United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
Plaintiff reported to Chester County Prison to serve a
five-day sentence for driving on a suspended license, she was
placed in a cell with a male prisoner. Although she was alone
with him for a very short time - only three and a half
minutes - at which point she was removed from the cell and
placed in another one, she was deeply upset by the incident.
Specifically, she “became psychologically and
physically traumatized” when she made eye contact with
him. A history of sexual abuse made her particularly
vulnerable and the experience of being confined with an
unknown male exacerbated her post-traumatic stress disorder
symptoms. Although she acknowledges that the male prisoner
neither made physical contact with her nor said anything to
her, she worried that he would sexually assault her in an
unmonitored, closed space. Upon her release, Plaintiff saw a
family physician and received various medications for her
brings a civil rights claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
that is predicated on a violation of the Eighth Amendment, as
well as a claim under the Pennsylvania Constitution's
prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. Defendants have
moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A complaint may not contain just
“labels and conclusions, ” as “a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. In determining
the adequacy of a complaint, a court must “accept all
factual allegations as true [and] construe the complaint in
the light most favorable to plaintiff.” Warren Gen.
Hosp. v. Amgen, Inc., 643 F.3d 77, 84 (3d Cir. 2011).
a claim under Section 1983 requires that a plaintiff plead a
deprivation of a constitutional right and “that the
constitutional deprivation was caused by a person acting
under the color of state law.” Phillips v. Cty. of
Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 235 (3d Cir. 2008). Plaintiff
contends that the condition of her confinement - being placed
in a cell with a male prisoner for three and a half minutes -
violated her Eighth Amendment rights.
Eighth Amendment prohibits the imposition of
‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain contrary to
contemporary standards of decency.'” Rouse v.
Plantier, 182 F.3d 192, 197 (3d Cir. 1999). An Eighth
Amendment violation entails both an objective and subjective
component. See Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298
(1991); see also Hubbard v. Taylor, 399 F.3d 150,
164 (3d Cir. 2005) (“In Wilson v. Seiter, the
Supreme Court set forth the standard for alleged violations
of the Eighth Amendment while addressing non-medical
conditions of confinement.”). As to the objective
component, the question is whether the prison deprivation is
sufficiently serious such that it denies a plaintiff
“the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities.” Seiter, 501 U.S. at 298. The
objective component of an Eighth Amendment claim is
“contextual and responsive to ‘contemporary
standards of decency.'” Hudson v.
McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 8 (1992) (quoting Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976)). The subjective
component, by contrast, asks whether the “officials
act[ed] with a sufficiently culpable state of mind[.]”
Id. Plaintiff's Section 1983 claim fails because
she has pleaded neither component in support of the alleged
Eighth Amendment violation.
Plaintiff has not pleaded an objectively, sufficiently
serious condition that deprived her of a “single
identifiable human need such as food, warmth, or exercise. .
. .” Seiter, 501 U.S. at 304; see also
Id. at 305 (“Nothing so amorphous as
‘overall conditions' can rise to the level of cruel
and unusual punishment when no specific deprivation of a
single human need exists.”). Rather, the gravamen of
Plaintiff's allegations is that she was incorrectly
placed in a cell with a male prisoner for a few minutes. The
prisoner made no physical contact with Plaintiff, and any
error committed by Defendants in situating her in the wrong
cell was promptly corrected.
Plaintiff makes no allegations that the Defendants here had a
sufficiently culpable state of mind - that is, exhibited
“deliberate indifference” towards Plaintiff's
safety. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835
(1994). Deliberate indifference “entails something more
than mere negligence” and requires that an official
“know of and disregard an excessive risk to inmate
health or safety.” Id. at 835, 837.
Plaintiff's Complaint is devoid of any averments
pertaining to the Defendants' state of mind besides a
conclusory statement that Defendants acted with deliberate
indifference. There is no indication that an officer was
aware of Plaintiff's history of sexual abuse and placed
her in the wrong cell, or knew and disregarded the risk that
the male prisoner may have posed to her. To the contrary,
Plaintiff admits in her Complaint that: (a) the male prisoner
neither touched nor said anything to Plaintiff; and (b)
Plaintiff was transferred to another cell in a matter of
minutes. Given the admissions in her Complaint, amendment
would be futile, so Plaintiff's Section 1983 claims will
be dismissed with prejudice.
Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over
Plaintiff's remaining state-law claim predicated on
violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution. See 28
U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3) (“The district court may
decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a claim .
. . if the district court has dismissed all claims over which
it has original jurisdiction.”). Accordingly, the
state-law claim will be dismissed without prejudice.
appropriate order follows.