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Rivera v. Chester County

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 28, 2017

MICHAEL A. RIVERA
v.
CHESTER COUNTY, et al.

          MEMORANDUM

          O'NEILL, J.

         The present action involves a pro se complaint filed against more than sixty defendants by plaintiff Michael A. Rivera. Plaintiff's claims arise out of a lengthy string of events beginning with his initial arrest and continuing through his subsequent and continuing incarceration. Four groups, which encompass all of the named defendants, each filed a motion to dismiss. Upon consideration of these motions and plaintiff's joint response, I will grant the motions in part and deny them in part.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff initiated this action on February 16, 2016 against multiple corrections officers, the Chester County Prison warden, the prison's food and medical director, several random prison employees, Chester County municipality, PrimeCare Medical, Inc., prison medical staff, the East Vincent Township Police Department, New Garden Township Police Department, the Chester County Detectives Office and individual Chester County Detectives. His amended complaint sets forth a litany of constitutional violations under the First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments resulting from events beginning with an arrest in 2014 and continuing through July 2015 during his incarceration. The allegations, which consume over 150 paragraphs in the amended complaint and another sixteen pages of what appears to be a memorandum of support for his claims, cover a wide variety of subjects including excessive force, deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, deprivation of access to the law library, inhumane conditions of confinement, equal protection violations and denial of access to the grievance system.

         I originally dismissed plaintiff's complaint without prejudice under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. In doing so, I gave plaintiff explicit instructions for filing an amended complaint. Specifically, I directed that:

1. The amended complaint must be filed within thirty days from the date of this memorandum and order.
2. The amended complaint must recite factual allegations which are sufficient to raise plaintiff's claimed right to relief above the level of mere speculation.
3. The amended complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” and set forth allegations that are “simple, concise, and direct.” 4. The amended complaint must describe plaintiff's causes of action in separately numbered paragraphs for each incident about which plaintiff alleges a claim. The allegations must clearly identify the time, place, conduct and name of the person responsible for the offending acts.
5. The amended complaint must be a new pleading which stands by itself as an adequate complaint without reference to any other pleading already filed.
6. The amended complaint must be legible and should be either handwritten in blue or black ink with proper margins, or typewritten.

Mem. & Order, ECF No. 87, Sept. 19, 2016.

         On November 2, 2016, plaintiff filed a sixteen-page amended complaint consisting of more than 150 numbered paragraphs. These paragraphs follow the same general format by listing in chronological order the type of violation (e.g., Eighth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment), the defendant against whom the violation is stated (e.g., Officer Matthew Williams, PrimeCare), the date and a cursory basis for the claim (e.g., for giving plaintiff involuntary medications, for denying plaintiff basic hygiene/showers, for using excessive force without cause). In addition, plaintiff attaches another document that, like his previous complaint, gives a sixteen-page, single-spaced, run-on narrative of the various events underlying his claims. The document, which I shall refer to as the “complaint memorandum, ” provides factual allegations to support each cause of action.

