United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
Quintez Talley, a prisoner proceeding pro se and
in forma pauperis, filed this civil action asserting
claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the
Rehabilitation Act (RA) and 42 U.S.C. §
1983. He also brings state law claims and
requests injunctive and declaratory relief. He has sued the
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) and several of
its officers and employees.
have moved to dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative
remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act
(PLRA) and failure to state a claim. They also assert sovereign
immunity as to the state claims. Because Talley fails to
state any claims, we shall grant the motion and dismiss the
January 16, 2018, Talley was housed in a Psychiatric
Observation Cell (POC) on suicide watch at the DOC's
State Correctional Institution (SCI) at
Graterford. He informed Lieutenant Harvey Leonard that
he was suicidal. Leonard told Psychological Services
Specialist Robert Ladonne what Talley had said and brought
him to Talley's POC, where they watched Talley swallow a
plastic spoon. Ladonne told Talley that under no
circumstances would he or Doyle sign Talley into the Mental
Health Unit (MHU) and walked away. Talley continued swallowing
unidentified foreign objects. Leonard asked why he was suicidal
and Talley responded that he “wanted the same treatment
to which [his] Caucasian counterparts
left and later returned, stating that Doyle had
“cleared” Talley. Talley continued to insist he
was suicidal and swallowed more foreign
objects. Leonard left again and returned with an
extraction team Talley, after swallowing more foreign
objects, allowed himself to be handcuffed and escorted to the
Restrictive Housing Unit (RHU) by the extraction
team. Leonard turned Talley over to Lieutenant
Terrance Bright, who asked Talley if he was
suicidal. Talley told Bright that he was suicidal
and needed a medical consultation because he had swallowed
several foreign bodies.Bright left and returned with
Psychological Services Specialist McKenzie Nash, who asked
Talley why he was suicidal and how he intended to kill
himself. Talley responded that he feared for his
life in the RHU and that he had swallowed several foreign
bodies.Nash walked away.
was placed in restraints and transferred to a camera cell in
the Diversionary Treatment Unit (DTU). He freed
himself from the restraints and destroyed the
camera. Lieutenant Andrew Reber and the Unknown
Extraction Team #2 placed Talley in a restraint
chair. Talley complained that the restraints
were too tight, but Nurse Mark Sokolski only tightened
them. Talley remained in the chair for
approximately seven and a half hours and was provided
exercise breaks at two-hour intervals.
Talley was released from the chair, he began a hunger
strike. Twenty-four hours later he was taken to
medical triage where he spoke to RN Chris and RN Crystal
about his mental health. RN Chris contacted the on-call
psychiatrist and “convinced” him or her to order
Talley returned to his DTU camera cell. Talley
continued to vomit blood during this period from the foreign
objects he had swallowed, until he had a bowel
remained in the DTU camera cell from January 17 until he was
transferred to another prison on January 30. During this
period, Ladonne and Doyle, “the only people capable of
clearing [Talley] off of suicide watch, ” refused to
evaluate him. As a result, he stayed in his cell 24
hours a day without access to showers or recreation
alleges that the DOC, Wetzel, Link, Banta, Clark, Doyle and
Ladonne violated the ADA, the RA and the Eighth Amendment by
excluding him from showers and recreation and from mental
health services. He alleges that Leonard, the Unknown
Extraction Team #1, Doyle, Ladonne, RN Crystal, RN Chris,
Nash and Bright violated the Eighth Amendment by denying him
medical and/or mental health treatment. He alleges
that Link, Banta, Clark, Wetzel, Doyle, Ladonne, Leonard,
Bright and Unknown Extraction Teams #1 and #2 violated his
Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by placing him in
restraints rather than providing him with mental health
treatment whenever he complained he was
suicidal. He alleges that Sokolski violated the
Eighth Amendment and committed assault and battery and
medical malpractice when he tightened his
restraints. He alleges that Reber and the Unknown
Extraction Team #2 violated the Eighth Amendment and
committed assault and battery when they failed to
intervene.Talley seeks compensatory and punitive
damages, and injunctive and declaratory relief.
to Rule 12(b)(6), a court may dismiss all or part of an
action for “failure to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The complaint
must plead “factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). The
plaintiff must allege facts that indicate “more than a
sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.” Id. Pleading only “facts
that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's
liability” is insufficient and cannot survive a motion
to dismiss. Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S.
