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Timothy Michael Reckner v. County of Fayette

August 29, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge




Presently before this Court is a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 13) Plaintiff, Timothy Reckner‟s Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Said Motion is brought by Defendants County of Fayette ("Fayette County"), Fayette County Prison Board, and Larry Medlock , the Fayette County Warden. Defendants Joseph George Yeagley and Bruce McCombie, both Fayette County Corrections Officers have not filed Motions to Dismiss.*fn1 In support of their Motion, Defendants contend that Plaintiff‟s Complaint should be dismissed because: Plaintiff‟s claims are based in part on an impermissible respondeat superior theory, claims arising out of the prison‟s grievance and investigatory process are not recognized by law, negligence claims fail for a lack of duty and proximate causation, and the remainder of claims lack sufficient factual support. For the reasons that follow, Defendants‟ Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 13) will be granted in part and denied in part.

II.Factual Background

When reviewing a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court accepts all factual allegations in the Complaint as true and draws all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff‟s Favor. See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). Therefore, the facts of the case are as follows:

Reckner was incarcerated at the Fayette County Prison while serving a sentence for Driving Under the Influence ("DUI") and awaiting trial on another DUI charge. Doc. No. 1, ¶

18. During this time, Reckner was cooperating with the Pennsylvania State Police and Fayette County District Attorney. Id. at ¶ 19. Reckner also worked as a "trustee" at the prison performing maintenance, food, and custodial services. Id. at 20.

From approximately August 17, 2009 until September 2, 2009, Reckner was physically assaulted by Correction Officers McCombie and Yeagley who also would call him a "snitch" and refer to his co-operation with authorities, putting him in danger of retaliation by fellow inmates. Id. at ¶ 22-26. The physical assaults included a September 2, 2009 incident in which the Corrections Officers pushed Reckner into a dumbwaiter and trapped him inside for five to ten minutes. Id. at ¶ 29-33. McCombie and Yeagley threatened Reckner with retaliation if he reported the physical assaults. Id. at ¶ 24. They also informed Plaintiff that if they were reported they would tell their superiors that he had fallen and they wouldn‟t be disciplined. Id. Reckner‟s phone service was shut off and a letter to his mother which informed her of his assault was destroyed by Defendant Yeagley. Id. at ¶ 36.

McCombie and Yeagley‟s conduct was undertaken pursuant to the official policies, practices, or customs, of Fayette County, Fayette County Prison Board and Warden Medlock. Doc. No. 1, ¶ 42. The policies included: operation of a "vastly overcrowded understaffed, underfunded, and antiquated jail facility"; inadequate procedures for the handling of complaints against employees; ignoring reports of misconduct; failing to meaningfully supervise and train its employees; failing to discipline employees for misconduct; tolerating corrections officers‟ policy of refusing to provide inmates with grievance forms and reading and destroying personal letters; tolerating a "code of silence" among corrections officers; tolerating threats to prevent reporting corrections officer misconduct; failing to provide a means for employees to confidentially report fellow employee misconduct; and tolerating the pervasive practice of corrections officers of disclosing sensitive information about inmates that may cause them to be in physical danger. Id. at ¶ 47 (a)-(l). These Defendants were also deliberately indifferent to the need for more or different training and supervision of the correction officers. Id. at ¶ 46.

III.Standard of Review

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), civil complaints must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." A complaint may be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.544, 570 (2007)).*fn2

To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a claim for relief now ""requires more than labels and conclusions‟" or ""a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.‟" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937');">129 S. Ct. 1937, 1948 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). While Rule 8 was "a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era," it does not "unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950.

Building upon the landmark United States Supreme Court decisions in Twombly and Iqbal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently explained that a District Court must take ...

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