Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

B.L. v. Lamas

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

February 14, 2017

B.L, Plaintiff,
v.
MARIROSA LAMAS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Robert D. Mariani United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Currently before the Court is Magistrate Judge Carlson's Report and Recommendation ("R&R"), (Doc. 44), on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. 12). Defendants have raised Objections to the R&R, (Doc. 45), that have been fully briefed, (Docs. 46, 47, & 48). After de novo review of the R&R, this Court sustains in part and overrules in part Defendants' Objections and adopts in part the R&R for the reasons set forth within the R&R and for the reasons set forth below. Because the Court adopts the R&R's Statement of Facts and of the Case, (Doc. 44 at 1-8), which were not subject to any objections, the Court need not recite them here.

         II. Objections to the R&R

         Defendants raise four separate objections to the R&R. The Court will address each in turn.

         A. Count II

         Defendants first contend that it was an error for the R&R to recommend denying the Motion to Dismiss as it pertains to Count II of the Complaint. (Doc. 46 at 3-6). Count II of the Complaint alleges that Defendants Lamas, Glunt, Garman, Tice, Hoover, Vance, Harpster, and Rogers are liable under the doctrine of state-created danger. (Doc. 1 at 49). Defendants object on three different grounds: (1) the heading of Count II was brought as an Eighth Amendment claim while the state-created danger doctrine falls under the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) the count should have been dismissed pursuant to the more-specific-provision rule; and (3) the Complaint failed to allege all four elements of the state-created danger doctrine, specifically the foreseeability of harm and affirmative acts requirement. (Doc. 46 at 3-6).

         The Court will only address Defendants' second argument, as that argument provides a meritorious basis to dismiss Count II.[1] Under the more-specific-provision rule, "if a constitutional claim is covered by a specific constitutional provision, such as the Fourth or Eighth Amendment, the claim must be analyzed under the standard appropriate to that specific provision, not under the rubric of substantive due process." United States v. Lanier, 520 U.S. 259, 272 n.7, 117 S.Ct. 1219, 137 L.Ed.2d 432 (1997). In Betts v. New Castle Youth Development Center, the Third Circuit discussed this rule's application to a state-created danger doctrine in the prisoner context. 621 F.3d 249, 259-61 (3d Cir. 2010).

         Betts v. New Castle Youth Development Center involved a youth detention center which provided room for the residents-youths that had been adjudicated delinquent-to play football but which did not provide any safety equipment. Id. at 252-53. Betts, one of these youths, was playing football when he sustained a spinal cord injury while attempting to tackle another player. Id. at 253. In response, Betts brought both an Eighth Amendment claim and a Fourteenth Amendment state-created danger claim against the youth detention center. Id. In analyzing the Fourteenth Amendment claim, the Third Circuit found that "Betts's claims concern his conditions of confinement and an alleged failure by Defendants to ensure his safety. Because these allegations fit squarely within the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, we hold that the more-specific-provision rule forecloses Betts's substantive due process claims." Id. at 261.

         Here, the substance of Count II-that various prison officials either put Plaintiff in an environment in which he was raped, or failed to take action to prevent the rape from occurring-is a direct challenge to the conditions of his confinement. (Doc. 1 at 49-51). Therefore, as a direct challenge to the conditions of his confinement, this allegation falls within the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. As such, Betts forecloses Plaintiffs Fourteenth Amendment[2] state-created danger claim under the more-specific-provision rule, Plaintiff responds by arguing that this Court should not follow Betts because its statements about the more-specific-provision rule are dicta and that, alternatively, Betts impermissibly expanded the rule in contradiction to the Supreme Court precedent that created the rule and therefore Betts should be disregarded by this Court. (Doc. 47 at 4-7). First, the Court does not agree that the holding in Betts was dicta. It explicitly addressed Betts's Fourteenth Amendment claim and determined that it should be dismissed in light of the more-specific-provision rule. Betts, 621 F.3d at 259-61. Second, even if Plaintiffs second argument had merit, this Court is not empowered to overturn binding Third Circuit precedent.

         Thus, in light of the more-specific-provision rule, the Court will sustain Defendants' Objection and grant Defendants' Motion to Dismiss as it pertains to Count II of Plaintiffs Complaint.

         B. Count VIII

         In Count VIII, Plaintiff alleges that he was threatened, first by Defendant Zong, then by other Defendants, that if he told anyone about the abuse, Defendants would file fake misconduct charges against him. (Doc. 1 at 57). Plaintiff alleges that those threats intimidated him to such an extent that he did not use the prison grievance system to report Zong's assaults. (Id.). Plaintiff further contends that the above establish a viable First Amendment retaliation claim.

         "A prisoner alleging retaliation must show (1) constitutionally protected conduct, (2) an adverse action by prison officials 'sufficient to deter a person of ordinary firmness from exercising his [constitutional] rights, ' and (3) 'a causal link between the exercise of his constitutional rights and the adverse action taken against him."' Michell v. Horn,318 F.3d 523, 530 (3d Cir. 2003) (alteration original) (quoting Rauser v. Horn, 241 F.3d 330, 333 (3d Cir. 2001)). The R&R found Plaintiff did not adequately plead a retaliation claim because Plaintiff never actually engaged in a constitutionally protected activity and therefore did not satisfy the first element of the claim.[3] (Doc. 44 at 29). Neither party objects to this ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.