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Ray v. Rogers

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

February 27, 2014

FREDERICK T. RAY, III, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFF ROGERS, Corrections Program Manager; DAVID MITCHELL, Captain; COI HARKLEROAD, Corrections Officer; COI STEPHENS, Corrections Officer; MICHAEL SMITH, Activities Mgr/PRC; DAVID GRAINEY, MAJOR OF GUARD; MARK CAPOZZA, Deputy of Services; F. NUNEZ, Hearing Examiner; GREG JOHNSON, Principal, Director of Educational Services-Member of PRC Misconduct Appeal Review; CARLA SWARTZ, Unit Manager PFC; R. DIETZ, Psychology Manager; LOUIS FOLINO, Superintendent; CAPTAIN DURCO, Shift Commander; CO1 McDONOUGH; CAPT. HAYWOOD, SECURITY OFFICE CAPTAIN; LT. SHRADER, Lieutenant of RHU; LT. MIEGHAN, Lieutenant; DORINA VARNER, Chief Grievance Officer; ROBERT MACINTYRE, Chief Hearing Examiner; LT. ARMSTRONG, Lieutenant, Security Office; DAN DAVIS, Grievance Coordinator; CAPT WALKER RHU CAPTAIN; LT. BARKEFELT, Lieutenant; CO1 MILLER, Hearing Officer, Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION Re: ECF No. 47

MAUREEN P. KELLY, Magistrate Judge.

I. RECOMMENDATION

Plaintiff, Frederick T. Ray, III ("Plaintiff"), is an inmate in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"), and is currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution ("SCI") at Smithfield. Plaintiff initiated this civil rights action on July 13, 1012, bringing claims against twenty-four Defendants, all of whom appear to be employed at SCI Greene where Plaintiff was previously incarcerated. In his Amended Complaint, comprised of 312 paragraphs, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his rights provided by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution relative to grievances filed by Plaintiff and misconducts he received while at SCI Greene. ECF No. 15.

Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to state a Claim ("the Motion") pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on June 7, 2013, which is presently before the Court. ECF No. 47. Plaintiff responded to the Motion on December 9, 2013, rendering it ripe for review. ECF No. 61. For the reasons that follow, it is respectfully recommended that the Motion be granted in part and denied in part.

II. REPORT

A. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In assessing the sufficiency of the complaint pursuant to a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court must accept as true all material allegations in the complaint and all reasonable factual inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Odd v. Malone , 538 F.3d 202, 205 (3d Cir. 2008). The Court, however, need not accept bald assertions or inferences drawn by the plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts set forth in the complaint. See California Public Employees' Retirement System v. The Chubb Corp. , 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004), citing Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist. , 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Nor must the Court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual allegations. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Rather, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id., citing Papasan v. Allain , 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). Indeed, the United States Supreme Court has held that a complaint is properly dismissed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) where it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, " id. at 570, or where the factual content does not allow the court "to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). See Phillips v. County of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (finding that, under Twombly, "labels, conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" do not suffice but, rather, the complaint "must allege facts suggestive of [the proscribed] conduct" and that are sufficient "to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element[s] of his claim").

B. DISCUSSION

1. Statute of Limitations (Counts I-XI, XIII, XV and XVI)

Defendants argue that Plaintiff's claims brought at Counts I through XI, XIII, XV and XVI are barred by the two year statute of limitations applicable to actions arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Sameric Corp. of Delaware, Inc. v. City of Phila. , 142 F.3d 582, 599 (3d Cir. 1998) (federal courts apply the state statute of limitations for personal injury in Section 1983 cases which in Pennsylvania is two years); Smith v. Holtz , 87 F.3d 108, 111 n.2 (3d Cir. 1996) (the appropriate limitations period for §1983 actions brought in the federal courts located within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is two years); 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 5524. Defendants contend that because Plaintiff initiated the instant action on July 6, 2012, [1] his claims based on conduct that occurred prior to July 7, 2010, are untimely and that, because the events at issue in Counts I through XI, XIII, XV and XVI took place prior to July 7, 2010, and Plaintiff was aware of the injuries they caused at the time, they should be dismissed. See Montgomery v. De Simone , 159 F.3d 120, 126 (3d Cir. 1998), quoting Genty v. Resolution Trust Corp , 937 F.2d 899, 909 (3d Cir. 1991) (under federal law "the limitations period begins to run from the time when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury which is the basis of the section 1983 action").

As Plaintiff correctly points out, however, the statute of limitations applicable to Section 1983 actions is properly tolled while the prisoner exhausts administrative remedies.[2] See Paluch v. Sec'y Pennsylvania Dep't Corr., 2011 WL 3652418, at *3 (3d Cir. Aug. 19, 2011). See also Brown v. Valoff , 422 F.3d 926, 942-43 (9th Cir. 2005); Johnson v. Rivera , 272 F.3d 519, 522 (7th Cir. 2001). Plaintiff therefore was required to file a complaint within two years of the date he knew or had reason to know of his alleged injuries plus the time it took to exhaust administrative remedies.

Here, it is clear from the face of the Amended Complaint that the vast majority of Plaintiff's grievances were not denied at final review, and thus his administrative remedies were not exhausted, until after July 12, 2010. See ECF No. 15, ¶¶ 91, 112, 142, 149, 169, 178, 183, 220, 225. Although Plaintiff has not included the dates that review became final on three of his grievances, it cannot be said at this juncture that they were denied prior to July 6, 2010. Id. at ¶¶ 155-159, 184-188, 191-196. Indeed, two of the three remaining grievances were filed after those that were finally reviewed on July 12, 2010, or later. Moreover, Plaintiff has represented in his responsive brief that the third remaining grievance was not denied at final review until August 4, 2010. See id. at ¶¶ 184, 191; ECF No. 62, p. 10. It therefore appears that Plaintiff has brought the claims set forth in Counts I-XI, XIII, XV and XVI within two years of his alleged injuries plus the time it took him to exhaust his administrative remedies. Plaintiff's claims therefore are not barred by the statute of limitations and Defendants' Motion in this regard is properly denied.

2. Due Process Claims (Counts I, II, III, IV, XI, XIII, XIV and XVI)

Plaintiff alleges at Counts I, II, III, IV, XI, XIII, XIV and XVI of the Amended Complaint that Defendants denied him due process in violation of his rights provided by the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment provides that no State shall "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." U.S. Const. Amend. XIV, § 1. Thus, to establish a claim under the Due Process Clause, a plaintiff must show that he had a protected liberty or property interest of which he has been deprived, and that the process afforded him did not comport with constitutional requirements. Shoats v. Horn , 213 F.3d 140, 143 (3d Cir. 2000).

Defendants advance five general arguments as to why Plaintiff's due process claims should be dismissed. First, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's claim brought at Count I, wherein Plaintiff alleges that his personal and legal property was confiscated and/or destroyed without due process, should be dismissed because Plaintiff ...


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