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Williams v. Doe

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

October 17, 2017



          SCHMEHL, J.

         Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff Roger Williams' Complaint. Mr. Williams pro se alleges Defendants Jane/John Doe and Joseph C. Korszniak violated the Eighth Amendment when they withheld medication with deliberate indifference to his medical needs and inflicted unnecessary pain and suffering. Defendant Korszniak is employed by S.C.I. Graterford as the Correctional Health Care Administrator (“CHCA”) and Defendant Nurse/Doctor John/Jane Doe ostensibly refers to the medical prison official who provided care to Mr. Williams. However, Mr. Williams' Complaint does not identify who specifically provided the care resulting in the alleged injury.

         Defendants assert that Eleventh Amendment immunity bars suit against the Commonwealth, its agencies, and employees in their official capacities. Given Mr. Williams' pro se status, it is understandable that he does not distinguish between Defendants' official and individual capacity under § 1983. For purposes of the present complaint, this Court will analyze Mr. Williams' claim as if pled as an official-capacity claim while addressing Defendants' sovereign immunity defense. This Court will then address Mr. Williams' Eighth Amendment argument set forth in the Complaint. Further, Defendants' motion only addresses claims made against one Defendant, Joseph C. Korszniak; therefore, this Court will only address those defenses.

         Mr. Williams failed to respond to the motion to dismiss filed by Defendants. Failure to make a timely response allows the court to treat a motion as uncontested. Move Organization v. City of Philadelphia, 89 F.R.D. 521, 523 (E.D. Pa. 1981). Further, there is no question that Mr. Williams actually received a copy of the motion to dismiss, as the certificate of service states that the motion was served upon him at S.C.I. Mercer. As of the date of this opinion, Mr. Williams is no longer incarcerated at S.C.I. Mercer. Mr. Williams' response was due in October of 2016; he has not responded, nor has he requested additional time to do so.

         Rule 7.1(c) of the local Rules of Civil Procedure for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania provides that “[i]n the absence of a timely response, the motion may be granted as uncontested except as provided under [the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governing summary judgment motions].” See also Celestial Community Development Corp., Inc., v. City of Philadelphia, 901 F.Supp.2d 566, 578 (E.D. Pa. 2010) (“To put it simply: plaintiffs who fail to brief their opposition to portions of motions to dismiss do so at the risk of having those parts of the motions to dismiss granted as uncontested.”); Nelson v. DeVry, Inc., No. 07-4436, 2009 WL 1213640 (E.D. Pa. April 23, 2009) (“Failure to address even part of a motion in a responsive brief may result in that aspect of the motion being treated as unopposed.”). Accordingly, Defendants motion to dismiss is granted as unopposed. However, even if this Court were not to consider the motion as unopposed, the motion would be granted nonetheless. Therefore, moving Defendant's motion to dismiss will be granted with prejudice as to Defendant Korszniak.

         This Court also notes the remaining Defendant in this case is Nurse/Doctor Jane/John Doe. Mr. Williams will be given thirty (30) days to file an amended complaint properly identifying Jane/John Doe. If Plaintiff fails to do so, his complaint will be dismissed without further notice.


         “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim satisfies the plausibility standard when the facts alleged “allow[] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Burtch v. Millberg Factors, Inc., 662 F.3d 212, 220-21 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). While the plausibility standard is not “akin to a ‘probability requirement, '” there nevertheless must be more than a “sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “Where a complaint pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         The Court of Appeals requires us to apply a three-step analysis under a 12(b)(6) motion: (1) “it must ‘tak[e] note of the elements [the] plaintiff must plead to state a claim;'” (2) “it should identify allegations that, ‘because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth;'” and, (3) “[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, [the] court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.” Connelly v. Lane Construction Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675, 679); see also Burtch, 662 F.3d at 221; Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d. Cir. 2011); Santiago v. Warminster Township, 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d. Cir. 2010).

         However, a document filed pro se must 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). The Third Circuit has instructed that if a complaint is vulnerable to dismissal for failure to state a claim, the district court must permit a curative amendment, unless an amendment would be inequitable or futile. Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002).

         B. ANALYSIS

         1. Sovereign Immunity under the Eleventh Amendment

         Defendant Korszniak argues the Eleventh Amendment bars him from suit in his official-capacity.[1] The Eleventh Amendment precludes private federal litigation against states, state agencies, and state officials in their official capacities. This immunity is subject to three basic exceptions: “(1) Congress may specifically abrogate a state's sovereign immunity by exercising its enforcement power under the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) a state may waive its sovereign immunity by consenting to suit; or (3) under Ex parte Young, a state official may be sued in his or her official capacity for prospective injunctive relief. Hollihan v. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, 159 F.Supp.3d 502, 510 (M.D. Pa. 2016) (citing Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908)); see also Idaho v. Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho, 521 U.S. 261, 267-70 (1997).

         As it pertains to the first exception, it is well-settled that by enacting § 1983 Congress has not abrogated Eleventh Amendment immunity. Id. (citing Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989)). Second, Pennsylvania has unequivocally withheld consent to suit under § 1983. Id. “Section 8521 of Title 42 of the Pennsylvania Code clearly states, ‘Nothing contained in this subchapter shall be construed to waive the immunity of the Commonwealth from suit in Federal courts guaranteed by the Eleventh Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.'” Id. (citing 42 Pa. C.S. § 8521(b)); see also Lombardo v. Pennsylvania, Dept. of Public Welfare, 540 F.3d 190, 196 (3d Cir. 2008); see also Laskaris v. Thornburgh, 661 F.2d 23, 25 (3d Cir. 1981). Finally, Mr. Williams raises official-capacity claims against Defendant Korszniak under ยง 1983 as an employee of the DOC and agent of the ...

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