         On November 16, 2016, defendants PrimeCare Medical, Inc., Staci Suzuki, Psy.D., John P. Fraunces, Ed.D., Karen Murphy, RN, CCHP, Molly Longare, PA-C., Megan Hughes, PA-C, Briana Culp, PA-C, Corey Cotton, LPN, Mabel Moiyallah, MA and Nurse Lisa (collectively, the “medical defendants”) filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Dkt. No. 91. On the same day, a similar motion was filed by defendants County of Chester, Cpl. Michael Marconi, Correctional Officer (CO) Troy Daniels, Sgt. Yaroslav Yancik, CO Wilson, CO Valerie McCormack, CO Joseph Moore, Cpl. Preston Whitesell, Cpl. Jose Garcia, Lt. P. Steve Sergi, Lt. David Ham, Lt. Edson Forbes, Capt. Morgan Taylor, Warden D. Edward McFadden, Capt. Harry Griswold, Lt. Robert Mastnjak, Sgt. Donald Muller, Sgt. Golden English, CO Randy Little, CO Kenneth Klinger, CO David Haines, Capt. Ocie Miller, Capt. Pamela Saunders, Capt. Gene Farina, Major D. Scott Graham, CO Powers, Deputy Warden Walter Reed, Counselor Jorge Vazquez, CO Weed, Corporal Ca'role White, Lt. James Brooks, Sgt. Michael Young, Sgt. Arnold Lynch, CO Raymond Riggins (and/or Riggens), CO (CEU) Tear, Director of Treatment Services Jack Healy, Corporal James Svah, CO Jesus Ruiz, CO Domonique Bemberry, CO Wesley Suydum, CO Weed, Officer Stevenson, Work Supervisor Robert Francis, Chester County Detectives Office, Detective Robert Balcunis, Detective David Grandizio and Detective Ken Beam (collectively, the “Chester County defendants”). Dkt. No. 90. Defendants New Garden Township PD and Officer Matthew Jones filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss on November 17, 2016, Dkt. No. 92, and Defendants East Vincent Township PD and Chief Matthew Williams filed a motion to dismiss on February 7, 2017. Dkt. No. 95. On February 13, 2017, plaintiff responded to all four motions. Dkt. No. 98.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that the plaintiff has not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); see also Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). The United States Supreme Court has recognized that “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quotations omitted). “[T]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice” and “only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. A complaint does not show an entitlement to relief when the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct. Id.

         The Court of Appeals has detailed a three-step process to determine whether a complaint meets the pleadings standard. Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352 (3d Cir. 2014). First, the court outlines the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim for relief. Id. at 365. Next, the court must “peel away those allegations that are no more than conclusions and thus not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. Finally, the court “look[s] for well-pled factual allegations, assume[s] their veracity, and then ‘determine[s] whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.'” Id., quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The last step is “‘a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.'” Id., quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         A prisoner's pro se complaint should be “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” United States ex rel. Walker v. Fayette Cnty., Pa., 599 F.2d 573, 575 (3d Cir. 1979), citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972). The court must construe the facts stated in the complaint liberally in favor of the plaintiff. Haines, 404 U.S. at 520. “Yet there are limits to our procedural flexibility. For example, pro se litigants still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim.” Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013). Thus, even a pro se complaint must conform with the requirements of Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation” or “naked assertions” that are devoid of “factual enhancement.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotations omitted). “A pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action' will not do.” Id.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Compliance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         As noted above, I originally dismissed plaintiff's complaint without prejudice under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which requires that I conduct a preliminary review of any pro se complaint seeking redress against government officials. Section 1915A provides, in pertinent part:

(a) Screening.-The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for dismissal.-On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A. This standard mirrors the standard for addressing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Schreane v. Seana, 506 F. App'x 120, 122 (3d Cir. 2012).

         Plaintiff's amended complaint does not fully comply with my previous instructions. Most notably, the amended complaint does not stand alone as an adequate pleading, but rather relies on the attached “complaint memorandum.” Moreover, rather than dividing his claims into categories, the complaint memorandum provides a stream-of-consciousness type discussion of the operative facts. Given these failures, I would be justified in again dismissing the complaint with or without prejudice to leave to amend pursuant to § 1915.

         Nonetheless, I decline to do so for two reasons. First, as plaintiff has already been given detailed directions on pleading, allowing leave to amend again would likely not result in a significantly improved complaint. More importantly, plaintiff's complaint memorandum, which is similar to his initial complaint, provides more detailed factual allegations in support of the causes of action set forth in his amended complaint. His actual amended complaint then provides cross-references between each of his separately-numbered claims and the pertinent section in the complaint memorandum. Taking these two documents together, I find that plaintiff can survive § 1915 screening.

         Defendants have now filed a second round of motions to dismiss that specifically address the merits of plaintiff's underlying claims. Plaintiff, in turn, has substantively responded to defendants' motions. Reading plaintiff's complaint and response in the most liberal fashion and drawing all plausible inferences in favor of plaintiff's claims, I will now address the substance of the claims in the amended complaint.

