United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
PARADISE BAXTER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Lori Brown, a phlebotomist employed by Correct Care
Solutions, LLC, filed this civil rights action after being
assaulted by an inmate housed at the State Corrections
Institution at Albion ("SCI Albion"). The
Defendants are Correctional Officer Jeffery Newell
("Newell"), Lieutenant Bill Harmon
("Harmon"), and two other correctional officers
named as "John Doe" Defendants. This Court has
jurisdiction over Plaintiffs claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
pending before the Court is a motion to dismiss the Complaint
by Defendants Newell and Harmon. ECF No. 8. For the reasons
that follow, the motion to dismiss will be granted.
times relevant to this lawsuit, Plaintiff was employed as a
phlebotomist by Correct Care Solutions, LLC, a private
company that contracted with SCI Albion to provide medical
services to inmates. Compl. ¶¶12-13. On January 11,
2018, Plaintiff was called upon by prison personnel to draw
blood from Inmate Angel Muniz ("Muniz"), who had
been scheduled for the blood draw because of low sodium.
Id. ¶¶14-16. Unbeknownst to Plaintiff,
Muniz had a history of violent crimes and assaults, including
numerous assaults on prison personnel and fellow inmates,
which had led to him being transferred among several
facilities within the state correctional system. Id.
day of Muniz's appointment, Harmon (the supervising
officer), Newell, and two other corrections officers
(collectively, the "Defendants") were assigned to
guard Muniz and escort him to the blood draw. Compl.
¶17. Once inside the designated room, Muniz sat atop an
examining table. Id. ¶¶2l, 24. Muniz's
hands and arms were shackled via a restraint system that
wrapped around his waist. Id. ¶22. Although his
legs were shackled together, they were not secured to the
examination table. Id. ¶25. Newell stood to the
right of Muniz while another unidentified corrections officer
stood to Muniz's left. Id. ¶23. A third
officer remained inside the room to operate a video camera,
but stood closer to the doorway. Id. Harmon stood
behind Plaintiff, "but off to her right."
Brown attempted to conduct the blood draw, Muniz
"violently, and without any warning or
provocation," kicked Brown in the abdomen and chest with
both feet, causing her to slam into the wall directly behind
her. Compl. ¶32. As a result, Brown sustained bodily
injuries, emotional trauma, medical expenses, and lost
income. Id. ¶44.
filed the instant lawsuit on December 6, 2018, asserting a
single cause of action under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for the
alleged violation of her constitutional rights. Defendants
filed the pending motion to dismiss on February 14, 2019. The
matter has been fully briefed and the issues sufficiently
joined, making the Defendants' motion ripe for
STANDARD OF REVIEW
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure recognizes a
defense based upon the plaintiffs failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted. "When considering a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion, we accept all factual allegations as
true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable
reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to
relief." Wayne Land & Mineral Grp. LLC v.
Delaware River Basin Comm'n, 894 F.3d 509, 526-27
(3d Cir. 2018) (internal quotation marks and citations
omitted). In order to survive dismissal, "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 Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Plausibility means "more than a
sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully." Id. "A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
sole cause of action is brought under 42 U.S.C. §1983,
which "is not itself a source of substantive
rights," but provides "a method for vindicating
federal rights elsewhere conferred." Baker v.
McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979). To prevail under
§ 1983, a plaintiff must prove that she suffered the
deprivation of a right secured by the United States
Constitution or federal law by a person acting under color of
state law. Mark v. Borough of Hatboro, 51 F.3d 1137,
1141 (3d Cir. 1995).
case, it is not disputed that the named Defendants were
acting under color of state law at all relevant times.
Therefore, we need inquire only whether Plaintiff has
plausibly alleged the violation of a federal right -
specifically, her right under the Fourteenth Amendment to
substantive due process,  which "protects individual liberty
against certain government actions regardless of the fairness
of the procedures used to implement them." Collins
v. City of Harker Heights, 53 U.S. 115, 125 (1992)
(internal quotation marks omitted). Plaintiffs theory is that
the Defendants' conduct caused her to sustain a
deprivation of her liberty interest in her own bodily
integrity. See Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515
F.3d 224, 235 (3d Cir. 2008) ("Individuals have a
constitutional liberty interest in their personal bodily
integrity that is protected by the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment.") (citations omitted).
dispute that Plaintiff has alleged a constitutional
violation. Alternatively, they argue that they are
qualifiedly immune from liability. We address each argument
Has Plaintiff Stated a Fourteenth Amendment "State
Created Danger" Claim?
the Due Process Clause does not impose an affirmative
obligation on the State to protect its citizens, there is an
exception to this general rule which "holds an officer
liable if his conduct exposes an individual to a
'state-created danger.'" Kedra v.
Schroeter, 876 F.3d 424, 436 (3d Cir. 2017). To prevail
under this theory, a plaintiff must show that:
(1) the harm ultimately caused to the plaintiff was
foreseeable and fairly direct; (2) the state-actor
"acted with a degree of culpability that shocks the
conscience"; (3) the state and the plaintiff had such a
relationship such that "the plaintiff was a foreseeable
victim of defendant's acts," as opposed to a member
of the public in general; and (4) the official affirmatively
used his authority "in a way that created danger to the
citizen or that rendered the citizen more vulnerable to
danger" than had he never acted.
Id. at 436 (quoting Bright v. Westmoreland
Cty., 443 F.3d 276, 281 (3d Cir. 2006)).
contend that Plaintiff has failed to allege a
"state-created danger" because the second, third,
and fourth elements are absent here. The Court agrees that,