United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
William J. Nealon, United States District Judge.
August 15, 2016, Plaintiff, Jeremel Pledger, an inmate at the
State Correctional Institution Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, filed
this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. §1983. He complains of incidents which occurred
at his prior place of confinement, the Lackawanna County
Prison. Named as Defendants are the Lackawanna County Prison
and the following Lackawanna County Prison employees: Captain
Shanley and Officer Michael Esposito. (Doc. 1, complaint).
Plaintiff also names C.B.M. Food Vendors and Benjamin
O'Leary, an employee of C.B.M. Id.
alleges that he was “hired to work in the kitchen
without being medically cleared” and “was made to
work 7 days a week with no days off from 6 am to 6 pm,
sometimes later until 9 pm.” (Doc. 1). He states that
he “worked for 87 days from March 6th until
May 31st.” Id. He claims that
“on January 29th the doctor of Lackawanna
County Prison deemed [him] no work no recreation.”
Id. Finally, Plaintiff states that “on May
24th [he] strained his back while working”
and “C.B.M. workers Kevin Mones, Ben O'Leary and
Kitchen Officer told [Plaintiff] that if he reported his
injury he would be fired because he was not suppose to be
working.” Id. Plaintiff was then transferred
to SCI-Graterford, where he claims he “received an
increase in medication on 7/9/16 after leaving the Lackawanna
County Prison.” Id.
August 15, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant action in which
he seeks compensatory and punitive damages for “lack of
medical attention, increase of depression, violation of
inmate workers rights” and “for mental anguish in
delaying [him] from proper health care” Id.
Plaintiff also seeks to recover for “negligence of
grievance procedures.” Id.
1, 2017, Defendants C.B.M. Food Vendors and Benjamin
O'Leary filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's
complaint, and supporting brief, arguing, inter
alia, dismissal for lack of jurisdiction due to
Plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
(Docs. 16, 17). On June 21, 2017, the remaining Defendants
filed a motion for summary judgment, supported by a statement
of material facts, exhibits and supporting brief. (Docs.
21-3). Although Plaintiff filed a brief in opposition to the
motion to dismiss, Plaintiff has failed to oppose the motion
for summary judgment. As such, the motion is treated as
unopposed. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will
grant Defendants' motion to dismiss and motion for
Motion to Dismiss
12(b)(6) authorizes dismissal of a complaint for
“failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted.” Under Rule 12(b)(6), we 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 may be entitled to relief.” Fowler v.
UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009)
(quoting Phillips v. County 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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007), a complaint must plead “enough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Id. at 570. “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 (2009) (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 556). “[L]abels and conclusions” are
not enough, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, and a court
“is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion
couched as a factual allegation.” Id. (quoted
case omitted). Thus, “a judicial conspiracy claim must
include at least a discernible factual basis to survive a
Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal.” Capogrosso v. The Supreme
Court of New Jersey, 588 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2009)
resolving the motion to dismiss, we thus “conduct a
two-part analysis.” Fowler, supra,
578 F.3d at 210. First, we separate the factual elements from
the legal elements and disregard the legal conclusions.
Id. at 210-11. Second, we “determine whether
the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show
that the plaintiff has a “plausible claim for
relief”. Id. at 211 (quoted case omitted).
addition, because Plaintiff complains about “prison
conditions, ” the screening provisions of 42 U.S.C.
§1997e apply, as do the screening provisions of 28
U.S.C. §1915(e), given that he was granted in forma
pauperis status to pursue this suit. The court's
obligation to dismiss a complaint under the PLRA screening
provisions for complaints that fail to state a claim is not
excused even after defendants have filed a motion to dismiss.
See, e.g., Lopez v. Smith, 203
F.3d 1122, 1126 n. 6 (9th Cir. 2000). Hence, if there is a
ground for dismissal which was not relied upon by a defendant
in a motion to dismiss, the court may nonetheless sua sponte
rest its dismissal upon such ground pursuant to the screening
provisions of the PLRA. See Lopez; Dare v.
