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Kevin Williams v. Thomas (Superintendent)

April 29, 2013


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


Plaintiff, Kevin Williams', claims arise from incidents that took place at S.C.I. Chester. Plaintiff alleges that during his incarceration he was called a snitch by a correctional officer in front of other inmates and experienced great emotional distress and fear of personal safety as a result. He is suing Correctional Officer Colon, Superintendent Thomas, Captain Terra, and the Department of Corrections for violations of his constitutional rights. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on July 27, 2012.*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, I will grant the motion in part and deny it in part.

I. Background

Plaintiff is an inmate who is currently serving a sentence at S.C.I. Chester. On December 11, 2011, January 6, 7 and 8, 2012, and March 3, 2012, Williams claims that Defendant Colon called him a snitch and threatened to hurt him in front of about 20 to 30 other inmates. Compl. at 3. These inmates later approached Williams and told him that he would be harmed if he kept writing grievances against Colon. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Colon told members of two gangs that he was a snitch who worked for the prison gang unit. Id.

Additionally, during this time, Colon called him names such as "bitch," "pussy" and "black boy." *fn2 Id. Three or four inmates accused Williams of being a snitch and told him that they would hurt him because of Colon's statements to them. Id. As a result of these incidents, Plaintiff feared for his life, he received counseling due to mental stress, and he was placed in protective custody. Id. Williams was never hurt by Colon or other Chester inmates as a result.

II. Standard

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) is the proper mechanism for raising the issue of whether Eleventh Amendment immunity bars federal subject matter jurisdiction.*fn3

Blanciak v. Allegheny Ludlum Corp., 77 F.3d 690, 694 n. 2 (3d Cir.1996) (citing Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98-100 (1984)).

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure examines the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). The factual allegations must be sufficient to make the claim for relief more than just speculative. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). In determining whether to grant a motion to dismiss, a federal court must construe the complaint liberally, accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Id.; see also D.P. Enters. v. Bucks Cnty. Cmty. Coll., 725 F.2d 943, 944 (3d Cir. 1984).

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a plaintiff to plead in detail all of the facts upon which he bases his claim. Conley, 355 U.S. at 47. Rather, the Rules require a "short and plain statement" of the claim that will give the defendant fair notice of the plaintiff=s claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Id. The Acomplaint must allege facts suggestive of [the proscribed] conduct." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 564. Neither "bald assertions" nor "vague and conclusory allegations" are accepted as true. See Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997); Sterling v. Se. Pa. Transp. Auth., 897 F. Supp. 893 (E.D. Pa. 1995). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)). The claim must contain enough factual matters to suggest the required elements of the claim or to "raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" those elements. Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

III. Discussion

Plaintiff argues that by engaging in the acts set forth above, the Defendants violated his constitutional rights. Plaintiff claims that Defendants are liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because the correctional officer made false statements, which put Plaintiff in fear that other inmates would harm him.*fn4 He also alleges Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights for failing to protect him from harm by other inmates. Defendants argue that the Eleventh Amendment bars Plaintiffs claims against all the Defendants in their official capacities. Additionally, Defendants contend that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against any of the Defendants for personally violating Plaintiff's constitutional rights.

Plaintiff does not specify in his Complaint whether he is suing Defendants in their official or individual capacity. Because the plaintiff is a pro se litigant, his complaint is "to be liberally construed" and "held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 ...

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