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Maldanado v. Department of Corrections

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 18, 2017



          William W. Caldwell United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         In August 2013, the pro se plaintiff, Alexis Maldanado, a state inmate, filed this civil-rights lawsuit concerning an event that occurred while he was housed at the state correctional institution in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania (SCI-Huntingdon). (ECF No. 1). This action proceeds on the Amended Complaint (ECF Nos. 29 and 30). On August 20, 2015, we granted the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Defendants' motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 20). Presently before the court is Dr. Polmueller's uncontested motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 78).

         For the reasons discussed below, the court will grant Dr. Polmueller's motion to dismiss and close the case.

         II. Standard of Review

         A motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P 12(b)(6) authorizes the dismissal of a complaint “for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the district court 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 is entitled to relief.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Phillips v. Cnty. 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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), a complaint must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570, 127 S.Ct. at 1974. “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, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965). Formulaic recitations of the elements of a cause of action will not suffice. See Id. “[L]abels and conclusions” are not enough, and a court is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1965.

         With this standard in mind, the following is the background to this litigation, as Plaintiff alleges it.

         III. Background

         Before his September 9, 2010, transfer to SCI-Huntingdon, Plaintiff was housed in a “gang unit” at SCI-Fayette where he was involved in a “gang fight” for which he received unspecified disciplinary sanctions and prompted his transfer. Upon his arrival at SCI-Huntingdon he was housed in Administrative Custody (AC) in the institution's Restricted Housing Unit (RHU). Fourteen days later, on September 22, 2010, he was placed in SCI-Huntingdon's general population. (Doc. 30, ECF p. 2 and p. 7).

         While at SCI-Huntingdon, he held the following classification (housing) codes: “H-Code” - High Risk due to violent tendencies; “O-Code” - Observations, to be closely watched; and “Z-Code” - single cell status. (Id., ECF p. 8). He also received bi-weekly meetings with a psychologist. (Id.) He kept a diary as part of his therapy and attended “institutional guided classes to attempt to address his psychological needs.” (Id., ECF p. 8; pp. 15-16 and pp. 27-28). He also took “strong medications, ” including Paxil and/or Remeron, to treat his severe depression. (Id., ECF p. 12 and p. 14). Maldanado spoke to officers, wrote request slips, and spoke with nurses all in effort “to get somebody to take him [and his mental health needs] more seriously.” (Id., ECF p. 10).

         On July 11, 2011, Maldanado was placed in the RHU for disciplinary reasons. (Id., ECF p. 3). On or about September 2, 2011, while still in the RHU, Maldanado notified staff of his “extreme anxiety” and that he was going to kill himself “if necessary” to stop these feelings. Prison staff contacted Mrs. Lane, a CRNP, in the psychiatry department about his concerns. Shortly thereafter, Maldanado was removed from his cell, taken to a shower area, stripped of his clothes and placed in a “smock.” (Id., ECF p. 4). At the same time, staff removed Maldanado's property from his cell, including his mattress and bedding. (Id.) He was not placed in a Psychiatric Observation Cell (POC) but was returned to his empty RHU cell. (Id.) A “709 Notice” was placed outside of his cell door advising all staff that he was under “razor restriction, as well as, suicide watch.” (Id.)

         The following day, Plaintiff obtained a razor which he used to attempt suicide. He was then removed from his cell and taken to a POC in the medical unit and placed on “Basic 4" restrictions as ordered by Dr. Polmueller. (Id.; see also ECF p. 21). “Basic 4" restrictions consist of “an anti-suicide smock and blanket which are tear resistant, a mattress, and slides - basic laceless shoes.” (Id., p. 5 and p. 21).

         Maldanado's POC cell did not have a mattress. Maldanado was without a mattress for four or five days “in direct violation of a doctors (sic) orders.” (Id., p. 20). This deprivation denied him of “the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities” in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Id.) Plaintiff, who had a pre-existing back injury, claims he suffered ‚Äúsleepless nights ...

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