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Walker v. Ramierz

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 7, 2018

CEDRIC TYRONE WALKER, Plaintiff
v.
P. RAMIREZ, et al. Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          SYLVIA H. RAMBO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Cedric Tyrone Walker, an inmate currently confined at the United States Penitentiary at Coleman, Florida (“USP-Coleman”), filed this current action pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), on October 23, 2017. (Doc. No. 1.) Currently before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint, or, for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 16.) The motion, having been fully briefed, is ripe for disposition.

         I. BACKGROUND

         While incarcerated at USP-Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Plaintiff alleges that in November and December of 2016, he was quarantined due to having symptoms associated with salmonella poisoning. (Doc. No. 1 at 2.) Plaintiff alleges that the Food Administration, Warden, staff and medical staff were negligent in handling a salmonella outbreak and that they were deliberately indifferent to his health. (Id.) Plaintiff requests $20, 000 in compensatory damages against the named Defendants as well as $20, 000 in punitive damages. (Id. at 3.)

         On November 30, 2017, the Court referred this matter to the Prison Litigation Settlement Program for mediation. (Doc. No. 14.) On December 14, 2017, the Court received and docketed a letter from Assistant United States Attorney Justin Blewitt, Jr, indicating that the individually named Defendants were not prepared to participate in mediation on the Bivens claims. (Doc. No. 15.) Subsequently, on January 18, 2018, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, or, for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 16.) Plaintiff filed a brief in opposition on May 21, 2018. (Doc. No. 21.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss, or, for summary judgment, arguing that under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted or that summary judgment should be entered in their favor. (Doc. No. 16.)

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         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 the context of pro se prisoner litigation specifically, 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 only be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972).

         B. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). An issue is “genuine” if there is sufficient evidence with which a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Childers v. Joseph, 842 F.2d 689, 693-94 (3d Cir. 1988) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). A factual dispute is “material” if it might affect the outcome of the case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In determining whether an issue of material fact exists, the court must ...


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