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Jae v. Stickman

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

September 29, 2014

JOHN RICHARD JAE, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN WILLIAM STICKMAN, DEPUTY WARDEN B. EMERICK, CAPTAIN COLEMAN, THE PRISON CASHIERS, OFFICER GAMBRILL, 5F RELIEF OFFICERS, and ALLEGHENY COUNTY Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER RE: ECF No. 57.

LISA PUPO LENIHAN, Chief Magistrate Judge.

I. Factual and Procedural History

John Richard Jae ("Plaintiff") initiated this case in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in August, 2012, and, it was removed to this Court by Defendant Darlene (who has since been voluntarily dismissed).[1] In his first of what would eventually reach four (4) Amended Complaints, this pro se Plaintiff filed his claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 and alleged that the conditions of his confinement at the Allegheny County Jail (the "ACJ") violated his rights under the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. More specifically, Plaintiff complained that Defendants failed to follow their own ACJ Inmate Handbook with regard to his rights to printed materials and grievance procedures; that his access to courts was denied by the ACJ's failure to provide a library or adequate photocopying materials/equipment; that his rights of equal protection and his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. ยง 12101 et seq., were violated by Defendants' refusal to increase the volume of his prison pod TV to accommodate his hearing impairment; and that he was not provided with meals that met the recommended daily caloric intake and nutritional guidelines.

In January, 2013, Defendants, all employees of the ACJ, moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state a claim (ECF No. 17). The Court granted that Motion, but without prejudice as to Plaintiff's claims (1) of denial of right to access the courts and (2) under the ADA. Plaintiff's claims remained against Defendants in their official capacities. See Memorandum Opinion and Order (ECF No. 41). Plaintiff has filed a Second, Third and Fourth Amended Complaint. The latter contain only an ADA claim. And Defendants have filed another Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 57).

The Fourth Amended Complaint adds as a Defendant and expressly seeks damages from Allegheny County, and Allegheny County has joined in the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. See discussion, infra ; see also Joinder (ECF No. 75), Defendants' Supplemental Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 76)[2], and this Court's text Order of August 18, 2014.

Plaintiff has made no further amendment with respect to his claim of denial of a right of access to the courts, no factual allegations of actual injury ( i.e. , an impairment to his pursuit of a legal claim), and indeed no mention of that claim in his latest Complaints (despite this Court's express October 4, 2013 guidance that "an Amended Complaint entirely replaces a previously filed Complaint"), Rather, he has - as Defendants assert - abandoned this claim in subsequent amendments, and such claim therefore will be formally dismissed. See Defendants' Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss at 2. Plaintiff has also failed to make any factual allegations against the Prison Cashiers (who were presumably named, together with the subsequently voluntarily dismissed Defendant "Darlene", in relation to his dismissed meal complaints) and, accordingly, these Defendants will be dismissed. See Defendants' Brief in Support of Motion to Dismiss at 6.

As Plaintiff has, however, subsequently amended his Complaints to include factual allegations which meet, in light of his pro se status and the directions of the Third Circuit with regard to this Court's consideration of pro se prisoner civil rights actions, the requirements of a prima facie claim under the ADA, the Motion to Dismiss must be denied as to said claim and related Defendants. See Fourth Amended Complaint (ECF No. 72).[3] The Court observes the significant difference in the standard by which Plaintiff's claim would be reviewed on a Motion for Summary Judgment.

II. Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Kost v. Kozakiewicz , 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). A complaint must be dismissed for failure to state a claim 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. 554, 556 (2007) (rejecting the traditional 12(b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)); Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 129 S.Ct.1937, 1949 (May 18, 2009) (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555-57). "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." Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556). The Supreme Court further explained:

The plausibility standard is not akin to a "probability requirement, " but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are "merely consistent with" a defendant's liability, it "stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'"

Id. (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556-57).

In Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside , 578 F.3d 203 (3d Cir. Aug. 18, 2009), the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit described how the Rule 12(b)(6) standard had changed in light of Twombly and Iqbal as follows:

After Iqbal, it is clear that conclusory or "bare-bones" allegations will no longer survive a motion to dismiss: "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. at 1949. To prevent dismissal, all civil complaints must now set out "sufficient factual matter" to show that the claim is facially plausible. This then "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 1948. The Supreme Court's ruling in Iqbal emphasizes that a ...

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