United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
CYNTHIA REED EDDY CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Richard Allen Hammonds II (“Plaintiff”), is
currently incarcerated at the Allegheny County Jail
(“ACJ”), and was incarcerated at ACJ at all times
relevant to this lawsuit. He has initiated this action under
42 U.S.C.§§ 1983, 1985, and 1986, seeking damages
against the Allegheny County Bureau of Corrections, County
Executive Rich Fitzgerald, and the following ACJ officials
and officers: Warden Orlando L. Harper, Deputy Warden Zeppo,
Deputy Warden Wainwright, Maintenance Supervisor Joe Glaph,
Maintenance Supervisor Amelia Bennett, Sergeant Slaby,
Corrections Officer Chisholm, Corrections Officer Younkins,
Jr., Registered Nurse “Nurse Jim”, and John/Joan
Doe, mailroom supervisor. The majority of the defendants are
sued in their individual and official capacities, with the
exception of the following: Rich Fitzgerald, who is sued only
in his official capacity, and Sergeant Slaby, who is sued
only in his individual capacity. Complaint, ¶¶ 6
and 10, respectively.
asserts a potpourri of claims, complaints, and allegations
stemming from a variety of alleged constitutional
deprivations. For example, he asserts (i) mail tampering and
conspiracy to tamper with his mail; (ii) failure to properly
maintain ACJ elevators; (iii) retaliation and conspiracy to
retaliate; (iv) failing to protect him from an inmate
assault; and (v) failing to provide “proper”
filed the pending motion to dismiss (ECF No. 23), to which
Plaintiff has responded in opposition. (ECF No. 38). For the
reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part and
denied in part.
Standard of Review
motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint.
Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993).
In deciding a motion to dismiss, the court is not opining on
whether the plaintiff will be likely to prevail on the
merits; rather, the plaintiff must only present factual
allegations sufficient “to raise a right to relief
above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007) (citing 5 C. Wright
& A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216,
pp. 235-236 (3d ed. 2004)). See also Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). A complaint should only be
dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) if it fails to allege
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at
570. In making this determination, the court must accept as
true all well-pled factual allegations in the complaint and
views them in a light most favorable to the plaintiff.
U.S. Express Lines Ltd. v. Higgins, 281 F.3d 383,
388 (3d Cir. 2002).
complaint does not need detailed factual allegations to
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must provide more
than labels and conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at
555. A “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause
of action will not do.” Id. (citing
Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).
Moreover, a court need not accept inferences drawn by a
plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts as set forth
in the complaint. See California Pub. Employee Ret. Sys.
v. The Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004)
(citing Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d
902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997)). Nor must the Court accept legal
conclusions disguised as factual allegations.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Papasan v.
Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). See also McTernan
v. City of York, Pennsylvania, 577 F.3d 521, 531 (3d
Cir. 2009) (“The tenet that a court must accept as true
all of the allegations contained in a complaint is
inapplicable to legal conclusions.”).
on the Twombly/Iqbal line of cases, the Court of
Appeals for the Third Circuit has articulated the following
First, the court must ‘tak[e] note of the elements a
plaintiff must plead to state a claim.' Second, the court
should identify allegations that, ‘because they are no
more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of
truth.' Finally, ‘where there are well-pleaded
factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and
then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an
entitlement for relief.' Burtch v. Milberg Factors,
Inc., 662 F.3d 212, 221 (3d Cir. 2011) (quoting
Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010)).
This determination is “a context-specific task that
requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
Alleged Deprivations of Plaintiff's Fifth and
Fourteenth Amendment Rights Several of Plaintiff's
claims indicate that he believes he was subjected to cruel
and unusual punishment. The record does not indicate whether
at the time of the events giving rise to this lawsuit
Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee or a post-conviction
person. However, based on public records, specifically,
Plaintiff's criminal docket at No. CP-02-CR-10480-2017,
it appears that Plaintiff was, and continues to be, a
pre-trial detainee. The docket reflects that he has been
detained in ACJ since 08/08/2017 and is scheduled for a jury
trial to commence on 10/21/2019, before Judge David R.
