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Nwani v. Molly

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 31, 2018

IFEANYI NWANI, Plaintiff,
v.
MOLLY, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          Slomsky, J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Ifeanyi Nwani, proceeding pro se, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his civil rights arising from his arrest and subsequent incarceration at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility. (Doc. No. 5.) He brings claims against the following Defendants: John Barnett, David Byrne, Michael Moore, Sgt. Joe Sabatino, Correctional Officer (CO) Charles Wise, CO Frank Kwaning, Dana Keith, Matthew Righter, Ronald Phillips, Molly and John Doe.[1] (Id.) Plaintiff, still an inmate at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility, claims constitutional violations under the First, Fourth and Eighth Amendments stemming from inadequate conditions of confinement, failure to answer grievances, invasion of privacy, harassment, confiscation of property and deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's medical needs. (Id.)

         Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants Barnett, Byrne, Moore, Sgt. Sabatino, CO Wise, CO Kwaning, Keith, Righter and Phillips. (Doc. No. 13.) The Motion is ripe for disposition.[2] For reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 13).

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND[3]

         On January 8, 2016, while Plaintiff was incarcerated at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility, his cell became flooded with water leaking from the toilet or sink. (Doc. No. 5 at 5.) Plaintiff informed an unidentified officer about the situation, who ordered Plaintiff back into his cell and disregarded Plaintiff's request to be temporarily housed elsewhere. (Id.) Plaintiff then slipped and fell in his cell and sustained “eye injuries” and injuries “to his right hipp [sic], knee and lower back.” (Id. at 12.) At some point afterward, Plaintiff visited the medical unit but was not given “adequate medical treatment” by Defendant Doctor Phillips for his “eye injuries” and did not receive “constant medication” for his other injuries. (Id.)

         On February 14, 2016, Defendant Molly moved Plaintiff from the “block, general population” to the “Mental Segregation Unit.” While housed in that unit, Plaintiff was “denied hours of recreation” by unidentified officers. (Id.) On numerous occasions, Plaintiff made complaints and submitted grievances to Defendants Barnett, Byrne and Moore about the conditions of his confinement in the Mental Segregation Unit but they failed to respond to or act upon Plaintiff's complaints and grievances. (Id. at 6-7.)

         In July 2016, Plaintiff was attacked on two occasions by other inmates in the Mental Segregation Unit. (Id. at 8.) He was taken to the medical facility and treated for injuries to his eyes. (Id.) On August 3, 2016, Plaintiff was relocated back to the “general population, ” specifically, unit 8D. (Id.) On August 28, 2016, following cell searches and pat-downs of “all inmates, ” Defendant Sabatino confiscated a television that belonged to Plaintiff's former cellmate but which was given to Plaintiff. (Id. at 9.) In October 2016, Defendant Wise confiscated a second television that was given to Plaintiff by another inmate. (Id. at 10.)

         In November 2016, Defendant CO Kwaning allegedly “sexually abused” Plaintiff by banging on Plaintiff's cell door, watching Plaintiff when he was on the toilet and conducting multiple cell searches and pat-downs of Plaintiff “every second shift” during which he “grabbed Plaintiff's genitalia and commented that his genitalia is bigger than . . . Plaintiff's.” (Id.) Defendant Kwaning also commented that he has “power to do whatever he likes to Plaintiff.” (Id.)

         On each of Plaintiff's visits to the law library, Defendant Keith, a librarian, did not provide Plaintiff with assistance by printing cases, making photocopies of legal documents and making certain items available to Plaintiff such as writing materials and envelopes. (Doc. No. 5 at 10-11.) Defendant Keith also allegedly did not give Plaintiff sufficient time at the law library to work on his filings and made threats to call the guards to have Plaintiff forcibly removed from the library. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that he was scheduled to be released on parole on August 10, 2016, the minimum date of his release. (Id. at 11.) He provided Defendant Righter, the “Home Plan Coordinator, ” with a home plan that Righter did not approve, thus delaying Plaintiff's release. (Id. at 11-12.)

         On August 11, 2017, Plaintiff commenced this action through an Application to Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff's application was granted on October 16, 2017 and his Complaint was filed that same day. (Doc. Nos. 4-5.)

