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Darren Joseph Arnold v. Frank Green

October 11, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Padova, J.


Pro se Plaintiff Darren Joseph Arnold, who was, at all relevant times, a prisoner incarcerated at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility ("GWH") in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, brings this action in forma pauperis pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against twenty-four prison officials and contractors. He alleges in his Second Amended Complaint that he has been sexually harassed and denied access to adequate medical care, in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and that various other events at the prison, including inaction on his grievances, have violated his constitutional rights.

Before the Court are four Motions to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The first was filed by Defendants Frank Green, Emmanuel Asante, Michael J. Maher, Susan Kendra, Linda Maher, Joanne Abt, Correctional Officer Ernest Pressley, Peggy Rosser, Justin Wood, James Schaum, Sergeant Kendall, Sergeant Jones, Charles Csicsek, and Yaw Kissi; the second by Defendants Dr. Ronald Phillips and Dr. Carl Pierce; the third by Defendant Robert Simon; and the fourth by Defendant Contract Pharmacy Services ("CPS").*fn1 We have considered these Motions and have also screened the Second Amended Complaint as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.*fn2 For the following reasons, we grant all four Motions and dismiss the Second Amended Complaint, but give Plaintiff leave to file a Third Amended Complaint to re-assert certain claims that we are not yet certain are futile.


The Second Amended Complaint (the "Complaint") alleges as follows. "Four different departments" of GWH have violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights: the medical department, the "CEC Kitchen," the "Shift Commander Unit," and the "Disciplinary Hearing Unit." (Second Am. Compl. ("Compl."), at 2.) Plaintiff complains about both "cruel and unusual punishment," and "medical neglect." (Id. ¶¶ 1-2.)

According to the Complaint, members of the medical department and other Defendants have ignored Plaintiff's medical needs and failed to provide him with adequate medical care by, among other things, refusing to give him requested vaccines; failing to treat his asthma and eczema; failing to approve and/or deliver special food trays to accommodate his food allergies; and refusing him access to the medical department. (Id. ¶¶ 3-12, 14, 21-23.) The Complaint further alleges that certain Defendants have sexually harassed Plaintiff, terminated him from his kitchen job without cause, made jokes about his medical condition, sent him to medical without shoes, and denied him access to his attorney. (Id. ¶¶ 11-13, 15, 16-20, 24.) Over a period of approximately six months (August 2010 through January 2011), Plaintiff submitted over twenty grievances to the prison warden, but only thirteen were issued grievance numbers, and nine more were either "ignored" or "refused." (Id.) Moreover, none of the thirteen acknowledged grievances resulted in corrective action. (Id. ¶ 2.) Plaintiff requests, as relief for the alleged constitutional violations, $40 million in compensation.


When considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), we look primarily at the facts alleged in the complaint and its attachments. Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). We take the factual allegations of the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)). Legal conclusions, however, receive no deference, and the court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986) (cited with approval in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

A plaintiff's pleading obligation is to set forth "a short and plain statement of the claim," Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), which gives the defendant "fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quotation omitted). The "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "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." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. In the end, we will dismiss a complaint if the factual allegations in the complaint are not sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, at 1235-36 (3d ed. 2004)).

On the other hand, in cases involving pro se plaintiffs alleging violations of civil rights, "[i]f a complaint is vulnerable to dismissal for failure to state a claim, a District Court must grant the plaintiff leave to amend 'unless an amendment would be inequitable or futile.'" Zanders v. Ferko, 389 F. App'x 88, 89 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 235 (3d Cir. 2004)). Futility "means that the complaint, as amended, would fail to state a claim upon which relief could be granted." In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1434 (3d Cir.1997). In assessing futility, we apply the same standard of legal sufficiency as applies under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Id. (citation omitted).


In order to state a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege (1) that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and (2) that the conduct deprived the plaintiff of rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Luger v. Edmundson Oil Co., Inc., 457 U.S. 922, 930 (1982). Section 1983 "does not, by its own terms, create substantive rights" but, rather, it merely "provides remedies for deprivations of rights established in the Constitution or federal laws." Kaucher v. County of Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 145 n.3 (1979)).

Reading the Complaint liberally, it appears that Plaintiff attempts to assert ยง 1983 claims based on (1) denial of medial care; (2) sexual harassment at the hands of a correctional officer; (3) deficiencies in the prison grievance procedures; (4) harassing comments; (5) loss of his job in the prison kitchen; (6) two Defendants having sent him to the medical department without shoes; ...

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