https://ujsportal.pacourts.us/DocketSheets/CP.aspx. Due to
his pre-trial detainee status, Plaintiff's constitutional
claims will be analyzed under the Due Process Clause of the
Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments rather than the Eighth
Amendment. Fuentes v. Wagner, 20 F.3d 335, 344 (3d
Cir. 2000). With that said, however, when analyzing
conditions of confinement claims for pre-trial detainees,
courts utilize the jurisprudence developed under the Eighth
Amendment. Hubbard v. Taylor, 339 F.3d 150, 165-66
(3d Cir. 2005).
cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Eighth Amendment
proscribes punishments that “ ‘involve the
unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain, or are grossly
disproportionate to the severity of the crime.' ”
Tillman v. Lebanon County Corr. Facility, 221 F.3d
410, 417 (3d Cir. 2000) (quoting Rhodes v. Chapman,
452 U.S. 337, 346 (1981)). In Rhodes, the Supreme
Court stated that prison conditions amount to cruel and
unusual punishment if they cause “unquestioned and
serious deprivations of basic human needs . . . [that]
deprive inmates of the minimal civilized measure of
life's necessities.” Rhodes, 452 U.S. at
347. “To demonstrate a deprivation of [ ] basic human
needs, a plaintiff must show a sufficiently serious objective
deprivation, and that a prison official subjectively acted
with a sufficiently culpable state of mind, i.e., deliberate
indifference.” Tillman, 221 F.3d at 418. As
the requirements of the Eighth Amendment set a
“floor” for analysis of Fourteenth Amendment due
process claims, it is worth noting that a pretrial
detainee's “desire to be free from
discomfort” is insufficient to establish a fundamental
liberty interest protected by the constitution. See
Bell, 441 U.S. at 534-35. Keeping these standards in
mind, the Court will evaluate each alleged instance of cruel
and unusual punishment to determine whether Plaintiff's
allegations are sufficient to survive Defendants'
Failure to Properly Maintain ACJ Elevators
alleges that the ACJ elevators routinely malfunction and
Defendants Fitzgerald, Harper, Zeppo, Wainwright, Bennet, and
Glaph violated Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment right to be
free of cruel and unusual punishment when they refuse to
“rectify the safety hazard.” Complaint, at ¶
42. Specifically, Plaintiff contends that Defendants have
failed to properly maintain one or more of the ACJ elevators,
resulting in several breakdowns or other malfunctions,
“creating an unreasonable risk of injury in living and
can be the death of an inmate or staff member.” Resp.
the Complaint is void of sufficient facts showing that
Defendants were “deliberately indifferent” to the
alleged danger posed by the elevator malfunctions or whether
the majority of the Defendants were even aware of the
elevator malfunctions. Allegations that the malfunctioning of
the elevators “can be the death of an inmate or
staff” are far too speculative and vague to survive a
motion to dismiss. At best, Plaintiff alleges that he filed a
grievance complaining about the elevators malfunctioning and
that Defendant Glaph and Defendant Bennett informed him that
ACJ did not have the budget for an entirely new elevator at
that time. Complaint at ¶ 32. Without more, this
allegation simply does not rise to the level of deliberate
the motion to dismiss will be granted on this claim and
Plaintiff's allegations regarding the malfunctioning of
the ACJ elevators will be dismissed.
Failure to Protect
to the allegations of the Complaint, on 2/11/2018, as
Defendant Younkins, Jr., was leaving the POD, he announced,
“Anybody who fucks up Hammonds will be giving a
package, he is a rat. . . . He is telling how the drugs get
into the jail!” Complaint, at ¶ 21. Upon hearing
this, Plaintiff asked Defendant Chisholm if he could
immediately be placed in protective custody. Chisholm denied
his request stating, “Snitches get stitches and thrown
in ditches.” Id. at ¶ 22. Chisholm then
commenced doing a security round and yelled, “now is
the time to do it.” Id. at ¶ 23.
alleges that he was then immediately tackled from behind and
dragged into a cell and “unmercifully beaten and
stabbed by six other inmates. Plaintiff was hit with
batteries in a sock, stabbed in his face, ribs, back and head
areas.” Id. at ¶ 24.
