintiff also filed a "supplement" to the complaint, which merely added, inter alia, some copies of his grievances. ECF No. 60.

The Medical Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, ECF No. 65, directed to the operative complaint, and a brief in support, along with evidentiary materials.*fn1 ECF No. 66. The DOC Defendants also filed a motion to dismiss, ECF No. 68, and a brief in support. ECF. No. 69. Plaintiff filed a response to the motions, ECF No. 72, and an appendix, ECF No. 73, and subsequently, a supplement. ECF No. 80.

Applicable Legal Standards

As the United States Supreme Court held in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), a complaint may properly be 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 1974 (rejecting the traditional 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). Nevertheless, under the 12(b)(6) standard, a "court need not . . . accept as true allegations that contradict matters properly subject to judicial notice or by exhibit." Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001), amended by, 275 F.3d 1187 (9th Cir. 2001). Nor must the Court accept inferences drawn by 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 School 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 (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). Furthermore, it is not proper for a court to assume that "the [plaintiff] can prove facts which [he or she] has not alleged, or that the defendants have violated the ... laws in ways that have not been alleged." Assoc.'d Gen. Contractors of California, Inc. v. California State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983).

The Supreme Court refined its standard for summary dismissal of a complaint that fails to state a claim in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __ U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (May 18, 2009). Expanding on its decision in Twombly, the Supreme Court identified two working principles underlying the failure to state a claim standard:

First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.. Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era, but it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions. Second, only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not "show[n]"-"that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 8(a)(2).

Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50. To meet Fed.R.Civ. P. No. 8(a)(2)'s notice pleading requirements, "the complaint must describe the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant "fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests,‟" Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). See also 5C Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1363 at 112 (3d ed. 2004) ("A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim for relief under Rule 12(b)(6) goes to the sufficiency of the pleading under Rule 8(a)(2).") (citations omitted).

In addition to the complaint, courts may consider matters of public record and other matters of which a court may take judicial notice, court orders, and items appearing in the record of the case when adjudicating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Winer Family Trust v. Queen, 503 F.3d 319, 328 -29 (3d Cir. 2007); Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1385 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994)(in adjudicating motions to dismiss, courts may "consider matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case."). In addition, the Court of Appeals in Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 223 (3d Cir. 2004), held that a "defendant may submit an indisputably authentic [document] to the court to be considered on a motion to dismiss[.]"

The question to be resolved is: whether, taking the factual allegations of the complaint, which are not contradicted by the indisputably authentic exhibits and matters of which judicial notice may be had, and taking all reasonable inferences to be drawn from those uncontradicted factual allegations of the complaint, 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.

In addition, because Plaintiff was, at the time of the filing of this civil action,*fn2 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 was a prisoner, granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis to prosecute this suit, the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) also apply. Lastly, because he was a prisoner who filed a civil rights action, complaining of prison conditions, the screening provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1997e apply. 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 was not relied upon by a defendant in a motion to dismiss, the ...

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