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Kevin D. Webster v. Kevin Deparlos

December 29, 2011

KEVIN D. WEBSTER,
PLAINTIFF
v.
KEVIN DEPARLOS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Rambo

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff, Kevin D. Webster, an inmate currently incarcerated at the Lycoming County Prison ("LCP") in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, commenced this action pro se by filing a civil rights complaint pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as amended March 4, 2011. (Doc. 23.) Named as Defendants are the following LCP employees: Kevin DeParlos, Warden; Steve Blank, Deputy Warden; Rhonda Ulrich, Counselor; Officer Hill; and Brad Shoemaker, Deputy Warden. In the amended complaint, Plaintiff sets forth a number of complaints about the conditions of LCP, including inadequate medical care, excessive force, a violation of his right to exercise his religion, denial of access to the courts, a violation of his right to privacy with respect to a strip search.

Presently before the court is a motion to dismiss the amended complaint, filed on behalf of Defendants. (Doc. 24.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss will be granted.

I. Background

A. Facts

In the complaint, Webster provides the following factual background with respect to his claims. The court notes that for purposes of disposition of the instant motion to dismiss, the properly-pleaded factual allegations contained in the complaint will be accepted as true and viewed in a light most favorable to Webster.

Webster asserts two Eighth Amendment violations based on inadequate medical care. First, he alleges that on January 30, 2010, he acquired a staph infection as a result of poor and unsafe screening procedures, and was told that this bacterial infection could threaten his life if found in his bloodline. (Doc. 23 at 2, 5.) However, LCP medical staff informed him that he need not be tested, and his requests to an LCP doctor for testing went unanswered. (Id.) Second, he alleges that on February 14, 2010, he fell off the top bunk, injuring his back and ankle, but was never provided treatment. (Id. at 3.) In connection with this claim, Webster alleges that he fell off the bunk because LCP does not provide ladders for the bunk beds in the maximum security section of the prison. (Id.) Webster fails to allege any personal involvement by any of the named Defendants with respect to these claims.

Webster also asserts two Eighth Amendment violations based on excessive use of force. First, he alleges that on March 11, 2010, Officer Hill kicked a door into his face, causing his jaw to break. (Id. at 2.) When he asked Officer Hill to be seen by a medical provider, Officer Hill denied his request. (Id.) Second, he alleges that on December 17, 2010, he was assaulted by two inmates in LCP's disciplinary segregation unit after his December 3, 2010 request for a separation from one of those inmates, an inmate Blackman, was ignored. (Id. at 3.) Webster claims that he was placed in segregation with inmate Blackman in retaliation for seeking declarations in support of the instant civil rights complaint. (Id. at 5.) He does not allege personal involvement by any of the named Defendants with respect to the decision to house him with inmate Blackman, but claims that Defendant Shoemaker was aware of his request for a separation. (Id.)

In the amended complaint, Webster also asserts that Defendants Ulrich, Blank, and DeParlos have denied him the right to attend religious services. (Id. at 5.) Specifically as to Defendant Ulrich, Webster alleges that she denied him the opportunity to attend religious services for a consecutive period of six to eight weeks. (Id. at 2.)

Further, Webster alleges that his Sixth Amendment right to access to the courts was denied with respect to LCP's law library. Specifically, he claims that the law library does not have "all the things it is required to have," or an assistant to aid inmates. (Id. at 4.) Further, he claims that he was denied access to the law library on January 30, 2011. (Id.) He does not allege personal involvement by any of the named Defendants with respect to these allegations.

Finally, Webster asserts that his right to privacy was violated when he was strip searched in front of other inmates on May 18, 2010 in connection with a "K-9 police dog cellular phone search." (Id. at 5.) He does not allege personal involvement by any of the named Defendants with respect to this allegation.

The court also notes that Webster has attached as exhibits to his amended complaint a number of declarations and inmate request slips that address several of the issues raised in his amended complaint. (Id. at 7-33; Doc. 28.)

B. Procedural History

Webster filed a complaint on August 27, 2010. (Doc. 1.) By order dated November 3, 2010, the court directed service of the complaint on all Defendants named therein.*fn1 (Doc. 13.) On December 7, 2010, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint or, in the alternative, for a more definite statement. (Doc. 16.) Webster subsequently filed a motion for leave to amend his complaint, (Doc. 20), which the court granted by order dated February 2, 2011, (Doc. 22). Webster's amended complaint was filed on March 4, 2011. (Doc. 23.) Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint on March 17, 2011, (Doc. 24), followed by a brief in support on March 28, 2011, (Doc. 26). Webster filed a brief in opposition on May 11, 2011. (Doc. 31.) As Defendants have indicated that they will not be filing a reply brief, (see Doc. 32), the motion to dismiss is ripe for disposition.

II. Standard of Review - Motion to Dismiss

Defendants have filed a motion that seeks dismissal of Webster's claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for his failure to exhaust available administrative remedies, and, in the alternative, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a cause of action upon which relief can be granted. As such, the court will set forth the standards under both Rules.

A. Motion to Dismiss - Rule 12(b)(1) Standard

Defendants are seeking dismissal of the amended complaint on the grounds that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over his claims. See FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(1). Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and thus, are permitted to adjudicate cases and controversies only as allowed under Article III of the United States Constitution. U.S. CONST. art. III, § 2. A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure challenges the jurisdiction of one court to address the merits of the plaintiff's suit. FED.R.CIV. P. 12(b)(1). When considering a challenge to the court's jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), no presumption of truthfulness attaches to the plaintiff's allegations, see Mortensen v. First Federal Savings and Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977), and the court may go beyond the four corners of the complaint and make factual findings which are decisive to the issue, relying on evidence such as affidavits, depositions and other testimony. Employers Ins. of Wausau v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 905 F.2d 42, 45 (3d Cir. 1990). The plaintiff bears the burden of persuading the court that it has jurisdiction. See Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991); Kligman v. I.R.S., 272 F. App'x 166, 168 (3d Cir. 2008).

B. Motion to Dismiss - 12(b)(6) Standard

Defendants are also seeking dismissal of the amended complaint on the grounds that Webster has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See FED.R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). Among other requirements, a sound complaint must set forth "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." FED.R.CIV. P. 8(a)(2). This statement must "give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). "Fair notice" in Rule 8(a)(2) "depends on the type of case -- some complaints will require at least some factual allegations to make out a showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (quotation omitted). "[A] situation may arise where, at some point, the factual detail in a complaint is so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8." Id. A plaintiff must provide "more than labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" to show entitlement to relief. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; accord, e.g., Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231-32; Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007) (the court is not "compelled to accept unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences or a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.") (quotations and citations omitted); Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, -- U.S. --, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (recognizing that the Rule 8 pleading standard "does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation") (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

A defendant may attack a complaint by a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court is required to accept as true all of the factual allegations in the complaint, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 127 S. Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007), and all reasonable inferences permitted by the factual allegations, Watson v. Abington Twp., 478 F.3d 144, 150 (3d Cir. 2007), viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007). Accord Phillips, 515 F.3d at 233. If the facts alleged are sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level" such that the plaintiff's claim is "plausible on its face," a complaint will survive a motion to dismiss. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570; Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234; Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 234 (3d Cir. 2007); Stevenson v. Carroll, 495 F.3d 62, 66 (3d Cir. 2007); see also Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (explaining 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"). Further, when a complaint contains well-pleaded factual allegations, "a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise ...


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