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Hemingway v. Gosa

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 28, 2019

S. GOSA, et al., Defendants


          Kane Judge.

         On April 3, 2019, pro se Plaintiff Bobby T. Hemingway (“Plaintiff”), who is presently confined at the Federal Correctional Institution Allenwood in White Deer, Pennsylvania (“FCI Allenwood”), initiated the above-captioned civil action by filing a complaint pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). (Doc. No. 1.) He also filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. No. 2.) In an Administrative Order dated April 8, 2019, the Court noted that Plaintiff had used an outdated form for his motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and directed him to either submit the full $400.00 filing fee or an updated motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis within thirty (30) days. (Doc. No. 5.)

         Plaintiff did not comply with the Administrative Order. Accordingly, in an Order dated May 16, 2019, the Court dismissed this action without prejudice. (Doc. No. 6.) A month later, the Court received a renewed motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and prisoner trust fund account statement from Plaintiff. (Doc. Nos. 7, 8.) In light of Plaintiff's pro se status, the Court will reopen the above-captioned case and vacate its May 16, 2019 Order. Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PLRA”), [1] the Court will perform its mandatory screening of the complaint and for the reasons set forth below, will grant Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and dismiss his complaint with leave to amend.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff has named as Defendants in this action Physician Assistant S. Gosa (“Gosa”), Medical Supervisor Ryan Parkyn (“Parkyn”), and Lieutenant T. Walker (“Walker”), all of whom are employed at FCI Allenwood. He alleges that Defendant Gosa has “[ignored] the fact that [his] illness and joint conditions prohibit[] him from climbing stairs, top bunks and long distances.” (Doc. No. 1 at 2.) Plaintiff further maintains that Defendant Gosa has prescribed pain medications that do not work. (Id. at 3.) As to Defendant Parkyn, Plaintiff alleges that he has ignored his complaints about “his pain and illness.” (Id.) Plaintiff contends that Defendant Parkyn has also ignored the conflict between him and Defendant Gosa, as Defendant Parkyn “continues to send . . . Plaintiff to [Defendant Gosa] without investigating.” (Id.) Finally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Walker has “disregarded the fact that [he has an] illness that causes joint swelling and stops [him] from walking.” (Id.) According to Plaintiff, Defendant Walker claimed that Plaintiff “refused to come to the [lieutenant's] office when in fact . . . [P]laintiff could not walk.” (Id.) He maintains that Defendant Walker “refused to listen and put [him] in [the] [Special Housing Unit (“SHU”)].” (Id.) Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages from Defendants. (Id.)


         A. Screening and Dismissal of Prisoner Complaints

         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.” See 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 28 U.S.C. § 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 28 U.S.C. § 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 filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See, e.g., Smithson v. Koons, 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)”). To avoid dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), 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, 678 (2009); Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). The plausibility standard requires more than a mere possibility that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. “[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 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). When evaluating the plausibility of a complaint, the court accepts as true all factual allegations and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from those allegations, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010). However, the court must not accept legal conclusions as true, and “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” will not survive a motion to dismiss. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).

         Based on this standard, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has identified the following steps that a district court must take when reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion: (1) identify the elements that a plaintiff must plead to state a claim; (2) identify any conclusory allegations contained in the complaint that are “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). In addition, in the specific context of pro se prisoner litigation, a district court must be mindful that a document filed pro se is “to be liberally construed.” See 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.” See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106) (internal quotation marks omitted)).

         B. Bivens Claims

         A Bivens civil rights action asserted under § 1331 is evaluated using the same standards applicable to a § 1983 civil rights action. See Paton v. LaPrade, 524 F.2d 862, 871 (3d Cir. 1975); Veteto v. Miller, 829 F.Supp. 1486, 1492 (M.D. Pa. 1992). To state a claim under Bivens, a plaintiff must allege that he was deprived of a federal right by a person acting under color of federal law. See Young v. Keohane, 809 F.Supp. 1185, 1199 (M.D. Pa. 1992).


         A. ...

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