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Dewald v. Jenkins

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

April 13, 2017

DAVID DEWALD, II, Plaintiff,
v.
CO JENKINS, ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          GERALD J. PAPPERT, J.

         David Dewald, a prisoner, was denied access to a bathroom for thirty-five minutes on June 23, 2016. When Dewald defecated on a bench, he was placed in administrative segregation for eight to nine days. Dewald sued the corrections officers, the warden and the corporation that operates the prison, alleging violations of his Fifth and Eighth Amendment rights. The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint which, for the following reasons, is granted in part and denied in part.

         I.

         On June 23, 2016 Dewald was in custody at the George W. Hill detention center in Delaware County. (Compl., at 9, ECF No. 3.) At 9:00 a.m. that day, Dewald was scheduled to speak with his defense attorney by video conference in a “video court” cell at the prison. (Id.) Dewald was ready and waiting outside his closed cell door at 9:00 a.m., but two inmates who were to join him in the video court cell were not, requiring Dewald to wait outside his cell. (Id.) By 9:05 a.m. Dewald had to use a restroom; he had rectal surgery roughly four years prior and “developed a medical problem going to the bathroom, ” something he told the prison's medical staff when he was committed. (Id.) Dewald-already in pain-was told that there was no restroom in the video court cell, so he approached an area where a guard could see him and motioned his cell number with his fingers, hoping to be allowed back in to use his toilet. (Id.) Dewald did this repeatedly before a guard outside noticed. That guard, however, simply mimicked Dewald's motioning and refused to open his cell door. (Id.)

         Dewald then asked Corrections Officer Hiller why he was not being allowed back into his cell. Hiller told Dewald to put his “man pants on and man up.” (Id.) Dewald told Hiller his need to use the toilet was an emergency. (Id.) By 9:20 a.m. the two inmates who were joining Dewald in video court were ready and the trio was escorted to the video court cell. (Id.) Dewald was now “in real pain[, ] about ready to defecate on [him]self.” (Id.) He told another corrections officer of his predicament and there was no one available to take him to a restroom. (Id.) At 9:30 a.m., Dewald enlisted the help of his two fellow inmates to plead with the guard to permit him to use the restroom. The trio repeatedly asked, to no avail. (Id.)

         By 9:35 a.m. Dewald could wait no longer. He apologized to his two fellow inmates and “asked them to stand near the door and look at the guard with their backs to [him].” (Id.) To avoid soiling his clothing, Dewald defecated on a bench in the video court cell. (Id.) Dewald's fellow inmates told the guard of his mishap and were moved to an adjacent cell. (Id. at 2.) Dewald was kept in the video court cell. (Id.)

         Roughly five minutes later, another corrections officer entered the video court cell with napkins and a plastic bag, gave them to Dewald and ordered him to clean the bench. Dewald refused and cleaned himself instead. (Id.) The corrections officer handcuffed Dewald and another corrections officer escorted him to his cell. (Id.) Shortly thereafter, Hiller transferred Dewald from his original cell to an empty cell, which Dewald alleges constituted administrative segregation. (Id.)

         Dewald was kept segregated for eight to nine days. (Id.) He was not permitted any recreation time over his first weekend in segregation. (Id.) He was also denied showers until June 27, 2016. See (id.). Dewald was told by numerous corrections officers that if he would have cleaned the bench he would not have been placed in administrative segregation. (Id.)

         II.

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must provide “more than labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted). “Factual allegations must be enough 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).” Id. (citation omitted). While a complaint need not include detailed facts, it must provide “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         Twombly and Iqbal require the Court to take three steps to determine whether the second amended complaint will survive Defendants' motion to dismiss. See Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016). First, it must “take note of the elements the plaintiff must plead to state a claim.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675). Next, it must identify the allegations that are no more than legal conclusions and thus “not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). Finally, where the complaint includes well-pleaded factual allegations, the Court “should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).

         This “presumption of truth attaches only to those allegations for which there is sufficient factual matter to render them plausible on their face.” Schuchardt v. President of the U.S., 839 F.3d 336, 347 (3d Cir. 2016) (internal quotation and citation omitted). “Conclusory assertions of fact and legal conclusions are not entitled to the same presumption.” Id. This plausibility determination is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. (quoting Connelly, 809 F.3d at 786-87).

         This plausibility standard, however, “does not impose a heightened pleading requirement” and does not require a plaintiff to plead specific facts. Id. In other words, “courts cannot inject evidentiary issues into the plausibility determination.” Id. The Third Circuit has also made it clear that “at least for purposes of pleading sufficiency, a complaint need not establish a prima facie case in order to survive a motion to dismiss” because a “prima facie case is an evidentiary standard, not a pleading requirement and hence is not proper measure of whether a complaint fails to state a claim.” Connelly, 809 F.3d at 789 (internal quotations and citations omitted). Instead, a plaintiff should plead “enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary elements.” Id. (quoting Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008))

         Because Dewald 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). “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) ...


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