United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
RICHARD P. CONABOY, District Judge.
Thomas Moore, an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional Institution, Albion, Pennsylvania (SCI-Albion), initiated this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Following service of the Original Complaint, counsel entered an appearance on behalf of the Plaintiff. An Amended Complaint was subsequently filed. See Doc. 28. Defendants responded to the Amended Complaint by filing a motion seeking entry of partial dismissal. The motion (Doc. 35), which is opposed in part, is ripe for consideration.
Named as Defendants are the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC); and the following officials at Plaintiff's prior place of confinement the Rockview State Correctional Institution, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania (SCI-Rockview): Superintendent Marirosa Lamas; Unit Manager Kenny Granlund; Captain Lynn Eaton; and Correctional Officers Perks, Hall, and Fisher.
Plaintiff states that prior to entering SCI-Rockview he was diagnosed as having a cardiac condition as well as post traumatic stress disorder from a rape which allegedly occurred during his pre-trial confinement in a Philadelphia area prison. See Doc. 28, ¶ 3. During the Fall, 2010, Defendant Granlund purportedly "engaged in improper sexual contact with Plaintiff in Granlund's office on several occasions." Id . at ¶ 12.
On October 12, 2010 and November 8, 2010, Moore claims that he filed administrative grievances with Superintendent Lamas regarding the purported sexual abuse by Unit Manager Granlund. In a third grievance filed on or about December 3, 2010 Moore asserted that Granlund had singled him out among several inmates all of whom were engaging in the same conduct by issuing the prisoner a disciplinary charge. When Plaintiff was thereafter taken to Granlund's office, the Defendant allegedly subjected the prisoner to verbal abuse. See id. at ¶ 15.
The Amended Complaint next contends that on or about December 6, 2010 Moore voluntarily visited Granlund in the latter's office regarding the disciplinary charge and accused the Defendant of writing lies about him. It is alleged that Unit Manager Granlund became "enraged" and physically assaulted Moore. See id. at ¶ 18. Plaintiff purportedly suffered injuries from the attack which required a two day stay in the prison infirmary.
On December 8, 2010, Plaintiff states that he was visited by Defendants Lamas and Eaton after he left the infirmary. It is alleged that those two Defendants refused Plaintiff's request that Granlund's attack be reported to the Pennsylvania State Police. However, they did provide Moore with the necessary forms to initiate a private criminal complaint against Granlund. The Plaintiff was also transferred to the prison's Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) where he was purportedly held in a cold cell with no blankets, telephone or exercise privileges and human waste on the floor for the ensuing ten (10) months.
On December 9, 2010, Plaintiff had a disciplinary hearing regarding charges by Granlund that Moore had been in an unauthorized area on December 8, 2010, refused to leave, and had threatened the Unit Manager. Plaintiff was found guilty of those allegations and sanctioned to serve 270 days in the RHU.
Thereafter, Plaintiff contends that he filed grievances against Granlund regarding the assault and lack of subsequent medical care which went unanswered. It is also alleged that Plaintiff received a contaminated food tray on December 13, 2010, was denied meals, grievance forms, as well as medical care, and suffered destruction of his personal legal papers in retaliation for raising complaints against the Unit Manager. The Amended Complaint also maintains that Plaintiff was offered a twenty thousand ($20, 000.00) dollar settlement of his claims against Granlund by someone who apparently was employed by the DOC during a January 17, 2011 meeting.
It is next alleged that on February 19, 2011, one day after Moore complained of not receiving food, prison staff including Defendants Perks, Fisher, and Hall "mopped cleaning fluid into plaintiff's cell" causing him to pass out onto the concrete floor from the fumes and injure his head. Id . at ¶ 42. Moore was eventually released from the RHU on October 10, 2011 and transferred to SCI-Albion on December 19, 2011. The Amended Complaint concludes that Defendants' actions violated both federal and state law. Moore also asserts pendent state law tort claims.
Defendants' motion for partial dismissal asserts: (1) the claims for monetary damages against the individual Defendants in their official capacities are barred by the Eleventh Amendment; (2) the DOC is not a properly named defendant; (3) the allegations of retaliation should be dismissed against all Defendants with the exception of Unit Manager Granlund; (4) the failure to respond to grievances claims against Superintendent Lamas lack merit; (5) the false imprisonment and conspiracy claims are subject to dismissal; (6) the allegations under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment as well as the Pennsylvania state constitution lack merit; and (7) Additional Defendants Eaton, Perks, Hall and Fisher were improperly added to this action.
Plaintiff does not oppose the first two arguments but has filed an opposing brief addressing Defendants' remaining contentions.
Standard of Review
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must "accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Kanter v. Barella , 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007)(quoting Evancho v. Fisher , 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005)).
A plaintiff must present facts that, if true, demonstrate a plausible right to relief. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(stating that the complaint should include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief"); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). This requirement "calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" the necessary elements of the plaintiff's cause of action. Id . at 556. A complaint must contain "more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ____ , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice." Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. at 1949. Legal conclusions must be supported by factual allegations and the complaint must state a plausible claim for relief. See id. at 1950.
"Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Twombly, at 555. The reviewing court must determine whether the complaint "contain[s] either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory." Id . at 562; see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008)(in order to survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must allege in his complaint "enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element[s]" of a particular cause of action).
Defendants initially contend that the claims for monetary damages against the individual Defendants in their official capacities are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Doc. 36, p. 5. Plaintiff does not oppose this argument.
The Eleventh Amendment bars all suits against a state and its agencies in federal court that seek monetary damages. Walker v. Beard , 244 Fed.Appx. 439, 440 (3d Cir. 2007); see also A.W. v. Jersey City Public Schools , 341 F.3d 234, 238 (3d Cir. 2003). Likewise, suits brought against state officials acting in their official capacities are to be treated as suits against the employing government agency. Garden State Elec. Inspection Serv. v. Levin , 144 Fed.Appx. 247, 251 (3d Cir. 2005). As such, Moore's damage claims brought against the individual Defendants in their official capacities are considered to be against the state itself and are barred by the Eleventh Amendment.
Defendants' second argument asserts that because it is an agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the DOC is not a properly named defendant. See Doc. 36, p. 6. This argument is also unopposed.
The United States Supreme Court has ruled that a § 1983 action brought against a "State and its Board of Corrections is barred by the Eleventh Amendment unless [the State] has consented to the filing of such a suit." Alabama v. Pugh , 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978). The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has similarly concluded that the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole could not be sued because "it ...