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Cadet v. Quigley

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

February 17, 2017

JANINE QUIGLEY, et al. Defendants.


          GERALD J. PAPPERT, J.

         Plaintiff Jerry Cadet, a pro se inmate at Berks County Jail, sued Warden Janine Quigley, Deputy Warden Russell, Kitchen Supervisor Tassone, Captain Torres, Christian Leinbach, Kevin Barnhardt, Mark Scott, Sandy Graffius (collectively “Correctional Defendants”), PrimeCare Medical and Physician Assistant Jesse Kivsah (collectively “Medical Defendants”), alleging that he is unable to maintain an adequate diet because every Thursday the prison serves ham that makes him sick. Such allegations implicate Cadet's rights under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, which the Court grants, for failure to state a claim.


         Cadet does not like the jail's “Thursday ham slice” which, as the title implies, is apparently served for dinner each Thursday. (Pl.'s Compl., at 3, ECF No. 5.) He contends that the ham is unsafe to eat and that on several occasions he vomited after dining on it. (Id.) He claims that his throat burned, he felt dizzy and his stomach “continue[d] to hurt for several hours[, ] sometimes a few days making [him] unable to eat anything.” (Id.) He alleges that he told the correctional officers every time this occurred and on one occasion was sent to medical, where he was told that they could not do anything about it. (Id.) He also contends that despite asking for an alternative meal on several occasions, his requests were denied all but once. (Id. at 5.) He has submitted numerous grievances describing the ham's deficient characteristics and qualities as well as the physical symptoms he experienced after eating it. See (id. at 9-17). In one of his grievances, he wrote “I'm not eating the amount I should be eating because of this issue.” (Id. at 14.) The prison, however, continued to serve the ham. As of the May 28, 2016 signing of his complaint, he stated that he had been dealing with this dilemma for eleven weeks.[1]

         Cadet filed his complaint on July 11, 2016, asserting claims against PrimeCare Medical, Kivsah, Quigley, Torres, Russell, Tassone and the owners of Berks County Jail. (ECF No. 5.) On July 20 Cadet wrote a letter to the Clerk of the Court naming Leinbach, Barnhardt, Scott and Graffius as the jail's purported owners.[2] (ECF No. 9.) These individuals were substituted as defendants in the case on July 28. (ECF No. 8.) On September 8 the Correctional Defendants filed their motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 24.) The next day the Medical Defendants filed their motion. (ECF No. 25.) After receiving copies of the motions, Cadet wrote to the Court on October 12 stating that it was his understanding that his case had been dismissed and requesting to be reimbursed for the filing fee. (ECF No. 26.) On October 21 the Court issued an order clarifying that Cadet's case had not been dismissed and directing Cadet to file a response to the motions by November 21. (ECF No. 27.)

         To date, Cadet has not responded nor requested an extension of time in which to do so. The Court will nevertheless analyze the motion on the merits. See Jones v. Unemployment Comp. Bd. of Review, 381 F. App'x 187, 189 (3d Cir. 2010) (holding that a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) should not be granted without an analysis of the merits, notwithstanding local rules regarding unopposed motions, especially where the party is not represented); Ray v. Reed, 240 F. App'x 455, 456 (3d Cir. 2007) (same); see also Carter v. Harper, No. 2:14- 01260, 2015 WL 3485726, at *2-3 (W.D. Pa. June 2, 2015) (analyzing pro se complaint on the merits despite plaintiff's failure to file a response); Malcomb v. Beaver Cty. Pa. (Prothonotary), No. 2:13-1772, 2014 WL 2195410, at *1 (W.D. Pa. May 27, 2014), aff'd sub nom. Malcomb v. Beaver Cty. Pa. (Prothonotary), 616 F. App'x 44 (3d Cir. 2015) (same).


         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff must plead factual allegations sufficient “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).” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The “mere possibility of misconduct” is not enough. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). The court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 790 (3d Cir. 2016) (citations omitted). However, a court need not accept as true inferences drawn by the plaintiff that are unsupported by facts. See Cal. Pub. Emps.' Ret. Sys. v. Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004).

         Because Cadet filed his complaint pro se, the Court “must liberally construe his pleadings.” Dluhos v. Strasberg, 321 F.3d 365, 369 (3d Cir. 2003) (citation omitted); see also Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972) (holding that pro se pleadings, “however inartfully pleaded, ” must be held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers”). “Courts are to construe complaints so ‘as to do substantial justice, ' keeping in mind that pro se complaints in particular should be construed liberally.” Bush v. City of Philadelphia, 367 F.Supp.2d 722, 725 (E.D. Pa. 2005) (quoting Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 234 (3d Cir. 2004)). Moreover, in a § 1983 action, the Court must “apply the applicable law, irrespective of whether a pro se litigant has mentioned it by name.” Higgins v. Beyer, 293 F.3d 683, 688 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting Holley v. Dep't of Veteran Affairs, 165 F.3d 244, 247-48 (3d Cir. 1999)); see also Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996) (“Since this is a § 1983 action, the [pro se] plaintiffs are entitled to relief if their complaint sufficiently alleges deprivation of any right secured by the Constitution.” (quoting Higgins, 293 F.3d at 688)).


         As an initial matter, Defendants Leinbach, Barnhardt, Scott and Graffius must be dismissed due to a lack of personal involvement with Cadet's claim. “In order for § 1983 liability to be appropriate, ‘[a] defendant in a civil rights action must have personal involvement in the alleged wrongdoing; liability cannot be predicated solely on the operation of respondeat superior.'” Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 353 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988)). The plaintiff must allege personal involvement, which “can be shown through allegations of personal direction or of actual knowledge and acquiescence, ” and must be pled with particularity. Id. Cadet's complaint does not contain any allegations regarding these Defendants or their involvement with his claim. He does not claim that any of them were aware of the serving of the Thursday ham slice, the ham's alleged deficiencies or his complaints regarding the ham and its effects on him. Moreover, there is no indication that these Defendants-who Cadet believes own the jail-work there or have any contact with individual inmates or corrections officers. Thus, the claims against them will be dismissed based on a lack of sufficient personal involvement in any alleged wrongdoing.


         Although “the Constitution ‘does not mandate comfortable prisons, ' . . . neither does it permit inhumane ones, ” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994) (quoting Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 349 (1981)), and “the treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which he is confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment, ” id. (quoting Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993)). At minimum, “prison officials must ensure that inmates receive adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care, and must ‘take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates.'” Id. (quoting Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984)). The Eighth Amendment also “prohibits punishments which, although not physically barbarous, ‘involve the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 346 (quoting Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976)). “Among ‘unnecessary and wanton' inflictions of pain are those that are ‘totally without penological justification.'” Id. (citing Gregg, 428 U.S. at 183; Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976)).

         Not all harms violate the Eighth Amendment, however. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. “[A] prison official violates the Eighth Amendment only when two requirements are met. First, the deprivation alleged must be, objectively, sufficiently serious, . . . [it] must result in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.” Id. (internal citations omitted). Proving that one has been deprived of the minimal civilized measures of life's necessities requires proof that one has been denied “basic human needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care and personal safety.” Griffin v. Vaughn, 112 F.3d 703, 709 (3d Cir. 1997). Only “extreme deprivations” are sufficient to present ...

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