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Overly v. Garman

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 31, 2014

JAMES OVERLY, Plaintiff,
CHRIS GARMAN, et al., Defendants.


EDWIN M. KOSIK, District Judge.

Plaintiff, James Overly, an inmate confined at the State Correctional Institution at Smithfield ("SCI-Smithfield"), Pennsylvania, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. He paid the full filing fee in this matter. The matter proceeds on an amended complaint. (Doc. 6.) Named as Defendants are the following SCI-Smithfield employees: Chris Garman, Unit Manager; Bradley Fisher, Correctional Counselor; and Correctional Officers Honstine, Parson, Harper, Clapper and Hazlett. Before the court and ripe for consideration is Defendants' motion to dismiss the amended complaint, or in the alternative for summary judgment.[1] (Doc. 14.)

I. Allegations of the Amended Complaint

Plaintiff claims that his right to Equal Protection was violated when Defendant Fisher failed to follow proper prison procedure in notifying him of his mother's death. Specifically, he claims that on November 21, 2011, Fisher said he received an email from the prison Chaplain on November 7, 2011, about the death. Plaintiff's siblings had notified the prison on November 6, 2011. Plaintiff claims that as his counselor, Fisher had the duty to inform him of the death and of the availability of the Chaplain's services. According to Plaintiff, when his stepfather passed away, he was offered services from the Chaplain and received a condolence letter from the prison's Superintendent.

Plaintiff claims that the failure to offer him this same treatment when his mother died caused him physical and emotional distress due to his age and frail health. At the time, Plaintiff was 70 years old. Plaintiff told Defendant Garman about Fisher's actions, but claims Garman never addressed the matter.

Plaintiff further claims that because he went to Garman, he was retaliated against in the form of being moved from cell to cell. He further claims that Defendant Honstine harasses him by not allowing him sufficient time to eat his meals. According to Plaintiff, he is supposed to get 20 minutes pursuant to prison policy. He claims Defendant Garman is aware of the staff's behavior through the grievances he filed.

Plaintiff also claims that his cell was searched for no reason. He claims that Defendants Hazlett and Clapper performed an investigative cell search and confiscated large amounts of his personal property. He believes that they altered his television in some way since it was in fine condition before he was moved to the Restricted Housing Unit. He claims that his procedural due process rights were violated when he was not given an opportunity to send his television out for repairs or to his family before it was destroyed.

He further contends that on another occasion, his cell was searched by Defendants Harper and Parson. His personal property was packed by Defendants. When he received a Confiscated Items Receipt, he claims it stated "Destroyed All Items." He claims this was a denial of his right to procedural due process because he should have been provided with an opportunity to challenge the decision to destroy his property, prior to the destruction taking place, and given the choice to send his items home. He further claims that other items of his personal property were destroyed in July of 2010. He does not state who was responsible for the destruction, but claims that the property lost included a cable converter box, a burial contract and his will.

Finally, Plaintiff alleges that his mail and papers were scattered and mixed up on the floor of his cell in March of 2012. He believes Defendant Honstine is responsible for this conduct because she returned to work from vacation the day this occurred. He claims that Honstine crams his mail through his prison door slot instead of opening the cell door and placing the mail inside. He claims that the grievances filed against Honstine are always rejected. Plaintiff has told Defendant Garman about the problems with Honstine. Based on the foregoing allegations, he seeks declaratory, compensatory and punitive relief.

II. Standard of Review

Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes dismissal of a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Under Rule 12(b)(6), we must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside , 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009)(quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008)). While a complaint need only contain "a short and plain statement of the claim, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and detailed factual allegations are not required, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), a complaint must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id . at 570. "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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)(quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556). "[L]abels and conclusions" are not enough, and a court "is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation...." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555 (quoted case omitted).

In resolving a motion to dismiss, we thus "conduct a two-part analysis." Fowler, supra , 578 F.3d at 210. First, we separate the factual elements from the legal elements and disregard the legal conclusions. Id . at 210-11. Second, we "determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a plausible claim for relief.'" Id . at 211 (quoted case omitted).

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.3d 382, 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 ...

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