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Easley v. Tritt

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 30, 2017

BRENDA TRITT, et al. Defendants.


          SYLVIA H. RAMBO United States District Judge

         I. Background

         Presently before the Court is a civil action filed by pro se Plaintiff, Warren Easley, on May 26, 2017, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. No. 1.) As Plaintiff has filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the Court will engage in screening of Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         Plaintiff, an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Smithfield, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, (“SCI-Smithfield”) filed this § 1983 action naming as defendants sixteen (16) employees of SCI-Frackville[1], and two (2) employees at the Department of Corrections (“DOC”), central office.[2] Plaintiff asserts a Fourth Amendment excessive force claim, Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment and condition-of-confinement claim, a First Amendment retaliation claim, and an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to a serious medical need claim. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff alleges, inter alia, that he was subjected to the unjustified and continuous use of O.C. Spray on numerous occasions. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff also alleges that he was subjected to being strapped into a restraint chair on multiple occasions for excessive amounts of time, one instance lasting up to 22 hours. During one of these times, Plaintiff avers that he was punched in the face by Defendant Korby. On another occasion, Plaintiff alleges that during a cell extraction, he was thrown to the ground by Defendant Korby and Defendant Korby repeatedly banged Plaintiff's head off of the floor, requiring Plaintiff to receive seven stitches. (Id.)

         Plaintiff also alleges that he was denied a mattress, clothes, linen, and the use of a working toilet and sink. Because of this, Plaintiff avers he was forced to defecate and urinate on the floor, wipe himself with orange peels, Styrofoam, and plastic wrappers, and live in this type of condition for a number of days. (Doc. No.1 at 14, 21.) Plaintiff further alleges that on another occasion when he was placed in the restraint chair, a smock blanket was placed around his body and was clasped at his neck with flex cuffs for over eight hours. (Id. at 23.) With regard to his medical treatment, Plaintiff alleges that despite his attempts of suicide on several occasions, and his subsequent request for mental health treatment, he was never afforded any treatment. (Id. at 29-32.)

         II. Standard of Review

         In reviewing Plaintiff's Complaint, the Court is guided by § 1915(e)(2) of the PLRA which provides:

Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that (A) the allegation of poverty is untrue; or (B) the action or appeal (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         In performing this mandatory screening function, a district court applies the same standard applied to motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010). The Court's inquiry is guided by the standards of Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). Under Twombly and Iqbal, pleading requirements have shifted to a “more heightened form of pleading.” See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). To prevent dismissal, all civil complaints must set out “sufficient factual matter” to show that the claim is facially plausible. Id. The plausibility standard requires more than a mere possibility that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. As the Supreme Court instructed in Iqbal, “where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' - ‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         Accordingly, to determine the sufficiency of a complaint under Twombly and Iqbal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has identified the following steps a district court must take when determining the sufficiency of a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6): (1) identify the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim; (2) identify any conclusory allegations contained in the complaint “not entitled” to the assumption of truth; and (3) determine whether any “well-pleaded factual allegations” contained in the complaint “plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” See Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, “a court must consider only the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, as well as undisputedly authentic documents if the complainant's claims are based upon these documents.” Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 230 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993)). A court may also consider “any ‘matters incorporated by reference or integral to the claim, items subject to judicial notice, matters of public record, orders, [and] items appearing in the record of the case.'” Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006) (quoting 5B Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1357 (3d Ed. 2004)).

         In conducting its screening review of a complaint, the court must be mindful that 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. ...

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