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Tisdale v. Zaloga

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 30, 2019

DR. EDWARD ZALOGA, et al., Defendants


          Sylvia H. Rambo, United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court pursuant to the motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 23) filed by Defendants Dr. Edward Zaloga (“Dr. Zaloga”) and Anthony Ianuzzi (“Ianuzzi”). Pro se Plaintiff James John Tisdale, IV (“Tisdale”), who is presently incarcerated at the Lackawanna County Prison, has neither filed a response to the motion nor requested an extension of time to do so. Accordingly, because the time to respond has expired, the motion to dismiss is ripe for disposition. Although Tisdale has not opposed the motion to dismiss, the Court concludes for the following reasons that his complaint survives dismissal. Thus, the Court will deny Defendants' motion to dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Tisdale initiated the above-captioned action on June 17, 2019 by filing a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Dr. Zaloga, Ianuzzi, and Correctional Care Inc. (“CCI”). (Doc. No. 1.) Tisdale alleges that CCI is owned by Dr. Zaloga and has a contract to provide medical care to inmates housed at the Lackawanna County Prison. (Doc. No. 1 at 13.) In August of 2018, Tisdale began to lose feeling “in the lower half of [his] body and extremities making it almost impossible to walk or even shower.” (Id.) He submitted a sick call request on August 9, 2018. (Id.) Three (3) days later, he was called to medical to see Ianuzzi. (Id.) According to Tisdale, Ianuzzi stated that Tisdale “wasn't numb because [he] walked in there but provided no treatment.” (Id.) Tisdale alleges that he experienced “constant loss of balance and falling, ” as well as uncontrolled movements of his mouth and tongue. (Id. at 14.) He maintains that these symptoms were caused by the level of Dilantin in his blood “due to not being monitored by medical e.g. Dr. Edward Zaloga.” (Id. at 15.) Tisdale maintains that on October 4, 2018, he fell in a hallway and was taken to medical, where a nurse told the corrections officers accompanying Tisdale that he “was fine” and just needed to lie down. (Id.) He suggests that Defendants failed to refer him to a neurologist or other testing. (Id. at 13, 16.) Tisdale seeks $50, 000.00 in damages as relief. (Id. at 17.)

         In a Memorandum and Order dated June 25, 2019, the Court granted Tisdale leave to proceed in forma pauperis, dismissed his Eighth Amendment claims against CCI without prejudice, and granted him leave to file an amended complaint within thirty (30) days. (Doc. Nos. 7, 8.) The Court advised Tisdale that if he did not file an amended complaint, the Court would direct service of his original complaint upon Defendants Dr. Zaloga and Ianuzzi. (Doc. No. 8.) Tisdale did not file an amended complaint. Accordingly, on July 30, 2019, the Court dismissed CCI and directed the Clerk of Court to effect service of Tisdale's complaint upon Defendants Dr. Zaloga and Ianuzzi. (Doc. No. 10.)

         Defendants Dr. Zaloga and Ianuzzi returned waivers of service on September 4, 2019. (Doc. No. 16.) Accordingly, their answers or other responses to the complaint were due on or before September 30, 2019. In an Order dated October 4, 2019, the Court observed that Defendants Dr. Zaloga and Ianuzzi had not filed a response to the complaint and directed them to show cause within seven (7) days why Tisdale should not request the entry of default and default judgment pursuant to Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. No. 20.) Defendants Dr. Zaloga and Ianuzzi filed their response that same day, requesting a short extension of time to respond to the complaint. (Doc. No. 21.) In an Order dated October 7, 2019, the Court granted Defendants' request for an extension and directed them to respond to the complaint within seven (7) days. (Doc. No. 22.) Defendants subsequently filed their motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 23) and brief in support (Doc. No. 24).


         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. ...

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