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Garcia v. Lancaster County Prison

United States District Court, Third Circuit

January 15, 2014

CARLOS R. GARCIA, Plaintiff,
LANCASTER COUNTY PRISON, et al., Defendants.



Plaintiff, Carlos R. Garcia, a state prison inmate, filed a Complaint with attached Exhibits on April 23, 2013 alleging § 1983 claims under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. ECF 3 (Complaint). On the same day, this Court entered an:

• granting Plaintiff s Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis;
• dismissing Plaintiff, Robert Medina, as a party to the action, because he failed to sign the Complaint and to either (a) pay the filing fee or (b) file a motion to proceed in forma pauperis;
• dismissing all claims seeking release from imprisonment or vacatur of sentence without prejudice to Plaintiffs filing petition for habeas corpus;
• dismissing claims for damages predicated on constitutional infirmities in Plaintiffs current sentence or imprisonment as not cognizable;
• dismissing claims against Lancaster County Prison and Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas, and
• dismissing claims against the Honorable Dennis E. Reinaker on absolute immunity grounds.

ECF 2 (Apr. 23, 2013 Order).

Giving effect to this Order, Plaintiff continued to maintain claims against certain prison employees for compensatory damages for violations of his constitutional rights as an untried state court detainee. On June 19, 2013, all remaining Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss. ECF 14 (Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaints), 15 (Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss). Defendant responded in opposition to that Motion on August 22, 2013.[1] ECF 17 (Opp’n to Mot. to Dismiss).

For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion will be granted and Plaintiff’s Complaint will be dismissed without prejudice and with leave to file an amended complaint.

II. Allegations and Contentions

A. Plaintiff’s Allegations

Plaintiff sets forth allegations of violations of his constitutional rights in several Exhibits attached to his Complaint. As alleged, the events forming the basis of Plaintiff’s Complaint occurred during two time periods: the first between February 13 and May 5, 2012, and the second on March 4, 2013. Plaintiff’s allegations and the supporting documents show that he participated in a pretrial conference, related to the criminal case where he is a defendant, on February 12, 2013. Plaintiff’s detention status during these time periods is unclear, but requires specificity for reasons set forth below.

Between February 13 and May 5, 2012, Plaintiff was housed in Housing Unit 3-2 at Lancaster County Prison. During that time, Plaintiff alleges that he was housed in a 6 by 12 foot cell with two other inmates, resulting in one inmate being forced to sleep on the floor near the toilet. Plaintiff also alleges that the cell lacked ventilation and, despite his verbal and written requests to open the window, the window remained closed at all times. On May 5, 2012, between the hours of nine o’clock in the evening and six o’clock the next morning, Plaintiff alleges that the water in the prison shut down. As a result, the toilet in the cell filled with human waste, causing a foul smell. Plaintiff asserts that the situation prevented him from eating and washing himself, which caused him to feel stressed out and humiliated. Plaintiff further alleges that, around 3 or 4 in the morning, he asked when the water would be restored and the officer responded that he did not know.

On March 4, 2013, less than a month after his pretrial conference, Plaintiff asserts that he lived in G-2 Housing Unit, known as the “Restricted Housing Unit/Hole.” Plaintiff alleges that Officer Bomtrigger reported to Sergeant Pena that numerous inmates in the unit had been late in locking down their cells. As a result of this “minor infraction, ” Plaintiff alleges that certain inmates were “locked down” for 49 hours, without access to recreation, showers, or phone calls. Plaintiff alleges that he raised the issue with Sergeant Wolfe who said that the officer should have given them a warning first. Plaintiff asserts that he wrote to complain about the shutdown but never received a response. Plaintiff additionally complains of overcrowding in this unit, which created a hazardous condition when a prisoner sleeping in the top bunk could not see where the inmate on the floor was sleeping. Plaintiff also alleges that the prison forced them to eat in their cells, which, coupled with the overcrowding problem, caused him to eat either on the bed, the floor, or the toilet.

Finally, Plaintiff asserts that the prison’s grievance system is inadequate. Plaintiff alleges that grievances are reviewed by the general prison staff or officers, who cannot act without bias. Plaintiff also asserts that:

It is a know[n] fact and common practice that: 1. The officers on the housing unit have keys to open the mail and Request/Grievance Box; And if the officer feels He may have been written up He will wait until population has locked down and open Request Box and dispose of Request Forms.

Plaintiff also alleges that the prison stopped providing prisoners with grievance forms but instead told them to write their grievances on a “General Purpose Request Form.” Finally, Plaintiff asserts that while he wrote numerous grievances, he had yet to receive a reply.

B. Motion to Dismiss

Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss argues that Plaintiff fails to allege a constitutional violation and, even if he had, that the ...

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