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Brownlee v. Moore-Smeal

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 1, 2014

EARL BROWNLEE, Plaintiff
v.
SHIRLEY R. MOORE-SMEAL, et al., Defendants

OPINION AND ORDER[1]

SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER, Magistrate Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Relevant Procedural History

On December 26, 2012, Plaintiff Earl Brownlee, an inmate formerly incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Albion, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Albion"), [2]initiated this civil rights action by filing a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 [ECF No. 6]. Plaintiff subsequently filed an amended complaint on August 16, 2013 [ECF No. 31], and a second amended complaint on October 25, 2013 [ECF No. 41], the latter of which is deemed to have superseded the prior two complaints and is the operative pleading in this case.

Named as Defendants in the second amended complaint are: Shirley R. Moore-Smeal ("Moore-Smeal"), Executive Deputy Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"); Michael Harlow ("Harlow"), Superintendent at SCI-Albion; SCI-Albion corrections officers Captain Randy Irwin ("Irwin"), Lieutenant John Pivetta ("Pivetta"), Lieutenant Mark Edmunds ("Edmunds"), Sergeant Joshua Moore ("Moore"), CO-1 Jerrold Twentier ("Twentier"), CO-1 Richard Bernardo ("Bernardo"), CO-1 Frederick Munch ("Munch") and CO-1 Jeffrey Newell ("Newell"); SCI-Albion registered nurses Don Lucore ("Lucore") and Maxine Overton ("Overton"); Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole Agent John Williams ("Williams"); Dr. Mark Baker ("Baker"), a physician under contract with the DOC to provide medical services to inmates at SCI-Albion; Pamela Reynolds ("Reynolds"), a physical therapist under contract with the DOC to provide physical therapy to inmate at SCI-Albion; Physician Assistant "Telega;" and several unnamed Defendants identified as "Jane or John Does."[3] All Defendants, other than Baker, Reynolds, Telega, and the unnamed Jane or John Doe Defendants, are collectively referred to herein as "DOC Defendants."

In his second amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his rights under the first, eighth, and fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution. In particular, Plaintiff asserts the following claims: (i) an Eighth Amendment claim of excessive use of force against Defendants Twentier, Pivetta, Edmunds, Moore, Munch, Bernardo, Williams, and Newell, arising from a cell extraction incident that occurred on or about October 16, 2010; (ii) an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Defendants Lucore and Overton arising from their alleged failure to provide medical attention for injuries he allegedly suffered as a result of the cell extraction of October 16, 2010; and (iii) an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Defendants Baker, Reynolds, Harlow, and Moore-Smeal, arising from the alleged failure to provide a course of physical therapy for Plaintiff's shoulder that was injured during the cell extraction incident of October 16, 2010. As relief for his claims, Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

On October 29, 2013, the DOC Defendants filed a motion to dismiss [ECF No. 42] arguing that Plaintiff's claims against them should be dismissed because they are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Defendant Baker filed his own motion to dismiss on November 6, 2013 [ECF No. 44], arguing, inter alia, that Plaintiff has failed to state a cause of action against him upon which relief may be granted. On November 12, 2013, Defendant Reynolds filed a motion to dismiss [ECF No. 47], also arguing that Plaintiff's claim against her should be dismissed because it fails it state a cause of action upon which relief may be granted. Despite having been granted more than ample time to file a response to each of these motions, Plaintiff has failed to do so. This matter is now ripe for consideration.

B. Standards of Review

1. Motion to Dismiss

A motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). A complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12 (b)(6) if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)(rejecting the traditional 12 (b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41 (1957)). See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (specifically applying Twombly analysis beyond the context of the Sherman Act).

The Court need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts as set forth in the complaint. See California Pub. Employee Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp. , 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004) citing Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist. , 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Nor must the court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual allegations. Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555, citing Papasan v. Allain , 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555. Although the United States Supreme Court does "not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, [the Court does require] enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id . at 570.

In other words, at the motion to dismiss stage, a plaintiff is "required to make a showing' rather than a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief." Smith v. Sullivan , 2008 WL 482469, at *1 (D.Del. February 19, 2008) quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008). "This does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, ' but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element." Phillips , 515 F.3d at 234, quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556.

The Third Circuit Court has prescribed the following three-step approach to determine the sufficiency of a complaint under Twombly and Iqbal:

First, the court must tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.' Second, the court should identify allegations that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.' Finally, where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity ...

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