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Auker v. Juniata County Prison

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 25, 2014

JACOB LEE AUKER, Plaintiff,
v.
JUNIATA COUNTY PRISON, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

WILLIAM J. NEALON, District Judge.

I. BACKGROUND

On May 30, 2012, Plaintiff, an inmate formerly confined in the Smithfield State Correctional Institution, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, ("SCI-Smithfield"), filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. (Doc. 1, complaint). On July 27, 2012, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint. (Doc. 13, amended complaint). The named Defendants are the Juniata County Prison and the following Juniata County Prison employees: Tom Lyter, Former Warden, Teresa O'Neal, Acting Warden, Steve McLaughlin, Deputy Warden, Lori McConlogue O'Shaughnessy, physician, and Kelly Brumbaugh, nurse. Id.

On January 28, 2014, Defendants Juniata County Prison, Lyter, McLaughlin, and O'Neal filed a motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 39). On February 11, 2014, Defendants filed a brief in support of the motion. (Doc. 40). Plaintiff was granted two enlargements of time within which to file a brief in opposition, and failed to do so. See (Docs. 45, 49).

On July 29, 2014, upon consideration of Plaintiff's April 21, 2014 letter to the Court indicating that he would be "leaving here on May 19th to go to a half-way house, " see (Doc. 54), the Court issued an order directing Plaintiff to notify the Court of his address within twenty (20) days, as well as whether he intended to further pursue the matter against the named defendants. Id . The Court forewarned Plaintiff that his failure to communicate with the Court within twenty (20) days would result in dismissal of Plaintiff's case for failure to prosecute and comply with a court order under the authority of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b). Id.

On August 15, 2014, the July 29, 2014 Order was returned as undeliverable, with the notation "unable to forward." (Doc. 57). Since Plaintiff has not communicated with the Court, in any fashion, since his April 21, 2014 letter, the matter will be dismissed for failure to prosecute pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b).

II. Discussion

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) permits a District Court to dismiss a plaintiff's case for failure to prosecute. See FED. R. CIV. P. 41(b) ("If the plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with these rules or a court order, a defendant may move to dismiss the action or any claim against it."). In so doing, the court must balance the following factors: (1) the extent of the party's personal responsibility; (2) the prejudice to the adversary caused by the failure to meet scheduling orders and respond to discovery; (3) a history of dilatoriness; (4) whether the conduct of the party or the attorney was willful or in bad faith; (5) the effectiveness of sanctions other than dismissal, which entails an analysis of alternative sanctions; and (6) the meritoriousness of the claim or defense." Poulis v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. , 747 F.2d 863, 868 (3d Cir. 1984.)

A. Analysis of the Poulis Factors

1. The extent of the party's personal responsibility.

A pro se plaintiff is responsible for his failure to comply with a court's orders. Emerson v. Thiel Coll. , 296 F.3d 184, 191 (3d Cir. 2002). Plaintiff's brief in opposition to Defendants' motion to dismiss was originally due on February 25, 2014. Thereafter, Plaintiff was granted two enlargements of time, until April 7, 2014, to file a brief in opposition. (Docs. 45, 49). On April 21, 2014, Plaintiff wrote to the Court, indicating that he would be leaving SCI-Smithfield, but not notifying the Court of a forwarding address or, of his intent to file a brief in opposition. See (Doc. 54). That was almost four (4) months ago. At this point, the Court has been waiting for almost six (6) months for Plaintiff to move the litigation forward and can only conclude that he is personally responsible for failing to comply with Court orders.

2. The prejudice to the adversary.

"Evidence of prejudice to an adversary would bear substantial weight in support of a dismissal or default judgment." Adams v. Trustees of N.J. Brewery Employees' Pension Trust Fund , 29 F.3d 863, 873-74 (3d Cir. 1994) (internal quotations and citations omitted). Generally, prejudice includes "the irretrievable loss of evidence, the inevitable dimming of witnesses' memories or the excessive and possibly irremediable burdens or costs imposed on the opposing party." Id . at 874. However, prejudice is not limited to "irremediable" or "irreparable" harm. Id .; see also Ware v. Rodale Press, Inc. , 322 F.3d 218, 222 (3d Cir. 2003); Curtis T. Bedwell & Sons, Inc. v. Int'l Fidelity Ins. Co. , 843 F.2d 683, 693-94 (3d Cir. 1988). It also includes "the burden imposed by impeding a party's ability to prepare effectively a full and complete trial strategy." Ware , 322 F.3d at 222.

In this case, Plaintiff's failure to litigate his claim or comply with court orders now wholly frustrates and delays the resolution of this action. In such instance, Defendants are plainly prejudiced by Plaintiff's continuing inaction and dismissal of the case clearly rests in the discretion of the trial judge. Tillio v. Mendelsohn , 256 F.Appx. 509 (3d Cir. 2007) (concluding that failure to timely serve pleadings compels dismissal); Reshard v. Lankenau Hospital , 256 F.Appx. 506 (3d Cir. 2007) (holding that failure to comply with discovery compels dismissal); Azubuko v. ...


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