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Stephon M. Bennett v. C/O Washington

January 9, 2013


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


Pro se Plaintiff Stephon M. Bennett brings this action alleging violations of his civil rights arising out of a prison assault and subsequent medical care, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Presently before the Court are: (1) a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants Prison Health Services, Inc. ("PHS") and Health Care Administrator Kim Daniels; and (2) a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants the City of Philadelphia ("the City"), Sergeant Malachi White, and Lieutenant Elizabeth Henry. For the reasons that follow, we grant the Motion filed by PHS and Daniels. We also grant the Motion filed by the City, White, and Henry insofar as it seeks dismissal of the claims against the City, but deny that Motion insofar as it seeks dismissal of the claims against White and Henry.


The Amended Complaint alleges the following facts. Due to a history of violent assaults and stabbings occurring inside unlocked prison cells at Curran Fromhold Corrections Facility ("CFCF"), CFCF maintains policies that require cell doors to be locked at all times, and require officers to conduct tours of the housing areas. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 17, 19.) Cells are only to be opened by officers every thirty minutes, and are to remain open only in the presence of an officer. (Id. ¶ 17.) On November 19, 2009, Plaintiff, a pre-trial detainee at CFCF,*fn1 was left in an unlocked cell with no officer at or near his door. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 18.) At 4:30 p.m., at least five other inmates entered Plaintiff's unlocked cell and viciously attacked him. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff suffered six stab wounds, as well as multiple abrasions to his head and face. (Id. ¶ 16.) After the attack, Plaintiff was left unattended inside his cell for close to two hours. (Id. ¶¶ 16, 19.)

At approximately 7:20 p.m., Plaintiff was escorted to CFCF's medical department where a PHS nurse tended to his wounds. (Id. ¶¶ 43-44.) At the time, PHS nurses were supervised and trained by Kim Daniels, who was employed by PHS as the Health Care Administrator at CFCF. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 50.) At some point after Plaintiff was taken to CFCF's medical department, CFCF corrections officers arrived and questioned Plaintiff about the stabbing, but he was unable to identify his attackers. (Id. ¶¶ 26, 31.) Two corrections officers told Plaintiff that he would spend time in the infirmary and protective custody rather than being sent to the hospital if he could not provide helpful information about his attackers' identities. (Id. ¶¶ 25-27, 34.) Lieutenant Elizabeth Henry, a supervisor of at least one of the officers involved, concurred in their threats. (Id. ¶¶ 29, 31.)

Three hours after arriving at the medical department, Plaintiff was transferred to the infirmary at a sister jail, where he complained to nurses of excruciating pain and shortness of breath, but was forced to sleep on his back, further aggravating his stab wounds. (Id. ¶¶ 44-45.) Plaintiff did not see a doctor until 9:30 a.m. the following morning, at which time he complained of difficulty breathing, dizziness, and excessive back pain. (Id. ¶¶ 46-47.) The prison doctor sent Plaintiff for chest x-rays, which showed that he was suffering from a collapsed or collapsing lung. (Id. ¶ 47.) Plaintiff was transported from the infirmary to a hospital at around 5:45 p.m. on November 20, 2009. (Id.)

The Amended Complaint asserts claims for "failure to protect," "cruel and unusual punishment," and "due process violations" under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments (id. ¶ 65) against: (1) PHS; (2) Kim Daniels; (3) the City; (4) Sergeant Malachi White, the supervisor of the officers on duty on November 19, 2009; and (5) Lieutenant Elizabeth Henry.


In reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court takes the factual allegations of the complaint as true and draws 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)); see Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 229 (3d Cir. 2010). 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) (alteration in original). 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 Charles Allen Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, at 235 36 (3d ed. 2004)).


Plaintiff has brought his claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . . 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In order to state a claim for relief pursuant to § 1983, "a plaintiff must demonstrate the defendant, acting under color of state law, deprived him or her of a right secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United States." Kaucher v. Cnty. of Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006) (citations omitted).

A. PHS and the City

The Amended Complaint alleges that PHS and the City violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights by failing to enact or follow policies to protect inmates at CFCF. It is well settled that a municipality may only be liable under § 1983 when the alleged constitutional transgressor implements or executes a policy, regulation, or decision officially adopted by the governing body or informally adopted by custom. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91, 694 (1978). "The same standard applies to a private corporation . . . that is acting under color of state law." Thomas v. Zinkel, 155 F. Supp. 2d 408, 412 (E.D. Pa. 2001) (citation omitted); see also Natale v. Camden Cnty. Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 583-84 (3d Cir. 2003) (recognizing that "[i]n order for PHS to be liable, [a plaintiff] must provide evidence that there was a relevant PHS policy or custom" (citation omitted)). A policy is defined as a "‗statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision officially adopted and promulgated by [an entity's] officers.'" Simmons v. City of Philadelphia, 947 F.2d 1042, 1059 (3d ...

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