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Jones v. State Correctional Institute Coal Township

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 25, 2019

TREMAR JONES, Plaintiff,



         Tremar Jones, an individual formerly housed at the Coal Township State Correctional Institution (SCI-Coal Township), in Coal Township, Pennsylvania, proceeds pro se in this action concerning events that transpired while housed at that facility.[1] Named as defendants are SCI-Coal Township, Jennifer Shaud, Sidiq Mansray, Superintendent McGinley and Corrections Officer (CO) Earb. (Doc. 1.) Mr. Jones alleges that prison officials failed to protect him from a foreseeable assault by Sidiq Mansray, an inmate.

         As Mr. Jones seeks to proceed in forma pauperis in this matter (Docs. 7 and 13), the Complaint is before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A. For the following reasons, the Court will dismiss all claims against SCI-Coal Township, Jennifer Shaud, Sidiq Mansray and Superintendent McGinley pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Mr. Jones' Eighth Amendment failure to protect claim shall proceed only against CO Earb unless Mr. Jones files an amended complaint.

         I. Allegations of the Complaint

         On September 6, 2018, Mr. Jones resided on SCI-Coal Township's A-A unit and the institution was on lockdown status. (Doc. 1 at 5.) At approximately 7:45 a.m., CO Earb let inmate Sidiq Mansray out of his cell (Id.) Inmate Mansray “threw a bucket of boiling water containing vasoline (sic) inside of it” on Mr. Jones. (Id.) Mr. Jones suffered severe burns to his back, head, and neck. Mr. Jones was transported by helicopter to the Lehigh Valley Burn Unit where he was treated for second degree burns over 20% of his body. Mr. Jones believes “this was a foreseeable incident that staff at SCI-Coal Township could have avoided from happening” because inmate Mansray “was not supposed to be housed on the unit with program inmates.” (Id.) Mr. Jones states institutional security cameras recorded the assault. (Id.)

         II. Standard of Review for Screening Pro Se In Forma Pauperis Complaints

         The Court must screen Mr. Jones' Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). The Court may dismiss a complaint, or any portion thereof, if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) - (2); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) - (iii).

         The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is the same as that for dismissing a complaint pursuant to a motion filed under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000). Under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must “take as true all factual allegations of the [complaint] and the reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, but [ ] disregard legal conclusions and recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 128 (3d Cir. 2010) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

         “The test in reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) is whether, under any ‘plausible' reading of the pleading, the plaintiff would be entitled to relief.” Guidotti v. Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, L.L.C., 716 F.3d 764, 772 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 580, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). To satisfy this standard, a civil complaint must set out “sufficient factual matter” to show that its claims are facially plausible. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009); Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). A complaint need only contain “a short and plain statement of the claim, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and “give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). “Labels and conclusions” are not enough, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65, and a court is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Id., 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (quoted case omitted). “[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, 129 S.Ct. at 1950 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         Additionally, in the context of pro se prisoner litigation, a district court must be mindful that a pro se document must be liberally construed and “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Fantone v. Latini, 780 F.3d 184 (2015) (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21, 92 S.Ct. 594, 596, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972)). Yet, even a pro se plaintiff “must allege sufficient facts in their complaint[ ] to support a claim.” Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). Where a prisoner's complaint is subject to dismissal, a plaintiff must be granted leave to file a curative amended complaint even when he does not seek leave to amend, unless amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Estate of Lagano v. Bergen Cty. Prosecutor's Office, 769 F.3d 850, 861 (3d Cir. 2014).

         III. Discussion

         To state a viable § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must plead two essential elements: 1) that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law, and 2) that said conduct deprived the plaintiff of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Natale v. Camden Cty. Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 580-81 (3d Cir. 2003). Moreover, for a § 1983 claim to survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must sufficiently allege that the defendant was personally involved in the act or acts that the plaintiff claims violated his rights. Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988); see also Chavarria v. N.J. Dep't of Corr., 806 F.3d 210, 222 (3d Cir. 2015).

         A. SCI-Coal Township

         Only “persons” are subject to suit under Section 1983, and entities such as state prisons do not qualify as “persons”. Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 65, 109 S.Ct. 2304, 2309, 105 L.Ed.2d 45 (1989); Edwards v. Northampton Cty., 663 Fed.Appx. 132, 136 (3d Cir. 2016) (prison is not a “person” subject to suit under § 1983). Because SCI-Coal Township is ...

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