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Foster v. Lawrence

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

February 19, 2015

JOHNNY FOSTER, Plaintiff
v.
NURSE COLLEEN LAWRENCE, ET AL., Defendants

MEMORANDUM

MATTHEW W. BRANN, District Judge.

Background

This pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 was filed by Johnny Foster, an inmate confined at the Dauphin County Prison, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Service of the Complaint was previously ordered.

Named as Defendants are Warden Dominick DeRose of the Dauphin County Prison, PrimeCare Medical Inc. ("PrimeCare") and two of its employees, Medical Director Jim Yannick and Nurse Colleen Lawrence. Plaintiff alleges that on the morning of August 10, 2013, Nurse Lawrence "yelled out" in front of other inmates and correctional officers on his cell block that he was HIV positive. Doc. 1, p. 2, ¶ (b). As a result, it is alleged that rumors about the Plaintiff spread throughout the prison which have "greatly raised the chances" of Foster being harassed by prisoners and correctional staff and caused him sleep deprivation.[1] Id. at p. 5. Plaintiff adds that he filed a grievance regarding Nurse Lawrence's remark with the other Defendants but they failed to take any action. He also speculates that Defendant Lawrence was improperly trained. The Complaint also includes pendent state law tort claims. Plaintiff seeks injunctive and declaratory relief as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

Warden DeRose responded to the Complaint by filing a motion to dismiss or in the alternative a motion for more definite statement. See Doc. 16. The PrimeCare Defendants similarly submitted a motion to dismiss or in the alternative a motion for more definite statement. See Doc. 17. Both motions are unopposed.[2]

Discussion

Warden DeRose asserts that the claims against him should be dismissed or in the alternative the Plaintiff should be required to file a more specific pleading because there are no allegations that DeRose was involved in the alleged dissemination of the Plaintiff's medical information. See Doc. 18, p. 4. The PrimeCare Defendants seek similar relief on the grounds that: (1) a prisoner does not enjoy a right to privacy in his medical information to the same extent as a free citizen; (2) claims of verbal harassment are constitutionally insufficient; (3) there is no claim that needed medical treatment was denied or delayed; (4) liability cannot be imposed under a theory of respondeat superior; (5) the bald assertion of failure to train is deficient; and (6) supplemental jurisdiction should be declined with respect to the state law claims.

More Definite Statement

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e) provides that "[a] party may move for a more definite statement of a pleading to which a responsive pleading is allowed but which is so vague or ambiguous that the party cannot reasonably prepare a response. pleading, the party may move for a more definite statement before interposing a responsive pleading." Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) a complaint should consist of short and plain statements setting forth the basis for jurisdiction, the claims, and a demand for judgment for the requested relief. It is initially noted that although pro se litigants such as Houston are entitled to liberal treatment, [3] they are not free to ignore the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

"A court may grant a Rule 12(e) motion when the pleading is so vague or ambiguous that the opposing party cannot respond even with a simple denial in good faith...." Hicks v. Arthur, 843 F.Supp. 949, 959 (E.D. Pa. 1994).

Motion to Dismiss

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must "accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007)(quoting Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005)). A plaintiff must present facts that, if true, demonstrate a plausible right to relief. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(stating that the complaint should include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief"); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). This requirement "calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" the necessary elements of the plaintiff's cause of action. Id. at 556. A complaint must contain "more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. Legal conclusions must be supported by factual allegations and the complaint must state a plausible claim for relief. See id. at 1950.

"Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Twombly, at 555. The reviewing court must determine whether the complaint "contain[s] either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory." Id. at 562; see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008)(in order to survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must allege in his complaint "enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal ...


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