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Matthew Norris v. Dan Davis; Nedra Grego; Superintendent Folino; and Dorina Varner

November 15, 2011

MATTHEW NORRIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DAN DAVIS; NEDRA GREGO; SUPERINTENDENT FOLINO; AND DORINA VARNER, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM ORDER

Plaintiff, Matthew Norris, an inmate currently confined at the State Correctional Institution at Greene, located in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, commenced this action against the following individuals employed at SCI-Greene: Dan Davis, Assistant Superintendent; Nedra Grego, a registered nurse; S. Folino, Superintendent; and Dorina Varner, Chief Grievance Coordinator. In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his rights as protected by the Eighth Amendment by confining him in the restricted housing unit (RHU), which is exacerbating his mental illness. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss will be granted. An appropriate order follows.

A. Standard of Review

Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint (ECF No. 35). A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. In deciding this motion, the court must read the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and all well-pleaded, material allegations in the complaint must be taken as true. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 99 (1976). The court is bound to give the plaintiff the benefit of every reasonable inference to be drawn from the "well-pleaded" allegations of the complaint. Retail Clerks Intern. Ass'n, Local 1625, AFL-CIO v. Schermerhorn, 373 U.S. 746, 753 n. 6 (1963). A viable complaint must include "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v.Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 556 (2007) (rejecting the traditional 12 (b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). The court must accept as true all allegations of the complaint and all reasonable factual inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Securities, Inc., 764 F.2d 939, 944 (3d Cir. 1985). AFactual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.@ Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 555. See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1951 (U.S. 2009) (holding that, while the Complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, it must contain more than a "formulaic recitation of the elements" of a constitutional claim and must state a claim that is plausible on its face) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and providing further guidance on the standard set forth therein). In other words, at the motion to dismiss stage, a plaintiff is required to make a showing rather than a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008).. "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." Id. At 232.

Courts generally consider the allegations of the complaint, attached exhibits, and matters of public record in deciding motions to dismiss. Pension Benefit Guar. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). Factual allegations within documents described or identified in the complaint also may be considered if the plaintiff=s claims are based upon those documents. Id.

(citations omitted). Moreover, a district court may consider indisputably authentic documents without converting a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. Spruill v. Gillis 372 F.3d 218, 223 (3d Cir.2004); In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997).

Pro se pleadings are to be construed liberally, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Notwithstanding this liberality, pro se litigants are not relieved of their obligation to allege sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal claim. See, e.g., Taylor v. Books A Million, Inc., 296 F.3d 376, 378, (5th Cir. 2002); Riddle v. Mondragon, 83 F.3d 1197, 2102 (10th Cir. 1996).

B. Plaintiff's Allegations

Plaintiff alleges that he has bipolar disorder and currently is confined in the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU). He states that he is being regularly treated for his disorder and is regularly seen by Dr. Khan, a psychiatrist, while confined in the RHU. He further claims that, as a result of being confined in the RHU, his mental illness is being exacerbated. He filed two grievances about his confinement in the RHU, which were either denied or rejected. Plaintiff claims that Defendants are denying his rights as protected by the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

C. Liability under 42 U.S.C. ' 1983

Plaintiff's Complaint seeks to assert liability against Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ' 1983. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. ' 1983, a plaintiff must meet two threshold requirements. He must allege: 1) that the alleged misconduct was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and 2) that as a result, he was deprived of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42 (1988); Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981), overruled in part on other grounds, Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330-331 (1986).

To establish personal liability against a defendant in a section 1983 action, that defendant must have personal involvement in the alleged wrongs; liability cannot be predicated solely on the operation of respondeat superior. Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). Accordingly, individual liability can be imposed under section 1983 only if the state actor played an "affirmative part" in the alleged misconduct. Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988); Chinchello v. Fenton, 805 F.2d 126, 133 (3d Cir. 1986). Personal involvement by a defendant can be shown by alleging either personal direction or actual knowledge and acquiescence in a subordinate's actions. Rode, 845 F.2d at 1207.

D. The Eighth Amendment

Plaintiff=s claims seek to invoke liability under the Eighth Amendment, which ...


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