United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
PARADISE BAXTER United States Magistrate Judge.
civil action was filed in this Court on April 11, 2016.
Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee at the Erie County Prison,
brought this civil rights action. In his original complaint,
Plaintiff named a single defendant: Lt. Edward Yeaney, a
guard at Erie County Prison. ECF No. 3. In an amended
complaint, Plaintiff expanded on his claims and named the
following Erie County Prison employees as Defendants: Lt.
Edward Yeaney, Correctional Officer Anthony Allman, Deputy
Warden Gary Seymour, Deputy Warden Michael Holman, and Warden
Kevin Sutter. ECF No. 21. Plaintiff alleges that Yeaney used
excessive force against him and that Allman and Sutter failed
to intervene to protect him from Yeaney. Plaintiff claims
that after he filed this lawsuit against Yeaney only, Seymour
and Holman retaliated against him by denying him
reclassification into general population.
filed a motion to dismiss [ECF No. 62] and Plaintiff filed a
brief in opposition [ECF No. 68]. This motion is fully
briefed and is ripe for disposition by this Court.
Pro Se Litigants
se pleadings, “however inartfully pleaded, ”
must be held to “less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-521 (1972). If the court can
reasonably read pleadings to state a valid claim on which the
litigant could prevail, it should do so despite failure to
cite proper legal authority, confusion of legal theories,
poor syntax and sentence construction, or litigant's
unfamiliarity with pleading requirements. Boag v.
MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364 (1982); United States ex
rel. Montgomery v. Bierley, 141 F.2d 552, 555 (3d Cir.
1969) (petition prepared by a prisoner may be inartfully
drawn and should be read “with a measure of
tolerance”); Smith v. U.S. District Court, 956
F.2d 295 (D.C.Cir. 1992); Freeman v. Dep't of
Corrections, 949 F.2d 360 (10th Cir. 1991). Under our
liberal pleading rules, during the initial stages of
litigation, a district court should construe all allegations
in a complaint in favor of the complainant. Gibbs v.
Roman, 116 F.3d 83 (3d Cir. 1997). See,
e.g., Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d
Cir. 1996) (discussing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard);
Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103
(3d Cir. 1990) (same). Because Plaintiff is a pro se
litigant, this Court may consider facts and make inferences
where it is appropriate.
Motion to dismiss
motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) must be
viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and the
complaint's well-pleaded allegations must be accepted as
true. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007).
A complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) if it
does not allege “enough facts to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (rejecting
the traditional 12(b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)); see also Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (specifically applying
Twombly analysis beyond the context of the Sherman
need not accept inferences drawn by a plaintiff if they are
unsupported by the facts set forth in the complaint. See
California Pub. Emps' Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp.,
394 F.3d 126, 146 (3d Cir. 2004) citing Morse v. Lower
Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Nor
must the court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual
allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, citing
Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986); see
also McTernan v. City of York, Pa., 577 F.3d 521, 531
(3d Cir. 2009) (“The tenet that a court must accept as
true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is
inapplicable to legal conclusions.”). A plaintiff's
factual allegations “must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.” Twombly,
550 U.S. at 556, citing 5 C. Wright & A. Miller,
Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235-36 (3d
ed. 2004). Although the United States Supreme Court
(“Supreme Court”) does “not require
heightened pleading of specifics, [the Court does require]
enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.
other words, at the motion to dismiss stage, a plaintiff is
“required to make a ‘showing' rather than a
blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief.”
Smith v. Sullivan, No. 07-528, 2008 WL 482469, at *1
(D. Del. Feb. 19, 2008) quoting Phillips v. Cty. of
Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008). “This
‘does not impose a probability requirement at the
pleading stage, ' but instead ‘simply calls for
enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery
will reveal evidence of' the necessary element.”
Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234, quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 556 n.3.
Third Circuit has expounded on the Twombly/Iqbal
line of cases. To determine the sufficiency of a complaint
under Twombly and Iqbal, the court must
follow three steps:
First, the court must ‘tak[e] note of the elements a
plaintiff must plead to state a claim.' Second the court
should identify allegations that, ‘because they are no
more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of
truth.' Finally, ‘where there are well-pleaded
factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and
then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an
entitlement for relief.'
