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Maurice Pearson, Jr v. Warden Robert J. Karnes

March 10, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo


I. Introduction

Plaintiff Maurice Pearson, an inmate confined at the Lebanon County Prison, in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Named as Defendants are the following individuals employed at the county prison during the relevant time period: Robert J. Karnes, Warden; Bill Christner, Corporal; and Claude Mease, Corrections Officer (CO). On March 10, 2009, the defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint. To date, Plaintiff Maurice Pearson has not filed a brief in opposition to the motion to dismiss or otherwise communicate with the Court seeking an enlargement of time to do so. Although the motion is deemed unopposed, the Court has reviewed the motion on the merits and concludes that it should be granted.

II. Statement of Facts

At all times relevant to this lawsuit, Mr. Pearson was housed as an administrative inmate in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) at the Lebanon County Prison. Doc. 1, Compl. On April 13, 2009, at approximately 1:35 a.m., CO Claude Mease opened his cell door at the same time as another administrative inmate's door was opened. Mr. Pearson states that the he and the other inmate "weren't supposed to be out at the same time." Id. According to Mr. Pearson, he and the other inmate got into a fight and he injured the ring and pinky finger on his right hand. Id. He was immediately escorted to the medical unit by Cpl. Christner. Id. The nurse who examined him stated she could not tell if his hand was broken without x-rays. Id. Plaintiff was then sent back to his cell with an ice pack. Id. Approximately seven and a half hours later, at 8:00 a.m., Maurice Pearson was taken to the local hospital's Emergency Room. Id. His hand was x-rayed and placed in a cast. Id. Seven days later he underwent hand surgery. Id. Plaintiff claims his hand is not completely healed and he has lost some of his grip. Id. Mr. Pearson claims prison officials violated his rights, and seeks injunctive and declaratory relief, along with damages and an investigation of the prison. Id.

III. Standard of Review

On a motion to dismiss, this Court must "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.'" Kerchner v. Obama, 612 F.3d 204, 207 (3d Cir. 2010)(quoted case omitted). A complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), giving the defendant "fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). Although detailed factual allegations are not required, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 93, 127 S.Ct. at 2200, the complaint has to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570, 127 S.Ct. at 1974; see also Santiago v. Warminster Tp., 629 F.3d 121, 128 (3d Cir. 2010). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, U.S. , , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965.) "[L]abels and conclusions" are not enough, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65, and a court " 'is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.' " Id., 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (quoted case omitted).

On March 19, 2010, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss this complaint, and supporting brief. Docs. 11 and 12. Eleven months have now elapsed without Mr. Pearson filing a response or seeking an enlargement of time to file such a response.

Local Rule 7.6 provides that the party against whom the motion and brief have been filed must file a brief in opposition to the moving party's motion, together with any opposing evidentiary material, such as affidavits, deposition transcripts, or other documents, within fourteen (14) days after service of the moving party's brief on the opposing party. If the party opposing the motion does not file his or her brief and any evidentiary material within the 14-day time frame, Local Rule 7.6 provides that he or she shall be deemed not to oppose the moving party's motion.

Doc. 5, Standing Practice Order. On these facts, Mr. Pearson is not in compliance with this Court's Standard Practice Order and has demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to further litigate this matter which he initiated. Such failure to communicate with the Court only frustrates our ability to resolve this matter. Nonetheless, the Court will conduct a merits review of the defendants' motion to dismiss. Plaintiff is forewarned that any future failure to submit an opposing brief to motions filed by Defendants may result in the motion being deemed unopposed and granted without a merits analysis.

IV. Discussion

Liberally construing the gravamen of this Complaint, Maurice Pearson suggests that prison officials violated his Eighth Amendment rights by: (1) failing to protect him from a fellow inmate; and (2) displaying "deliberate indifference" to his medical needs.

A. Failure to State A Claim against Warden Karnes.

To state a § 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 wrongs 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. ...

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