The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan
This case is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 25.) For the following reasons, the motion will be granted and Plaintiff's Complaint will be dismissed with prejudice.
Bob King ("Plaintiff") is a former Pennsylvania state prisoner. He initiated this action in June 2012, while he was an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Houtzdale ("SCIHoutzdale"). He has since been released from custody. In his Complaint (ECF No. 5), Plaintiff raises an Eighth Amendment claim based on his alleged exposure to second-hand smoke.
Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint (ECF No. 25), to which Plaintiff has responded in opposition (ECF No. 29). The motion is now ripe for review.
Plaintiff alleges that, with disregard to his health and safety, Defendants permitted inmates to smoke in their cells despite the existence of a no-smoking policy and forced him to live with inmates who smoked. He alleges that he informed Defendants Bailey, Blake, Reese, Rossman, Henry, and Barber about his ongoing health problems (headaches and chest pain) and related risks due to exposure to second-hand smoke but nothing was ever done. Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding the issue and was informed by Defendant Glunt that inmates are not permitted to smoke in their cells and staff are to report smoking infractions and issue misconducts to inmates who do not comply. Despite this, Plaintiff states that staff did not report smoking infractions and allowed inmates to smoke in their cells in disregard to his health. Plaintiff states that he filed another grievance reporting a smoking infraction, and, although the infraction was confirmed, the inmate was not reprimanded. Plaintiff also states that he requested to be placed in a cell with a non-smoker but was informed by Defendant Rossman that it was extremely difficult for staff to make cell assignments based on smoking preference and that there was no cell available to place him. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief as well as punitive and compensatory damages.
A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). A complaint must be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it does not allege "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)); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct.1937, 1949 (May 18, 2009) (citing Twombly,550 U.S. at 555-57). "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." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The Supreme Court further explained:
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. Where a complaint pleads facts that are "merely consistent with" a defendant's liability, it "stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of 'entitlement to relief.'"
Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-57).
In Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203 (3d Cir. Aug. 18, 2009), the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit discussed its decision in Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232-33 (3d Cir. 2008) (construing Twomblyin a civil rights context), and described how the Rule 12(b)(6) standard had changed in light of Twomblyand Iqbal as follows:
After Iqbal, it is clear that conclusory or "bare-bones" allegations will no longer survive a motion to dismiss: "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. To prevent dismissal, all civil complaints must now set out "sufficient factual matter" to show that the claim is facially plausible. This then "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 1948. The Supreme Court's ruling in Iqbal emphasizes that ...