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Cadet v. The Owners or Berks County Jail

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

February 17, 2017



          GERALD J. PAPPERT, J.

         Plaintiff Jerry Cadet, a pro se inmate at Berks County Jail, sued Warden Janine Quigley, Sergeant Vimbilliard, Correctional Officer Landis, Christian Leinbach, Kevin Barnhardt, Mark Scott and Sandy Graffius, claiming that he was subject to unconstitutional conditions of confinement during a 10-day stay in the disciplinary unit. Though he does not specify the authority pursuant to which he brings his claim, such allegations are analyzed under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.[1] Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, which the Court grants.


         Cadet alleges that he was written up and sentenced to ten days in the jail's disciplinary unit for using his cellmate's free phone call. (Pl.'s Compl., at 3, ECF No. 3.) While housed in the unit, Cadet claims that his mattress was taken away from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. for seven days and he was fed “punishment meals” “when he initially arrived to the [unit].” His stay in the disciplinary caused him to “go crazy in there” and the absence of a mattress during the day caused him “severe back pain” and allegedly led to his development of hemorrhoids. (Id.) He believes that the purported violations of his constitutional rights entitle him to $10, 000 for each day spent in the disciplinary unit, another $10, 000 for the body aches and hemorrhoids and an additional $10, 000 for not being able to access the jail's law library. (Id. at 6.)

         Cadet filed his complaint on July 20, 2016, asserting claims against Quigley, Vimbilliard, Landis and the owners of Berks County Jail. (ECF No. 3.) 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. 7.) These individuals were substituted as defendants in the case on July 28. (ECF No. 6.) On September 8 Defendants filed their motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 18.) After receiving copies of the motion, 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. 19.) 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 motion to dismiss by November 21. (ECF No. 20.)

         To date, Cadet has not filed any type of responsive pleading 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). 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 disciplinary action taken against him or the alleged conditions in the disciplinary unit. 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.


         Cadet has not alleged sufficient personal involvement with respect to Quigley either. He merely alleges that Quigley denied his appeal of the sentence, which is insufficient involvement to support § 1983 liability. See Gannaway v. Prime Care Medical, Inc., 150 F.Supp.3d 511, 526 (E.D. Pa. 2015) (“denial of a grievance does not rise to the level of personal involvement required for § 1983 liability”). Even if he had, however, his claim would fail because the conditions of which he complains are not unconstitutional.

         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. ...

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