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Talley v. Clark

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

August 5, 2019



          Savage, J.

         Plaintiff Quintez Talley, a prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, [1] filed this civil action asserting claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He also brings various state law claims. He has sued the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”) and several of its officials, including Major Gina Clark, Captain David Mascellino, Deputy Superintendent Laura Banta and Psychological Services Specialist Robert Ladonne.[2]

         The defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. They have also asserted qualified immunity and sovereign immunity as to the state claims. Because Talley has failed to state a federal claim, we shall grant the motion and dismiss those claims, and decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims.

         Background [3]

         On January 3, 2018, Talley was housed in a Psychiatric Observation Cell (POC) at the DOC's State Correctional Institution at Graterford.[4] Mascellino informed Talley that he was being returned to the Restricted Housing Unit.[5] Talley responded that he was suicidal and had not spoken to mental health professionals Ladonne or Doyle.[6]Mascellino replied, “We've got something for that - we've brought the chair and waist restraints back!”[7] Talley advised Mascellino that DOC policy requires that suicidal inmates remain on close watch until evaluated by a psychiatrist.[8] Nonetheless, an extraction team was assembled to remove him from the POC and place him in a camera cell in the Diversionary Treatment Unit (DTU).[9] Talley allowed himself to be handcuffed and escorted to a DTU cell by the extraction team.[10]

         Before entering the cell, Talley was instructed by the extraction team lieutenant to face the wall.[11] After he did so, another member of the team charged him with a shield, lifting him off his feet and slamming him into the bed.[12] Talley was placed in a waist restraint belt, but freed himself.[13] The extraction team then placed him in an intermediate restraint belt.[14] That night Talley attempted to hang himself.[15] He was escorted to the dispensary to speak to “medical” about his suicide attempt.[16] Talley was returned to the POC.[17] There, he was again placed in an intermediate restraint belt that had not been ordered by the committing psychiatrist.[18]

         Talley bases his claims on three sets of acts and omissions. First, he alleges that all defendants discriminated and retaliated against him under the ADA; violated his rights under the First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments; and committed the tort of “coercion”[19] when Mascellino, at the direction of Clark, Banta and Link, transferred him from the POC without providing him the opportunity to speak to a mental health professional.[20] He alleges that Doyle and Ladonne violated the Eighth Amendment and committed medical malpractice and negligence when they released him from the POC without evaluating him.[21]

         Second, Talley claims that Paul and the Unknown Extraction Team Defendants violated the Eighth Amendment and committed the tort of assault and battery when one assaulted him with the shield and the others failed to intervene or report the assault.[22]

         Third, he contends that Mascellino, Clark, Banta, Link and the Unknown Extraction Team Defendants violated the Fourteenth Amendment and the Pennsylvania Constitution's “Cruel Punishment” clause[23] and committed federal conspiracy when they placed him in restraints without providing prior notice or an opportunity to object.[24] He contends that the Unknown Shift Commander violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment and Pennsylvania's “Cruel Punishment” clause when he instructed Lieutenant McClain not to remove the intermediate restraint belt after Talley was returned to the POC.[25]

         Talley seeks compensatory and punitive damages. He has withdrawn his demand for declaratory and injunctive relief.[26] Mindful of Talley's pro se status, we construe all claims as also having been brought against the DOC.

         Defendants argue that Talley fails to state an ADA claim against the DOC. They also contend that none of the alleged acts or omissions give rise to a § 1983 claim. They assert qualified immunity as to his federal claims and sovereign immunity as to his state claims.

         Legal Standard

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of the allegations contained in the complaint. To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “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 claim is plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         A conclusory recitation of the elements of a cause of action is not sufficient. Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). The plaintiff must allege facts necessary to make out each element. Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563 n.8). In other words, the complaint must contain facts which, if proven later, support a conclusion that a cause of action can be established.