         II. Motion to Dismiss by Defendants New Garden Township Police Department and Officer Matthew Jones

         Defendants New Garden Township Police Department and Officer Matthew Jones seek dismissal of all claims against them. For the following reasons, I will grant their motion in part and deny it in part.

         A. New Garden Township Police Department

         Plaintiff does not provide any factual allegations or legal claims against New Garden Police Department. Assuming plaintiff meant to impose liability against New Garden Police Department based on the acts of its employees, this claim must fail for two reasons.

         First, “[i]n Section 1983 actions, police departments cannot be sued in conjunction with municipalities, because the police department is merely an administrative arm of the local municipality, and is not a separate judicial entity.” DeBellis v. Kulp, 166 F.Supp.2d 255, 265 (E.D. Pa. 2001). Thus, a police department “is not a ‘person' subject to suit in a § 1983 civil rights action because it lacks an identity separate from the municipality of which it is a part.” Draper v. Darby Twp. Police Dep't., 777 F.Supp.2d 850, 856 (E.D. Pa. 2011); see also Briggs v. Moore, 251 F. App'x 77, 79 (3d Cir. 2007) (affirming the dismissal of a Section 1983 suit against the Monmouth County District Attorney's Office because it “is not a separate entity that can be sued under § 1983”); Reitz v. Cnty. of Bucks, 125 F.3d 139, 148 (3d Cir. 1997) (affirming district court's entry of summary judgment in favor of the Bucks County District Attorney's Office because it “is not an entity for purposes of § 1983 liability”). Under this well-established jurisprudence, New Garden Township Police Department is not a proper party to this litigation.

         Second, even to the extent New Garden Township could be properly substituted for New Garden Police Department, plaintiff's claims, which are premised on 42 U.S.C. § 1983, fail to state cognizable constitutional violations. In the seminal case of Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), the United States Supreme Court confirmed that “Congress did intend municipalities and other local government units to be included among those persons to whom §1983 applies, ” but emphasized that, “a municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory.” Id. at 690-91 (emphasis in original). Instead, “[a] local government may be sued under § 1983 only for acts implementing an official policy, practice or custom.” Losch v. Borough of Parkesburg, Pa., 736 F.2d 903, 910 (3d Cir. 1984), citing Monell, 436 U.S. at 690-91; see also Mulholland v. Gov't Cnty. of Berks, Pa., 706 F.3d 227, 237 (3d Cir. 2013), citing Beck v. City of Pittsburgh, 89 F.3d 966, 971 (3d Cir. 1996).

         Guided by such principles, the Court of Appeals has explained that there are three situations where the acts of a government employee may be deemed to be the result of a policy or custom of the governmental entity for whom the employee works, rendering the entity liable under § 1983:

The first is where the appropriate officer or entity promulgates a generally applicable statement of policy and the subsequent act complained of is simply an implementation of that policy. The second occurs where no rule has been announced as policy but federal law has been violated by an act of the policymaker itself. Finally, a policy or custom may also exist where the policymaker has failed to act affirmatively at all, [though] the need to take some action to control the agents of the government is so obvious, and the inadequacy of existing practice so likely to result in the violation of constitutional rights, that the policymaker can reasonably be said to have been deliberately indifferent to the need.

Natale v. Camden Cnty. Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 584 (3d Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         The amended complaint is devoid of any allegations of any policy, practice or custom within New Garden Township that caused the purported constitutional violations. Because a municipality cannot be held liable simply on a respondeat superior basis for the acts of its employees, I must dismiss this claim.

         B. Officer Matthew Jones

         Plaintiff also sets forth an Eighth Amendment claim of excessive force against Officer Matthew Jones. Am. Compl. ¶ 2. Plaintiff asserts that during the course of his arrest on December 23, 2014, Officer Jones slammed him to the floor when he was not resisting and punched him in the back of the head. Compl. Mem., [1] p.1, lines 2-4. These actions left plaintiff with bruising, swelling, a cast on his finger, cuts on his left check and stitches. Id. at p. 1, lines 9-11. Defendants now argue that plaintiff's claim must be dismissed because (1) the Eighth Amendment is inapplicable to plaintiff; (2) the claim fails to set forth a constitutional violation and (3) Officer Jones is protected by qualified immunity.

