United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM OPINION ECF NO. 66
PUPO LENIHAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the Court is the Motion to Dismiss filed by Cheryl Adams
(“Nurse Adams” or “Defendant”)
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF
No. 66). Defendant seeks dismissal of Count I of the Amended
Complaint filed, pro se, by John Bradley Peters, Sr.
(“Plaintiff”). (ECF No. 55). Plaintiff pleads his
sole claim against Defendant under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
alleged violation of his rights under the Fourteenth
Amendment to the Constitution of the United States -
specifically, deliberate indifference to his medical needs.
dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) requires a complaint to provide
“enough factual matter” to allow the case to move
beyond the pleading stage of litigation; the pleader must
“‘nudge his or her claims across the line from
conceivable to plausible.'” Phillips v. Cnty.
of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 - 35 (3d Cir. 2008)
(quoting Bell Atlantic Co. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
556, 570 (2007)). In assessing the merits of a claim subject
to a motion to dismiss, a court must engage in a two-part
analysis. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203,
210 - 11 (3d Cir. 2009). First, factual and legal elements of
a claim must be distinguished. Id. Second, it must
be determined whether the facts as alleged support a
“plausible claim for relief.” Id. In
making the latter determination, the court must be mindful
that the matter pleaded need not include “detailed
factual allegations, ” Phillips, 515 F.3d at
231 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555), and the
court must construe all alleged facts, and draw all
inferences gleaned therefrom, in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party. Id. at 228 (citing
Worldcom, Inc. v. Graphnet, Inc., 343 F.3d 651, 653
(3d Cir. 2003)). Moreover, pleadings filed by pro se
litigants should be liberally construed. Mala v. Crown
Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 244 (3d Cir. 2013)
(citing Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339
(3d Cir. 2011)).
the facts pled do need to raise the expectation of relief
above a purely speculative level, and must include more than
“labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of
the elements of a cause of action.” Phillips,
515 F.3d at 231 - 32 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at
554 - 56). Rule 8(a)(2) “requires a ‘showing'
rather than a blanket assertion of an entitlement to
relief.” Id. at 232. “[T]hreadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice, ”
Fowler, 578 F.3d at 211 (quoting Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)), and even pro
se litigants are required to plead facts sufficient to
supports their claims, and cannot flout procedural rules.
Mala, 704 F.3d at 245.
Amended Complaint of August 18, 2017 alleges that in the late
evening hours of March 5, 2014, Plaintiff was taken into
custody by officers of the Brookville Borough Police
Department. The police had responded to an emergency call by
Plaintiff's wife. (ECF No. 55 ¶ 13). Plaintiff had
fallen down a flight of stairs in his home, and thereafter
began to act erratically; this behavior included threats of
violence against members of Plaintiff's family.
(Id. ¶¶ 14 - 21). Plaintiffs wife
initially attributed his conduct to consumption of alcohol.
(Id. ¶¶ 22 - 23).
the police arrived on the scene, they attempted to escort
Plaintiff from his home to a patrol car with the aid of
Plaintiff s sons. (Id. ¶ 24). However,
Plaintiff became aggravated and attempted to return to his
home. (Id. ¶ 25). In the ensuing scuffle, one
of the police officers was struck by Plaintiff, at which
point Plaintiff was punched in the face by another officer
and wrestled to the ground with the help of one of Plaintiff
s sons. (Id. ¶¶ 26 - 34).
the eventual arrival of paramedics, Plaintiff was strapped to
a backboard and transported to Brookville Hospital.
(Id. ¶¶ 50 - 51, 55). Plaintiff was to
undergo an assessment to determine whether he was medically
clear for detention at the Jefferson County Jail. (Id.
¶ 55). At the hospital, Plaintiff came under the
care of physician Hosny Mikhail and Nurse Adams. Nurse Adams
examined Plaintiff and completed a Functional Assessment in
which she found “no identified needs.”
(Id. ¶ 60). Dr. Mikhail then completed his own
examination, after which he recorded in his notes that
Plaintiff was “MEDICALLY CLEARED TO GO TO JAIL, ”
and ordered that Plaintiff be discharged. (Id.
¶¶ 62 - 63). In the early morning hours of March 6,
2014, Plaintiff was released, and his discharge papers stated
that he was “MEDICALLY CLEAR TO BE DISCHARGED TO POLICE
CUSTODY.” (Id. ¶¶ 72, 79). The
Jefferson County Jail took custody of Plaintiff at
approximately 1:45 a.m. on March 6, 2014. (Id.
Count I of the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that
Nurse Adams' conduct while Plaintiff was under her care
amounted to deliberate indifference to his medical needs.
(Id. ¶ 112). In response, Nurse Adams argues
that Plaintiffs claim is time-barred, and that it fails to
allege facts sufficient to establish that she acted under
color of law for purposes of § 1983. (ECF Nos. 67; 73).
