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Spillman v. Kollman

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 7, 2019

DR. KOLLMAN, et al., Defendants



         In August 2018, Mr. Spillman initiated this civil rights action after suffering a basketball injury to his ankle and subsequent injury to his lower back while housed at SCI-Benner Township.[1] (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff named Dr. Kollman, a contract physician, and seven Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) employees as Defendants.[2]The DOC Defendants filed an Answer to the Complaint while Dr. Kollman filed a motion to dismiss. (ECF Nos. 19 and 42.) Mr. Spillman filed an opposition brief (ECF No. 41) and Dr. Kollman has filed a reply (ECF No. 43). Dr. Kollman's motion is now ripe for disposition. Also pending before the Court is Mr. Spillman's unbriefed motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 39) and motion to stay (ECF No. 44) these proceedings pending his release from custody.

         For the following reasons, the Court will grant Dr. Kollman's motion to dismiss, deem Mr. Spillman's motion for summary judgment withdrawn, and deny his motion to stay.

         I. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) supports the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). “To survive a motion to dismiss, 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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). “[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 not shown---that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. at 1950 (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted).

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) requires a pleading to contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” A complaint must provide “the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964. Although Rule 8 “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations,' … it [does] demand … more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation, ” and a complaint does not suffice “if it tenders ‘naked assertions[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 544, 127 S.Ct. at 1955).

         When resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the role of the court is to determine whether the complaint has “'enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' each element.” United States ex rel. Bookwalter v. UPMC, No. 18-1693, 2019 WL 4437732, at *3 (3d Cir. Sept. 17, 2019) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965). In reviewing the sufficiency of the complaint, a court must take three steps:

First, it must “tak[e] note of the elements [the] plaintiff must plead to state a claim.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675. Second, it should identify allegations that, “because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. at 679. See also Burtch v. Milberg Factors, Inc., 662 F.3d 212, 224 (3d Cir. 2011) (“Mere restatements of the elements of a claim are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” (citation and editorial marks omitted)). Finally, “[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, [the] court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 786-87 (3d Cir. 2016).

         When addressing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court is compelled to accept as true and must view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Estate of Roman v. City of Newark, 914 F.3d 789, 795 (3d Cir. 2019)(quoting Warren Gen. Hosp. v. Amgen Inc., 643 F.3d 77, 84 (3d Cir. 2011)). However, the court is not compelled to accept “unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences, or a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Morrow v. Balaski, 719 F.3d 160, 165 (3d Cir. 2013) (quoting Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007)). In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court may only consider “documents that are attached to or submitted with the complaint, and 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) (citations and internal quotations marks omitted).

         A complaint filed by a pro se plaintiff must be liberally construed and “held ‘to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Fantone v. Latini, 780 F.3d 184, 193 (3d Cir. 2015) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 - 21, 92 S.Ct. 594, 596, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972)); see also Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007). Yet, even a pro se plaintiff's complaint “must contain allegations permitting the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Jackson v. Div. of Developmental Disabilities, 394 Fed.Appx. 950, 951 n. 3 (3d Cir. 2010) (nonprecedential) (quoted case omitted). Federal courts must grant pro se litigants leave to file a curative amended complaint, even when a plaintiff does not seek leave to amend, unless such an amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Estate v. Lagano v. Bergen Cty. Prosecutor's Office, 769 F.3d 850, 861 (3d Cir. 2014). A complaint that sets forth facts which affirmatively demonstrate that the plaintiff has no right to recover is properly dismissed without leave to amend. Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 2002).

         With these principles in mind, the Court sets forth the background to this litigation, as Plaintiff alleges it in his Complaint.

         II. Allegations ...

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