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Beckett v. Grant

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 2, 2019

U.M. GRANT, et al., Defendants


          SSYLVIA H. RAMBO United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court pursuant to the motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 36) filed by Defendants Dr. Dancha (“Dancha”), Dr. Mihaly (“Mihaly”), and Dr. Frommer (“Frommer”) (collectively, “Medical Defendants”) and the motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 38) filed by Defendants U.M. Grant (“Grant”), Counselor Wilson (“Wilson”), CHCA Kowalewski (“Kowalewski”), RN Schrock (“Schrock”), CO Bubb (“Bubb”), Joseph J. Silva (“Silva”), CO Savino (“Savino”), SCI Laurel Highlands, SCI Smithfield, SCI Huntingdon, Unit Manager B Block, B Block Counselor, Department of Corrections (“DOC”) Office of Population Management, and DOC Bureau of Health Care Services (collectively, “DOC Defendants”), both seeking to dismiss the second amended complaint (Doc. No. 22) filed by pro se Plaintiff Harry L. Beckett (“Plaintiff”), who is presently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution in Dallas, Pennsylvania (“SCI Dallas”). After receiving several extensions of time (Doc. Nos. 40-43, 46-51), Plaintiff filed his brief in opposition to the motions to dismiss (Doc. No. 52). Defendants have filed neither a reply brief nor an extension of time to do so. Accordingly, because the time to file a reply brief has expired, the motions to dismiss are ripe for disposition.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff initiated the above-captioned action on February 9, 2018 by filing his initial complaint, in which he explains that he suffers from neurological and musculoskeletal impairments as well as an organic brain syndrome. (Doc. No. 1 at 6.) In a Memorandum and Order dated March 23, 2018, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissed his complaint with leave to amend. (Doc. Nos. 8-9.) After receiving two extensions of time (Doc. Nos. 11-14), Plaintiff filed his amended complaint on August 15, 2018 (Doc. No. 15). In the amended complaint, Plaintiff explains that he suffers from pre-existing brain damage, chronic memory loss, headaches, dizziness, traumatic brain injury, PTSD, damage to his back, spine, neck, and left hand, arm, elbow, shoulder, and leg, RDS/CRPD, and mental health issues. (Id. at 1.) In a Memorandum and Order dated September 12, 2018, the Court dismissed the amended complaint and granted Plaintiff leave to file a second amended complaint. (Doc. Nos. 17-18.) After receiving an extension of time (Doc. No. 20-21), Plaintiff filed his second amended complaint on December 18, 2018 (Doc. No. 22).

         In his second amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his First and Eighth Amendment rights during his incarceration at SCI Laurel Highlands, [2] SCI Smithfield, and SCI Huntingdon. Specifically, he alleges that his transfers between facilities were retaliatory, and that Defendants caused him pain and suffering because he had to travel outside to access the law library and church at SCI Laurel Highlands. (Doc. No. 22 at 3, 5-6.) Plaintiff also maintains that Defendants denied him medical care, resulting him a loss of consciousness while he was at SCI Smithfield. (Id. at 5-6.) Plaintiff also argues that Defendants allowed him to be exposed to air conditioning, despite the fact that cold temperatures aggravate his conditions;[3] refused to reinstate his Z-code (single cell) status; and that Defendants Dancha and Mihaly did not respond to the concerns he expressed during his telemedicine examination with the Department of Veterans' Affairs (“DVA”); did not order follow-up treatment at the Blair Medical Center, and “denied RSDSA [and] other communications.”[4] (Id. at 2, 4.) As relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages in addition to the following: a space heater or Z-code status in a warm cell; a transfer to a cell at SCI Smithfield with “knob heat control and greenhouse [effect]”; off-site treatment; winter clothing; meals; medications; commissary; urine tests; no use of metal handcuffs; no transfer on a crowded and noisy bus; access to a gym and barber shop; and continued use of his current word processor. (Id. at 7.)


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

         When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must accept 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 In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010). The Court's inquiry is guided by the standards of Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). Under Twombly and Iqbal, pleading requirements have shifted to a “more heightened form of pleading.” See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). To prevent dismissal, all civil complaints must set out “sufficient factual matter” to show that the claim is facially plausible. Id. The plausibility standard requires more than a mere possibility that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. As the Supreme Court instructed in Iqbal, “where 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.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         Accordingly, to determine the sufficiency of a complaint under Twombly and Iqbal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has identified the following steps a district court must take when determining the sufficiency of a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6): (1) identify the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim; (2) identify any conclusory allegations contained in the complaint “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) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         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.” 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)). A court may also consider “any ‘matters incorporated by reference or integral to the claim, items subject to judicial notice, matters of public record, orders, [and] items appearing in the record of the case.'” Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006) (quoting 5B Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1357 (3d Ed. 2004)); see also Pryor v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 288 F.3d 548, 560 (3d Cir. 2002) (noting that when considering a motion to dismiss, courts may consider “documents whose contents are alleged in the complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the pleading”).

         In the context of pro se prisoner litigation specifically, the court must be mindful that a document filed pro se is “to be liberally construed.” 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 only be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972).

         B. Civil Rights Statute, 42 U.S.C. § 1983

          Section 1983 is the vehicle by which private citizens may seek redress for violations of federal constitutional rights committed by state officials. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute states, in pertinent part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

Id. “Section 1983 is not a source of substantive rights, ” but is merely a means through which “to vindicate violations of federal law committed by state actors.” See Pappas v. City of Lebanon, 331 F.Supp.2d 311, 315 (M.D. Pa. 2004) (quoting Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273, 284-85 (2002)). To state a cause of action under Section 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) the conduct complained of was committed by persons acting under color of state law; and (2) the conduct violated a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. See Harvey v. Plains Twp. Police Dep't, 421 F.3d 185, 189 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988)).


         A. Claims Against SCI Laurel Highlands, SCI Smithfield, SCI Huntingdon, DOC Office of Population Management, and ...

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