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Castelonia v. C.O. Hollenbush

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 13, 2019

C.O. HOLLENBUSH, et al., Defendants


          Kane Judge.

         On October 24, 2018, pro se Plaintiff Jarrett Castelonia (“Plaintiff”), who is currently incarcerated at the Northumberland County Prison in Coal Township, Pennsylvania, initiated the above-captioned action by filing a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants C.O. Hollenbush (“Hollenbush”), Mr. Shuman (“Shuman”), Officer Ashton (“Ashton”), Patty Kulenguskey (“Kulenguskey”), Brian Davis (“Davis”), Warden Kovach (“Kovach”), and Lt. Greek (“Greek”) in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 2.) In an Order dated October 25, 2018, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania transferred the above-captioned action to this Court. (Doc. No. 5.) Presently before the Court is Defendant Kulenguskey's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint (Doc. No. 38) and brief in support thereof (Doc. No. 40). Plaintiff has neither filed an opposition brief nor moved for an extension of time to do so. Accordingly, because the time period for filing an opposition brief has expired, the motion to dismiss is ripe for disposition.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges that on June 15, 2017, he was arrested by Defendant Hollenbush “after a pursuit that ended in a car crash.” (Doc. No. 2 ¶ 11.) After the pursuit, Plaintiff “was tased while in a creek of water.” (Id.) He maintains that at no time did he received medical attention even after he expressed experiencing “extreme pain in [his] rib area.” (Id.)

         On June 16, 2017, Plaintiff was transported from the Columbia County Prison to the Northumberland County Jail. (Id. ¶ 14.) Upon his arrival, Plaintiff informed staff members about the pain in his rib cage but received no help. (Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff received a routine evaluation and a mental health screening and was placed on a 72-hour quarantine for “new commits.” (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.)

         On June 17, 2017, Plaintiff “awoke to find that his right thigh was swollen to the point that it was hard for [him] to walk.” (Id. ¶ 17.) He notified several staff members and was told to submit a sick call slip, which he did. (Id.) Plaintiff eventually spoke to Defendants Davis and Kulenguskey “on several occasions” regarding his “leg being swollen and growing larger by the day, thus making it nearly impossible for [him] to walk.” (Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff maintains that from his very first encounter with Defendants Davis and Kulenguskey, he “was prescribed numerous medications for inflam[m]ation and the steroid [prednisone], and told to drink water and that there wasn't anything wrong.” (Id. ¶ 20.) He received “several medications . . . without any concrete diagnosis.” (Id. ¶ 21.) According to Plaintiff, Defendants Davis and Kulenguskey also “began suggesting to other medical staff and county corrections staff that Plaintiff was indeed faking.” (Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiff maintains that he notified Defendants Green, Shuman, and Kovach of his “extreme pain” but that they did not “render assistance.” (Id. ¶¶ 22-23.)

         On June 24, 2017, Plaintiff “could not take the pain any longer.” (Id. ¶ 26.) He spoke to Defendant Greek, who told Plaintiff that “the issue was out of his hands.” (Id.) Plaintiff asked for a grievance. (Id.) An hour later, “Nurse Karen” came to see Plaintiff, examined his leg, and referred him to see the doctor the following morning. (Id. ¶ 27.) Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Morlock on June 25, 2017. (Id. ¶ 28.) Dr. Morlock examined Plaintiff's leg and “immediately suggested to other medical staff to call 911.” (Id.) Plaintiff was subsequently transported to Geisinger Medical, where he learned that he did not have any blood flow in his right leg. (Id. ¶¶ 28-29.) Plaintiff spent a month and a half in the hospital to undergo “repeated surgeries.” (Id. ¶ 29.) Ultimately, Plaintiff learned that he suffered from deep vein thrombosis. (Id.) Based on these allegations, Plaintiff asserts violations of his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment as well as his rights under the Eighth Amendment. (Id. ¶¶ 41-42.) Plaintiff requests injunctive relief as well as compensatory and punitive damages. (Id. ¶¶ 43-45.)


         A. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)

         Federal notice and pleading rules require the complaint to provide the defendant notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. See Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008). The plaintiff must present facts that, accepted as true, demonstrate a plausible right to relief. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Although Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires “only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” a complaint may nevertheless be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for its “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

         When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court accepts as true all factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009); In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010). To prevent dismissal, all civil complaints must set out “sufficient factual matter” to show that their claims are facially plausible. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). The plausibility standard requires more than a mere possibility that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct: “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' - ‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         Accordingly, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has identified the following steps that a district court must take when reviewing a 12(b)(6) motion: (1) identify the elements that a plaintiff must plead to state a claim; (2) identify any conclusory allegations contained in the complaint that are “not entitled” to the assumption of truth; and (3) determine whether any “well-pleaded factual allegations” contained in the complaint “plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” See Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). The Third Circuit has specified that in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, “a court must consider only the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, as well as undisputedly authentic documents if the complainant's claims are based upon these documents.” See Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 230 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993)).

         In the context of pro se prisoner litigation, the court must be mindful that a document filed pro se is “to be liberally construed.” See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). A pro se complaint, “however inartfully pleaded, ” must be held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers” and can be dismissed for failure to state a claim only if it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972).

         B. ...

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