United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS [ECF NO. 39]
RICHARD A. LANZILLO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
individual defendants who are employees of the Pennsylvania
Department of Corrections (“DOC Defendants”) have
moved to dismiss all claims of Plaintiff's Complaint
against defendant John Wetzel and defendant Michael Overmyer,
and the claims against all DOC Defendants to the extent those
claims are asserted against them in their official
capacities. ECF No. 39. For the reasons discussed below, the
Court will grant the DOC Defendants'
Tyrone Martin, an inmate at the State Correctional
Institution at Forest (“SCI-Forest”), commenced
this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by
filing a Complaint alleging that the DOC Defendants violated
his civil rights during and after an incident on May 29,
2018. ECF No. 5, pp 2-5. On December 18, 2018, the DOC
Defendants moved pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) to dismiss (1) Plaintiff's claims against DOC
Secretary John Wetzel and SCI-Forest Superintendent Michael
Overmyer on the grounds that Plaintiff's Complaint fails
to allege facts to show personal involvement of these
Defendants in the actionable conduct alleged in the
Complaint, and (2) all claims against the DOC Defendants in
their official capacities as barred by Eleventh Amendment
sovereign immunity. ECF. No. 40. Plaintiff responded to the
motion on January 17, 2019. ECF No. 47. The motion has been
fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.
Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on May 29, 2018, he
experienced a “mental breakdown” and he asked
Defendant Mrozek to “speak with someone from
psychology.” ECF No. 5, p. 2. He alleges that his pleas
for help were ignored by both Defendant Mrozek and Defendant
Kopp. Id. Instead of providing assistance, Defendant
Kopp requested a “use of force team, ” which
sprayed Plaintiff with one can of OC spray. Id. at
pp. 2-3. After being sprayed, Plaintiff was treated by
“Jane Doe (nurse)” who “acted with neglect
as she only clean Plaintiff (sic) eyes and ignored Plaintiffs
(sic) pleas.” Id. at p. 3. Plaintiff was then
threatened, handcuffed, and placed on the floor while naked
for an anal cavity search. Id. Plaintiff was then
returned to his cell with no shoes despite the floor being
wet, where he was again “hit” and
“touch[ed]” by the “use of force
additionally alleges that Defendants Mason, Mrozek, and Jopp
removed his legal materials and personal property from his
cell, failed to provide him with a “153 Form, ”
and sprayed his penis with OC spray. Id. at 3-4.
Plaintiff was not allowed to decontaminate his body following
the spray. Id. at 4. He was given a paper smock and
returned to his cell, but was not provided with shoes, a
blanket, a mattress, or clothes from May 29, 2018 to June 5,
2018. Id. Plaintiff's feet became infected until
he received “foot cream” on June 5, 2018.
further alleges that “Superintendent sign off on the
removal of Plaintiff clothes property and use a blind eye
while viewing handheld video. Refusing to discipline
underlings and worked together with all mention of a rogue
body.” Id. at 4. (errors in original). He also
stated that various defendants “along with
Superintendent threw away Plaintiffs property and legal work
as a retaliatory tactic and then acted as if it occurred by
mistake.” Id. (errors in original). Finally,
he stated that “John Wetzel although through plan
channels directs his underlings to use any means of action
and allows them to falsify document and then acts as if his
knowledge is limited. However this listed defendant sent
Plaintiff to what he called an SMU program as retaliation for
Plaintiff filing cv-2060.” Id. at 5. (errors
Standards of Review
Pro se Litigants
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).
Motion to dismiss
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).
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, Pennsylvania, 577 F.3d 521, 531 (3d Cir.
2009) (“The tenet that a court must accept as true all
of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable
to legal conclusions.”).
on the Twombly/Iqbal line of cases, the Third
Circuit has articulated ...