United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
WILLIAM A. ASH, Plaintiff,
D.O.C., et al., Defendants.
RICHARD CAPUTO United States District Judge
William A. Ash, an inmate at the Dallas State Correctional
Institution in Dallas, Pennsylvania, commenced this action on
June 2, 2017. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff appears pro se
and has been granted leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. (ECF No. 8.) Prior to the Court serving the
Complaint on Defendants, Mr. Ash sought, and was granted,
leave to file an amended complaint. (Id.) The Court
proceeds to review and screen the Amended Complaint pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Standard of Review for Screening Pro Se In Forma
litigant seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, without
payment of fees, 28 U.S.C. § 1915 requires the court to
screen the complaint, or in this instance, the amended
complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Likewise, when a prisoner seeks redress from a government
defendant in a civil action, whether proceeding in forma
pauperis or not, the court must screen the complaint.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Both 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915(A) give the court the authority
to dismiss a complaint if it is frivolous, malicious, fails
to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks
monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such
relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii);
28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2); Ball v. Famiglio,
726 F.3d 448, 452 (3d Cir. 2013).
complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis either
in law or fact. See Mitchell v. Horn, 318 F.3d 523,
530 (3d Cir. 2003)(citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490
U.S. 319, 327-28, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 1832-33, 104 L.Ed.2d 338
(1989)). In deciding whether the complaint fails to state a
claim on which relief may be granted, the court employs the
standard used to analyze motions to dismiss under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Allah v. Seiverling, 229
F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000). Under Rule 12(b)(6), the court
"must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded
facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions."
Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d
Cir. 2009) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678-79, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949-50, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)). The
court may also rely on exhibits attached to the complaint and
matters of public record. Sands v. McCormick, 502
F.3d 263, 268 (3d Cir. 2007).
complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . .
." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A complaint is required to
provide "the defendant fair notice of what the . . .
claim is and the grounds upon which it rests."
Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d
Cir. 2008) (quoting BellAtl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)).
the sufficiency of the complaint, the court "must take
three steps." Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp.,
809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016). First, a court must
"take note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to
state a claim." Id. (internal quotations and
brackets omitted). Second, the court must identify
allegations that are merely legal conclusions "because
they ... are not entitled to the assumption of truth."
Id. While detailed factual allegations are not
required, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a
cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do
not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct.
at 1949 (citing BellAtl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)).
Third, a court should assume the veracity of all well-pleaded
factual allegations and "then determine whether they
plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief."
Connelly, 809 F.3d at 787 (quoting Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. at 1949).
complaint filed by a pro se plaintiff must be
liberally construed and "held 'to less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.'" Fantone v. Latini, 780 F.3d 184
(3d Cir. 2015)(citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S.
519, 520-21, 92 S.Ct. 594, 596, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972));
see also Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127
S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007). Yet, even a
pro se plaintiff "must allege sufficient facts
in their complaints to support a claim." Mala v.
Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir.2013)
(citation omitted). Pro se litigants are to be
granted leave to file a curative amended complaint even when
a plaintiff does not seek leave to amend, unless such an
amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Estate of
Lagano v. Bergen Cty. Prosecutor's Office, 769 F.3d
850, 861 (3d Cir. 2014).
Allegations of the Amended Complaint
well-pleaded facts as set forth in Mr. Ash's Amended
Complaint (ECF No. 11) are as follows:
October 20, 2015, Mr. Ash was transferred from SCI-Dallas to
SCI-Graterford. He was transported by a bus operated by the
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC). The bus stopped
at SCI-Benner prior to proceeding to SCI-Graterford. At
approximately 1:30 p.m., Mr. Ash and thirty-seven other
inmates were placed on the transport bus at SCI-Benner and
headed for SCI-Graterford. Mr. Ash wore leg shackles and his
hands were cuffed in front of him to a waist-chain that
prevented him from lifting his arms. The transport bus did
not have seatbelts to secure Mr. Ash or the other inmates.
(Id. at ¶ 4.)
approximately 4:30 p.m., due to the excessive speed the bus
was traveling, the driver failed to smoothly negotiate a
curve and jerked the steering wheel while aggressively
applying the brakes. (Id. at ¶¶ 1 - 3.)
"Due to the operator's blatant neglegence
(sic)" Mr. Ash was "ejected" from his seat
head first and "landed on his head and back almost
rendering him unconscious." (Id. at ¶ 5.)
The DOC transport officers ignored inmates' cries that
Mr. Ash was injured and needed assistance. (Id.)
arriving at SCI-Graterford, Plaintiff notified staff of the
accident. After being placed in a holding cell for two hours,
Mr. Ash was taken to the medical unit. (Id. at
¶¶ 6 - 7.) There he advised a nurse of the accident
and his injuries: a head laceration, headache, dizziness, a
lump near the laceration site, and moderate back pain. The
nurse examined him, ...