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Crowe v. Maxa

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

August 29, 2019

DANIEL CROWE, Plaintiff
v.
ROBERT MAXA, Defendant

          OPINION ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS [ECF NO. 44]

          RICHARD A. LANZILLO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         MEMORANDUM OPINION

         Presently pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 44] Plaintiffs Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant Defendant's motion.[1]

         I. Procedural History

         Plaintiff Daniel Crowe, an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Albion, commenced this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on September 7, 2016 by filing a Complaint alleging that Defendant Robert Maxa ("Dr. Maxa"), the prison physician, violated his Eighth Amendment rights by denying him necessary medical care. Dr. Maza moved to dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), arguing that it failed to allege facts sufficient to support a plausible claim that Dr. Maxa acted with deliberate indifference to Plaintiffs serious medical needs. ECF. No. 29. On November 9, 2018, this Court granted Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, but also granted Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint in an effort to cure the deficiencies of his claim. ECF No. 41. Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on November 30, 2018. ECF No. 43. Dr. Maxa filed the pending Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint on December 20, 2018. ECF No. 44. Plaintiff responded to the motion on February 1, 2019. ECF No. 47. Dr. Maxa filed a reply brief on February 4, 2019. ECF No. 48. Plaintiff filed a sur-reply on February 28, 2019. ECF No. 49. The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

         II. Factual Allegations

         In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he went to a sick call appointment with Dr. Maxa for back pain on December 4, 2015. ECF No. 43, ¶ 6. Dr. Maxa reviewed a recent MRI and informed Plaintiff that he had degenerative disc disease in his spine. Id. at ¶ 7. Plaintiff then specifically requested Ultram, a prescription medication for his pain. Id. at ¶¶ 8, 10). Dr. Maxa refused to prescribe this medication, telling Plaintiff that Ultram was not on the Department of Correction's list of approved medications for financial reasons.[2] Id. at ¶ 10. Plaintiff further alleges that he told Dr. Maxa that this was deliberate indifference to his medical care and that Dr. Maxa ended the visit by "denying any and all treatment." /c/. at ¶¶ 11-13.

         In the grievance from this encounter, which Plaintiff attached to his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff further alleged that Dr. Maxa "prescribed 'NSAID' medications even though I told him they were not effective from my experience .. . ."[3] ECF No. 43-1. Plaintiffs grievance states that this prescription was provided during Plaintiffs first meeting with Dr. Maxa, which meeting Plaintiff identifies as having occurred on December 4, 2015. Id.

         III. Standards of Review

         1. Pro se Litigants

         Pro se pleadings, "however inartfully pleaded," must be held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-521 (1972). If the court can reasonably read pleadings to state a valid claim on which the litigant could prevail, it should do so despite failure to cite proper legal authority, confusion of legal theories, poor syntax and sentence construction, or litigant's unfamiliarity with pleading requirements. Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364 (1982); United States ex rel. Montgomery v. Bierley, 141 F.2d 552, 555 (3d Cir. 1969) (petition prepared by a prisoner may be inartfully drawn and should be read "with a measure of tolerance"); Smith v. U.S. District Court, 956 F.2d 295 (D.C. Cir. 1992); Freeman v. Dep 't of Corrections, 949 F.2d 360 (10th Cir. 1991). Under our liberal pleading rules, during the initial stages of litigation, a district court should construe all allegations in a complaint in favor of the complainant. Gibbs v. Roman, 116 F.3d 83 (3d Cir. 1997). See, e.g., Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996) (discussing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard); Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990) (same).

         2. Motion to dismiss

         A 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 (rejecting the traditional 12 (b)(6) standard established in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)). 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).

         While a 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. See also McTernan v. City of York, ...


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