conclusory recitation of the elements of a cause of action is
not sufficient. Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515
F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). The plaintiff must allege facts
necessary to make out each element. Id. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563 n.8). In other words, the
complaint must contain facts which, if proven later, support
a conclusion that the cause of action can be established.
assessing the sufficiency of a complaint, a court must: (1)
identify the elements of the causes of action; (2) disregard
conclusory statements, leaving only factual allegations; and
(3) assuming the truth of those factual allegations,
determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement
to relief. Palakovic v. Wetzel, 854 F.3d 209, 220
(3d Cir. 2017) (internal quotation marks and citations
omitted) (quoting Burtch v. Millberg Factors, Inc.,
662 F.3d 212, 221 (3d Cir. 2011)).
filing suit challenging prison life under any federal law,
including the ADA and the RA, a prisoner must exhaust all
available administrative remedies. Rinaldi v. United
States, 904 F.3d 257, 265 (3d Cir. 2018). The PLRA
provides that “[n]o action shall be brought with
respect to prison conditions under [§ 1983 or any other
federal law] until administrative remedies as available are
exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997(e)(a). To properly
exhaust, the prisoner must comply with all deadlines and
procedural rules. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90
(2006). He must pursue all available steps in the process.
Id. See also Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850, 1859-60
(2016); Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 222 (3d
Cir. 2004). If he fails to do so, his action must be
dismissed. Spruill, 372 F.3d at 227.
exhaustion requirement is mandatory. A court may not excuse a
failure to exhaust even if there are “special
circumstances.” Ross, 136 S.Ct. at 1856. The
only exception is where an administrative remedy is not
available. Section 1997e(a) of the PLRA only requires the
exhaustion of available remedies. Stated differently, if the
administrative remedies are not available, there is nothing
administrative remedies are deemed unavailable where: (1) the
administrative procedure, in practice, does not afford
inmates a real chance for redress because the prison
administrators refuse or are unable to process the grievance;
(2) the procedure is so “opaque” that inmates
cannot “discern or navigate it”; and (3) the
prison administrators prevent or thwart inmates from pursuing
grievances through the process by “machination,
misrepresentation, or intimidation.” Ross, 136
S.Ct. at 1859-60.
maintains an official grievance process entitled the
“Inmate Grievance System” and is governed by
Administrative Regulation 804 (DC-ADM 804). Defendants
argue that Talley failed to exhaust administrative remedies
because he did not take any of the steps set forth in DC-ADM
804. As the Commonwealth Court has explained:
While DOC policy DC-ADM 804 provides that claims of inmate
abuse can be the subject of a grievance (DC-ADM 804
Procedures Manual § 1(B)(10)), the DOC policy governing
inmate abuse, DC-ADM 001, provides that inmates are not
required to use the prison grievance procedure to report
abuse, and may also proceed by other means, including
notifying a staff member of the abuse. DC-ADM 001 §
Parran v. Rozum, No. 239 C.D. 2012, 2013 WL 3942101,
at *3 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Jan. 4, 2013) (unreported panel
alleges that he made an on-camera verbal complaint to prison
personnel regarding the denial of mental health treatment and
the use of restraints. Defendants respond that “this
does not relieve Plaintiff of his obligation to address his
complaints through the grievance system.” But, they do
not explain why Talley was required to proceed under DC-ADM
804 where that policy provides that “[a] grievance
dealing with allegations of abuse shall be handled in
accordance with Department policy DC-ADM 001, ‘Inmate
Abuse.'” In Parran, the court concluded
that dismissal was inappropriate at the pleadings stage where
defendants failed “to discuss whether the grievance
procedure is mandatory for abuse claims, in light of the
language in DC-ADM 001.” 2013 WL 3942101, at *3.
Because Talley exhausted the administrative remedies
available to him under DC-ADM 001, we find dismissal for
failure to exhaust administrative remedies is unwarranted at
and RA Claims
makes it unlawful for public entities, including prisons, to
discriminate against the disabled in the provision of
services, programs and activities. Disability Rights
N.J., Inc. v. Comm'r, N.J. Dep't of Human
Servs., 796 F.3d 293, 301 (3d Cir. 2015) (citing
Tennessee v. Lane, 541 U.S. 509, 517 (2004));
Chisholm v. McManimon, 275 F.3d 315, 325 (3d Cir.
