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Washington v. Gilmore

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

August 28, 2019



          Lisa Pupo Lenihan United States Magistrate Judge.

         Currently pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim filed by Defendant City of Pittsburgh (“the City”) on February 6, 2019. (ECF No. 22.) For the reasons that follow, the Motion will be granted and the City will be dismissed from this action with prejudice.

         A. Procedural History

         Plaintiff Jerome Junior Washington (“Plaintiff”) is an inmate of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. On March 15, 2018, the Court received a prisoner civil rights complaint (“the Complaint”) without a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis or payment of the statutory filing fee. (ECF No. 1.) Following the Court's issuance of a deficiency order and administrative closure of this case, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis, which the Court granted on April 12, 2018. (ECF Nos. 2, 3, 4.) As a result, the case was reopened and the Complaint filed on April 12, 2018. (ECF No. 5.)

         On October 1, 2018, the undersigned issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) recommending that the Complaint be dismissed without prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b)(1). (ECF No. 11.) This recommendation was based on a statement made by Plaintiff in the Complaint that he was still exhausting his administrative remedies with respect to the allegations at issue. The Court entered a Memorandum Order adopting the R&R on October 31, 2018, (ECF No. 12), but, in his written Objections to that R&R, which were untimely filed, Plaintiff asserted that he had finished exhausting his administrative remedies since the filing of the Complaint, (ECF No. 13). As a result, the Court vacated it's October 31, 2018 Order and reopened this case. (ECF No. 17.)

         The City filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint for Failure to State a Claim on February 6, 2019, (ECF No. 22), and Defendants Superintendent Gilmore and CO Comer (“the DOC Defendants”) filed an Answer to the Complaint on April 1, 2019, (ECF No. 35). While Plaintiff was given an opportunity to file a response in opposition to the City's Motion to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 34, 41) no response was ever filed and the deadline in which to do so has since passed. As such, the Motion is now ripe for review.

         B. Standard

         The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit summarized the standard to be applied in deciding motions to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6):

Under the “notice pleading” standard embodied in Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff must come forward with “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” As explicated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), a claimant must state a “plausible” claim for relief, and “[a] claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Although “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), a plaintiff “need only put forth allegations that raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element.” Fowler, 578 F.3d at 213 (quotation marks and citations omitted); see also Covington v. Int'l Ass'n of Approved Basketball Officials, 710 F.3d 114, 117-18 (3d Cir. 2013).

Thompson v. Real Estate Mortg. Network, 748 F.3d 142, 147 (3d Cir. 2014).

         When considering pro se pleadings, a court must employ less stringent standards than when judging the work product of an attorney. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). When presented with a pro se complaint, the court should construe the complaint liberally and draw fair inferences from what is not alleged as well as from what is alleged. Dluhos v. Strasberg, 321 F.3d 365, 369 (3d Cir. 2003). In a § 1983 action, the court must “apply the applicable law, irrespective of whether the pro se litigant has mentioned it by name.” Higgins v. Beyer, 293 F.3d 683, 688 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting Holley v. Dep't of Veteran Affairs, 165 F.3d 244, 247-48 (3d Cir. 1999)). See also Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996) (“Since this is a § 1983 action, the [pro se] plaintiffs are entitled to relief if their complaint sufficiently alleges deprivation of any right secured by the Constitution.”). Notwithstanding this liberality, pro se litigants are not relieved of their obligation to allege sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal claim. See, e.g., Taylor v. Books A Million, Inc., 296 F.3d 376, 378 (5th Cir. 2002); Riddle v. Mondragon, 83 F.3d 1197, 1202 (10th Cir. 1996).

         C. Discussion

         1. Summary of Factual Allegations

         The Complaint alleges that around noon on July 9, 2017, at which time Plaintiff was confined in the Secure Residential Treatment Unit (“SRTU”), a form of special needs housing at the State Correctional Institute Greene (“SCI-Greene”), [1] he had what he describes as a “self-harm crisis” and attempted to cut his arm with a spoon. (ECF No. 5, ¶¶ 12-13.) At that time, CO Comer noticed Plaintiff in his cell with blood dripping down his arm and said, “What the fuck[?] Damn, you know . . . all they are going to do is take all [of] your property and just put a C.O. at your door. You are not going to the P.O.C. cell because it is full[, ] so let me go and tell somebody.” Id., ΒΆ ...

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