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Lorenzano v. Grove

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 6, 2017





         Andre Lorenzano, an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional Institution, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania (SCI-Huntingdon) filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Plaintiff has also submitted an in forma pauperis application which will be granted for the sole purpose of the filing of this action with this Court.

         Named as sole Defendant is Sergeant Grove, an SCI-Huntingdon correctional officer. Plaintiff states that while confined at SCI-Huntingdon on September 10, 2016 he was subjected to unwarranted threats following a misunderstanding with a correctional officer while leaving the prison's infirmary. The correctional officer, a non-defendant, purportedly contacted other correctional staff regarding this incident.

         As a result, when Lorenzano returned to his cell block, Sergeant Grove allegedly began screaming at him and intentionally spit in the Plaintiff s face when the prisoner tried to walk away. See Doc. 1, p. 5. Grove continued to yell and spit on Lorenzano and allegedly tried to provoke a response from the Plaintiff so that physical force could be applied against the inmate.[1] It is also alleged that after Plaintiff eventually walked away and returned to his cell, Grove refused to let Lorenzano speak to a superior officer. Plaintiff concludes that the Defendant's purported unwarranted aggressive actions were retaliatory and constituted a violation of his constitutional rights. As relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages.


         Standard of Review

         When considering a complaint accompanied by a motion to proceed in forma pauperis, a district court may rule that process should not issue if the complaint is malicious, presents an indisputably meritless legal theory, or is predicated on clearly baseless factual contentions. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989), Douris v. Middleton Township, 293 Fed.Appx. 130, 132 (3d Cir. 2008) . Indisputably meritless legal theories are those "in which either it is readily apparent that the plaintiff's complaint lacks an arguable basis in law or that the defendants are clearly entitled to immunity from suit ... . " Roman v. Jeffes. 904 F.2d 192, 194 (3d Cir. 1990) (quoting Sultenfuss v. Snow, 894 F.2d 1277, 1278 (11th Cir. 1990)). In order to state a viable civil rights claim a plaintiff must make a showing that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of law and that said conduct deprived him of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or by a statute of the United States. Cohen v. City of Philadelphia, 736 F.2d 81, 83 (3d Cir. 1984). Each named defendant must be shown, via the complaint's allegations, to have been personally involved in the events or occurrences which underlie those claims set forth in the Complaint. Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988).[2]

         Although pro se litigants are afforded liberal treatment, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), based upon the deficiencies outlined below the Complaint is subject to dismissal.

         Emotional Injury

         Lorenzano's complaint generally asserts that he is seeking an award of monetary damages. It is unclear as to whether Plaintiff is seeking to recover compensatory damages for emotional and psychological injuries sustained as a result of the actions attributed to Sergeant Grove. For the reasons outlined below, Lorenzano is not entitled to recover compensatory damages for mental anguish or emotional injury.

         42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e) provides that "[n]o federal civil action may be brought by a prisoner confined in a jail, prison or other correctional facility, for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury." In Allah v. Al-Hafeez, 226 F.3d 247, 250 (3d Cir. 2000), the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recognized that where a plaintiff fails to allege actual injury, Section 1997e(e) bars recovery of compensatory damages. However, the Court of Appeals added that an inmate alleging a violation of his constitutional rights may still pursue the action to recover nominal and/or punitive damages even in the absence of compensable harm. Under the standards announced in Allah, Lorenzano's request for monetary relief to the extent that it seeks compensatory damages for emotional and psychological injuries caused by Sergeant Grove is barred by Section 1997e(e) .

         Verbal Threats

         Plaintiff alleges in part that Sergeant Grove made verbal threats and harassing remaks against him on September 10, 2016. There is no assertion that any of those purported statements were accompanied by any ...

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