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Arroyo v. Walton

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 30, 2017

GERALD E. WALTON, et al, Defendants


          William J. Nealon United States District Judge

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, an inmate confined in the Smithfield State Correctional Institution, Huntingdon ("SCI-Smithfield), Pennsylvania, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The named Defendants are Correctional Officer Gerald E. Walton and John and Robert Doe.

         Presently before the Court is a motion dismiss, filed on behalf of Defendant Walton. (Doc. 13). The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion to dismiss will be granted.

         II. Motion to Dismiss

         Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) authorizes dismissal of a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Under Rule 12(b)(6), we must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside. 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir.2009) (quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny. 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir.2008)). While a complaint need only contain "a short and plain statement of the claim, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and detailed factual allegations are not required, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), a complaint must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal. 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "[L]abels and conclusions" are not enough, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, and a court "is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Id. (quoted case omitted). Thus, "a judicial conspiracy claim must include at least a discernible factual basis to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal." Capogrosso v. The Supreme Court of New Jersey, 588 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir.2009) (per curiam).

         In resolving the motion to dismiss, we thus "conduct a two-part analysis." Fowler, supra. 578 F.3d at 210. First, we separate the factual elements from the legal elements and disregard the legal conclusions. I£. at 210-11. Second, we "determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief. Id. at 211 (quoted case omitted).

         In addition, because Plaintiff complains about "prison conditions, " the screening provisions of 42 U.S.C. §1997e apply, as do the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. §1915(e), given that he was granted in forma pauperis status to pursue this suit. The court's obligation to dismiss a complaint under the PLRA screening provisions for complaints that fail to state a claim is not excused even after defendants have filed a motion to dismiss. See, e.g., Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126 n. 6 (9th Cir.2000). Hence, if there is a ground for dismissal which was not relied upon by a defendant in a motion to dismiss, the court may nonetheless sua sponte rest its dismissal upon such ground pursuant to the screening provisions of the PLRA. See Lopez: Dare v. U.S.. Civil No. 06-115E, 2007 WL 1811198, at *4 (W.D. Pa. June 21, 2007), aff'd. 264 Fed.Appx. 183 (3d Cir.2008).

         III. Allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint.

         On February 17, 2016, Plaintiff states that he "was being escorted to the Medical Department in the Dauphin County Prison by Defendant Gerald E. Walton while walking with Defendant Walton to the Medical Department, the Plaintiff was talking to another prisoner when out of no were (sic), Defendant Walton told the Plaintiff to close his dame mouth, and then made a racial statement to the Plaintiff that the Plaintiff needs to go back to this own country." (Doc. 1, complaint at 2). He claims that he "told Defendant Walton that he was in his country, then Defendant Walton started to push and then to assault the Plaintiff by hitting and kicking the Plaintiff in the face and body" and "the Plaintiff tried to cover his face and body up to try and stop Defendant Walton from assaulting him." Id. He alleges that "the next thing the Plaintiff knew their was other Correctional Officers running up to assault the Plaintiff and "the other Defendants picked the Plaintiff up out of the Dauphin County Prison hallway and was holding the Plaintiffs hands and arms, then Defendant Walton started to punch the Plaintiff in the face and head with a close fist, then the Plaintiff was taken to the Dauphin County Medical Department for the injuries that was caused by Defendant Walton, John Doe and Robert Doe, which to this day because of the Defendants' actions of cruel and unusual punishment the Plaintiff still have a lot of nightmares." Id.

         Plaintiff states that "after the treatment that the Plaintiff had received from the Medical Department, one of the staff members from medical told the Plaintiff that they need to take pictures of the Plaintiffs face and body." Id. Plaintiff claims that "Defendant Walton tried to prevent the medical staff from taking the pictures but the medical staff informed Defendant Walton that it was a part of the policy of the Dauphin County Prison to document all injuries of those who are incarcerated in the county prison." Id- Plaintiff was then taken to the Restricted Housing Unit. Id.

         On February 17, 2016, Plaintiff states that Defendant Walton "issued the Plaintiff an institutional incident, claiming a lot of false institutional charges against the Plaintiff." Id.

         On February 19, 2016, Plaintiff states that he was interviewed by Correctional Officer Brian Walborn "who informed the Plaintiff the he was assigned to investigate the incident that had happen on February 17, 2016 against the Plaintiff and Defendant Walton." Id. Plaintiff explained that "Walton had called the Plaintiff a racial name then just started beating the Plaintiff for no reason at all." Id.

         On February 29, 2016, Plaintiff had an institutional disciplinary hearing, where he claims he was disciplined to thirty ...

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