         1. Applicability of the Eighth Amendment

         Defendants' first argument is premised on the fact that plaintiff asserts his excessive force claim under the Eighth Amendment, which applies only to convicted prisoners. Natale, 318 F.3d at 581. As plaintiff admits that Officer Jones's actions occurred during his arrest of plaintiff, not while plaintiff was incarcerated, the Eighth Amendment provides no protection. As set forth above, however, I must construe plaintiff's claims liberally given his status as a pro se litigant. Haines, 404 U.S. at 520; see also Wilson v. Sobina, No. 11-298, 2012 WL 6840521, at *2 (W.D. Pa. July 16, 2012) (“If the court can reasonably read pleadings to state a valid claim on which the litigant could prevail, it should do so despite failure to cite proper legal authority, confusion of legal theories, poor syntax and sentence construction, or litigant's unfamiliarity with pleading requirements.”). Doing so, I will assume that plaintiff meant to plead this claim under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, which prohibits the use of unreasonably excessive force when making an arrest. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394 (1989).

         2. Failure to Plead a Constitutional Violation

         I also reject defendants' second argument-that plaintiff fails to adequately plead a constitutional violation. The Supreme Court has stated that the “use of force is contrary to the Fourth Amendment if it is excessive under objective standards of reasonableness.” Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 202 (2001). In making this determination, the court must evaluate the reasonableness of “a particular use of force . . . from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight, ” while recognizing “that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments-in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving-about the amount of force that is necessary.” Graham, 490 U.S. at 396-97. As the United States Supreme Court has held:

[T]he “reasonableness” inquiry in an excessive force case is an objective one: the question is whether the officer['s] actions are “objectively reasonable” in light of the facts and circumstances confronting [him], without regard to [his] underlying intent or motivation . . . . An officer's evil intentions will not make a Fourth Amendment violation out of an objectively reasonable use of force; nor will an officer's good intentions make an objectively unreasonable use of force constitutional.

Id. at 397 (internal citations omitted). Careful attention must be given to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, recognizing that the use of some coercion necessarily inheres in the officer's right to make such an investigatory stop or seizure. Id. at 396. These facts and circumstances include “the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.” Id. Our Court of Appeals has included additional factors for consideration, such as “the duration of the action, whether the action takes place in the context of effecting an arrest, the possibility that the suspect may be armed, and the number of persons with whom the police officers must contend at one time.” Sharrar v. Felsing, 128 F.3d 810, 822 (3d Cir. 1997), abrogated on other grounds by Curley v. Klem, 499 F.3d 199 (3d Cir. 2007).

         As stated above, plaintiff alleges that during the course of plaintiff's arrest, Officer Jones slammed him to the floor and punched him in the back of the head, even though plaintiff was not resisting. Taken as true, such allegations could plausibly rise to the level of excessive force prohibited by the Constitution. Therefore, I will not dismiss this cause of action for failure to state a claim.[2]

         3. Qualified Immunity

         Finally, defendants argue that if the excessive force claim survives, Officer Jones is entitled to qualified immunity. Qualified immunity provides that government officials are immune from suits for civil damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 “insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Messerschmidt v. Millender, 565 U.S. 535, 546 (2012) (quotations omitted). This doctrine attempts to balance the competing values of protecting innocent individuals from litigation while allowing liability for those who abuse their discretion. Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 813-14 (1982). The qualified immunity analysis is specific to each individual defendant and considers the totality of the circumstances at the time of the defendant's challenged conduct. Curley v. Klem, 499 F.3d 199, 207 (3d Cir. 2007).