Burtch v. Milberg Factors, Inc., 662 F.3d 212, 221
(3d Cir. 2011) quoting Santiago v.Warminster Twp.,
629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010).
Motion for summary judgment
the parties have filed evidence in support of their filings,
this Court will convert the motion to dismiss pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) to a motion for
summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
56. See Burns v. Harris County Bail Bond Bd., 139
F.3d 513, 517 (5th Cir.1998). (“When matters outside
the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the
district court, the district court must convert a motion to
dismiss into a motion for summary judgment.”);
Greer v. Smith, 2003 WL 1090708, *1 (3d Cir. (Pa.)
March 10, 2003) (“the District Court considered
material outside of the pleadings and, therefore, should have
converted the motion for dismissal to a summary judgment
motion, allowing the plaintiff an opportunity for appropriate
discovery and a reasonable opportunity to present all
material made pertinent to the motion.”).
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment
shall be granted if the “movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” When applying
this standard, the court must examine the factual record and
reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable
to the party opposing summary judgment. Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
moving party has the initial burden of proving to the
district court the absence of evidence supporting the
non-moving party's claims. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986); Andreoli v.
Gates, 482 F.3d 641, 647 (3d Cir. 2007); UPMC Health
System v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 391 F.3d 497, 502
(3d Cir. 2004). The burden then shifts to the non-movant to
come forward with specific facts showing a genuine issue for
trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Williams v. Borough of West
Chester, Pa., 891 F.2d 458, 460-461 (3d Cir. 1989) (the
non-movant must present affirmative evidence - more than a
scintilla but less than a preponderance -which supports each
element of his claim to defeat a properly presented motion
for summary judgment). The non-moving party must go beyond
the pleadings and show specific facts by affidavit or by
information contained in the filed documents (i.e.,
depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions) to
meet his burden of proving elements essential to his claim.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. See also Saldana v.
Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001).
considering a motion for summary judgment, the court is not
permitted to weigh the evidence or to make credibility
determinations, but is limited to deciding whether there are
any disputed issues and, if there are, whether they are both
genuine and material. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).
Allegations of the Amended Complaint
January of 2016, Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee in the
Erie County Prison. ECF No. 21, ¶ ¶ 3, 11.
Plaintiff is confined to a wheelchair and suffers from
bedsores. In the early morning hours of January
2nd, Plaintiff asked Allman to notify medical that
a wound vac machine was beeping indicating a loss of suction.
Id. at ¶ 12. Nurse Barbalaci came to
Plaintiff's cell to adjust Plaintiff's bandages and
the vac machine. After Barbalaci left Plaintiff's cell,
the wound vac machine began to beep again and Plaintiff asked
Allman to call the medical department. Id. at ¶
an hour later, Allman directed Plaintiff to get dressed so
that he could be transported to the medical department.
Plaintiff refused. Id. at ¶ ¶ 19-22.
Allman allegedly told Plaintiff “Get up in your
wheelchair or me and Lt. Yeaney will drag you to
medical.” Plaintiff responded: “I'm allowed
to refuse medical for something that's ‘as
needed' so if you're gonna drag me, drag me.”
Id. A couple minutes later, Lt. Yeaney and Officer
Allman entered Plaintiff's cell. Plaintiff claims Yeaney
swore at him, grabbed him by the throat, pushed him down on
his bunk and choked him, while Allman watched. Id.
at ¶ ¶ 23-26. Lt. Yeaney choked Plaintiff for one
minute before picking him up and dropping him on the floor.
Plaintiff claims that Yeaney and Allman then grabbed him by
the arms and forcefully slammed him into his wheelchair.
Id. at ¶ ¶ 27-28. Plaintiff was
transported to the medical department where he refused
medication attention before being returned to his cell.
Id. at ¶ ¶ 29-30. Plaintiff claims he
suffered pain and injuries as a result of this incident.
Plaintiff contends that his due process rights were violated.
claims that Yeaney used excessive force against him and that
Allman failed to intervene to protect him from the use of
excessive force. Id. at ¶ ¶ 48-50.
Plaintiff also claims that Warden ...