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Parms v. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 25, 2015

NIGEL PARMS, Plaintiff
v.
PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER[1]

SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER, Magistrate Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Relevant Procedural and Factual History

Plaintiff Nigel Parms, an adult individual formerly incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Albion, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Albion"), brings this action against Defendant Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"), pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12132 ("ADA"), and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 USC § 794 ("Rehab Act").

Plaintiff is hearing impaired and unable to effectively communicate except through American Sign Language ("ASL"). (ECF No. 1, Complaint, at p. 1). Plaintiff claims that he was subjected to "persistent discrimination on the basis of his disability" while he was incarcerated at SCI-Albion. (Id.). In particular, Plaintiff alleges that he was repeatedly sanctioned for failing to obey verbal orders and failing to stand for count, which resulted in extensive confinement in SCI-Albion's Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU"). In addition, Plaintiff alleges that he was excluded from numerous services as a result of his disability, including meals, religious services, and medical treatment. As a result, Plaintiff claims that Defendant violated his rights under Titles II and III of the ADA, and Section 504 of the Rehab Act. As relief for his claims, Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment and compensatory damages.

On June 5, 2014, Defendant filed a partial motion for judgment on the pleadings [ECF No. 9], asserting that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under Title III of the ADA, and arguing that all of Plaintiff's allegations pertaining to the misconducts and discipline he received at SCI-Albion must be dismissed because disciplinary procedures are not programs or services governed by Title II the ADA. Plaintiff has filed a brief in opposition to Defendant's motion [ECF No. 11] voluntarily withdrawing his claim under Title III of the ADA, but contesting Defendant's motion in all other respects. Defendant subsequently filed a reply brief in response to Plaintiff's opposition. [ECF No. 12]. This matter is now ripe for consideration.

B. Standard of Review

A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), like a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). A complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12 (b)(6) 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. 544, 570 (2007)(rejecting the traditional 12 (b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)). See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (specifically applying Twombly analysis beyond the context of the Sherman Act).

The Court need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts as set forth in the complaint. See California Pub. Employee Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004) citing Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Nor must the court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Although the United States Supreme Court does "not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, [the Court does require] enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570.

In other words, at the motion to dismiss stage, a plaintiff is "required to make a showing' rather than a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief." Smith v. Sullivan, 2008 WL 482469, at *1 (D.Del. February 19, 2008) quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008). "This does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, ' but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234, quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

The Third Circuit Court has prescribed the following three-step approach to determine the sufficiency of a complaint under Twombly and Iqbal:

First, the court must tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.' Second, the court should identify allegations that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.' Finally, where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.'

Burtch v. Milberg Factors, Inc., 662 F.3d 212, 221 (3d Cir. 2011), citing Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1947, 1950); see also Great Western Mining & Min. ...


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