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Roulhac v. Lawler

United States District Court, Third Circuit

May 2, 2013

R.M. LAWLER, et al. Defendants.


MARTIN C. CARLSON, Magistrate Judge.


Plaintiff, Paul Khalifah Roulhac, first initiated this action by filing a pro se complaint on February 16, 2012, alleging that defendants, R.M.Lawler, Mary Lou Showalter, Ms. Johnson, Ms. Fisher, Jeffrey Beard, Susan McNaughton (collectively, "Commonwealth Defendants"), Michael Curley, Dr. Bergman, other medical staff at MCF-Michigan (collectively, "Michigan Defendants") and defendants employed at Hackley Lakeshore Hospital ("Hackley"), in their individual capacities, "acted in supervisory liability and deliberate indifference, " under the color of law, to violate plaintiff's rights guaranteed under the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Currently pending before this court are defendants' respective motions to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and a lack of subject matter and personal jurisdiction, pursuant to Rules 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The motions have been fully briefed and referred to the undersigned for purposes of issuing this report and recommended disposition. For the reasons that follow, we recommend that the motions to dismiss be granted as to all counts and all defendants.


The plaintiff has been incarcerated since November of 2000, spending the majority of that time in Pennsylvania state prisons. (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 17.) On or about March of 2010, plaintiff was informed that he would be transferred to MCF-Michigan as part of an initiative by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to alleviate overcrowding of the Pennsylvania institutions. (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 23.) Plaintiff alleges that he was considered a chronic clinic patient while incarcerated at SCI-Huntington and that defendants Beard and McNaughton made assurances that, inter alia, no prisoners with medical problems would be transferred.[1] (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 18, 21.) Moreover, plaintiff alleges that he received personal assurances from defendants Lawler, Showalter, Shoaf, Johnson and Fisher that he was not eligible for the transfer to Michigan based on his medical condition. (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 22.)

Notwithstanding these alleged assurances, plaintiff was ultimately transferred to MCF-Michigan.[2] (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 27.) Roulhac claims that his well being was neglected while at MCF-Michigan and as a result his health worsened during this time. (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 28.) The plaintiff alleges that MCF-Michigan does not have an infirmary and that there was no medical staff on site after 8:30 p.m. because of an insufficient budget. (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 28, 29.) Plaintiff further alleges that the staff at MCF-Michigan ignored his complaints in regards to his medical needs, and that this alleged indifference was a result of a conspiracy between, MCF-Michigan superintendent Curley, the doctor and medical staff at MCF-Michigan, Hackley Lakeshore Hospital and all of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Defendants. (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 30-32.) This aspect of the complaint is also vague with respect to what the plaintiff's medical needs were during this time, what services he claims to have required but was denied, and what the actual effects of this delayed or denied care were. Notably, the plaintiff does acknowledge that he was provided medical care during this time, including being transported on multiple occasions to an outside hospital for treatment.

In September of 2010, plaintiff returned to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections after his health allegedly deteriorated in an unspecified way while he was housed at MCF-Michigan, and as a result, Roulhac allegedly has had to undergo a series of operations and treatments upon his return. (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 33-35.) Plaintiff claims to have filed the proper grievances in Michigan and in Pennsylvania to exhaustion and now brings the current §1983 civil complaint. (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 36.)


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, if the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The moving party bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated, Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005), and dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting all of the facts alleged in the complaint as true, the plaintiff has failed to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, " Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (abrogating "no set of facts" language found in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). The facts alleged must be sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555. This requirement "calls for enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence" of necessary elements of the plaintiff's cause of action. Id. at 556. Furthermore, in order to satisfy federal pleading requirements, the plaintiff must "provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief, " which "requires more than label and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (brackets and quotation marks omitted) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555).

In considering a motion to dismiss, the court generally relies on the complaint, attached exhibits, and matters of public record. Sands v. McCormick, 502 F.3d 263, 268 (3d Cir. 2007). The court may also consider "undisputedly authentic document[s] that a defendant attached as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff's claims are based on the [attached] documents." Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). Moreover, "documents whose contents are alleged in the complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the pleading, may be considered." Pryor v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 288 F.3d 548, 560 (3d Cir. 2002); see also, U.S. Express Lines, Ltd. V. Higgins, 281 F.3d382, 388 (3d Cir. 2002) (holding that "[a]lthough a district court may not consider matters extraneous to the pleadings, a document integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint may be considered without converting the motion to dismiss in one for summary judgement."). However, the court may not rely on other parts of the record in determining a motion to dismiss. Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien &Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994).


