United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
WENDY SUMMERS, Administrator of th Estate of Decedent, Courtney McLeod Plaintiff,
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, Defendants.
J. PAPPERT, J.
McLeod had just begun serving a two to four-year prison
sentence at SCI-Graterford when he committed suicide on
January 16, 2015. Wendy Summers, McLeod's mother and
administratrix of his estate, sued the City of Philadelphia,
the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and various
employees and agents of both entities. She brings claims
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Pennsylvania state law. In
her federal claim, Summers alleges the Defendants violated
McLeod's due process rights under the Fifth and
Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution as
well as his right to be free from cruel and unusual
punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Several of the
Defendants have filed four motions to dismiss. For the
following reasons, the Court grants the motions in part and
denies them in part, with leave to amend some of the claims.
August 21, 2014, the Philadelphia Police arrested McLeod on
burglary-related charges. (Compl. ¶ 77.) Beginning
September 5, 2014, following McLeod's guilty plea but
before his sentencing, McLeod was alternately housed at three
Philadelphia prison facilities: the Curran-Fromhold
Correctional Facility, the Philadelphia House of Correction
and the health services wing of the Philadelphia Detention
Center. (Id. ¶¶ 78-79.) After McLeod was
sentenced to two to four years of incarceration, he was
transferred to SCI-Graterford to serve his sentence.
(Id. ¶ 102.)
his time at the House of Correction, McLeod “had
several aggressive or violent encounters with other
inmates.” (Id. ¶ 81.) He also exhibited
signs of depression. (Id. ¶ 76.) As a result,
on October 25, 2014, McLeod received an emergency referral
for a psychiatric evaluation. (Id. ¶ 82.) Then,
on November 3, McLeod attempted suicide by drinking bleach.
(Id. ¶ 83.) He was treated at Aria Torresdale
Hospital and returned to the House of Correction the same
day. (Id. ¶ 84.) The next day, he consented to
inpatient treatment in the prison health services wing of the
Philadelphia Detention Center. (Id. ¶ 85.)
McLeod was prescribed a regimen of Haldol, Benadryl and
Ativan to stabilize his mood and decrease his aggression and
agitation. (Id. ¶ 87.)
November 10 and December 10, 2014, McLeod returned to the
House of Correction. (Id. ¶ 88.) He was
transferred back to the Detention Center's health
services wing on December 11 when he told several
Defendants he intended to commit suicide.
(Id. ¶ 89.) McLeod remained on suicide watch in
the health services wing from December 11 to 14 and was
returned to the House of Correction on December 15.
(Id. ¶¶ 90-92.)
January 7, 2015, McLeod was sentenced to 2 to 4 years of
imprisonment. (Id. ¶ 93.) He was re-admitted to
the Detention Center's health services wing after several
Defendants saw him hitting his head against a wall
and telling them he was suicidal. (Id. ¶ 94.)
McLeod was again evaluated on January 11 after telling
employees of the Defendants that he wanted to commit suicide.
(Id. ¶ 99.)
City transferred McLeod to SCI-Graterford on January 12, 2015
to serve his sentence. (Id. ¶ 102.) The City
did not inform the Commonwealth Defendants that McLeod, as
recently as the day before his transfer, said he was
suicidal. (Id. ¶ 101(b).) The City also failed
to recommend to the Commonwealth Defendants that McLeod be
placed on suicide watch. (Id. ¶ 101(c).) The
City forwarded McLeod's medical records to
SCI-Graterford, but those records indicated only that McLeod
had a history of suicide attempts; they did not include
McLeod's recent statement that he wanted to commit
suicide. (Id. ¶¶ 104-05.)
his arrival at SCI-Graterford, McLeod was initially placed in
a restricted housing unit where inmates are confined to their
cells twenty-three hours per day. (Id. ¶¶
106-07.) He received an “Initial Reception
Screening” from Defendant J. Link. (Id. ¶
109.) J. Link concluded that McLeod was bipolar and also
noted McLeod had not attempted suicide, was not taking any
psychotropic medications and that he needed neither medical
nor psychiatric evaluations. (Id.) J. Link approved
McLeod for general population housing in the prison.
(Id. ¶ 110.)
Complaint alleges that by January 15, 2015, all Defendants
knew McLeod was prescribed Haldol, Benadryl and Ativan daily
to treat his depression, anxiety disorder and bipolar
disorder. (Id. at 113.) Despite this alleged
knowledge, the Defendants neither provided McLeod with his
prescribed medications nor placed him in SCI-Graterford's
mental health unit. (Id. ¶ 115(d)-(e), (j).)
