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McIntosh v. United States

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 1, 2018

RODNEY OTHEL MCINTOSH, Plaintiff
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          Kane Judge

         Rodney Othel McIntosh (“Plaintiff), an individual presently confined at the United States Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania (“USP-Lewisburg”), filed this combined Bivens / Federal Tort Claims Act[1] (“FTCA”) action on April 27, 2018 against the United States of American. (Doc. No. 1.) Since the filing of his complaint, Plaintiff has also filed three addenda to his complaint. (Doc. Nos. 5, 10, 11.) Further, Plaintiff has filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. No. 7.) Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PLRA”), [2] the Court will perform its mandatory screening of the complaint prior to service.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges that he has been misclassified as a sex offender on an internal Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) classification form. (Doc. No. 1 at 1.) As a result of this alleged misclassification, Plaintiff argues that his life and liberty have been placed in danger because he is now being targeted by other prisoners. (Id. at 1, 2.) For instance, Plaintiff alleges that other inmates verbally harass him and have both assaulted him and attempted to assault him because of their belief that he is a sex offender. (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff maintains that he constantly worries about his misclassification as a sex offender and future threats from other prisoners. (Id. at 2, 3.)

         On September 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed an informal resolution to rectify the misclassification. (Id. at 2.) On September 5, 2017, Plaintiff received a response stating that he does not have a “sex offender public safety factor, nor [is he] classified as a sex offender [and that if] it was ever placed on [Plaintiff], it was in error.” (Doc. No. 1-1 at 1.) Attached to Plaintiff's complaint are two “Male Custody Classification Forms, ” one dated October 30, 2014 with a classification of “Sex Offn, ” and a more recent form dated May 19, 2017 that does not include any such sex offender classification. (Id. at 2, 3.) Plaintiff claims that the United States has defamed him and was negligent in misclassifying him as a sex offender. (Id. at 3.) Accordingly, he requests one million dollars in compensatory relief. (Id.)

         On May 4, 2018, Plaintiff filed an addendum to his complaint, acknowledging that around November 13, 2016, his case manager removed the sex offender classification from his custody classification form. (Doc. No. 5 at 3.) Plaintiff alleges that inmate and staff members continue to refer to him as a sex offender and verbally abuse him. (Id.) However, it appears that Plaintiff seeks an increase of damages from one to three million dollars. (Id. at 5.) Subsequently, on May 9, 2018, Plaintiff filed another addendum to his complaint. (Doc. No. 10.) Plaintiff provides that because he was misclassified as a sex offender, he fears that his life is in danger from other inmates and again requests three million dollars. (Id. at 2.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. PLRA

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, federal district courts must “review . . . a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). If a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the court must dismiss the complaint. See id. § 1915A(b)(1). District courts have a similar screening obligation with respect to actions filed by prisoners proceeding in forma pauperis and prisoners challenging prison conditions. See id. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) (“[T]he court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted . . . .”); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1) (“The Court shall on its own motion or on the motion of a party dismiss any action brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title . . . by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility if the court is satisfied that the action . . . fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”).

         In dismissing claims under §§ 1915(e), 1915A, and 1997e, district courts apply the standard governing motions to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See, e.g., Smithson v. Koons, Civ. No. 15-01757, 2017 WL 3016165, at *3 (M.D. Pa. June 26, 2017) (“The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim under § 1915A(b)(1), § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), or § 1997e(c)(1) is the same as that for dismissing a complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.”); Mitchell v. Dodrill, 696 F.Supp.2d 454, 471 (M.D. Pa. 2010) (explaining that when dismissing a complaint pursuant to § 1915A, “a court employs the motion to dismiss standard set forth under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)”).

         When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010). The Court's inquiry is guided by the standards of Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). Under Twombly and Iqbal, pleading requirements have shifted to a “more heightened form of pleading.” See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). To prevent dismissal, all civil complaints must set out “sufficient factual matter” to show that the claim is facially plausible. Id. The plausibility standard requires more than a mere possibility that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. As the Supreme Court instructed in Iqbal, “where 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 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         Accordingly, to determine the sufficiency of a complaint under Twombly and Iqbal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has identified the following steps a district court must take when determining the sufficiency of a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6): (1) identify the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim; (2) identify any conclusory allegations contained in the complaint “not entitled” to the assumption of truth; and (3) determine whether any “well-pleaded factual allegations” contained in the complaint “plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” See Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, “a court must consider only the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, as well as undisputedly authentic documents if the complainant's claims are based upon these documents.” Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 230 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993)). A court may also consider “any ‘matters incorporated by reference or integral to the claim, items subject to judicial notice, matters of public record, orders, [and] items appearing in the record of the case.'” Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006) (quoting 5B Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1357 (3d Ed. 2004)).

         In conducting its screening review of a complaint, the court must be mindful that a document filed pro se is “to be liberally construed.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). A pro se complaint, “however inartfully pleaded, ” must be held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers” and can be dismissed for failure to state a claim only if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can ...


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