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Hottle v. George W. Hill Correctional Facility

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

September 10, 2019



          JUAN R. SÁNCHEZ, C.J.

         Pro se Plaintiff Tiffany Amanda Hottle, an inmate in the State Correctional Institution - Phoenix, brings claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Krolle, Cooper, and Brown[1] for constitutional violations that occurred while she was incarcerated at George W. Hill Correctional Facility-a correctional facility run by Delaware County, Pennsylvania.[2] Defendants move separately to dismiss Hottle's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Because Hottle has not specifically alleged facts to state a claim upon which relief can be granted on either her conditions of confinement claim or her inadequate medical care claim, Defendants' Motions to Dismiss will be granted.


         Hottle's claims stem from events that occurred while she was incarcerated at George W. Hill Correctional Facility (GWH) around November 2016. First, Hottle alleges she was subject to unsanitary prison conditions causing her infection with Hepatitis B. Hottle had no infectious disease before her commitment at GWH and she was diagnosed with Hepatitis B after two-to-three months of confinement at GWH. See Compl. 3; Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss ¶ 14, 17, 44, 50, 51. At GWH, “there were times the Unit and Block smelled of urine also and had rats in the showers. The sewers are connected to the drains in the shower room.” Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 72. Hottle further alleges GWH is generally unsanitary and there are problems with cleanliness, sanitation, control and public safety. See Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 18. At the relevant time, Krolle and Cooper were assigned to the oversight of Hottle's cell block and were responsible for the welfare of the inmates housed therein.

         Second, Hottle alleges she received inadequate medical treatment for her Hepatitis B infection. On the day prior to Hottle receiving her Hepatitis B diagnosis, she was walking in her block when Krolle approached her and stated Hottle looked yellow. Hottle stated she was fatigued and did not feel like herself. Krolle told Hottle she should go to medical and Hottle agreed to have Krolle escort her there. At some point before reaching the medical wing, Krolle met with Cooper in front of the office and joined Krolle and Hottle on their way.

         When they arrived at the medical wing, Brown was the correctional officer on duty in medical and she was watching over the security cameras. While Nurse Dotty cared for Hottle, Krolle and Cooper waited at the doors. Hottle repeatedly asked to go to the hospital. At this time, personnel were unaware of what condition or infection Hottle suffered from. See Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 26-27. Nurse Dotty suggested Hottle might need a bilirubin test, or her condition might be caused by something in her stomach. Hottle was placed under observation, Krolle and Cooper left the medical wing, and Hottle was not taken to the hospital. Brown, as the overseeing correctional officer of the medical wing, then handcuffed Hottle to the gurney. Brown returned to her post and continued to monitor the security cameras. Six hours later, a physician assistant released Hottle to her block.

         The next day, Hottle returned to the medical wing and received blood tests and lab work. Nurse S informed Hottle her lab reports showed a diagnosis of Hepatitis B. Nurse S also told Hottle she likely contracted the disease from the prison. Dr. Pierce later told Hottle she had irreversible liver failure and “her [CBC] numbers were out of whack.” Compl. 3. Dr. Pierce also informed Hottle she was infected in the last two weeks but did not prescribe her any medications, refer her to the hospital, or send her to see an infectious disease doctor.

         Based on the foregoing, Hottle filed the instant action on February 5, 2018, against Krolle, Cooper, and Brown. In her Complaint, Hottle alleges violations of her Eighth Amendment rights regarding her conditions of confinement and inadequate medical care. Defendants Krolle and Cooper filed a Motion to Dismiss on June 19, 2018. Hottle responded to the Motion on June 19, 2018. At that time, Defendant Brown had not been served with Hottle's Complaint. The Court stayed this case for 60 days from September 5, 2018, until November 4, 2018. During the stay, Defendant Brown was served. She then filed an identical Motion to Dismiss on November 9, 2018. Hottle did not respond to Brown's Motion and the Court ordered Hottle to respond by March 18, 2019. To date, Hottle has not responded to Brown's Motion. Defendants' Motions are now ripe for review.


         To withstand dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), “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 facially plausible when the facts pleaded “allow[] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Where, as here, the plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court must construe the Complaint liberally, accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations therein, and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. See Pearson v. Sec'y Dep't of Corr., 775 F.3d 598, 604 (3d Cir. 2015).

         Hottle brings this action pursuant to § 1983, which “provides a cause of action against ‘every person who,' under color of state law, ‘subjects, or causes to be subjected,' another person to a deprivation of a federally protected right.” Barkes v. First Corr. Med., Inc., 766 F.3d 307, 316 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983), rev'd on other grounds sub nom. Taylor v. Barkes, 135 S.Ct. 2042 (2015). To be liable under § 1983, a defendant “must have personal involvement in the alleged wrongs; liability cannot be predicated solely on the operation of respondeat superior.” Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988).

         Hottle's first claim concerns her living conditions at GWH. Hottle alleges her Hepatitis B diagnosis resulted from the prison's unsanitary conditions. Specifically, she states she had no diseases or infections before entering the prison and thus she must have contracted the disease due to living in the prison's conditions. Hottle claims generally there was “negligence of cleanliness, sanitation, control and public safety.” Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 18. She also alleges her unit and block at times smelled of urine, had rats in the shower, and the sewers were connected to the drains in the shower room. See Id. ¶ 72. Hottle asserts both Krolle and Cooper oversaw her block and were responsible for the conditions, safety, and any exposure to infectious disease or raw sewage.[4] See Id. ¶ 3-4.

         For a prison official to be held liable for an Eighth Amendment violation concerning conditions of confinement, first, the “deprivation alleged must be, objectively, sufficiently serious, ” that is, “the inmate must show that he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm.” See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Only conditions that deprive a prisoner of one of life's necessities, such as food, water, clothing, shelter, and medical care are unconstitutional. See Griffin v. Vaughn, 112 F.3d 703, 709 (3d Cir. 1997). Second, “a prison official must have a sufficiently culpable state of mind, ” which is “deliberate indifference to inmate health or safety.” Id. To be deliberately indifferent, the official must know of and disregard an excessive risk to inmate health or safety. See id. at 837.

         Measured under these standards, Hottle's conditions of confinement claim falls short. While Hottle's cell and GWH may have been dirty or unpleasant, “unpleasant prison conditions in and of themselves do not state a cognizable [E]ighth [A]mendment claim.” Payton v. Vaughn, 798 F.Supp. 258, 261 (E.D. Pa. 1992) (“All that a prison is required constitutionally to give an inmate is a minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.” (citation omitted)). Although, Hottle alleges the conditions caused her to contract Hepatitis B, and thus provides plausibility that some condition posed an excessive risk to her health, she has not identified with any plausibility which conditions caused her infection. See Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 16 (“The exposure to infectious disease or raw sewage, however I was contaminated, is Krolle and Cooper's liability.”). Additionally, Hottle's general allegations state the prison occasionally smelled of urine, which is ...

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