         Qualified immunity is a question of law consisting of two prongs to be considered in any order. Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232 (2009). The first question inquires whether the facts alleged by a plaintiff make out a violation of a constitutional right. Id. at 232. The second inquiry asks “whether the right at issue was ‘clearly established' at the time of defendant's alleged misconduct.” Id. A right is clearly established if “‘it would be clear to a reasonable officer that his conduct was unlawful in the situation he confronted.'” Reedy v. Evanson, 615 F.3d 197, 224 (3d Cir. 2010), quoting Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 202 (2001). “This inquiry turns on the objective legal reasonableness of the action, assessed in light of the legal rules that were clearly established at the time it was taken.” Pearson, 555 U.S. at 244 (quotations omitted). The court must consider “the information within the officer's possession at that time.” Harvey v. Plains Twp. Police Dep't, 421 F.3d 185, 194 (3d Cir. 2005).

         The qualified immunity inquiry is premature at this stage of the litigation. Plaintiff has adequately alleged a violation of his constitutional right to be free from the use of the excessive force. The prohibition against excessive force was clearly established at the time of the events in question and, at this juncture, I cannot ascertain whether it would have been clear to Officer Jones that his conduct was unlawful in the situation he confronted. Therefore, I will reject the qualified immunity defense without prejudice to Officer Jones's right to raise it at a later date.

         II. Motion to Dismiss by Defendants East Vincent Township Police Department and Chief Matthew Williams

         Defendants East Vincent Township Police Department and Chief Matthew Williams also seek dismissal of all claims against them. For the following reasons, I will grant the motion as to East Vincent Township Police Department and deny it as to Chief Williams.

         A. East Vincent Township Police Department

         Like the claims against New Garden Township Police Department, plaintiff's claim against East Vincent Township Police Department also fails for two reasons. First, as set forth above, a police department “is not a ‘person' subject to suit in a § 1983 civil rights action because it lacks an identity separate from the municipality of which it is a part.” Draper v. Darby Twp. Police Dep't., 777 F.Supp.2d 850, 856 (E.D. Pa. 2011); see also Briggs v. Moore, 251 F. App'x 77, 79 (3d Cir. 2007) (affirming the dismissal of a Section 1983 suit against the Monmouth County District Attorney's Office because it “is not a separate entity that can be sued under § 1983”). Second, even if I were to assume that plaintiff intended to sue East Vincent Township, plaintiff has failed to state a claim against it. East Vincent Township, either as a police department or a municipality, is not mentioned anywhere in plaintiff's pleadings. Moreover, plaintiff has not set forth any allegations of any policy, practice or custom within East Vincent Township that could be said to have proximately caused the alleged constitutional violations. Accordingly, I dismiss this claim with prejudice.

         B. Chief Matthew Williams

         Plaintiff's claim against Chief Williams is also premised on an allegation of excessive force. Am. Compl. ¶ 3. He asserts that, in the course of the arrest at issue, Chief Williams threw him onto the floor and, while plaintiff was flat on his stomach, Williams kicked and “knee dropped” him. Compl. Mem., p.1, lines 3-4. Officer Williams then tased plaintiff twice, pointed his pistol at him and threatened to shoot him. Id. at p. 1, lines 6-8. As with Officer Jones, defendants argue that plaintiff's claim must be dismissed because (1) the Eighth Amendment is inapplicable to plaintiff; (2) the claim fails to set forth a constitutional violation and (3) Williams is protected by qualified immunity.

         I decline to dismiss the claims against Williams on any of these grounds. First, consistent with my ruling as to Officer Jones, I will liberally construe the amended complaint to allege an excessive force claim under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Second, I find that plaintiff's allegations as to Chief Williams-consisting of kicking, “knee dropping” and tasing plaintiff without cause-could give rise to a plausible claim of excessive force. Finally, defendants' request for qualified immunity is premature.[3] Although defendants assert that Chief Williams had a reasonable belief that force was warranted given plaintiff's arrest for murdering his mother and burning her apartment complex two days earlier, the facts as alleged in the amended complaint do not suggest that plaintiff posed any threat against or resistance to Chief Williams at the time of the arrest. Therefore, I decline to dismiss the claim against this defendant and will allow Chief Williams to re-raise the qualified immunity defense at a later time.

