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Jackson v. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

May 15, 2015

DEREK WAYNE JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; SUPERINTENDANT BRIAN COLEMAN; MR. LOZADA; MS. HALL; MR. CAMPBELL; ALBERT RIORDAN; SCI FAYETTE MEDICAL DEPARTMENT, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM ORDER Re: ECF Nos. 24, 28, 30, 39.

MAUREEN P. KELLY, Chief Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Derek Wayne Jackson ("Plaintiff"), currently an inmate at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Greene ("SCI - Greene"), has presented a civil rights complaint alleging that Defendants violated his constitutional rights by failing to intervene and otherwise protect him from an inmate assault that occurred while he was incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Fayette ("SCI - Fayette"). Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants violated his rights by committing negligence in the provision of medical care. (ECF No. 7).

Presently before this Court are Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 24), Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration (ECF No. 28) of this Court's Order denying Plaintiff's prior Motion for Appointment of Counsel (ECF No. 11), and Plaintiff's Motion for a Subpoena for the Production of Video Evidence (ECF No. 30).

On May 12, 2015, this Court heard argument on each of the pending Motions, with Plaintiff appearing by video link. Plaintiff capably and ably articulated the basis for each of his pending motions and his grounds for opposition to the Partial Motion to Dismiss. For the reasons set forth below, the Partial Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 24) is granted without prejudice to permit the Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint; the Motion for Reconsideration of this Court's Order regarding appointment of counsel (ECF No. 28) is granted; and the Motion for a Subpoena for Production of Video Evidence (ECF No. 30) is granted in part.

A. Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss

Defendants present two bases for the partial dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint. First, Defendants contend that Plaintiff has insufficiently pled facts establishing liability pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as to Defendants Campbell and Coleman. Second, Defendants argue that Plaintiff cannot maintain a Section 1983 action against two named Defendants, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and the SCI-Fayette Medical Department, because they are not "persons" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

As the Court indicated during the hearing of this matter, federal courts require notice pleading, as opposed to the heightened standard of fact pleading. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds on which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).

However, building upon the landmark United States Supreme Court decisions in Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit explained that a District Court must undertake the following three steps to determine the sufficiency of a complaint: 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." Third, "whe[n] 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." This means that our inquiry is normally broken into three parts: (1) identifying the elements of the claim, (2) reviewing the Complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) looking at the well-pleaded components of the Complaint and evaluating whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently alleged. Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675, 679). The third step of the sequential evaluation requires this Court to consider the specific nature of the claims presented and to determine whether the facts pled to substantiate the claims are sufficient to show a "plausible claim for relief." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a Complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Id. at 210-11; see also Malleus, 641 F.3d at 560. Generally speaking, a Complaint that provides adequate facts to establish "how, when, and where" will survive a motion to dismiss. Fowler, 578 F.3d at 212; see also Guirguis v. Movers Specialty Servs., Inc., 346 F.Appx. 774, 776 (3d Cir. 2009). In short, a motion to dismiss should not be granted if a party alleges facts, which could, if established at trial, entitle him/her to relief. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563, n.8.

1. Claims as to Defendants Campbell and Coleman

In this case, Plaintiff fails to allege any specific facts in the Complaint relative to Defendants Campbell and Coleman sufficient to establish a claim against them. Defendant Campbell is a Lieutenant at SCI-Fayette and Defendant Coleman is the Superintendent of the facility. Plaintiff's constitutional claims are brought pursuant to Section 1983, which provides that "[a] defendant in a civil rights action must have personal involvement in the alleged wrongs to be liable, and cannot be held responsible for a constitutional violation which he or she neither participated in nor approved." Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 210 (3d Cir. 2007). Personal involvement in the alleged wrongdoing may be shown "through allegations of personal direction or of actual knowledge and acquiescence." Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 353 (3d Cir. 2005), quoting Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988). See Ruff v. Health Care Adm'r, 441 F.Appx. 843, 846 (3d Cir. 2011) (per curiam) ("[t]o be liable under § 1983, a defendant must have some personal involvement in the underlying unconstitutional conduct"). See also Kaucher v. County of Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 432 n. 7 (3d Cir. 2006), quoting Estate of Smith v. Marasco, 430 F.3d 140, 151 (3d Cir. 2005) ("[i]n order to prevail on a § 1983 claim against multiple defendants, a plaintiff must show that each individual defendant violated his constitutional rights").

During the hearing of this matter, Plaintiff stated the basis for his claims against both Defendant Coleman and Defendant Campbell. This Court explained the applicable law and that Plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts in the Complaint to state a claim against these Defendants. Plaintiff indicated that he understood that his Complaint fails to allege facts establishing claims against them.

2. Claims as to Defendants Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and SCI Fayette Medical Department.

Plaintiff has identified the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and SCI-Fayette Medical Department as Defendants in this action. However, a § 1983 action brought against a "State and its Board of Corrections is barred by the Eleventh Amendment unless [the State] has consented to the filing of such a suit." Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978): see also Thompson v. Burke, 556 F.2d 231, 232 (3d Cir. 1977) (holding that the parole board could not be sued because it is not a person within the meaning of § 1983). A prison or correctional facility is not a "person" within the meaning of § 1983. See Fischer v. Cahill, 474 F.2d 991, 992 (3d Cir. 1973); Philogene v. Adams County Prison, Civ. No. 97-0043, slip op. at p. 4 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 30, 1997) (Rambo, C.J.); Sponsler v. Berks County Prison, 1995 WL 92370, *1 (E.D. Pa. 1995). It has been similarly recognized that a department within a prison "may not be sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 since it is not a person." Fischer, 474 F.2d at 992; see also Thompkins v. Jane Doe, No. 99-3941, slip op. at 2-3 (3d Cir. March 16, 2000); Stanley v. Delaware Co. Medical Dept., 1991 WL 29928 *1 (E.D.Pa.1991) (concluding that the prison medical department is clearly not a person for purposes of § 1983).

Pursuant to the above standards, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and the SCI-Fayette Medical Department are not ...


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