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McAllister v. Wiekl

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

February 27, 2014

JOSHUA WIEKL, et al., Defendants.



Plaintiff Jaason McAllister ("plaintiff"), an inmate formerly housed at the Dauphin County Prison, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, at all times material, commenced this civil rights action on November 15, 2012. (Doc. 1.) The matter is presently proceeding via an amended complaint filed on February 21, 2014. (Doc. 14.) Before the court is a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) filed on behalf of defendants Joshua Weikel ("Weikel"), Michael Frankenstein ("Frankenstein"), Kevin Hoch ("Hoch"), Joseph Hoose ("Hoose"), Steven Smith ("Smith"), Elizabeth Nichols ("Nichols") and Brian Walborn ("Walborn").[1] (Doc. 11.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Allegations of Amended Complaint

Plaintiff alleges that prior to January 31, 2012, he complained to defendant Nichols about "continuing harassment, " by correctional officer as "[s]he is legally responsible for the operation of DCP and for the welfare of all the inmates in the prison." (Doc. 14, ¶¶ 2, 23.) He alleges that she turned a blind eye to the correctional officers' unconstitutional behavior. (Id. at¶ 35.)

Thereafter, he "was retaliated against for filing grievances and complaining." (Id. at ¶ 23.) Specifically, on January 31, 2012, defendants Hoose, Frankenstein, Weikel, and Alek Peters ("Peters") came to his cell "with false write ups" for inciting a riot and having contraband (candy) in the gym. (Id. at ¶¶ 10-11.) He was directed to move to the back of the cell, face the wall, and prepare to be cuffed behind his back. (Id. at ¶ 12.) He alleges that they entered his cell and "one of the officers" banged plaintiff's head off the wall. (Id. at ¶¶ 10, 13.) He was then roughly transported to segregation. (Id. at ¶¶ 14-15.) He further alleges that, when he reached his segregation cell, while his hands were still cuffed behind his back, defendant Hoose slammed his face chipping his three front teeth, and Weikel, Hoose and Hoch punched, kicked and elbowed him rendering him unconscious. (Id. at ¶¶ 16-17.) Upon regaining consciousness, he states that he was subjected to more blows and kicks and that Weikel, Hoose, and Hoch remarked "[t]hat's what you get for filing grievances, I bet you wont [sic] snitch no more." (Id. at ¶¶ 17-18.)

Plaintiff also asserts that defendant Smith, a lieutenant, knew that the correctional officers were going to use excessive force and that he allowed it and even encouraged it. (Doc. 14, ¶ 33.) After the assault, Smith collaborated with the correctional officers to "get their story strait [sic], " and blamed him for the attack by commenting that "you shouldn't complain to CID." (Id. at ¶ 20.) Smith then ordered that he be placed in a restraint chair for twelve hours. (Id.)

The alleged assault was investigated by defendant Walborn, a detective assigned to the Criminal Investigation Division "CID. the Harrisburg Police Department. (Doc. 14, ¶ 8.) Plaintiff asserts that Walborn failed to protect him from impending danger and covered up the January 31, 2012 assault. (Id. at ¶ 24.)

II. Rule 12 (b)(6) Standard of Review

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). 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)). Although the court is generally limited in its review to the facts contained in the complaint, it "may also consider matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case." Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman , 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n. 2 (3d Cir. 1994); see also In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig. , 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997).

Federal notice and pleading rules require the complaint to provide "the defendant notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To test the sufficiency of the complaint in the face of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must conduct a three-step inquiry. See Santiago v. Warminster Twp. , 629 F.3d 121, 130-31 (3d Cir. 2010). In the first step, "the court must tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim." Id . (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 675 (2009)). Next, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated; well-pleaded facts must be accepted as true, while mere legal conclusions may be disregarded. Id .; see also Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside , 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). Once the well-pleaded factual allegations have been isolated, the court must determine whether they are sufficient to show a "plausible claim for relief." Iqbal, 556U.S. at 679 (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556); Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555 (requiring plaintiffs to allege facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level"). 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." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678.

III. Discussion

Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code offers private citizens a cause of action for violations of federal law by state officials. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress....

Id.; see also Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe , 536 U.S. 273, 284-85 (2002); Kneipp v. Tedder , 95 F.3d 1199, 1204 (3d Cir. 1996). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege "the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by ...

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