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The motion to dismiss standard under Rule 12(b)(6) is set forth in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). After Iqbal it is clear that “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice” to defeat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Id. at 678; see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544. “To survive dismissal, ‘a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Tatis v. Allied Interstate, LLC, 882 F.3d 422, 426 (3d Cir. 2018) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Facial plausibility is “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Instead, “[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         Applying the principles of Iqbal and Twombly, the Third Circuit in Santiago v. Warminster Township, 629 F.3d 121 (3d Cir. 2010), set forth a three-part analysis that a district court in this Circuit must conduct in evaluating whether allegations in a complaint survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss:

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.”

Id. at 130 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675, 679). The inquiry is normally broken into three parts: “(1) identifying the elements of the claim, (2) reviewing the complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) looking at the well-pleaded components of the complaint and evaluating whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently alleged.” Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011).

         A complaint must do more than allege a plaintiff's entitlement to relief, it must “show” such an entitlement with its facts. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35 (3d Cir. 2008)). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (alteration in original) (citation omitted). The “plausibility” determination is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.

         When determining a motion to dismiss, the court must “accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006). Where, as here, the complaint is filed pro se, the “complaint, ‘however inartfully pleaded' must be held to ‘less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Fatone v. Latini, 780 F.3d 184, 193 (3d Cir. 2015) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972)). It should be dismissed only if it appears “beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of [his] claim that would entitle [him] to relief.” Olaniyi v. Alexa Cab Co., 239 Fed.Appx. 698, 699 (3d Cir. 2007) (citing McDowell v. Del. State Police, 88 F.3d 188, 189 (3d Cir. 1996)).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         Defendants Barnett, Byrne, Moore, Sgt. Sabatino, CO Wise, CO Kwaning, Keith, Righter and Phillips move to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. No. 13.) Each of Defendants' arguments will be addressed in turn.

         A. Plaintiff's Claims for His Slip and Fall, Denial of Recreation, Conditions of Confinement and Attacks by Other Inmates Will Be Dismissed

         Defendants argue that the Complaint fails to state a claim of liability for a slip and fall, denial of recreation, conditions of confinement and attacks by other inmates because Plaintiff does not identify any Defendant in these claims. (Doc. No. 13.)

         Regarding the slip and fall claim, Plaintiff responds that he identified Defendant Byrne as being responsible because Byrne is responsible for supervision of the correctional facility and the conduct of its employees. (Doc. No. 16 at 9-10.) Regarding the other claims, Plaintiff argues in his Response that he alleged them against Defendants Warden Byrne; Moore, as the person in charge of inmate housing; and Barnett, the case manager for unit 10A. (Id.)

         Liability under § 1983 cannot attach unless a plaintiff demonstrates “that each defendant had ‘personal involvement in the alleged wrong[]; liability cannot be predicated solely on the operation of respondeat superior.'” L.L. v. Evesham Twp. Bd. of Educ., 710 Fed.Appx. 545, 550 n.7 (3d Cir. 2017) (alteration in original) (quoting Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988)). “Personal involvement can be shown through allegations of personal direction or of actual knowledge and acquiescence. Allegations of participation or actual knowledge and acquiescence, however, must be made with appropriate particularity.” Rode, 845 F.2d at 1207 (citing Boykins v. Abridge Area Sch. Dist., 621 F.2d 75, 80 (3d Cir. 1980) and Hall v. Pa. State Police, 570 F.2d 86, 89 (3d Cir. 1978), which set forth that a civil rights complaint is adequate when it states time, place and persons responsible).

         Here, contrary to Plaintiff's arguments in his Response, the Complaint fails to identify any Defendants who personally committed the alleged wrongs. Regarding the slip and fall claim, Plaintiff alleges only that he informed “the guard on duty of Unit 5A” about the leak and slippery floor but “the guard failed to handle the situation in a reasonable manner and did not inform his supervisor about the incident.” (See Doc. No. 5 at 5.) Regarding the remaining claims, Plaintiff similarly fails to identify any Defendant's personal involvement. (Id. at 5-6.) To the extent Plaintiff seeks to attribute conduct to Warden Byrne through a theory of respondeat superior, such a theory fails because liability under § 1983 “cannot be predicated solely on the operation of respondeat superior.” L.L., 710 Fed.Appx. at 550.

         Because Plaintiff fails to identify any Defendant regarding these claims, and cannot establish liability solely on a theory of respondeat superior, Plaintiff fails to attach liability under § 1983. L.L., 710 Fed.Appx. at 550. Accordingly, these claims will be dismissed.

         B. Plaintiff's Claim that Defendants Failed to Respond to Complaints and Grievances Will Be Dismissed

         Defendants argue that Plaintiff fails to state any claims against Defendants for failure to respond to complaints and grievances because there are no constitutional rights in connection with ...


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