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Rodriguez v. Wetzel

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

June 17, 2014

HERIBERTO RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN E. WETZEL, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

CYNTHIA REED EDDY, Magistrate Judge.

Presently pending is the Motion for More Definite Statement filed by Defendants (ECF No. 45). For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.

Plaintiff, Heriberto Rodriguez, is an inmate currently confined at SCI Pittsburgh, and is proceeding pro se. Defendants have been served with Plaintiff's handwritten Complaint, and have filed the instant Motion for a More Definite Statement under Rule 12(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Federal practice demands that a plaintiff set forth the allegations he may have against others in a complaint. In assessing the adequacy of a complaint, the United States Supreme Court has advised trial courts that they must

[B]egin by identifying pleadings that because they are no more than conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal , ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009).

Thus, a well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere legal labels and conclusions. Rather, a complaint must recite factual allegations sufficient to raise the plaintiff's claimed right to relief beyond the level of mere speculation. As the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has stated when assessing the adequacy of a complaint:

District courts should conduct a two-part analysis. First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The District Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Second, a District Court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief." In other words, a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to "show" such an entitlement with its facts.

Fowler , 578 F.3d at 210-11.

In addition to these pleading rules, a civil complaint must comply with the requirements of Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure which defines what a complaint should say and provides that:

(a) A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction, unless the court already has jurisdiction and the claim needs no new jurisdictional support; (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and (3) a demand for the relief sought, which may include relief in the alternative or different types of relief.

Thus, a well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere legal labels and conclusions. Rather, a pro se plaintiff's complaint must recite factual allegations which are sufficient to raise the plaintiff's claimed right to relief beyond the level of mere speculation, set forth in a "short and plain" statement of a cause of action. Thus, it is well-settled that: "[t]he Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and that each averment be concise, and direct, ' Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(e)(1)." Scibelli v. Lebanon County , 219 F.App'x 221, 222 (3d Cir. 2007). Additionally, Rule 10(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that "[a] party must state its claims or defenses in numbered paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a single set of circumstances." Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(b).

The vehicle for a defendant to gain an understanding of the plaintiff's claims is a motion for more definite statement, made under Rule 12(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 12(e) provides in part that:

A party may move for a more definite statement of a pleading to which a responsive pleading is allowed but which is so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a response. The motion must be made before filing a responsive pleading and must point out the defects complained of and the details desired. If the court orders a more definite statement and the order is not obeyed within 14 days after notice of the ...

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