2001) (citing Pa. Dep't of Corr. v. Yeskey, 524
U.S. 206 (1998)). The RA prohibits discrimination by entities
receiving federal funding and is interpreted similarly to the
ADA. Yeskey, 118 F.3d at 170. To state a claim under
the ADA and RA, a plaintiff must allege “that he is a
‘qualified individual with a disability' [and] that
he was excluded from a service, program, or activity of a
public entity . . . because of his disability.”
Disability Rights N.J., Inc., 796 F.3d at 301
(quoting 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1)(A)). Mental illness is a
disability under the ADA and RA. 29 U.S.C. § 705(9)(A);
42 U.S.C. § 12102(1)(A).
claims that the DOC, Wetzel, Link, Banta, Clark, Doyle and
Ladonne violated the ADA and RA by placing him in restraints
and later in a DTU cell without permitting him to consult
with a mental health professional. Yet, he alleges a number
of mental health professionals interacted with him prior to
his placement in restraints and a DTU cell. Ladonne observed
Talley swallowing foreign objects but informed him that
neither he nor Doyle would place him in the
MHU. After Leonard consulted Doyle about
Talley's self-injurious behavior, Doyle approved
Tally's transfer to the RHU. Once in the RHU, Talley
told Bright he was suicidal. Bright then retrieved Nash to
speak with Talley. Nash asked Talley why he was suicidal
and how he intended to kill himself.She refused to move him to
the MHU. Talley later spoke to RN Chris and RN
Crystal in the medical triage about his depression and
suicidal ideation. RN Crystal spoke with a psychiatrist who
ordered Talley placed in the DTU camera cell. From January
17 through 30, 2019, Talley remained on suicide
fails to allege facts supporting his conclusion that he was
excluded from mental health treatment. In effect, he alleges
only he received inadequate or incompetent treatment of his
suicidal threats and his swallowing of foreign objects. A
denial of treatment for a disability is not actionable under
the ADA and RA. Iseley v. Beard, 200 Fed.Appx. 137,
142 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Bryant v. Madrigan, 84
F.3d 246, 248 (7th Cir. 1996)). Nor is medical malpractice.
Bryant, 84 F.3d at 248.
also claims that these defendants violated the ADA and RA by
depriving him of showers and recreation while he remained on
suicide watch. Showers are “part of the programs,
services [and] activities” provided by a prison.
Furgess v. Pa. Dep't of Corr., 933 F.3d 285, 291
(3d Cir. 2019). So is recreation. Norfleet v.
Walker, 684 F.3d 688, 690 (7th Cir. 2012) (citations
omitted); DeFreitas v. Montgomery Cty. Corr.
Facility, No. 08-5330, 2012 WL 2920219, at *14 (E.D. Pa.
July 18, 2012). But, a plaintiff must also allege
“facts sufficient to show” that he was excluded
“by reason of” his disability. Brown v. Pa.
Dep't of Corr., 290 Fed.Appx. 463, 467 (3d Cir.
2008) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 12132). See also Brown v.
Deparlos, 492 Fed.Appx. 211, 215 (3d Cir. 2012).
Talley alleges that he was excluded from prison activities
while he was on suicide watch. According to his own
allegations, he was placed in a restricted area under
surveillance after he claimed he was suicidal. He does not
allege facts making out a plausible claim of discrimination
due to his mental health.
state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the
violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of
the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation
was committed by a person acting under color of state
law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
The DOC, as a state agency, is not a “person”
under § 1983. Estate of Lagano v. Bergen Cty.
Prosecutor's Office, 769 F.3d 850, 847 (3d Cir.
2014). Nor do the facts pled by Talley establish a plausible
constitutional violation against any individual
claims that Ladonne, Doyle, Nash, Bright, Leonard, Unknown
Extraction Team #1, RN Crystal and RN Chris failed to provide
him with medical and mental health treatment. The Eighth
Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment
extends to a prisoner's right to treatment. Estelle
v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102, 103 (1976) (internal
citations omitted). Failure to provide adequate care violates
a prisoner's right to be free from cruel and unusual
punishment when it results from “deliberate
indifference to a prisoner's serious illness or
injury.” Id. at 104-05.
state an Eighth Amendment claim arising out of the failure to
treat, Talley must plead sufficient facts that, if proven,
would establish two elements: (1) he had a serious medical
need; and (2) prison officials were deliberately indifferent
to that need. Spruill, 372 F.3d at 235-36.
serious medical need is “one that has been diagnosed by
a physician as requiring treatment or one that is so obvious
that a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a
doctor's attention.” Monmouth Cty. Corr. Inst.