         In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must first separate the factual and legal elements of a claim, accepting the well-pleaded facts as true and disregarding legal conclusions. The court next determines whether the facts alleged, if proven, show that the plaintiff has a plausible claim for relief. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). In making this determination, all well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true and interpreted in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and all inferences must be drawn in his favor. See McTernan v. City of York, 577 F.3d 521, 526 (3d Cir. 2009).


         ADA Claims

         The ADA makes it unlawful for public entities, including prisons, to discriminate against the disabled in providing services, programs and activities. Disability Rights N.J., Inc. v. Comm'r, N.J. Dep't of Human Servs., 796 F.3d 293, 301 (3d Cir. 2015) (citing Tennessee v. Lane, 541 U.S. 509, 517 (2004)); Chisholm v. McManimon, 275 F.3d 315, 325 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Pa. Dep't of Corr. v. Yeskey, 524 U.S. 206 (1998)). To state an ADA claim, a plaintiff must allege “that he is a ‘qualified individual with a disability' [and] that he was excluded from a service, program, or activity of a public entity . . . because of his disability.” Disability Rights N.J., Inc., 796 F.3d at 301 (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1)(A)). Mental illness is a disability under the ADA. 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1)(A).

         Talley asserts he was denied the opportunity to speak to a mental health professional prior to his removal from the POC. He does not claim that he was denied treatment “because of” his mental health issues.[27] The ADA does not cover such a claim. Iseley v. Beard, 200 Fed.Appx. 137, 142 (3d Cir. 2006) (“Iseley does not claim that he was excluded from any program on the basis of his disability. Rather, he claims that he was denied medical treatment for his disabilities, which is not encompassed by the ADA's prohibitions.”) (citing Bryant v. Madrigan, 84 F.3d 246, 248 (7th Cir. 1996)); see also Simmons v. Navajo Cty., Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1022 (9th Cir. 2010) (“The ADA prohibits discrimination because of disability, not inadequate treatment for disability.”), overruled on other grounds as recognized by Horton v. City of Santa Maria, 915 F.3d 592, 599-600 (9th Cir. 2019). Hence, we shall dismiss Talley's ADA discrimination claim.

         Talley also claims that the failure to provide him an opportunity to consult with a mental health professional prior to his cell transfer constitutes retaliation under the ADA. To state a claim under the ADA for retaliation, Talley must allege facts showing (1) he engaged in protected activity, (2) he suffered an adverse action after or contemporaneous with the protected activity, and (3) a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse action. Fogleman v. Mercy Hosp. Inc., 283 F.3d 561, 567-68 (3d Cir. 2002) (citing Krouse v. Am. Sterilizer Co., 126 F.3d 494, 500 (3d Cir.1997)). Talley appears to allege that the protected activity was his request to consult a mental health professional prior to his transfer and that the adverse action was the use of an extraction team to remove him from the POC by force. However, as the complaint alleges, Mascellino informed Talley that an extraction team would be assembled because he was refusing to leave the POC, not because he had requested a mental health consultation.[28] Thus, because he alleges no causal connection between the protected activity and an adverse action, we shall dismiss Talley's ADA retaliation claim.[29]

         Section 1983 Claims

         “To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). The DOC, as a state agency, is not a “person” under § 1983. Estate of Lagano v. Bergen Cty. Prosecutor's Office, 769 F.3d 850, 847 (3d Cir. 2014). Nor do the facts pled by Talley establish a plausible constitutional violation against any individual defendant.[30]

         Eighth Amendment Claims

         Talley's theory of Eighth Amendment liability[31] is a failure-to-treat claim against Doyle and Ladonne for releasing him from the POC without evaluating his mental state. The Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment extends to a prisoner's right to medical care. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102, 103 (1976) (internal citations omitted). Failure to provide adequate medical care violates a prisoner's right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment when it results from “deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious illness or injury.” Id. at 104-05.

         To state an Eighth Amendment claim arising out of the failure to treat his medical condition, Talley must plead sufficient facts that, if proven, would establish two elements: (1) he had a serious medical need; and (2) prison officials were deliberately ...

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