         III. Motion to Dismiss by Defendants PrimeCare Medical, Inc., Staci Suzuki, Psy.D., John P. Fraunces Ed.D., Karen Murphy, RN, Molly Longare, PA-C, Megan Hughes, PA-C, Brianna Culp, PA-C, Corey Cotton, LPN, Mabel Moiyallay, MA, and Nurse Lisa

         The third motion before me seeks dismissal of the claims against defendants PrimeCare Medical, Inc., Staci Suzuki, Psy.D., John P. Fraunces Ed.D., Karen Murphy, RN, Molly Longare, PA-C, Megan Hughes, PA-C, Brianna Culp, PA-C, Corey Cotton, LPN, Mabel Moiyallay, MA, and Nurse Lisa (collectively, “the medical defendants”).[4] The amended complaint sets forth multiple claims against these defendants including: (1) medical indifference; (2) Fourteenth Amendment equal protection violations; (3) Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment conditions of confinement; and (4) Monell claims against PrimeCare for constitutionally violative customs and policies. Based on my review of the amended complaint, I will dismiss all of these claims.

         A. Claims of Deliberate Medical Indifference

         Plaintiff first brings a series of claims against the individual medical defendants alleging “medical indifference” under the Eighth Amendment.[5] Defendants now contend that these claims do not survive Rule 12(b)(6) scrutiny. I agree.

         The Eighth Amendment proscription against cruel and unusual punishment requires that prison officials provide inmates with adequate medical care. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103-105 (1976). In order to set forth a cognizable claim, an inmate must allege (i) a serious medical need and (ii) acts or omissions by prison officials that indicate deliberate indifference to that need. Id. at 104; see also Rouse v. Plantier, 182 F.3d 192, 197 (3d Cir. 1999). “Seriousness” is proven if a plaintiff is able to demonstrate that the need is “‘one that has been diagnosed by a physician as requiring treatment or one that is so obvious that a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention.'” Monmouth Cnty. Corr. Institutional Inmates v. Lanzaro, 834 F.2d 326, 347 (3d Cir. 1987), quoting Pace v. Fauver, 479 F.Supp. 456, 458 (D.N.J. 1979), aff'd, 649 F.2d 860 (3d Cir. 1981); see also Pearson v. Prison Health Servs., ___ F.3d___, 2017 WL 892371, at *4 (3d Cir. Mar. 7, 2017) (noting that a medical need is serious where it has been diagnosed by a physician as requiring treatment). Moreover, “where denial or delay causes an inmate to suffer a life-long handicap or permanent loss, the medical need is considered serious.” Lanzaro, 834 F.2d at 347.

         To demonstrate the deliberate indifference prong of Estelle, a plaintiff must show that the defendants were more than merely negligent in diagnosing or treating his serious medical condition. Mere medical malpractice or disagreement with the proper treatment of an illness cannot give rise to a violation of the Eighth Amendment. White v. Napoleon, 897 F.2d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 1990); see also Rouse, 182 F.3d at 197; Lanzaro, 834 F.2d at 346. Rather, a prison official is deliberately indifferent if he knows that a prisoner faces a substantial risk of serious harm and fails to take reasonable steps to avoid the harm. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837811 (1994). The Court of Appeals has found that the deliberate indifference standard is satisfied

[W]hen prison officials 1) deny reasonable requests for medical treatment, and the denial exposes the inmate to undue suffering or the threat of tangible residual injury, 2) delay necessary medical treatment for non-medical reasons, or 3) prevent an inmate from receiving recommended treatment for serious medical needs, or deny access to a physician capable of evaluating the need for treatment.

Whooten v. Bussanich, 248 F. App'x 324, 326-27 (3d Cir. 2007). Beyond these types of circumstances, a court will generally not “second-guess the propriety or adequacy of a particular course of treatment . . . [since such determinations] remain[] a question of sound professional judgment.” Inmates of Allegheny Cnty. Jail v. Pierce, 612 F.2d 754, 762 (3d Cir. 1979) (quotations omitted). “[A]s long as a physician exercises professional judgment his behavior will not violate a prisoner's constitutional rights.” Brown v. Borough of Chambersburg, 903 F.2d 274, 278 (3d Cir. 1990).

