United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge.
Presently before the Court is Magistrate Judge Mehalchick's Report and Recommendation ("R & R") (Doc. 25) to Motions to Dismiss filed by Defendants Balestrieri, Capozza, Folino, Grainey, Palya, Smith, and Varner (collectively, "DOC Defendants") (Doc. 14) and Defendant Dr. Byunghak Jin (Doc. 17). The Magistrate Judge recommends that the both motions to dismiss be granted. Plaintiff filed timely objections to the R & R (Doc. 29). Because Plaintiff has failed to state claims upon which relief can be granted, the motions to dismiss will be granted and Plaintiffs claims will be dismissed. Plaintiff will be afforded an opportunity to file and amended complaint with respect to his Americans with Disabilities Act claims against Defendants Palya, Balestrieri, Folino, and Varner in their official capacities.
On December 11, 2012, Plaintiff Nathan Riley, an inmate at State Correctional Institution at Green (SCI-Green), commenced the instant action, pro se , by filing his Complaint (Doc. 1). He alleges violations of his First, Eight, and Fourteenth Amendment rights as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and seeks monetary damages and declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C.§ 1983. Id.
The facts alleged in the Complaint (Doc. 1) are set forth in detail in Magistrate Judge Mehalchick's R&R (Doc. 25) and need not be repeated here at length. In short, Plaintiff's claims arise from his release from administrative segregation in the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) at SCI-Green back into general population without single-cell Z-Code status. While in the RHU Plaintiff also alleges that he developed carpal tunnel syndrome in his right hand from using a flex-pen, and also that he had sustained an injury to his left hand prior to being transferred to SCI-Green from SCI-Retreat.
II. The Report and Recommendation
On March 7, 2014, Magistrate Judge Mehalchick issued an R&R recommending that the motions to dismiss be granted and that Plaintiff's claims, apart from his ADA claim against Defendants Palya, Balestrieri, Folino, and Varner in their official capacities, be dismissed with prejudice.
As to Plaintiff's First Amendment Retaliation Claim against Defendants Grainey, Smith, and Capozza, the Magistrate Judge concluded that Plaintiff failed to allege any facts establishing a connection between the "grievances and lawsuits" he filed in exercising his First Amendment rights and the conduct of the these Defendants. (Doc. 25, 11). Moreover, the Magistrate Judge notes that attachments to Plaintiff's Complaint "establish that Defendants did not remove [Plaintiff's] Z-Code status, as it was removed more than ten years before Riley appeared before the Program Review Committee comprised of Defendants Grainey, Smith, and Capozza." (Doc. 25, 12). Because Plaintiff fails to allege facts that could establish that Defendants removed the Z-code status in retaliation, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the Court grant Defendants' motion to dismiss with respect to Plaintiff's First Amendment retaliation claim and dismiss it with prejudice.
As to Plaintiff's procedural due process claims against Defendants Grainey, Smith, and Capozza, the Magistrate Judge noted that prisoners have no constitutionally protected liberty interest in a single cell housing assignment and found that there is no due process violation if a Z-Code status is removed without a hearing. (Doc. 24, 12-13). The Magistrate Judge concluded that Plaintiff has no Fourteenth Amendment right to be housed in a single cell and his right to due process is not offended by any decision to place him in a cell with another inmate. Id. Thus, the Magistrate Judge recommends that Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's procedural due process claim be granted.
With respect to Plaintiff's Eight Amendment Claims alleging deliberate indifference to his medical needs, the Magistrate Judge notes that where a plaintiff receives some level of ongoing medical care, prison supervisors are generally not considered deliberately indifferent because they failed to respond directly to the medical complaints of a prisoner who is being treated by a prison doctor. Id. at 16-17. Regarding Plaintiff's Claims against Defendants Jin, Diggs, and Antanovich, the Magistrate Judge concludes that Plaintiff fails to state a claim because he received medical treatment in response to his injury, specifically a cast and physical therapy. Id. at 18. Thus the Magistrate Judge recommends that the Court grant Defendant Jin's motion to dismiss. As to Defendants Palya, Balestrieri, Folino, and Varner, the Magistrate Judge concludes that Plaintiff's allegations that they failed to remedy the violation against him regarding his Z-Code status do not state a claim for violation of Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights. In addition, the Magistrate Judge notes that Defendants Folino and Varner served in a purely supervisory role with respect to reviewing Plaintiff's grievances and Plaintiff fails to allege facts to support supervisory liability. Thus, the Magistrate Judge recommends that these claims be dismissed with prejudice.
With respect to Plaintiff's equal protection claims against Defendants Palya, Balestrieri, Folino, and Varner, the Magistrate Judge notes that the Complaint does not contain any allegations of personal involvement on the part of any of these Defendants in the decision to revoke Plaintiff's single cell status. Id. at 21. Therefore, the Magistrate Judge recommends that Defendants' motion to dismiss with respect to this claim be granted.
As to Plaintiff's claims based on the ADA against Defendants Palya, Balestrieri, Folino, and Varner, the Magistrate Judge concludes that although Plaintiff has alleged that he has a mental health condition, he has not sufficiently alleged that he suffers from a disability that substantially limits one or more of his major life functions and activities. Therefore, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the Court dismiss Plaintiff's ADA claim but that the Plaintiff be afforded the opportunity to amend the Complaint to set forth facts sufficient to assert a prima facie ADA claim against the appropriate prison officials in their official capacities. Id. at 24.
A. Standard for Reviewing a Report and ...