United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
H. RAMBO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the Commonwealth Defendants' motion for
judgment on the pleadings (Doc. No. 20), and Plaintiff
Anthony Allen's motion for relief pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(3) (Doc. No. 38). For the
reasons that follow, the Court will grant in part and deny in
part the Commonwealth Defendants' motion and deem
Plaintiff's motion withdrawn.
an inmate currently confined at the State Correctional
Institution - Pine Grove, Indiana, Pennsylvania
(“SCI-Pine Grove”), filed this civil action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on June 8, 2017. (Doc. No.
1.) On October 2, 2017, the Commonwealth Defendants filed an
answer to the complaint and affirmative defenses. (Doc. No.
19.) Appended to their answer are numerous documents
including an inmate handbook, employee incident reports,
medical incident/injury reports, and misconduct documents.
(Doc. No. 19-1 - 4.)
October 16, 2017, the Commonwealth Defendants filed a motion
for judgment on the pleadings. (Doc. No. 20.) Plaintiff filed
a brief in opposition on December 22, 2017, attaching
declarations and grievances to his brief. (Doc. No. 24.)
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), once the pleadings
are closed, but within such time as to not delay trial, a
party may move for judgment on the pleadings. The standard of
review is identical to that of a motion to dismiss under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Turbe v.
Gov't of Virgin Islands, 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir.
1991); Lum v. Bank of Am., 361 F.3d 217, 223 (3d
Cir. 2004). The only difference is that, on a motion for
judgment on the pleadings, the court reviews not only the
complaint, but also the answer and written instruments
attached to the pleadings. Iseley v. Talaber, No.
5-cv-444, 2008 WL 906508, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 31, 2008)
(citing 2 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore's Federal
Practice-Civil § 12.38. The court should consider
the allegations in the pleadings, the exhibits attached
thereto, matters of public record, and “undisputedly
authentic” documents if Plaintiff's claims are
based on such documents. See Pension Benefit Guar. Corp.
v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 889 F.2d 1192, 1196-97
(3d Cir. 1993); see also Mele v. Fed. Reserve Bank of
N.Y., 359 F.3d 251, 256 n.5 (3d Cir. 2004) (providing
that a court may consider (1) exhibits attached to the
complaint, (2) matters of public record, and (3) all
documents that are integral to or explicitly relied upon in
the complaint, even if they are not attached thereto, without
converting the motion into one for summary judgment).
However, because a Rule 12(c) “motion calls for an
assessment of the merits of the case at an embryonic stage,
the court must view the facts contained in the pleadings in
the light most favorable to the nonmovant and draw all
reasonable inferences therefrom” in the
nonmonvant's favor. R.G. Fin. Corp. v.
Vergara-Nunez, 446 F.3d 178, 182 (1st Cir. 2006).
result of the obligation to view the facts and reasonable
inferences in favor of the nonmovant, however, a court should
“treat any allegations in the answer that contradict
the complaint as false.” Goodman v. Williams,
287 F.Supp.2d 160, 161 (D.N.H. 2003); accord Rimmer v.
Colt Indus. Operating Corp., 656 F.2d 323, 326 (8th Cir.
1981) (Rule 12(c) review assumes all “well pleaded
factual obligations in [Plaintiff's] amended complaint
are true, and all contravening assertions in
[Defendant's] answer are assumed false”). Judgment
on the pleadings is appropriate only when the moving party
“clearly establishes that no material issue of fact
remains to be resolved and that he is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law.” Minnesota Lawyers Mut. Ins. Co.
v. Ahrens, 432 Fed.Appx. 143, 147 (3d Cir. 2011). If
matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not
excluded by the court, the motion shall be treated as one for
summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 56.
Commonwealth Defendants seek judgment on the pleadings. In
support, they rely on an inmate handbook, employee incident
reports, medical incident/injury reports, and misconduct
documents appended to their answer. (Doc. No. 19.) In
response to the Commonwealth Defendants' motion,
Plaintiff has attached declarations and grievances to his
brief in opposition. (Doc. No. 24.) The Court will not
consider Plaintiff's attached exhibits to his brief in
opposition as they are not part of the pleadings and not
necessary in resolving the motion for judgment on the
pleadings. Consequently, the Court will not convert the
motion for judgment on the pleadings to a motion for summary
judgment. The Court will now address the Commonwealth
Defendants' arguments in support of their motion.
Plaintiff's Excessive Force Claim
their motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Commonwealth
Defendants attempt to utilize the appended documents to their
answer, including the employee incident reports, to
controvert Plaintiff's assertions in his complaint. (Doc.
No. 21.) This inherently raises issues of material fact,
making judgment on the pleadings to this claim inappropriate.
Whether an officer has used excessive force requires a
determination into “whether force was applied in a good
faith effort to maintain or restore discipline or maliciously
and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm.”
Giles v. Kearney, 571 F.3d 318, 326 (3d Cir. 2009)
(quoting Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319
(1986)). In making this determination, courts are tasked with
evaluating five factors set forth in Whitley.
See Whitley, 475 U.S. at 321. At this juncture in
the case, the Court will not make a reasonableness
determination precluding Plaintiff's claim as a matter of
law based upon the pleadings alone. The procedural mechanism
of Rule 12(c) “is simply not intended to resolve the
claim as presented herein.” Channel v. Smith,
Civ. No. 317-060, 2018 WL 1463356, at *2 (S.D. Ga. Mar. 23,
2018). Accordingly, the Commonwealth Defendants' motion
for judgment on the pleadings as to the excessive force claim
Plaintiff's Failure to Train / Supervise / Protect
regard to Defendants Eckard and Eberling, Plaintiff alleges
that they failed to train and supervise the RHU guards
resulting in the guards using excessive force on prisoners,
including Plaintiff. (Doc. No. 1 at 5.) Additionally,
Plaintiff alleges that Eckard and Eberling were deliberately
indifferent to the substantial risk of harm caused by the
prison official on inmate assaults. (Id. at 6.)
While Commonwealth Defendants assert that Plaintiff raises a
state-created danger claim (Doc. No. 21 at 12), the Court
identifies Plaintiff's claims as a failure to train,
failure to supervise, and failure to protect claim pursuant
to the Eighth Amendment.See Beenick v. LeFebvre, No.
14-cv-01562, 2015 WL 2344966, at *7 (M.D. Pa ...