         In the present case, plaintiff presents fifteen claims of deliberate indifference as follows:

• A claim against Nurse Cotton for unwrapping and unsplinting plaintiff's wound and finger contrary to doctor's orders on December 24, 2014. Am. Compl. ¶ 9; Compl. Mem., p.1, line 19.
• A claim against Nurse Moiyallay for not “intaking my medical issues or addressing them” on December 24, 2014. Am. Compl. ¶ 11; Compl. Mem., p. 1, lines 19-20.
• A claim against Nurse Moiyallay, Nurse Cotton and Dr. Suzuki who witnessed plaintiff's stitches injury, but did not ensure or refer for treatment. Am. Compl. ¶ 30, Compl. Mem., p. 3, line 18.
• A claim against PA Longare, PA Brianna and PA Hughes for pre-existing conditions never being addressed despite reports from plaintiff and repeated complaints. Am. Compl. ¶ 32. These conditions included a herniated disc, disc bulge and stitches. Compl. Mem., p. 3, line 15.
• A claim against Nurse Cotton and Nurse Moiyallay for not reporting plaintiff's complaints of pre-existing conditions during intake on December 24, 2014. Am. Compl. ¶ 33; Compl. Mem., p. 3, lines 14-15.
• A claim against all medical staff after plaintiff defecated and staff denied him a shower or hygiene supplies on December 28, 2014. Am. Compl. ¶ 37.
• A claim against all medical staff for not addressing plaintiff's obvious injuries after the use of physical force by the guards on January 4, 2015. Am. Compl. ¶ 51. Specifically, after guards physically assaulted him, plaintiff was taken to medical, given a band-aid and referred for an x-ray, despite the fact that he was reporting more visible injuries such as bleeding in the mouth, wrist pain, chest pain, bruising of his ribs, swollen knee, painful lumps on his head, neck pain, a phlegm cough and difficulty breathing. Compl. Mem., p. 5, lines 19-22.
• A claim against Dr. Fraunces for being informed of a medical need but not addressing it on January 8, 2015. Am. Compl. ¶ 62. Plaintiff received no attention until the following day when he passed out with a fever and profuse sweating and was hyperventilating. Compl. Mem., p. 6, lines 18-20.
• A claim against Nurse Lisa for not properly treating plaintiff's visible injuries on January 9, 2015. Am. Compl. ¶ 65. On that date, Nurse Lisa asked if plaintiff was in pain from previous interactions with the correctional officers and when he said yes, she put him in a room without further attention. When a nurse later came to check his temperature and blood pressure, he passed out and fell, requiring the nurse and a correctional officer to help him. Compl. Mem., p. 6, lines 23-26.
• A clam against PA Hughes for not addressing or treating plaintiff's visible injuries on January 9, 2015. Am. Compl. ¶ 66. Plaintiff showed Hughes his injuries and explained his problem breathing, but she did not prescribe anything for pain. Rather, he was given ibuprofen or Tylenol for the fever and put in a room with a shower. Compl. Mem., p. 6, lines 26-28.
• A claim against PA Hughes for medical indifference to plaintiff's medical condition on January 11, 2015. Am. Compl. ¶ 67. On January 11, 2015, PA Hughes discharged plaintiff from medical, but still did not prescribe anything for pain for his obvious physical injuries. Compl. Mem., p. 7, lines 8-10.
• A claim against PA Longare for denying plaintiff medical attention for his pre-existing medical condition when informed on January 23, 2015. Am. Compl. ¶ 71. On that date, after Longare learned that the x-ray of plaintiff's wrist was within normal limits, Longare prescribed him Napricin for his wrist pain. He told her about other issues, but she only addressed his wrist saying that he had tendonitis. Compl. Mem., p. 7, lines 20-24.
• A claim against PA Culp for not treating plaintiff's reported injuries or even inquiring into his condition after being informed. Am. Compl. ¶ 96. On February 23, 2015, PA Culp told plaintiff he was being treated, but when he explained that he was still in pain and pointed out that his knee was swollen, she stated that it might be lifelong pain and nothing else. Compl. Mem., p. 8 line 27-p. 9 line 1.
• A claim against PA Culp for once again ignoring plaintiff's request for medical treatment for existing and pre-existing medical conditions on March 26, 2015. Am. Compl. ¶ 106. Plaintiff saw PA Culp on that day and she informed him that he would only be given three more months of Napricin, but she did not address any other issues even when plaintiff showed her his swollen knee. Compl. Mem., p. 10, lines 6-8.
• A claim against Karen Murphy for not allowing plaintiff to review medical records after repeated attempts. Am. Compl. ¶ 126. Specifically, he requested from Karen Murphy the opportunity to review his medical records, but did not receive a response from her. Compl. Mem., p. 12, lines 21-23.

