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Saltalamacchia v. Wentzel

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 9, 2017

JOHN WENTZEL, et al., Defendants

          NEALON, J.


          KAROLINE MEHALCHICK United States Magistrate Judge

         This is a pro se action for damages and injunctive relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 filed by Plaintiff Anthony Saltalamacchia, an inmate currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution-Benner (“SCI-Benner”) located in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. The allegations that give rise to this action occurred while Plaintiff was incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution-Rockview (“SCI-Rockview”), also located in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Plaintiff asserts a variety of federal civil rights claims and state law claims against 20Defendants, all of whom appear to be connected with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”). Currently pending before the Court is a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's second amended complaint, filed jointly on behalf of all Defendants. (Doc. 66).

         I. Background

         The original complaint in this matter was filed on May 6, 2014 (Doc. 1), along with a subsequently granted motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2). In his original complaint, Plaintiff asserted federal civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and several state law claims against 48 DOC Defendants based on events alleged to have occurred while Plaintiff was incarcerated at SCI-Rockview between March 2, 2012 to January 15, 2013. (Doc. 1, ¶ 6). Upon conducting its statutorily-mandated screening review of the complaint prior to service of process, the District Court dismissed several claims and Defendants with prejudice, dismissed other claims without prejudice, and directed Plaintiff to file an amended complaint within thirty days. (Doc. 7; Doc. 14; Doc. 15); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a) (screening of prisoner complaints seeking redress from a governmental employee); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) (screening of complaints brought in forma pauperis); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1) (screening of complaints concerning prison conditions).

         Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on January 5, 2015. (Doc. 17). The amended complaint, totaling 283 paragraphs, purported to allege a total of 114 legal claims against 41 Defendants for violations of various federal civil rights and state laws. (Doc. 17, ¶¶ 155-268). Plaintiff divided his amended complaint into 10 “sets of claims, ” which combine to span the length of his 319-day incarceration at SCI-Rockview. (Doc. 17). After accepting service of Plaintiff's amended complaint, Defendants filed a joint motion to dismiss on December 21, 2015 (Doc. 46), along with a brief in support thereof (Doc. 47). Once the matter became ripe for disposition, the undersigned issued a report and recommendation (Doc. 61), recommending dismissal of the Amended Complaint. That report and recommendation was adopted, in part, by the District Court, on September 30, 2016 (Doc. 64).

         On November 3, 2016, Plaintiff filed his second amended complaint. (Doc. 65). This second amended complaint consists of 271 paragraphs, and purports to allege 96 counts against 20 Defendants for violations of federal civil rights and state laws, including violations of equal protection, retaliation, deliberate indifference, excessive force, negligence, and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Doc. 65). Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss (Doc. 66) the second amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 and 20, and on statute of limitations grounds. This matter having been fully briefed, it is ripe for consideration.

         II. Motion to Dismiss Standard

          Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes a defendant to move to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). “Under Rule 12(b)(6), a motion to dismiss may be granted only if, accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, a court finds the plaintiff's claims lack facial plausibility.” Warren Gen. Hosp. v. Amgen Inc., 643 F.3d 77, 84 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)). Although the Court must accept the fact allegations in the complaint as true, it is not compelled to accept “unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences, or a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Morrow v. Balaski, 719 F.3d 160, 165 (3d Cir. 2013) (quoting Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007)). Additionally, a court need not assume that a plaintiff can prove facts that the plaintiff has not alleged. Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal. v. California State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983).

         In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Supreme Court of the United States held that, when considering a motion to dismiss, a court should “begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court may consider the facts alleged on the face of the complaint, as well as “documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial notice.” Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007).

         In addition to the pending motion to dismiss, the Court maintains the right to screen and dismiss cases brought in forma pauperis if at any time the Court determines that the case fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). In performing this mandatory screening function, the Court applies the same standard applied to motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Mitchell v. Dodrill, 696 F.Supp.2d 454, 471 (M.D. Pa. 2010).

         A document filed pro se is “to be liberally construed.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). A pro se complaint, “however inartfully pleaded, ” must be held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers” and can only be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972).

         III. Discussion

         A. Imp ...

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