United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
Christopher C. Conner, Chief Judge United States District
Christopher Patrick McGowan (“McGowan”), a former
pretrial detainee who was housed at all relevant times at the
Franklin County Jail, in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania,
initiated this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
(Doc. 1). The sole remaining defendant is officer Reisner.
Before the court is defendant's Rule 12(b) motion to
dismiss. (Doc. 30). For the reasons set forth below, the
court will grant defendant's motion and dismiss the
complaint with leave to amend.
Allegations of the Complaint
about September 1, 2017, defendant Reisner allegedly
conducted a search of McGowan's cell. (Doc. 1, at 4-5).
McGowan walked up to the cell during the search and insisted
on remaining there to watch. (Id.) Defendant Reisner
allegedly told McGowan to go downstairs during the search.
(Id. at 4). McGowan refused to leave and, as a
result, he was placed in segregated confinement for twelve
days. (Id. at 4-5). McGowan alleges that he suffered
mental and emotional injuries due to this incident.
(Id. at 5). At the time of the incident, McGowan was
a pretrial detainee at the Franklin County Jail.
(Id. at 4).
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for
the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 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
therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff.” Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170,
177 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Evancho v. Fisher, 423
F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005)). Although the court is
generally limited in its review to the facts contained in the
complaint, it “may also consider matters of public
record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items
appearing in the record of the case.” Oshiver v.
Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384
n. 2 (3d Cir. 1994); see also In re Burlington Coat
Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997).
notice and pleading rules require the complaint to provide
“the defendant 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
(2007)). To test the sufficiency of the complaint in the face
of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must conduct a
three-step inquiry. See Santiago v. Warminster Twp.,
629 F.3d 121, 130-31 (3d Cir. 2010). In the first step,
“the court must ‘tak[e] note of the elements a
plaintiff must plead to state a claim.'”
Id. (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 675 (2009)). Next, the factual and legal elements of a
claim should be separated; well-pleaded facts must be
accepted as true, while mere legal conclusions may be
disregarded. Id.; see also Fowler v. UPMC
Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). Once the
well-pleaded factual allegations have been isolated, the
court must determine whether they are sufficient to show a
“plausible claim for relief.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 679 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556);
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (requiring plaintiffs to
allege facts sufficient to “raise a right to relief
above the speculative level”). A claim “has
facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
Mental and Emotional Injury
alleges that he suffered mental and emotional injuries as a
result of defendant's alleged conduct. (Doc. 1, at 5).
There are no alleged physical injuries described in the
complaint. (See Doc. 1).
U.S.C. § 1997e(e) provides that “[n]o federal
civil action may be brought by a prisoner confined in a jail,
prison or other correctional facility, for mental or
emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior
showing of physical injury.” In Allah v.
Al-Hafeez, 226 F.3d 247, 250 (3d Cir. 2000), the United
States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recognized that
where a plaintiff fails to allege actual injury, section
1997e(e) bars recovery of compensatory damages. However, the
Court added that an inmate alleging a violation of his
constitutional rights may still pursue the action to recover
nominal and/or punitive damages even in the absence of
compensable harm. See id.
civil rights claims assert violations of his constitutional
rights and seek both compensatory and punitive damages.
(See Doc. 1, at 5). Under the standards announced in
Allah and section 1997e(e), McGowan's request
for monetary relief to the extent that it seeks compensatory
damages for mental and emotional injuries is barred; however,
the court will examine McGowan's claims to the extent
they seek noncompensatory damages.
Fourth Amendment Claim
alleges that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when
defendant Reisner refused to allow him to observe the cell
search. At best, pretrial detainees have a “diminished
expectation of privacy after commitment to a custodial
facility, ” and “[i]t may well be argued that a
person confined in a detention facility has no reasonable
expectation of privacy with respect to his room or cell and
that therefore the Fourth Amendment provides no protection
for such a person.” Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S.
520, 556-57, 99 S.Ct. 1861 (1979). Thus, unannounced searches
of a pretrial detainee's cell at irregular intervals do
not violate the Fourth Amendment, even if conducted outside
the inmate's presence. See id. at 555-57;
see also Block v. Rutherford, 468 U.S. 576, 589-91
(1984); Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 527, 104
S.Ct. 3194 (1984) (“[A]dministration of a prison . . .
would be literally impossible . . . if inmates ...