         None of these claims allege facts sufficient to set forth a plausible claim for relief. Primarily, for most of these claims, plaintiff has not alleged facts upon which I can infer that he had a “serious” medical condition that either has been diagnosed by a physician as requiring treatment or is so obvious that a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention. Lanzaro, 834 F.2d at 347 (quotations omitted). Nor has he alleged that delay in treatment caused him to suffer a life-long handicap or permanent loss. Id. at 347. Indeed, the alleged facts suggest only that plaintiff had a finger that was splinted, a wound that received stitches, a pre-existing but non-severe back condition, some non-specific injuries from an altercation with the guards, an illness with a fever and a swollen knee. None of these conditions suggests a “serious” medical condition for purposes of a constitutional claim.

         More importantly, even assuming plaintiff could establish a serious medical condition, he has failed to plead that any of the named defendants acted with deliberate indifference. Plaintiff never disputes that he received medical care for his various injuries. Rather, he simply disagrees with the type and extent of the care he received, an allegation that does not state a valid claim of medical mistreatment under the Eighth Amendment. Pearson, 2017 WL 892371, at *7. At no point does plaintiff suggest that he was denied reasonable requests for medical treatment that exposed him to undue suffering or the threat of tangible residual injury. Nor does plaintiff claim that medical treatment was denied for non-medical reasons or that he was prevented from receiving recommended treatment for serious medical needs or denied access to qualified medical professionals. Indeed, the allegations in plaintiff's pleadings clearly demonstrate that he was seen, evaluated and provided medication by medical personnel on multiple occasions. As the amended complaint does not put forth any facts to allow an inference of deliberate indifference, I dismiss these claims with prejudice.

         B. Equal Protection Claim

         Plaintiff has also alleged an equal protection claim against PA Longare, PA Culp and PA Hughes. As I find that plaintiff has not adequately pled such a claim, I will grant defendants motion to dismiss.

         The Equal Protection Clause provides that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” U.S. Const. amend. XIV § 1. The Court of Appeals has recognized that in order to establish a viable equal protection violation, a plaintiff must show intentional or purposeful discrimination. See Wilson v. Schillinger, 761 F.2d 921, 929 (3d Cir. 1985). The Equal Protection Clause is not a command that all persons be treated alike but, rather, “a direction that all persons similarly situated should be treated alike.” Artway v. Attorney Gen. of State of N.J., 81 F.3d 1235, 1267 (3d Cir. 1996), quoting City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Ctr., 473 U.S. 432, 439 (1985).

         If the action does not involve a suspect classification, the plaintiff may establish an equal protection claim under a “class of one” theory by showing that he or she was intentionally treated differently from other similarly situated individuals without a rational basis for the difference in treatment. Village of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562, 564 (2000). To allege an equal protection claim under a class-of-one theory, a plaintiff must show that “(1) the defendant treated him differently from others similarly situated, (2) the defendant did so intentionally, and (3) there was no rational basis for the ...


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