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Payne v. Kerestes

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 16, 2017

JOSHUA I. PAYNE, Plaintiff
JOHN KERESTES, et at., Defendants


          Robert D. Mariani United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Joshua Payne ("Payne"), an inmate currently confined at the Mahanoy State Correctional Institution, in Frackville, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Mahanoy"), commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). Named as Defendants are the following employees of SCI-Mahanoy: John Kerestes, Hugh Beggs, Jessica Carey, Sara Falkson, Jeanne Macknight, John Muick, John Steinhart, and Michael Vuksta, (collectively, "Corrections Defendants"). (Id. at pp. 2, 5, 6). Also named as a Defendant is Dr. David Ahner. (Id. at p. 6).

         Presently pending before the Court is a motion (Doc. 18) to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) by the Corrections Defendants, and a motion (Doc. 16) to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) by Defendant Ahner. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant each of the pending motions and will grant Payne an opportunity to amend his complaint.

         I. Standard of Review

         A complaint must be dismissed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). The plaintiff must aver "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009).

         "Though a complaint 'does not need detailed factual allegations, ... a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" DelRio-Mocci v. Connolly Prop. Inc., 672 F.3d 241, 245 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). In other words, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Covington v. Int'l Ass'n of Approved Basketball Officials, 710 F.3d 114, 118 (3d Cir. 2013) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). A court take[s] as true all the factual allegations in the Complaint and the reasonable inferences that can be drawn from those facts, but... disregard[s] legal conclusions and threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Ethypharm S.A. France v. Abbott Laboratories, 707 F.3d 223, 231, n.14 (3d Cir. 2013) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

         Twombly and Iqbal require [a district court] to take the following three steps to determine the sufficiency of a complaint; First, the court must take 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. Connelly v. Steel Valley Sch. Dist, 706 F.3d 209, 212 (3d Cir. 2013).

         "[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not show[n] - that the pleader is entitled to relief." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). This "plausibility" determination will be a "context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

         However, even "if a complaint is subject to Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, a district court must permit a curative amendment unless such an amendment would be inequitable or futile." Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 245 (3d Cir. 2008).

[E]ven when plaintiff does not seek leave to amend his complaint after a defendant moves to dismiss it, unless the district court finds that amendment would be inequitable or futile, the court must inform the plaintiff that he or she has leave to amend the complaint within a set period of time.


         II. Allegations of the Complaint

         A. Allegations against the Corrections Defendants

         The claims in the complaint stem from Payne's alleged inadequate mental health treatment at SCI-Mahanoy. (Doc. 1). On May 22, 2014, Payne was transferred to SCI-Mahanoy and placed in the special needs unit ("SNU") in general population. (Id. at ¶ 22). Payne alleges that he is a "mentally ill prisoner" and has been diagnosed with "phencyclidine use disorder, severe; schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type; borderline personality disorder; major depressive disorder, impulse control disorder, and a delusional disorder." (Doc. 1, ¶ 16). Due to these illnesses, Payne was assigned a stability code "D" status, indicating that he has the "most serious" need for mental health services. (Id. at ¶ 17).

         In May 2014, Payne allegedly spoke to Defendant Muick about the mental health programs available at SCI-Mahanoy. (Id. at ¶ 23). Defendant Muick allegedly responded, "I will look into it" (Id. at ¶ 24). On June 23, 2014, Payne claims that he sent a request to Defendants Muick, Kerestes, Vuksta, Beggs, Ahner, and Macknight stating that his housing block did not have the mental health programs that he needed as an inmate with a stability code "D" status. (Id. at ¶ 27). Payne also informed these Defendants that a psychologist had not visited his housing unit, and that he had not been allowed to participate in any mental health programs. (Id.). He claims that his requests were not answered. (Id. at ¶ 28).

         On June 24, 2014, Payne completed a request to staff member form wherein he requested treatment by a psychologist and placement in a mental health program, (Id.). He alleges that this request was not answered, however he states that he was treated by a psychologist the following week. (Id. at ¶ 29).

         In August 2014, Payne was sent to the restricted housing unit ("RHU") pending an investigation for violation of facility rules. (Id. at ¶ 33).

         Payne claims that he sent requests to Defendants Kerestes, Beggs, Vuksta, Macknight, Ahner, Muick, the Corrections Healthcare Administrator ("CHCA"), and a John Doe about being moved to the SNU and placed in mental health programs. (Id. at ¶ 40). He alleges that his requests went unanswered. (Id.).

         In December 2014, Payne claims that he again sent a request slip to Defendants Kerestes, Beggs, Vuksta, Muick, Ahner, the CHCA, and Macknight wherein he stated that he was "not receiving proper mental health treatment" and has not been able to participate in group sessions. (Id. at ¶ 42). Defendant Kerestes allegedly responded that Payne first needed to discuss his concerns with his housing unit team. (Id. at ¶ 43).

         In January 2015, Payne asserts that he asked Defendant Carey why he was moved to a different cell block. (Id. at ¶ 44). Defendant Carey allegedly stated that Defendant Muick initiated his move. (Id. at ¶¶ 4445). She further informed Payne that he was going to remain on the new cell block and he was still classified as a "D" code status. (Id. at ¶ 45). Defendant Carey responded to Payne's request slip and informed him that there are no stability "D" groups on his block, but emphasized that he sees psychology and counseling staff regularly. (Id. at ΒΆΒΆ 4648). Payne alleges that the psychologist and counselor were not readily available when ...

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