most general sense, a prison official violates the Eighth
Amendment when the following two elements are established:
(1) the inmate alleges an objectively serious deprivation by
a prison official of food, clothing, shelter, medical care,
or safety; and (2) the prison official acted with a
sufficiently culpable state of mind to deprive the inmate of
his right to food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or
safety. Of particular relevance to this case, the United
States Supreme Court has addressed these two general elements
as they apply to the failure to protect from assault by other
inmates. Framer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832
(1994). The Eighth Amendment also imposes a duty on prison
officials to “ ‘ take reasonable measures to
guarantee the safety of the inmates.'” Id.
(quoting Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27
(1984)). Despite this general requirement to protect inmates,
“not . . . every injury suffered by one prisoner at the
hands of another . . . translates into constitutional
liability for prison officials responsible for the
victim's safety” Id. at 834.
state a cognizable failure to protect claim under §
1983, the inmate must demonstrate that two conditions are
met. First, for a claim “based on failure to prevent
harm, the inmate must show that he is incarcerated under
conditions posing a substantial risk of harm.”
Id. (citing Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S.
25, 35 (1993)). Second, the inmate must show that
prison officials acted with deliberate indifference to the
safety of the inmate. The test for deliberate indifference is
twofold: To act with deliberate indifference, “the
official must both be aware of facts from which the inference
could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm
exists, and he must also draw the inference.”
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. With these standards in
mind, the Court will now examine plaintiff's failure to
Substantial Risk of Serious Harm
Court finds that Plaintiff has satisfied the first prong of
the inquiry. In the Complaint, he alleges that Defendants
Younkins, Jr., and Chisholm incited the assault against him.
Plaintiff also alleges that after hearing Younkins, Jr., call
him a “rat, ” his request to be placed in
protective custody was denied by Chisholm. The allegations of
the Complaint sufficiently plead Plaintiff was at substantial
risk of serious harm.
argue that, with the exception of Defendants Younkins, Jr.
and Chisholm, Plaintiff does not satisfy the deliberate
indifference prong because he has failed to show
particularized knowledge by the Defendants that there was a
risk to Plaintiff. The Court agrees with this argument.
Plaintiff has failed to plead any facts that would suggest
that the remaining defendants were aware of the actions of
Defendants Younkins, Jr., and Chisholm leading up to the
assault on 2/11/2018.
Plaintiff's allegations against Defendants Younkins, Jr.,
and Chisholm for failure to protect will be allowed to
continue beyond the Defendants' motion to dismiss.
Discovery may well reveal that the alleged conduct of each of
these two defendants does not give rise to a deliberate
indifference claim, but at this early stage of litigation,
the allegations of the Complaint must be accepted as true and
all reasonable inferences must be drawn in Plaintiff's
Failure to Provide Adequate Medical Treatment
alleges that five days after his assault, on 2/16/2018, he
was taken to the ACJ medical unit and “perfunctorily
looked at” by Nurse Jim. He alleges that he told Nurse
Jim of the multiple injuries he sustained in the assault on
2/11/2018, but because Defendant Slaby informed Nurse Jim
that “plaintiff was an aggressive grievance filer and
to let him ‘plaintiff' languish in physical pain,
” Nurse Jim refused to provide Plaintiff proper medical
care treatment for non-medical reasons. Complaint at
¶¶ 28, 29.
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has
indicated that a pretrial detainee's right to adequate
medical care should be analyzed under the well-settled
standard established in Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S.
97 (1976), which provides that prison officials are required
“to provide basic medical care to those whom it has
incarcerated.” Rouse v. Plantier, 182 F.3d
192, 197 (3d Cir. 1999) (citing Estelle v. Gamble,
429 U.S. 97 (1976)).
indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners
constitutes the ‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of
pain' . . . proscribed by the Eighth Amendment.”
Estelle, 429 U.S. at 103. “[W]hether the
indifference is manifested by prison doctors in their
response to the prisoner's needs or by prison guards in
intentionally denying or delaying access to medical care or
intentionally interfering with the treatment once prescribed
. . . deliberate ...