U.S., Civil No. 06-115E, 2007 WL 1811198, at *4 (W.D.
Pa. June 21, 2007), aff'd, 264 Fed App'x. 183 (3d
Prison Litigation Reform Act requires that inmates exhaust
the administrative remedies that are available to them prior
to bringing suit in federal court. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).
Specifically, the PLRA provides that “[n]o action shall
be brought with respect to prison conditions under section
1979 of the Revised Statutes of the United States (42 U.S.C.
§ 1983) or any other federal law, by a prisoner confined
in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until
such administrative remedies as are available have been
United States Supreme Court has repeatedly confirmed that
“[t]here is no question that exhaustion is mandatory
under the PLRA.” Ross v. Blake, ___ U.S. ___,
136 S.Ct. 1850, 1856, 195 L.Ed.2d 117 (2016), quoting
Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 85 (2006), accord
Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211 (2007). “And
that mandatory language means a court may not excuse a
failure to exhaust, even to take [ ] [special] circumstances
into account.” Ross at 1856.
the PLRA is a statutory exhaustion provision, “Congress
sets the rules-and courts have a role in creating exceptions
only if Congress wants them to. For that reason mandatory
exhaustion statutes like the PLRA establish mandatory
exhaustion regimes, foreclosing judicial discretion.”
Id. at 1857. Accordingly, exhaustion is required
regardless of the availability of the requested relief, and
regardless of the nature of the underlying claim, whether it
arises from excessive force, or a violation of the
constitution. Id., citing, Booth v.
Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 (2001); Porter v.
Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 520 (2002); Woodford, 548
U.S. at 91.
exhaustion must be “proper, ” which
“demands compliance with an agency's deadlines and
other critical procedural rules.” Woodford, at
90. This serves to protect “administrative agency
authority” over the matter, giving an agency “an
opportunity to correct its own mistakes ... before it is
haled into federal court, ” and “discourages
‘disregard of [the agency's] procedures.”
Id. at 89, quoting McCarthy v. Madigan, 503
U.S. 140, 145 (1992).
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections' administrative
remedies for inmate grievances are provided for in Department
of Corrections Administrative Directive 804. See
www.cor.state.pa.us, DOC Policies, DC-ADM 804, Inmate
Grievance System Policy (“DC-ADM 804"). This
policy establishes the Consolidated Inmate Grievance Review
System, through which inmates can seek to resolve issues
relating to their incarceration. Id. The first step
in the inmate grievance process is initial review.
Id. Grievances must be submitted for initial review
within 15 working days after the event upon which the
grievance is based. Id. After initial review, the
inmate may appeal to the superintendent of their institution.
Id. Upon completion of the initial review and the
appeal from the initial review, an inmate may seek final
C.B.M. Food Vendors and Benjamin O'Leary have properly
raised the matter of exhaustion of administrative remedies
made available to inmates confined within the Lackawanna
County Prison. Defendants argue that Plaintiff's own
complaint reveals that Plaintiff “filed grievances at
Lackawanna County Prison got no response” and that he
“filed a grievance to PA DOC grievance department on
8-4-16.” (Doc. 1 at 2). However, while it is apparent
that Plaintiff started the grievance process at both the
Lackawanna County Prison and the State Correctional
Institution he was subsequently transferred to, he failed to
finish the grievance process. To the extent that Plaintiff
submitted a grievance to the appropriate official and did not
receive a response, the procedure contemplates several tiers
of review and the grievance review system is not exhausted
when an inmate files a grievance and then takes no other
action through established channels when a grievance is not
resolved to his satisfaction.
next step would have been to appeal any decision, or lack of
one, to the next level of review. It is clear from the face
of Plaintiff's complaint that he failed to properly
exhaust administrative remedies. Plaintiff does not refute
this. Thus, the failure to pursue the appropriate