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Lukach v. Berdanier

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 31, 2018

GENE BERDANIER, et al., Defendants



         Plaintiff Joshua Michael Lukach (“Lukach”), a state inmate who, at all times relevant, was incarcerated at the Schuylkill County Prison, Pottsville, Pennsylvania, commenced this action on December 14, 2017. (Doc. 1).

         Presently pending is Defendants' motion (Doc. 13) to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b), filed on February 26, 2018. Defendants filed a supporting brief (Doc. 14) on that same date. Lukach failed to oppose the motion. On April 19, 2018, the Court directed him to respond to the motion by filing an opposition brief and cautioned him that his failure to file an opposition brief would render the motion unopposed. (Doc. 15). Lukach has failed to file an opposition brief. Consequently, Defendants' motion is deemed unopposed and, for the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant the motion.

         I. Rule 12(b)(6) Standard of Review

         In rendering a decision on a motion to dismiss, a court should not inquire “whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims.” Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 66 (3d Cir. 1996). The court must accept as true the factual allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences from them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Innis v. Wilson, 334 Fed.Appx. 454, 456 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Phillips v. Cty of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008)). A district court ruling on a motion to dismiss may consider the facts alleged on the face of the complaint, as well as “documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial notice.” Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007).

         However, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”).

Under the pleading regime established by [Bell Atl. Corp. v.] Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Iqbal, a court reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint must take three steps. First, it must “tak[e] note of the elements [the] plaintiff must plead to state a claim.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675, 129 S.Ct. 1937. Second, it should identify allegations that, “because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. at 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937. See also Burtch v. Milberg Factors, Inc., 662 F.3d 212, 224 (3d Cir. 2011) (“Mere restatements of the elements of a claim are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” (citation and editorial marks omitted)). Finally, “[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, [the] court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937.

Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787-88 (3d Cir.2016) (internal citations, quotations and footnote omitted). Elements are sufficiently alleged when the facts in the complaint “show” that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). At the second step, the Court identities those allegations that, being merely conclusory, are not entitled to the presumption of truth. Twombly and Iqbal distinguish between legal conclusions, which are discounted in the analysis, and allegations of historical fact, which are assumed to be true even if “unrealistic or nonsensical, ” “chimerical, ” or “extravagantly fanciful.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681. Deciding whether a claim is plausible is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.

         II. Allegations of the Complaint

         Lukach alleges that, from August 7, 2015, to the present, while incarcerated at the Schuylkill County Prison, he has been subjected to overcrowded cell conditions in the form of being “triple-celled.” (Doc. 1, p. 5). He avers that he has been forced to sleep on a three-inch thick mattress on the concrete floor by a toilet that often leaks urine and feces. (Id. at 6). He states that he suffers stress from the overcrowded cell and is experiencing back pain as a result of sleeping on the floor.

         He acknowledges that there is a prisoner grievance procedure available and represents that he has fully exhausted available administrative remedies. (Id. at 2). He alleges that he filed multiple grievances regarding this matter, but received no responses. (Id.)

         He seeks monetary compensation for his physical, mental and psychological anguish.

         III. Discussion

         Defendants seek to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that Lukach failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 (the “PLRA”) “mandates that an inmate exhaust ‘such administrative remedies as are available' before bringing suit to challenge prison conditions.” Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1856 (2016); see Nyhuis v. Reno, 204 F.3d 65, 73 (3d Cir. 2000) (“[I]t is beyond the power of this court-or any other-to excuse compliance with the exhaustion requirement, whether on the ground of futility, inadequacy or any other basis.”). The text “suggests no limits on an inmate's obligation to exhaust- irrespective of ‘special circumstances.'” Id. “And that mandatory language means a court may not excuse a failure to exhaust, even to take such circumstances into ...

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