Inmates v. Lanzaro, 834 F.2d 326, 347 (3d Cir. 1987).
See also Atkinson v. Taylor, 316 F.3d 257, 272-73
(3d Cir. 2003). A medical condition is serious when the
denial or delay of medical treatment causes
“unnecessary or wanton infliction of pain.”
Monmouth Cty., 834 F.3d at 347.
indifference to a serious medical need is shown when: (1) a
doctor intentionally inflicts pain on a prisoner; (2) a
prison official denies reasonable requests for medical
treatment, exposing the inmate to undue suffering or the
threat of tangible residual injury; or (3) an official
intentionally refuses to provide care even though he is aware
of the need for such care. Spruill, 372 F.3d at 235.
A prison official is deliberately indifferent if he
disregards a known excessive risk to the inmate's health
and safety. It is not enough that the official is aware of
facts from which an inference can be drawn that the inmate is
exposed to a substantial risk of serious harm. The official
must actually draw that inference. Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837-38 (1994).
claims that Ladonne, Leonard, Unknown Extraction Team #1, RN
Crystal and RN Chris were deliberately indifferent when they
failed to provide him with medical care after he swallowed
foreign objects. Talley did not vomit blood until at
least eight and a half hours after swallowing foreign objects
in front of Ladonne, Leonard and Unknown Extraction Team
#1. Once he began exhibiting these symptoms,
he was taken to medical triage where he was seen by RN
Crystal and RN Chris within 24 hours.
fails to allege deliberate indifference. He was seen by
medical professionals within a reasonable time after
exhibiting symptoms apparently related to the ingestion of
the foreign objects. He does not allege what medical care was
withheld from him. His symptoms ceased within 48 hours.
also claims that Ladonne, Doyle, Bright and Nash were
deliberately indifferent when they failed to provide him with
mental health treatment. Ladonne met with Talley but concluded
that commitment to the MHU was unwarranted. Doyle reached
the same conclusion based upon his discussion with
Leonard. Bright, who is not a medical or mental
health professional, retrieved Nash after Talley stated he
was suicidal. After talking with Talley, Nash
concluded he need not be transferred to the
most, Talley alleges medical malpractice or a disagreement
over his treatment. He believes that he should have remained
in the POC or been examined by a mental health professional
prior to his transfer to the DTU cell. Instead, he was placed
in a restraint and later transferred to the DTU cell, another
malpractice does not amount to a constitutional violation.
Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105-06; Monmouth Cty.,
834 F.2d at 347. Likewise, disagreement as to proper medical
treatment does not establish an Eighth Amendment violation.
Spruill, 372 F.3d at 235-36.
allegations in his complaint demonstrate that the defendants
were not deliberately indifferent to Talley's suicidal
ideation and self-injurious behavior. Rather, they chose to
handle it in a manner other than what he preferred.
claims that Link, Banta, Clark and Sokolski's use of
restraints, and Reber and Unknown Extraction Team #2's
failure to intervene, violated his Eighth Amendment
rights. We analyze Talley's claim as
alleging both excessive force and unconstitutional conditions
of his confinement. Fuentes v. Wagner, 206 F.3d 335,
345 (3d Cir. 2000) (analyzing challenge to use of restraint
chair under both standards).
prisoner alleges excessive force, “the subjective
inquiry is ‘whether force was applied in a good-faith
effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and
sadistically to cause harm.'” Id. (quoting
Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992)). The
inmate's injury must be objectively more than de
minimis. Id. (citing Hudson, 503 U.S.
at 9-10). Where a prisoner challenges the conditions of his
confinement, we apply a deliberate indifference standard.
Id. (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837). The
inmate must have been objectively “denied the minimal
civilized measure of life's necessities.'”
Id. (quoting Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9).
was initially placed in body restraints in a camera cell
after he swallowed foreign objects and stated he was
suicidal. He freed himself from those restraints
within two hours, climbed the wall of his cell, and destroyed
the camera there. Only then was he placed in a more
restrictive restraint chair. Talley complains that the
restraint chair was too tight and made tighter after he
complained. However, he had already escaped one set
of restraints and he alleges no resulting injury. He spent
only two hours in the chair before he was allowed to
exercise, and he does not allege that it was overly tightened
again when he was placed back into it. Talley was
let out of the chair again for exercise two and four hours
later. While ...