The Court agrees with Defendant, and will dismiss.
respect to Defendant's first argument, a complaint is
properly subject to dismissal due to the passing of the
relevant statute of limitations if the defense is
“apparent on the face of the complaint.”
Wisniewski v. Fisher, 857 F.3d 152, 157 (3d Cir.
2017) (citing Bradford-White Corp. v. Ernst &
Whinney, 872 F.2d 1153, 1161 (3d Cir. 1989); Schmidt
v. Skolas, 770 F.3d 241, 249 (3d Cir. 2014)). The
appropriate limitations period for § 1983 claims in
Pennsylvania is two years. Id. (citing Knoll v.
Springfield Twp. Sch. Dist., 763 F.2d 584, 585 (3d Cir.
1985)). Thus, an Amended Complaint filed on August 18, 2017,
presenting a claim pertaining to the conduct of a newly named
defendant on March 5 - 6, 2014, is untimely filed. Plaintiff
nevertheless contends that the statute of limitations does
not bar his claim against Nurse Adams, because it relates
back to the claims originally filed against Brookville
Hospital and Dr. Mikhail, and because Nurse Adams received
notice of her potential liability by virtue of her
representation by the same attorney as represents Brookville
Hospital and Dr. Mikhail. (ECF No. 72 at 4 - 6).
Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(1)(B) dictates that an amended
pleading will relate back to the date of an original pleading
if it contains “‘a claim or defense that arose
out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out - or
attempted to be set out - in the original
pleading.'” Glover v. F.D.I.C., 698 F.3d
139, 145 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(c)(1)(B)).
Accordingly, a court must “‘search for a common
core of operative facts in the two pleadings.'”
Id. (quoting Bensel v. Allied Pilots
Ass'n, 387 F.3d 298, 310 (3d Cir. 2004)).
“[O]nly where the opposing party is given ‘fair
notice of the general fact situation and the legal theory
upon which the amending party proceeds' will relation
back be allowed.” Id. at 146 (quoting
Bensel, 387 F.3d at 310). Amended pleadings which
have the effect of significantly altering the nature of a
proceeding “‘by injecting new and unanticipated
claims are treated far more cautiously.'”
Id. (quoting United States v. Hicks, 283
F.3d 380, 388 (D.C. Cir. 2002)).
filed his original Complaint on March 7, 2016. (ECF No. 1).
Brookville Hospital and Dr. Mikhail were named as defendants,
but not Nurse Adams. (Id. at 5). The Complaint made
mention of an “intake nurse” on three occasions,
but made no specific allegations of wrongdoing or
contribution to Plaintiff's injury by said nurse.
(Id. at 6, 11). Neither were there allegations of
manipulation or falsification of medical records by hospital
staff. The Complaint claimed only that Dr. Mikhail
“refused to request facts” and ignored signs and
symptoms necessary to make informed medical decisions.
(Id. at 12). It was also claimed that
“Brookville Hospital has failed to train or supervise
it's [sic] doctors to seek all information necessary to
make a proper medical judgment.” (Id. at 12).
Indeed, the Complaint actually appears to cast the
unidentified nurse in a positive light when it notes that the
nurse attempted to alert Dr. Mikhail to the severity of
Plaintiff's condition. (Id.).
Amended Complaint, Plaintiff claims that Nurse Adams was
deliberately indifferent to his medical needs when she
“intentionally and/or with gross
negligence…reported false information in medical
forms.” (ECF No. 55 ¶ 112). While amended
pleadings are frequently found to relate back when simply
restating “‘the original claim with greater
particularity'” or amplifying “‘the
factual circumstances surrounding the pertinent conduct,
'” that is not the case here. Glover, 698
F.3d at 146 (quoting Bensel, 387 F.3d at 310). The
conduct of which Nurse Adams is accused cannot be said to fit
within the claims pled against Brookville Hospital and Dr.
Mikhail in the original Complaint. Consequently, the original
Complaint cannot be said to have placed Nurse Adams
on notice of potential liability for falsification of medical
records. A complaint cannot be rehabilitated by invoking Rule
15(c) where it “does not give a defendant ‘fair
notice of what the plaintiff's amended claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.'” Id.
(quoting Baldwin Cnty. Welcome Ctr. v. Brown, 466
U.S. 147, 149 n. 3 (1984)). Although the Court draws all
inferences and views all facts in the light most favorable to
Plaintiff, the pleadings make clear that Count I is barred by
the applicable statute of limitations as it pertains to Nurse
Adams, and must be dismissed.
even if Count I did relate back to Plaintiff's
allegations in the original Complaint, Defendant is correct
in asserting that dismissal is warranted for failure to state
a claim under § 1983. Section 1983 provides that:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or
the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be
subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person
within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any
rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the ...