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James R. Boyce v. Dominick Derose

March 31, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane


James R. Boyce ("Boyce")filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on March 2, 2010. At the time, he was an inmate confined at the Dauphin County Prison, Pennsylvania. He has since been released from prison. Named as Defendants in this action are the following Dauphin County Prison employees: Dominick DeRose, Warden; Deputy Wardens Carroll and Nichols; Correctional Officer Michael Foreman; Lieutenant Good; Dennis Stewart; and Tom Toolan, Head Nurse. In the complaint Plaintiff sets forth numerous challenges with respect to his conditions of confinement at the Dauphin County Prison during the time period from October 6, 2009 through June 11, 2010. Presently pending before the Court are motions to dismiss the complaint filed by Defendant Toolan (Doc. No. 16), and the remaining group of Defendants (Doc. No. 27). For the reasons that follow, Toolan's motion will be granted. The motion filed by the other Defendants will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

Plaintiff alleges that while confined at the Dauphin County Prison from October 6, 2009 through June 11, 2010, he was subjected to inhumane conditions. He states that he was refused showers on October 7-9, 2009. He was also refused phone calls. He claims that he was refused medical treatment on November 4, 2009, by Nurse Linda for his blood pressure. He further complains that he was refused one (1) hour of recreational time each Monday through Friday from November 4, 2009 through December 11, 2009. On November 10, 2009, Foreman opened Boyce's legal mail out of his presence. In addition, each time he was taken to medical Boyce states that he had to wear shackles and cuffs. He states that Defendant Foreman was working the 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. shift. Boyce further maintains that on January 5, 2010, Foreman put his legal mail back, and did not deliver it to him until 8:00 p.m. that evening. He claims that his problems with Foreman were never properly addressed by the Deputy Wardens.

On December 4, 2009, Boyce alleges that he was denied commissary, and that "an answer was denied by Defendant Stewart." (Doc. No. 1, Compl. at 2.) He claims that he was also refused haircuts and shaves, and that mail from his girlfriend was held for three (3) days. From January 12, 2010, through February 2, 2010, Boyce claims that he took his shower in cuffs and shackles each night between the hours of 11:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. He also alleges that Foreman threw his food on the floor on November 15, 2009, and trashed his cell on December 28, 2009. During the cell search Foreman dumped legal papers and personal pictures on the floor, and ripped his mattress. He also called Boyce a "nigger." (Id. at 3.) On January 18, 2010, Correctional Officer Miller denied Boyce toilet paper, and the following day Counselor Jill threw Boyce's papers on the floor. Neither Miller nor Jill are named as defendants in this action.

Boyce further asserts that he received threats of more write-ups if he filed grievances against Dauphin County Prison, and feared being "beat up" for fighting the system. (Id.) He claims that there was no heat on the cellblocks, and that some inmates had the swine flu. He states that he was refused pens, and was never given enough food. The food he did receive tasted bad. Boyce also alleges that he was denied law library and church.

On one occasion Boyce states that he was placed in a strip cell for four (4) days in retaliation for filing grievances. One of the strip searches was conducted in front of a female officer. He also complains about cell searches conducted by Foreman without cause on December 22, 23 and 26, 2009, in retaliation for his filing of grievances. Boyce states he has filed numerous grievances about Foreman to the Warden and Deputy Wardens, but his grievances were always denied. He claims he also spoke with Defendant Good about Foreman on January 12, 2010, but received the same response. As a result of the foregoing, Boyce states he suffers from depression, loneliness, has thoughts of suicide and is confused. He seeks compensatory and injunctive relief.*fn1

II. Discussion

A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must "accept as true all [factual] allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007)(quoting Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005)). Although the court is generally limited in its review to the facts contained in the complaint, it "may also consider matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case." Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n. 2 (3d Cir. 1994); see also In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997).

Federal notice and pleading rules require the complaint to provide "the defendant notice of what the...claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008)(quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The plaintiff must present facts that, if true, demonstrate a plausible right to relief. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(stating that the complaint should include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief"); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___U.S.___, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009)(explaining that Rule 8 requires more than "an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation."); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (requiring plaintiffs to allege facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level"). Thus, courts should not dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim if it contains "enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest the required element. This does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Under this liberal pleading standard, courts should generally grant plaintiffs leave to amend their claims before dismissing a complaint that is merely deficient. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002); Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 116-17 (3d Cir. 2000).

B. Defendant Toolan's Motion to Dismiss

Toolan moves to dismiss the complaint against him on the basis that Boyce makes absolutely no allegations against him. At most, Plaintiff alleges that he was "refused medical treatment on November 4, 2009, by staff nurse Linda medication - High blood pressure". For the following reasons, the Court finds that Plaintiff fails to state a claim with respect to Toolan.

First, in applying the standards set forth above with respect to 12(b)(6) motions, it cannot be found that even assuming they are true, that the facts as alleged by Boyce raise a right to relief above the speculative level with respect to Toolan. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. There are no facts contained in the complaint that permit this Court to infer the required elements of an inadequate medical care claim under the Eighth Amendment. Toolan is not even referenced in the complaint.

Even if the Court were to liberally construe Boyce's claim that he was "refused medical treatment on November 4, 2009, by staff nurse Linda medication - High blood pressure" to be an Eighth Amendment medical claim somehow asserted against Toolan, the motion to dismiss must still be granted. It is well-established that civil rights claims cannot be premised on a theory of respondeat superior. Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988). Thus, individual liability can only be imposed if the state actor played an "affirmative part" in the alleged misconduct. Personal involvement may be shown by either allegations of personal direction of or actual knowledge and acquiescence in the deprivation. Id. Alleging a mere ...

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