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Best v. Huntingdon

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 9, 2019

RONALD BEST, #JG6988, Plaintiff,
v.
S.C.I. HUNTINGDON, et al., Defendants.

          MARIANI, D.J.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JOSEPH F. SAPORITO, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This is a federal civil rights action. It commenced on September 17, 2019, when the Clerk of Court received the pro se complaint, signed and dated by the plaintiff, Ronald Best, on August 29, 2019. (Doc. 1.) The complaint was accompanied by a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis in this action, which we have granted. At the time of filing, Best was incarcerated at SCI Huntingdon, located in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania.

         For the reasons stated herein, we recommend that the complaint be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1).

         I. Background

         In addition to SCI Huntingdon itself, the complaint names eight individual defendants. These include a prison doctor, Dr. Bassem Kalada, a prison nurse named Rob, and six correctional officers named C. Knouse, J. Fieni, R. Cramer, J. Redfern, McMann, and W. Clubert.

         Best alleges that, on November 21, 2017, officer Knouse instructed him to leave his cell and go to the front of the housing unit. While he was walking there, officers Fieni, McMann, and Clubert placed him in hand restraints. These three officers were then joined by officers Redfern and Cramer in escorting Best to the prison medical department. Once there, the five correctional officers physically restrained Best while Dr. Kalada and Nurse Rob administered a dose of Narcan nasal spray in Best's left nostril. He was then forced to change into a jumpsuit and transported to a hospital outside the prison. At the hospital, a non-party doctor, Dr. Horvak, allegedly informed Best that he should not have received Narcan. After tests confirmed that Best was okay, he was released from the hospital. Best was transported to SCI Smithfield, also located in Huntingdon County, and held in the prison infirmary there for the rest of the day.

         On November 22, 2017, Best was transported back to SCI Huntingdon, where he was placed into disciplinary confinement for eighteen days. After the eighteen days elapsed, he was returned to the general prison population.

         Based on these factual allegations, Best claims that the named defendants violated his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. He seeks an award of compensatory and punitive damages, as well as declaratory judgment an injunctive order directing the defendants to “cease their physical violence and threats toward plaintiff.”

         II. Legal Standard

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court is obligated to screen a civil complaint in which a prisoner is seeking redress from a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a); James v. Pa. Dep't of Corr., 230 Fed. App'x 195, 197 (3d Cir. 2007). The Court must dismiss the complaint if it “fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). The Court has a similar obligation with respect to actions brought in forma pauperis and actions concerning prison conditions. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i); id. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1). See generally Banks v. Cty. of Allegheny, 568 F.Supp.2d 579, 587-89 (W.D. Pa. 2008) (summarizing prisoner litigation screening procedures and standards).

         The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim under § 1915A(b)(1), § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), or § 1997e(c) is the same as that for dismissing a complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Brodzki v. Tribune Co., 481 Fed. App'x 705, 706 (3d Cir. 2012) (per curiam); Mitchell v. Dodrill, 696 F.Supp.2d 454, 471 (M.D. Pa. 2010); Banks, 568 F.Supp.2d at 588. “Under Rule 12(b)(6), a motion to dismiss may be granted only if, accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, a court finds the plaintiff's claims lack facial plausibility.” Warren Gen. Hosp. v. Amgen Inc., 643 F.3d 77, 84 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)). In deciding the motion, the Court may consider the facts alleged on the face of the complaint, as well as “documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial notice.” Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007). Although the Court must accept the fact allegations in the complaint as true, it 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)). Nor is it required to credit factual allegations contradicted by indisputably authentic documents on which the complaint relies or matters of public record of which we may take judicial notice. In re Washington Mut. Inc., 741 Fed. App'x 88, 91 n.3 (3d Cir. Sept. 25, 2018); Sourovelis v. City of Philadelphia, 246 F.Supp.3d 1058, 1075 (E.D. Pa. 2017); Banks, 568 F.Supp.2d at 588-89.

         III. Discussion

         Best has brought this federal civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 provides 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 . . . .

42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 does not create substantive rights, but instead provides remedies for rights established elsewhere. City of Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 816 (1985). To establish a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must establish that the defendants, acting under color of state law, deprived the plaintiff of a right secured by the United States Constitution. Mark v. Borough of Hatboro, 51 F.3d 1137, 1141 (3d Cir. 1995). To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, a civil rights complaint must state the conduct, time, place, and persons responsible for the alleged civil rights violations. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 353 (3d Cir. 2005).

         A. SCI Huntingdon

         The plaintiff has included SCI Huntingdon, the prison where he is confined, among the several named defendants in this § 1983 suit. But it is well established that a prison or correctional facility is not a “person” subject to suit under § 1983. See Fischer v. Cahill, 474 F.2d 991, 992 (3d Cir. 1973) (per curiam); see also Edwards v. Northampton Cty., 663 Fed. App'x 132, 136 (3d Cir. 2016) (per curiam); DiMaio v. George W. Hill Intake Dep't, 367 F.Supp.3d 301, 305 (E.D. Pa. 2019).

         Accordingly, we recommend that the plaintiff's claims against SCI Huntingdon be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), ...


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