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Ly v. Varner

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

June 30, 2014

WEI LY, Plaintiff,
v.
AMY VARNER, SHAWN NOSE, JANE HEIDE, and LEO GLASS, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

CYNTHIA REED EDDY, Magistrate Judge.

Presently pending is the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings filed by Defendants Amy Varner, Shawn Nose, Jane Heide, and Leo Glass, with brief in support (ECF Nos. 21 and 22) and Plaintiff's Opposition Response, with brief in support (ECF Nos. 26 and 27). For the reasons that follow, the Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.[1]

Factual Background[2]

Plaintiff, Wei Ly, is a prisoner currently incarcerated at SCI-Somerset. On August 15, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Complaint, which remains the operative complaint. (ECF No. 6). Named as defendants are Unit Manager Amy Varner, Captain Shawn Nose, Warden Jane Heide, and Deputy Leo Glass. All Defendants are sued in both their individual and official capacities.

Plaintiff's claims are based upon events which occurred while he was confined at SCI-Greensburg, his former place of confinement. According to the allegations of the Complaint, on May 8, 2012, Plaintiff was "sexually assaulted in the shower of JB mod" by his cell mate and the assault occurred after he had advised his Unit Manager, Defendant Varner, that "he had a problem with an inmate." Complaint at ¶¶ 9-12. Plaintiff alleges that after the incident, Defendant Varner "stated this was [Plaintiff's] fault and made bad comments" and that Defendant Nose coerced Plaintiff into withdrawing his grievance regarding the assault. Id. at ¶¶ 17-31. Plaintiff also asserts that Defendants Heide and Glass were "in charge of the prison and [had] to provide safety to inmates." Id. at § IV, ¶ C. He seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

Defendants have filed the instant Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings in which they seek to have judgment entered in their favor pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). Plaintiff filed a response in opposition which contains additional factual assertions and to which he has attached numerous pages of exhibits (ECF Nos. 26 and 27).[3] Because Plaintiff is a prisoner appearing pro se, the Court will consider the factual allegations contained in his response. See Baker v. Younkin, 529 F.App'x 114 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing Lewis v. Att'y Gen. of U.S., 878 F.2d 714, 722 (3d Cir. 1989)). The matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

B. Standard of Review

1. Pro Se Litigants

Pro se pleadings, "however inartfully pleaded, " must be held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-521 (1972). If the court can reasonably read pleadings to state a valid claim on which the litigant could prevail, it should do so despite failure to cite proper legal authority, confusion of legal theories, poor syntax and sentence construction, or the litigant's unfamiliarity with pleading requirements. Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364 (1982); United States ex rel. Montgomery v. Bierley, 141 F.2d 552, 555 (3d Cir.1969) (petition prepared by a prisoner may be inartfully drawn and should be read "with a measure of tolerance").

In a section 1983 action, the court must liberally construe the pro se litigant's pleadings and "apply the applicable law, irrespective of whether a pro se litigant has mentioned it by name." Higgins v. Beyer, 293 F.3d 683, 688 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting Holley v. Dep't of Veteran Affairs, 165 F.3d 244, 247-48 (3d Cir. 1999)). See also Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996) ("Since this is a § 1983 action, the [pro se] plaintiffs are entitled to relief if their complaint sufficiently alleges deprivation of any right secured by the Constitution.") (quoting Higgins, 293 F.3d at 688). Under our liberal pleading rules, during the initial stages of litigation, a district court should construe all allegations in a complaint in favor of the complainant. Gibbs v. Roman, 116 F.3d 83 (3d Cir. 1997). See, e.g., Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir.1996) (discussing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard); Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990) (same). Notwithstanding this liberality, pro se litigants are not relieved of their obligation to allege sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal claim. See, e.g., Taylor v. Books A Million, Inc., 296 F.3d 376, 378, (5th Cir. 2002).

Because Plaintiff is a pro se litigant, this Court may consider facts and make inferences where it is appropriate.

2. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings Pursuant to Rule 12(c)

"A motion for judgment on the pleadings is not granted unless the movant clearly establishes that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.' Jablonski v. Pan American World Airways, 863 F.2d 289, 290 (3d Cir. 1988) (quoting Society Hill Civil Assoc. v. Harris, 632 F.2d 1045, 1054 (3d Cir. 1980))." Pellegrino Food Products Co., Inc. v. City of Warren, 136 F.Supp.2d 391, 399 (W.D.Pa. 2000). A rule 12(c) motion is judged under the same standards as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Turbe v. Gov't of Virgin Islands, 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991). The only difference is that on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court reviews not only the complaint, but also the answer and written instructions attached to the pleadings. 2 James Wm. Moore, et al., Moore's Federal Practice - Civil ¶ 12.38 (2010). As a general rule, if a court "consider[s] matters extraneous to the pleadings" on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the motion must be converted into one for summary judgment. In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997). However, a court may consider (1) exhibits attached to the complaint, (2) matters of public record, and (3) all documents that are integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint, even if they are not attached thereto, without converting the motion into one for summary judgment. Mele v. Fed. Reserve Bank of N.Y., 359 F.3d 251, 256 n. 5 (3d Cir. 2004); Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993).

In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must accept all well-pleaded facts and allegations, and must draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in favor of the plaintiff. Burtch v. Milberg Factors, Inc., 62 F.3d 212, 220 (3d Cir. 2011), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___ , 131 S.Ct. 1861 (2012) (citing In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010)). However, as the Supreme Court of the United States made clear in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, such "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." 550 U.S. 554, 555 (2007). See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (holding that, while the Complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, it must contain more than a ...


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