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Love v. Thompson

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh.

June 23, 2017

ROBERT A. LOVE, Plaintiff,


          CYNTHIA REED EDDY, United States Magistrate Judge.


         Presently pending before the Court is the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings filed by Defendants State Correctional Institution (“SCI”) Mercer Superintendent Brian Thompson (“Superintendent Thompson”), SCI Mercer Deputy Superintendent for Centralized Services and Program Review Committee member Debra K. Sauers (“Deputy Superintendent Sauers”), SCI Mercer Deputy Superintendent for Facilities Management and Program Review Committee member Michael J. Mahlmeister (“Deputy Superintendent Mahlmeister”), SCI Mercer prison supervisor “Lt. McFadden, ” SCI Mercer prison counselor “Whitman” (“Counselor Whitman”), and John Doe Nos. 1-10 various supervisors and employees of SCI Mercer who allegedly violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights. [ECF No. 26]. For the reasons that follow, the motion is denied.


         On July 31, 2012, Plaintiff was arrested for criminal trespass, grand larceny and heroin possession in New York. He was sentenced to six months imprisonment and five years of county probation and was released early for good behavior on November 30, 2012. After his release, Plaintiff moved to Mercer County, Pennsylvania. He was assigned to a probation officer in Mercer County and in July 2013, he enrolled in a drug maintenance program at a methadone clinic and began treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) relating to his past military service in Iraq. While Plaintiff was receiving treatment at the methadone clinic, he allegedly violated his probation by allegedly committing retail theft and driving under the influence and was arrested on December 30, 2013 by Mercer County probation. After his arrest, Mercer County probation officers transported Plaintiff to SCI Mercer.

         After arriving at SCI Mercer, Plaintiff did not receive diagnostic testing for physical, mental or emotional problems and was not evaluated for drug or alcohol dependency. Plaintiff informed prison employees that he was prescribed methadone for drug-treatment purposes and that he would suffer from withdrawal if he did not continue receiving it. Prison employees responded that methadone was available at SCI Mercer and he should not worry. Plaintiff was then placed in the infirmary and was informed by a nurse that he would not receive methadone and instead would undergo detoxification. Plaintiff was then locked into a closet-sized room which only contained a bed and a small shower in the infirmary by himself for three days and underwent methadone withdrawal.

         On the third day of being locked in the infirmary, P.O. Pernett visited him and handed him a document and instructed Plaintiff to sign it. Plaintiff signed the document. The document waived Plaintiff's right to challenge probable cause in detaining him at SCI Mercer. Plaintiff alleges that he was disoriented from the methadone withdrawal and did not sign the document voluntarily. Following this, three members of SCI Mercer's Program Review Committee (“PRC”) met with Plaintiff: Deputy Superintendent Sauers, Deputy Superintendent Mahlmeister and Paul Theriault.[2] The PRC determines inmates' housing arrangements at SCI Mercer. Plaintiff informed the PRC members that he was suffering from methadone withdrawal and that “he was in the wrong place, ” but his complaints were not responded to. [ECF No. 1] at ¶ 51. The PRC members did not conduct any diagnostic test to determine his mental, physical or emotional health to determine his housing classification status. Plaintiff was not given an inmate number, an inmate handbook or an IQ test. After this meeting with the PRC members on January 2, 2014, Plaintiff was transported to SCI Mercer's “M Block” which is also referred to as “the hole.” Id.

         After arriving on M Block, Plaintiff advised the prison employees that he needed medical attention and suffered from PTSD and methadone withdrawal. The prison employees responded by placing him in the “disciplinary section” of M Block for four days, where his cell only contained a camera and a bench in the middle of the cell. Id. at ¶¶ 82-83. Four days later, Plaintiff was moved to a different cell in the M Block containing a bed.

         Throughout his incarceration, Plaintiff informed prison officials, including Lt. McFadden, that he suffered from PTSD. The prison officials acknowledged Plaintiff's PTSD but did not provide him with daily medication or consistent access to psychiatric counseling or medical care. Plaintiff claimed that prison officials assured him that he would receive a temporary classification so that his medical needs could be addressed while also allowing him to live in general population and not M Block. After several months had passed, Lt. McFadden informed Plaintiff that he would not receive a temporary-inmate classification or a permanent inmate classification from SCI Camp Hill. Plaintiff asserts that the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections assigns a security classification to all of its prisoners using objective criteria at a diagnostic and classification center such as SCI Camp Hill. Lt. McFadden instead informed Plaintiff that he was “stuck like chuck” in M Block indefinitely because he did not have a classification. Id. at ¶ 99. Plaintiff was housed in the M Block from December 30, 2013 to August 12, 2014 when he was released and alleges that he received no or inadequate treatment for his PTSD and/or symptoms of withdrawal.

         On December 29, 2015, Plaintiff filed the original complaint alleging multiple civil rights violations and violations of state law. The Defendants submitted a partial motion to dismiss the claims against them, and the Court granted Defendants' motion. The Defendants did not move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims of deliberate indifference under the Eighth Amendment with regard to access to medical care and treatment and mental health care and treatment. In granting Defendants' motion for partial dismissal, the Court permitted Plaintiff to file the present operative Amended Complaint to include the specific actions of the supervisor Defendants in connection with the remaining alleged unconstitutional violations. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on December 19, 2016 asserting two claims: (1) a supervisory liability claims against Defendants Superintendent Thompson, Deputy Superintendent Sauers, Deputy Superintendent Mahlmeister, Lt. McFadden, and various John Does; and (2) an Eighth Amendment claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all of the Defendants for being deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs.

         Defendants filed an Answer on December 30, 2016 and filed the instant Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings arguing that Plaintiff's Amended Complaint has failed to adequately state a supervisory liability claim against the supervisor Defendants, and Plaintiff has otherwise failed to state a section 1983 claim against Defendants Superintendent Thompson, P.O. Pernett and Counselor Whitman. The parties have fully briefed the issues and this matter is ripe for disposition.


         a. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings Pursuant to Rule 12(c)

         “A motion for judgment on the pleadings is not granted ‘unless the movant clearly establishes that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'” Pellegrino Food Products Co., Inc. v. City of Warren, 136 F.Supp.2d 391, 399 (W.D.Pa. 2000); Jablonski v. Pan American World Airways, 863 F.2d 289, 290 (3d Cir. 1988) (quoting Society Hill Civil Assoc. v. Harris, 632 F.2d 1045, 1054 (3d Cir. 1980)). A Rule 12(c) motion is judged under the same standards as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Turbe v. Gov't of Virgin Islands, 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991). The only difference is that on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the court reviews not only the complaint, but also the answer and written instructions attached to the pleadings. James Wm. Moore, et al., Moore's Federal Practice-Civil ¶ 12.38 (2010). As a general rule, if a court “consider[s] matters extraneous to the pleadings” on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the motion must be converted into one for summary judgment. In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997). However, a court may consider (1) exhibits attached to the complaint, (2) matters of public record, and (3) all documents that are integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint, even if they are not attached thereto, without converting the motion into one for summary judgment. Mele v. Fed. Reserve Bank of N.Y., 359 F.3d 251, 256 n. 5 (3d Cir. 2004); Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept all well-pleaded facts and allegations, and must draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in favor of the plaintiff. Burtch v. Milberg Factors, Inc., 662 F.3d 212, 220 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010)), cert. denied, 132 S.Ct. 1861 (2012). However, as the Supreme Court of the United States made clear in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, ...

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