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Martin v. Samuels

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 30, 2014

JUDY MARTIN, as next of kin for ADAM MARTIN, deceased, Plaintiff,
CHARLES SAMUELS, JR., et al., Defendants


SYLVIA H. RAMBO, District Judge.

Plaintiff Judy Martin, an individual formerly incarcerated at the Federal Prison Camp in Alderson, West Virginia ("FCP-Alderson"), filed this Bivens [1]-type action on July 9, 2012, as next of kin for Adam Martin ("Martin"), deceased, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (Doc. 3.) The case was transferred to this court on November 8, 2012. ( See Doc. 7.) Named as Defendants are Charles Samuels, Jr., the Director of the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"), and several officials from the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania ("USP-Lewisburg"), [2] Adam Martin's former place of incarceration. In her complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on July 5, 2009, after officers at USP-Lewisburg injected tear gas into Adam Martin's cell in response to an alleged fight, he collapsed near the showers and was left in a cell alone, where he was found deceased the following morning.

Presently before the court is a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Samuels and Bledsoe. (Doc. 16.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted.

I. Background

In the complaint, Plaintiff provides the following factual background with respect to her claims. For purposes of disposition of the instant motion to dismiss, the factual allegations asserted in the complaint will be accepted as true and viewed in a light most favorable to Plaintiff.

A. Facts

On July 5, 2010, at USP-Lewisburg, Adam Martin was in his cell with his cellmate, Ralph Buchanan. (Doc. 3 at 3.) At some point, Mr. Buchanan fell out of his top bunk, injuring himself. ( Id .) While Mr. Martin was trying to administer aid to Mr. Buchanan, corrections officers arrived at the cell. ( Id .) Believing that the two inmates were fighting, corrections officers ordered both inmates to step to the door to be handcuffed. ( Id .) When Mr. Martin tried to tell officers that Mr. Buchanan was injured, officers injected tear gas into the cell. ( Id .) Afterwards, Mr. Martin placed his hands through the door to be handcuffed with his hands facing forward. ( Id .) The officers then opened the door and recuffed Mr. Martin's hands behind his back. ( Id .) Later, Mr. Martin collapsed near the showers. ( Id .) Officers then placed him on a stretcher, but dropped him several times going down the stairs. ( Id .) Mr. Martin was subsequently placed in a cell alone, where he was discovered the following morning deceased. ( Id .) Plaintiff claims that Mr. Martin "received injuries that subsequently lead to his death." ( Id .)

B. Procedural History

Upon receipt of the complaint in this court, on November 9, 2012, the court directed service of the complaint on the Defendants named therein. (Doc. 9.) Waiver of service was returned unexecuted as to the unnamed Defendants on November 21, 2012. (Doc. 10.) On January 16, 2013, Defendants Samuels and Bledsoe filed the instant motion to dismiss the complaint. (Doc. 16.) On February 11, 2013, Plaintiff filed her brief in opposition. (Doc. 22.) Defendants Samuels and Bledsoe filed a reply brief on March 11, 2013. (Doc. 23.) Thus, the motion to dismiss is ripe for disposition.

II. Standard of Review

Among other requirements, a sound complaint must set forth "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This statement must "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). "Fair notice" in the context of Rule 8(a)(2) "depends on the type of case - some complaints will require at least some factual allegations to make out a showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (quotation omitted). "[A] situation may arise where, at some point, the factual detail in a complaint is so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8." Id . A plaintiff must provide more than "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" to show entitlement to relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555) (recognizing that Rule 8 pleading standard "does not require detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation"); accord, e.g., Baraka v. McGreevey , 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007) (stating that the court is not "compelled to accept unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences or a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.") (quotations and citations omitted).

A defendant may attack a complaint by a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court is required to accept as true all of the factual allegations in the complaint, Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007), and all reasonable inferences permitted by the factual allegations, Watson v. Abington Twp. , 478 F.3d 144, 150 (3d Cir. 2007), and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Kanter v. Barella , 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007). If the facts alleged are sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level" such that the plaintiff's claim is "plausible on its face, " a complaint will survive a motion to dismiss. Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 663 (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555, 570) (explaining 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"); see also Phillips , 515 F.3d at 234; Victaulic Co. v. Tieman , 499 F.3d 227, 234 (3d Cir. 2007); Stevenson v. Carroll , 495 F.3d 62, 66 (3d Cir. 2007). Further, when a complaint contains well-pleaded factual allegations, "a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id . at 664. However, a court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Id . at 678 (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice." Id .

"To decide a motion to dismiss, courts generally consider only the allegations contained in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint and matters of public record." Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc. , 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993) (citations omitted); see also Sands v. McCormick , 502 F.3d 263, 268 (3d Cir. 2007). The court may consider "undisputedly authentic document[s] that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff's claims are based on the [attached] document[s]." Pension Benefit , 998 F.2d at 1196. Additionally, "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) (citation omitted); see also U.S. Express Lines, Ltd. v Higgins , 281 F.3d 383, 388 (3d Cir. 2002) ("Although 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 into one for summary judgment." (internal quotation omitted)). However, the court may not rely on other parts of the record in making its decision. Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel , 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994).

When presented with a pro se complaint, the court should construe the complaint liberally and draw fair inferences from what is not alleged as well as from what is alleged. Dluhos v. Strasberg , 321 F.3d 365, 369 (3d Cir. 2003); Youse v. Carlucci , 867 F.Supp. 317, 318 (E.D. Pa. 1994). Such a complaint "must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings ...

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