And despite J. Link's recommendation, McLeod remained in
the restricted housing unit, confined to his cell
twenty-three hours per day. (Id. ¶ 115(h).)
January 16, 2015, Defendants Hardnett, Robinson, Mascellino,
John Does 6- 10 and ABC Corporations 6-10 were responsible
for monitoring McLeod. (Id. ¶ 116.) Early that
morning, Hardnett discovered McLeod hanging in his cell.
(Id. ¶ 117.) McLeod, who was nineteen years
old, was pronounced dead at 4:30 a.m. by Dr. Stephen Weiner,
SCI-Graterford's medical director. (Id.
¶¶ 1, 66, 125.)
now sues the City, Philadelphia Detention Center Warden John
Delaney, Curran-Fromhold Warden Michele Farrell, former
Philadelphia Prison System Commissioner Louis Giorla, House
of Correction Warden William Lawton, Roman Pont du Jour, and
Valitas Health Services, Corizon Health, Inc., MHM
Correctional Services Inc., MHM Services, Inc., which are
companies with whom the City and Commonwealth contract to
provide health care services in the prisons. She also sues
the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Pennsylvania
Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel, SCI-Graterford
Superintendent Michael Wenerowicz, Pennsylvania Corrections
employees Cynthia Link, George Ondrejka, Joseph Korszniak, J.
Link, David Mascellino, Stephen Weiner, Matthew Mauriello,
“CO” Robinson and Wexford Health Solutions and
Correct Care Solutions LLC under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
violations of McLeod's constitutional rights. Several of
the Defendants filed four separate motions to
dismiss. Inasmuch as the motions raise overlapping
legal questions, the Court will address them together.
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,
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
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).
“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 United States, 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).
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. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir.
contends that the City Defendants violated McLeod's
constitutional rights by transferring him to SCI-Graterford
without warning officials there of McLeod's suicidal
ideations or recommending that he be placed on suicide watch.
See (Compl. ¶¶ 100(a)-(c)). To state a
§ 1983 claim, Summers must allege facts to show that a
person acting under color of law deprived McLeod of a federal
right. See Groman v. Twp. of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628,
633 (3d Cir. 1995). Any violation of McLeod's rights must
have been done intentionally or with deliberate indifference
to those rights. See, e.g., Brower v. County of
Inyo, 489 U.S. 593, 596 (1989) (citing Hill v.
California, 401 U.S. 797, 802-05 (1971)); County of
Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 843-44 (1998);
see also Berg v. County of Allegheny, 219 F.3d 261,
269 (3d Cir. 2000).
alleges the City violated McLeod's Fifth, Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendments rights. (Compl.¶¶ 79-80,
148.) The City contends that Summers's Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendment claims fail because McLeod was not in
the City's custody when he committed suicide. (Defs.'
Resp., at 10-11 ECF No. 6.) It also asserts that her
Fourteenth Amendment claim is barred because the City took no
affirmative act to harm McLeod. (Id. at 4-7.)
extent that Summers raises substantive due process claims,
she cannot state a claim against the City Defendants under
the Fifth Amendment. “The Fifth Amendment only applies
to actions taken by the federal government, not state or
local governments.” Duffy v. County of Bucks,
7 F.Supp.2d 569, 576 (E.D. Pa. 1998) (citing Schweiker v.
Wilson, 450 U.S. 221, 227 (1981)); see also
Washington-Pope v. City of Philadelphia, 979 F.Supp.2d
544, 551 n.1 (E.D. Pa. 2013) (“[T]o the extent [the
plaintiff] contends that her Fifth Amendment claim sounds in
substantive due process (the only plausible reading of her
Complaint based on the facts presented), she must rely
instead on the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause,
which applies to state and local actors, rather than the
Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause, which applies to
federal actors.”). Summers's Fifth Amendment claims
against the City and individual City Defendants are dismissed
substantive due process claims under the Fourteenth Amendment
are barred by the “more-specific-provision rule”
and must be dismissed with prejudice because the Eighth
Amendment applies to the City Defendants' alleged
conduct. The “more-specific-provision rule”
directs that “if a constitutional claim is covered by a
specific constitutional provision, such as the . . . Eighth
Amendment, the claim must be analyzed under the standard
appropriate to that specific provision, not under the rubric
of substantive due ...