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Gibson v. Flemming

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

April 30, 2018

MARY FLEMMING, et al., Defendants.

          David S. Cercone, United States District Court




         For the reasons that follow, it is respectfully recommended that the Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint filed by Defendants (ECF No. 63) be granted in part and denied in part.

         II. REPORT

         Plaintiff Derrick Gibson (“Plaintiff” or “Gibson”) is a state prisoner in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and is currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Retreat. At times material to this lawsuit, Gibson was housed at SCI-Greene and then transferred SCI-Fayette. Gibson, through the Second Amended Complaint, alleges a series of incidents of misconduct, abuse, and retaliation against him by prison employees at SCI-Greene and SCI-Fayette. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that on September 4, 2014, while housed at SCI-Greene, Defendant Nurse Mary Fleming was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs when she refused to provide him with his prescribed pain medications. Gibson reported Nurse Fleming's conduct and, according to the Second Amended Complaint, on September 6, 2014, Nurse Fleming's employment was terminated. Thereafter, allegedly as a result of his reporting the conduct of Nurse Fleming, Gibson was subjected to, inter alia, numerous incidents of excessive force in the form of severe beatings, torture, harassment, placement in a restraint chair, and denial of medical care.

         Defendants filed the pending motion (ECF No. 63) and Plaintiff responded in opposition (ECF Nos. 70 and 71). The motion is now ripe for review.

         A. Standard of Review

         1. Standard of Review

         The applicable inquiry under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is well settled. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, a 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). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a complaint may be dismissed for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). “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 complaint that merely alleges entitlement to relief, without alleging facts that show entitlement, must be dismissed. See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009). 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 elements.” Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Nevertheless, the court need not accept as true “unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences, ” Doug Grant, Inc. v. Great Bay Casino Corp., 232 F.3d 173, 183-84 (3d Cir. 2000), or the plaintiff's “bald assertions” or “legal conclusions, ” Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).

         When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court's role is limited to determining whether a plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of his claims. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The court does not consider whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See id. A defendant bears the burden of establishing that a plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim. See Gould Elecs. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000). In short, a motion to dismiss should not be granted if a party alleges facts, which could, if established at trial, entitle him to relief. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563 n.8.

         B. Discussion

         Viewed in light of the foregoing liberal pleading standards, the Court finds that the majority of the allegations of the Second Amended Complaint, when taken as true, allow the Court to draw a reasonable inference that Defendants could be liable for the misconduct alleged, and that the Second Amended Complaint meets the standards as enunciated in Twombly and Iqbal. See also Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210 (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1948). Specifically, the Court finds that Gibson has alleged enough to create plausible claims of violations of his First and Eighth Amendment constitutional rights and, therefore, recommends that Plaintiff's claims of retaliation, deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, excessive force, failure to protect, and conspiracy be allowed to continue beyond the Defendants' motion to dismiss. Discovery may well reveal that the alleged conduct of the Defendants does not give rise to a constitutional claim, but at this early stage of the litigation, the allegations of the Second Amended Complaint must be accepted as true and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in Gibson's favor.

         With that said though, the Court also recommends that the following three claims be dismissed. First, to the extent Gibson has asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Defendants in their official capacities, Defendants are immune from suit for monetary damages under the Eleventh Amendment. Thus, it is recommended that all ...

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