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Eades v. Wetzel

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

November 22, 2019

JOHN WETZEL, et al., Defendants


          KANE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court pursuant to Defendants' second motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 21) pro se Plaintiff Darren Eades (“Plaintiff”)'s complaint (Doc. No. 1). After receiving an extension of time (Doc. Nos. 23, 24), Plaintiff filed a brief in opposition to Defendants' motion (Doc. No. 25) on October 17, 2019. Defendants have neither filed a reply brief nor moved for an extension of time to do so. Accordingly, because the time period for filing a reply brief has expired, the motion to dismiss is ripe for disposition.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff initiated the above-captioned case on March 21, 2019 by filing a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) against Defendants John Wetzel (“Wetzel”), Mr. Dreibelbis (“Dreibelbis”), Mr. Swisher (“Swisher”), Debra Jadlocki (“Jadlocki”), Ms. P. Luther (“Luther”), and Mr. Rupert (“Rupert”). (Doc. No. 1.) In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that at some unknown time, he “read in the newspaper that on April 3, 2018, a company named Accreditation Audit Risk-Management Security, LLC (AARMS) had suffered a data breach, while in possession of the private information of 13, 100 inmates, 680 employees and 11 others within the State Department of Corrections (DOC).” (Id. at 7.) AARMS notified the DOC of the data breach on April 9, 2018. (Id.) Defendant Wetzel, however, did not mail notice of the data breach to Plaintiff until July 19, 2018, and Plaintiff received the notice on July 24, 2018. (Id.)

         Plaintiff maintains that the DOC “never informed [him] that they would be distributing his private information (Full Name, Home Address, Social Security Number and Medical Records) to a third party, which is a contracted vendor of the DOC.” (Id.) He alleges that the DOC “failed to obtain a signed release form (DC-108 form) from [him] which would have authorized the release of his private information to a third party.” (Id.) Plaintiff asserts that Defendants, all of whom are supervisors of various departments within the DOC, disseminated his private information without his consent. (Id. at 2-3, 8.) He further maintains that Defendant Wetzel's failure to promptly notify him of the data breach “gave ample amount of time for [his] private information to be sold/misused.” (Id. at 8.) Plaintiff alleges that because of the data breach and the delay in notification, “he is 9.5 times more likely than the public to suffer identity fraud or theft.” (Id.) Based on these allegations, Plaintiff asserts that Defendants violated his “civil rights to privacy, ” his rights under the FCRA, and “numerous State [p]rivacy [l]aws and DOC policy.” (Id. at 3, 9.) He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as damages. (Id. at 4, 10.)

         In an Order dated April 16, 2019, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis and directed the Clerk of Court to effect service of the complaint upon Defendants. (Doc. No. 9.) On June 17, 2019, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. No. 14.) Specifically, Defendants maintained that the Court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims because Plaintiff lacked standing to pursue them and that Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Doc. No. 15.) In a Memorandum and Order dated August 16, 2019, the Court denied Defendants' motion to dismiss. (Doc. Nos. 19, 20.) Specifically, the Court concluded that Plaintiff had stated a cognizable injury for Article III standing purposes and that Defendants had failed to address whether Plaintiff has a right to privacy regarding his personal information under § 1983 and whether Plaintiff can maintain a claim for relief under the FCRA. (Doc. No. 19 at 7-9.) The Court, therefore, denied Defendants' motion to dismiss without prejudice to their right to file a renewed motion to dismiss, within thirty (30) days, “addressing whether Plaintiff has stated plausible claims for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the FCRA.” (Doc. No. 20.)


         A. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)

         Defendants also move for the dismissal of Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim. (Doc. No. 15 at 7-8.) Federal notice and pleading rules require the complaint to provide the defendant notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. See Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008). The plaintiff must present facts that, accepted as true, demonstrate a plausible right to relief. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Although Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires “only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” a complaint may nevertheless be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for its “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

         When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court accepts 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 Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009); In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010). To prevent dismissal, all civil complaints must set out “sufficient factual matter” to show that their claims are facially plausible. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). The plausibility standard requires more than a mere possibility that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct: “[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 it has not ‘show[n]' - ‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         Accordingly, the Third Circuit has identified the following steps that a district court must take when reviewing a 12(b)(6) motion: (1) identify the elements that a plaintiff must plead to state a claim; (2) identify any conclusory allegations contained in the complaint that are “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) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). The Third Circuit has specified that 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.” See 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)).

         In the context of pro se prisoner litigation, the court must be mindful that a document filed pro se is “to be liberally construed.” See 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 be dismissed for failure to state a claim only if it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972).

         B. Section 1983 Standard

         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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