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Ealy v. Sullen

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 16, 2015

VERNON L. EALY, JR., Plaintiff
MR. SULLEN, CAPTAIN OF SECURITY, et al., Defendants.


JAMES M. MUNLEY, District Judge.

Vernon L. Ealy ("Ealy"), an inmate formerly incarcerated at the Franklin County Jail, filed this civil rights action on November 14, 2013 (Doc. 1), naming as defendants the following: Daniel S. Keen ("Keen"), Warden; James Sullen ("Sullen"), Captain of Security; Russell R. Rouzer ("Rouzer"), Deputy Warden of Security; Prison Medical Provider; Suzanne Murphy ("Murphy"), Registered Nurse; Crystal Shindledecker ("Shindledecker") Licensed Practitioner Nurse; Jessica Sterner-Lensbower ("Sterner-Lensbower"), Director of Treatment; and, Michelle Weller ("Weller"), Deputy Warden of Treatment. Presently ripe for disposition are defendants' motions (Docs. 19, 20) to dismiss Ealy's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons that follow, the motion (Doc. 19) filed on behalf of defendants Keen, Sullen, Rouzer, Sterner-Lensbower, and Weller will be granted. The motion (Doc. 20) filed on behalf of Prison Medical Provider, Murphy and Shindledecker will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Standard of Review

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). 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)). Although the court is generally limited in its review to the facts contained in the complaint, it "may also consider matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case." Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n. 2 (3d Cir. 1994); see also In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997).

Federal notice and pleading rules require the complaint to provide "the defendant notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To test the sufficiency of the complaint in the face of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must conduct a three-step inquiry. See Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130-31 (3d Cir. 2010). In the first step, "the court must tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.'" Id . (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 675 (2009)). Next, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated; well-pleaded facts must be accepted as true, while mere legal conclusions may be disregarded. Id .; see also Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). Once the well-pleaded factual allegations have been isolated, the court must determine whether they are sufficient to show a "plausible claim for relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (requiring plaintiffs to allege facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level"). 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, 556 U.S. at 678.

II. Allegations of the Complaint

Ealy alleges that in April 2013, he was transferred to the Franklin County Jail and was seen by defendant Shindledecker during medical intake. (Doc. 1, ¶ 13). He provided her with his medical history and informed her that he was "transferred early" to allow for treatment for "liver disease Hep. C." (Id.) He also informed her that he had boots with custom made medical inserts to alleviate foot pain that stems from "his extreme flat-footedness." (Id. at ¶¶ 13, 28). Allegedly, he "was told to leave [his] boots with [his] medical inserts and was given slippers. [He] was told by the C.O's that [he] will be able to get them back upon approval from medical." (Id.)

On April 20, 2013, and April 28, 2013, he submitted two sick call requests complaining of severe foot pain because he did not have his "medical shoes." (Id. at ¶ 14). He also complained about pain in the area of his liver and stomach. (Id.). He alleges he was being "neglected" because he was not seen and, when he inquired why he was not being seen, a nurse, who was visiting the area where his cell was located, informed him that he was on the waiting list. (Id.).

He alleges that in June 2013, he experienced severe stomach and abdominal pain while in his cell and, despite phone calls from Corrections Officer Knouse seeking medical care on Ealy's behalf, defendant Murphy failed to respond. (Doc. 1, ¶ 21). Eventually, Murphy allegedly admitted to Corrections Officer Knouse that she forgot about Ealy because there was a lot of people in intake that she had to admit. (Id.) Ealy filed a grievance concerning the denial of medical treatment for his liver condition and the failure to provide him with his medical footwear. (Id. at ¶ 21). He alleges that defendant Murphy untruthfully responded to the grievance when she represented that he had refused appointments and blood work. (Id.)

Efforts to obtain his boots and medical inserts continued through June and July. He alleges that the delay in receiving the boots and medical inserts was solely due to security concerns. (Id. at ¶¶ 15-19). In July, Ealy's request for the boots with medical inserts was denied by defendant Sullen because the boots were not authorized for the facility. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 15-19). Ealy sent an inmate request slip to defendant Keen, who affirmed the position of defendant Sullen. (Id. at ¶ 19). "At some point after July Medical bought [him] medical inserts with nothing to place them in." (Id.) His request for high top sneakers or some other alternative footwear that could accommodate the medical inserts and provide him with some relief from his "special foot condition" was denied by defendant Sullen and the medical staff. (Id. at ¶¶ 19-20).

III. Discussion

Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code offers private citizens a cause of action for violations of federal law by state officials. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress....

Id.; see also Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273, 284-85 (2002); Kneipp v. Tedder, 95 F.3d 1199, 1204 (3d Cir. 1996). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege "the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by ...

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