A. Personal Jurisdiction

As a threshold matter, Hackley has moved the court to dismiss the claims against the hospital on the grounds that the court lacks personal jurisdiction over this defendant. We agree that personal jurisdiction over this defendant is lacking in this case.[3]

Perhaps predicting that a challenge to the court's personal jurisdiction over some or all of the defendants from Michigan was likely, the plaintiff made a spare assertion in the form of a legal conclusion in the complaint as to why personal jurisdiction over the Michigan Defendants and Hackley should nevertheless be found satisfied in this case. In the complaint the plaintiff argues that this court has jurisdiction over the Michigan Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1331[4] and 1343, and that venue is proper in the Middle District of Pennsylvania because the "MCF[] defendants are and were under contract with [the DOC] defendants, were employed by and received payment from [the DOC] defendants, co-defendants were contracted to the same policy and rules and laws dealing with the plaintiff, and the agreement to transfer plaintiff occurred in this district." (Doc. 1, Compl., at p. 7 ¶¶ 15, 16.) Hackley disputes that it is properly subject to this court's personal jurisdiction, and has submitted an affidavit in support of its position that it lacks any meaningful contact with Pennsylvania, and discredits the plaintiff's generalized allegation that the hospital was an agent of the Pennsylvania or Michigan Departments of Corrections.

Personal jurisdiction "represents a restriction on judicial power... as a matter of individual liberty, " and is relevant to whether a court may permissibly exercise judicial authority over a defendant and make judicial decisions affecting that defendant. Ruhrgas v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 584 (1999) (quoting Ins. Corp. of Ireland v. Comagnie dex Bauxites de Guinee, 456 U.S. 694, 702 (1982)). As another court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania explained, "the fundamental issue is not the court's ability to adjudicate the dispute but the court's ability to issue decisions affecting a given person's rights, [and therefore] a defendant may either invoke jurisdictional limitations or waive them." Rantnetwork, Inc. v. Underwood, Civ. A. No. 4:11-CV-1283, 2012 WL 1021326, at *7 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 26, 2012); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) and (h). As such, a defendant bears the burden of asserting that the court lacks personal jurisdiction. Ruhrgas, 526 U.S. at 584; see also Rantnetwork, 2012 WL 1021326, at *7.

Once a defendant has asserted a jurisdictional defense under Rule 12(b)(2), the burden shifts to the plaintiff to "prov[e] by affidavits or other competent evidence that jurisdiction is proper." Metcalfe v. Renaissance Marine, Inc., 566 F.3d 324, 330 (3d Cir. 2009) (alteration in original) (quoting Dayhoff Inc. v. H.J. Heinz Co., 86 F.3d 1287, 1302 (3d Cir. 1996) (citing Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 368 (3d Cir. 2002)). Where there has been no evidentiary hearing, a plaintiff "need only establish a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction, " because "a court is required to accept the plaintiff's allegations as true, and is to construe disputed facts in favor of the plaintiff." Id. (quoting O'Connor v. Sandy Lane Hotel Co., 496 F.3d 312, 316 (3d Cir. 2007) and Toys "R" Us, Inc. v. Step Two S.A., 318 F.3d 446, 457 (3d Cir. 2003)). Nevertheless, it remains the plaintiff's burden to demonstrate that personal jurisdiction over a defendant exists. See Carteret Sav. Bank, FA v. Shushan, 954 F.2d 141, 146 (3d Cir. 1992) ("[O]nce the defendant raises the question of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, facts sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction.") (citations omitted).

Rule 4(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "authorizes personal jurisdiction over non-resident defendants to the extent permissible under the law of the state where the district court sits." Pennzoil Prods. Co. v. Colelli & Assocs., Inc., 149 F.3d 197, 200 (3d Cir. 1998) (quoting Mellon Bank v. Farino, 960 F.2d 1217, 1221 (3d Cir. 1992)). Pennsylvania's long-arm statute is set forth at 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 5301-5322, and authorizes Pennsylvania courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants to the extent permitted by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Id.

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment permits a court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant only if the defendant has sufficient "minimum contacts" with the state in which the court sits "such that maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." ...

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