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Ray v. Commonwealth

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 29, 2019

RONALD RAY, Plaintiff
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          A. RICHARD CAPUTO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Ronald Ray, an inmate presently housed at the Mahanoy State Correctional Institution (SCI-Mahanoy), in Frackville, Pennsylvania, commenced this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1.) Named as Defendants are the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC), Correct Care Solutions (CCS) and Physician Assistant (PA) Russell Miller. (Id.)

         Mr. Ray seeks to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 2 and 6.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Mr. Ray's request to proceed in forma pauperis but dismiss the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). However, the Court will grant Mr. Ray leave to file an amended complaint against CCS and PA Miller.

         I. Standard of Review for Screening Pro Se In Forma Pauperis Complaints

         When a litigant seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, without payment of fees, 28 U.S.C. § 1915 requires the court to screen the complaint. See28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Likewise, when a prisoner seeks redress from a government defendant in a civil action, whether proceeding in forma pauperis or not, the court must screen the complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Both 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915(A) give the court the authority to dismiss a complaint if it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2); Ball v. Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448, 452 (3d Cir. 2013).

         A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis either in law or fact. See Mitchell v. Horn, 318 F.3d 523, 530 (3d Cir. 2003) (citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 1832-33, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (1989)). In deciding whether the complaint fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, the court employs the standard used to analyze motions to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000). Under Rule 12(b)(6), the court “must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949-50, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)). The court may also rely on exhibits attached to the complaint and matters of public record. Sands v. McCormick, 502 F.3d 263, 268 (3d Cir. 2007).

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A complaint is required to provide “the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)).

         To test the sufficiency of the complaint, the court “must take three steps.” Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016). First, a court must “take note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.” Id.(internal quotations and brackets omitted). Second, the court must identify allegations that are merely legal conclusions “because they . . . are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. While detailed factual allegations are not required, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). Third, a court should assume the veracity of all well-pleaded factual allegations and “then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Connelly, 809 F.3d at 787 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. at 1949).

         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) (citing 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 “must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim.” Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). Pro se litigants are to be granted 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 of 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 of the Complaint

         On March 29, 2018, PA Miller treated Mr. Ray for a fungal infection and prescribed him an antifungal cream, Tolfanate. (ECF No. 1 at ¶ 1.) After using the cream for three days, Mr. Ray developed a painful and inflamed blister on his upper left arm. (Id. at ¶ 2.) On April 8, 2018, Mr. Ray returned to the medical unit due to the unbearable pain from the “burn caused by the Tolfanate cream”. (Id. at ¶ 3.) PA Williams saw him and advised to stop using the Tolfanate cream. He also told Mr. Ray he would have a permanent scar on his arm. (Id.) Mr. Ray then requested to see Medical Director Courtney Rodgers and stated he never wanted to be treated by PA Miller again. Staff advised him that he could not choose which medical providers would treat him. (Id. at ¶ 4.)

         On an unknown date, while in the infirmary for a procedure to his hand, Dr. Rodgers asked to examine the “blistering scar tissue on his left arm”. (Id. at ¶ 5.) After a cursory examination of it, Dr. Rodgers “stat[ed] absolutely nothing.” (Id.) Mr. Ray continues to suffer discomfort due to the blister on his left arm. Additionally, his rash remains untreated and has spread to his back and chest. (Id. at ¶ 6.)

         Mr. Ray asserts claims of “medical negligence, ” violations of the Eighth Amendment and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. He claims he is unable to live a normal healthy life due to Defendants' actions because he suffers from daily pain and is unable to work. (Id. at ΒΆΒΆ 7 - 9.) He seeks compensatory and ...


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