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Richie v. Jones

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 14, 2014



SYLVIA H. RAMBO, District Judge.

On December 12, 2013, Plaintiff Michael Richie, an inmate currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution in Waymart, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Waymart"), commenced this civil rights action with a complaint filed pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as amended on January 16, 2014.[1] (Doc. 9.) In the amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Sergeant Jones violated his constitutional rights by failing to send him immediately to the medical department after he slipped and fell on the shower floor and sustained a broken finger. As relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages.

Presently before the court is a motion to dismiss the amended complaint, filed by Defendant Sergeant Jones. (Doc. 15.) For the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss will be granted.

I. Background

A. Facts

In the amended complaint, Plaintiff provides the following factual background with respect to his claim. For purposes of disposition of the instant motion to dismiss, the factual allegations asserted in the amended complaint will be accepted as true and viewed in a light most favorable to Plaintiff.

Plaintiff alleges that, on December 5, 2012, while showering in the G-Block at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill ("SCI-Camp Hill"), his former place of incarceration, he slipped and fell on the shower floor. (Doc. 9 at 2-3.) As a result of the fall, Plaintiff sustained a broken finger. ( Id . at 3.) He reported the injury to Defendant Sergeant Jones, who was in charge of G-Block at the time. ( Id .) Defendant Sergeant Jones initially refused to send Plaintiff to the medical department for an examination, but the next day the Unit Manager "overruled" his decision and ordered Plaintiff to medical for treatment. ( Id .) An x-ray at medical revealed a broken finger. ( Id .)

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff initially filed a complaint in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. ( See Doc. 1.) By order dated December 12, 2013, the Eastern District court transferred the matter to this court. ( See Doc. 4.) Thereafter, by order dated December 20, 2013, the court screened the original complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, and consequently directed Plaintiff to file an amended complaint. (Doc. 8.) After Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on January 6, 2014, (Doc. 9), the court directed service of the amended complaint on the Defendant named therein, (Doc. 10). On April 4, 2014, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint and supporting brief. (Docs. 15 & 16.) Pursuant to M.D. Pa. Local Rule 7.6, Plaintiff had fourteen (14) days from the service of Defendant's motion and brief to file a brief in opposition to the motion. Within that time period, Plaintiff failed to file any opposition or request an extension of time in which to do so. Therefore, by order dated May 28, 2014, the court directed Plaintiff to file a brief in opposition to the motion to dismiss, or face possible dismissal of his amended complaint. ( See Doc. 17.) On June 5, 2014, Plaintiff filed said brief in opposition. Thus, the motion to dismiss the amended complaint is now ripe for disposition.

II. Standard of Review

Among other requirements, a sound complaint must set forth "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This statement must "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). "Fair notice" in the context of Rule 8(a)(2) "depends on the type of case - some complaints will require at least some factual allegations to make out a showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (quotation omitted). "[A] situation may arise where, at some point, the factual detail in a complaint is so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8." Id . A plaintiff must provide more than "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" to show entitlement to relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555) (recognizing that Rule 8 pleading standard "does not require detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation"); accord , e.g. , Baraka v. McGreevey , 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007) (stating that the court is not "compelled to accept unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences or a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.") (quotations and citations omitted).

A defendant may attack a complaint by a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court is required to accept as true all of the factual allegations in the complaint, Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007), and all reasonable inferences permitted by the factual allegations, Watson v. Abington Twp. , 478 F.3d 144, 150 (3d Cir. 2007), and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Kanter v. Barella , 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007). If the facts alleged are sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level" such that the plaintiff's claim is "plausible on its face, " a complaint will survive a motion to dismiss. Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 663 (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555, 570) (explaining a claim has "facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged"); see also Phillips , 515 F.3d at 234; Victaulic Co. v. Tieman , 499 F.3d 227, 234 (3d Cir. 2007); Stevenson v. Carroll , 495 F.3d 62, 66 (3d Cir. 2007). Further, when a complaint contains well-pleaded factual allegations, "a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id . at 664. However, a court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Id . at 678 (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice." Id .

"To decide a motion to dismiss, courts generally consider only the allegations contained in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint and matters of public record." Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc. , 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993) (citations omitted); see also Sands v. McCormick , 502 F.3d 263, 268 (3d Cir. 2007). The court may consider "undisputedly authentic document[s] that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff's claims are based on the [attached] document[s]." Pension Benefit , 998 F.2d at 1196. Additionally, "documents whose contents are alleged in the complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the pleading, may be considered." Pryor v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n , 288 F.3d 548, 560 (3d Cir. 2002) (citation omitted); see also U.S. Express Lines, Ltd. v. Higgins , 281 F.3d 383, 388 (3d Cir. 2002) ("Although a district court may not consider matters extraneous to the pleadings, a document integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint may be considered without converting the motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment." (internal quotation omitted)). However, the court may not rely on other parts of the record in making its decision. Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel , 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994).

When presented with a pro se complaint, the court should construe the complaint liberally and draw fair inferences from what is not alleged as well as from what is alleged. Dluhos v. Strasberg , 321 F.3d 365, 369 (3d Cir. 2003); Youse v. Carlucci , 867 F.Supp. 317, 318 (E.D. Pa. 1994). Such a complaint "must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings ...

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