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Stephon M. Bennett v. Transcare Ambulance Service

April 30, 2012

STEPHON M. BENNETT
v.
TRANSCARE AMBULANCE SERVICE, ET AL.



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

MEMORANDUM

Pro se Plaintiff Stephon Bennett brings this civil rights action against prison officials and Defendant Transcare Ambulance Service ("Transcare") alleging that he was assaulted in prison and then provided inadequate medical care. Transcare has filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Plaintiff has filed a Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint. For the following reasons, both Motions are granted.

I. BACKGROUND

According to the Complaint, Plaintiff was a pre-trial detainee in Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, when he was left in an unlocked cell and assaulted by several inmates. He did not see a doctor until the next day and prison officials did not call for an ambulance until more than 24 hours after the assault occurred.

Transcare, which is a privately-contracted ambulance service, arrived at the prison to transfer Plaintiff to the hospital. According to the prison paperwork, Plaintiff was to be transported to Aria Health Hospital/Trauma Unit, but Transcare brought Plaintiff to Frankford Hospital instead. It was several hours before Transcare transported Plaintiff to the correct hospital. As a result of the mistake, Plaintiff alleges that his medical treatment was delayed and his injuries were aggravated.

The Complaint asserts the following claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983: 1) violation of due process; 2) failure to protect; 3) deliberate indifference to safety; 4) delay in medical treatment; 5) cruel and unusual punishment; 6) deliberate indifference to medical needs; and 7) violation of equal protection. The Complaint does not make clear which claims are asserted against which Defendants. However, the only claims that could be asserted against Transcare are claims four through six and we treat the Complaint as asserting only claims four through six against Transcare.

Transcare has moved to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff did not file a response to Transcare's Motion, but instead filed a Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

When considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), we "consider only the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, [and] matters of public record, as well as undisputedly authentic documents if the complainant's claims are based upon these documents." Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 230 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993)). We take the factual allegations of the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Phillips v. Cnty. 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 (alteration in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). 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, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (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. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). 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 235-36 (3d ed. 2004)).

III. DISCUSSION

When we evaluate a claim brought pursuant to § 1983, "we must first 'identify the exact contours of the underlying right said to have been violated' in order to determine 'whether [the plaintiff] has alleged a deprivation of a constitutional right at all.'" Natale v. Camden Cnty. Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 581 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting Nicini v. Morra, 212 F.3d 798, 806 (3d Cir. 2002)). A pre-trial detainee's claim of inadequate medical care arises under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, though the standard for such claims is the same as that for a claim of inadequate medical care under the Eighth Amendment set forth in Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103-05 (1976). Natale, 318 F.3d at 581. Transcare argues that it should be dismissed as a defendant to this action because the Complaint does not allege sufficient facts to satisfy such a claim asserted against a private entity.

First, in order to state a § 1983 claim for inadequate medical care, the Complaint must allege "(i) a serious medical need, and (ii) act or omissions by [Transcare] that indicate deliberate indifference to that need." Id. at 582 (citing Rouse v. Plantier, 182 F.3d 192, 197 (3d Cir. 1999)); see also Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104-06. Deliberate indifference to a serious medical need can be shown under a variety of circumstances. Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 235 (3d Cir. 2004) (citing Monmouth Cnty. Corr. Inst. Inmates v. Lanzaro, 834 F.2d 326, 346 (3d Cir. 1987)). Allegations of negligence or medical malpractice are "not sufficient to establish a Constitutional violation." Id. (citations omitted). Most relevant to Plaintiff's claim against Transcare, a constitutional violation can occur where "'necessary medical treatment [i]s . . . delayed for non-medical reasons.'" Lanzaro, 834 F.2d at 346 (alterations in original) (quoting Ancata v. Prison Health Servs., 769 F.2d 700, 704 (11th Cir. 1985)).

In the instant case, the Complaint alleges that Transcare took Plaintiff to the wrong hospital and then waited over four hours to take him to the correct hospital. The Complaint, however, does not allege any facts that, if true, would establish that Transcare's actions arose from deliberate ...


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