Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 99-3980.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
Writing for the CourtAmbro
Citation293 F.3d 103
PartiesNorman GRAYSON, Appellant v. MAYVIEW STATE HOSPITAL; Allegheny County Jail; Camp Hill Prison <SMALL><SUP>*</SUP></SMALL> United States of America, Intervenor.
Docket NumberNo. 99-3980.,99-3980.
Decision Date07 June 2002
293 F.3d 103
Norman GRAYSON, Appellant
MAYVIEW STATE HOSPITAL; Allegheny County Jail; Camp Hill Prison

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* United States of America, Intervenor.
No. 99-3980.
United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit.
Argued: April 6, 2001.
Filed: June 7, 2002.

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Nancy Winkelman, J. Denny Shupe (Argued), Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, Philadelphia, Counsel for Appellant.

John G. Knorr, III, Calvin R. Koons, J. Bart DeLone (Argued), Office of the Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Department of Justice, Harrisburg, PA, Counsel for Appellees Mayview State Hospital and Camp Hill Prison.

David W. Gray, Jeanette H. Ho (Argued), Pietragallo, Bosick & Gordon, Pittsburgh, PA, Counsel for Appellee Allegheny County Jail.

Richard A. Olderman, United States Department of Justice, Civil Division, Appellate Staff, Washington, DC, Counsel for Intervenor United States of America.

Before: SCIRICA, AMBRO and GIBSON, Circuit Judges**.


AMBRO, Circuit Judge.

Norman Grayson, an inmate at various times of the three institutions named as defendants, brought this pro se damages action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The District Court granted Grayson leave to proceed in forma pauperis, but denied his further request for appointed legal counsel. Upon the defendants' motions, the Court dismissed Grayson's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

Although the Court found that his claims had possible substantive merit if pled adequately, it did not provide leave to amend before dismissing the action. This was contrary to our Court's rule, established before Congress enacted the Prison

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Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"),1 that such leave must be granted when amendment could cure the deficiency and would not be inequitable. See Dist. Council 47 v. Bradley, 795 F.2d 310, 316 (3d Cir.1986); Darr v. Wolfe, 767 F.2d 79, 81 (3d Cir. 1985); Borelli v. City of Reading, 532 F.2d 950, 951 n. 1 (3d Cir.1976); see also Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 116 (3d Cir.2000)(discussing pre-PLRA law).

The primary question presented on appeal is whether § 804(a)(5) of the PLRA, codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), altered the legal landscape so that the District Court did not need to grant leave to amend before dismissing Grayson's deficient in forma pauperis complaint. We addressed a similar provision of the PLRA in Shane, a non-in-forma-pauperis case. There we held that S 803(d) of the PLRA, codified in part at 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1), did not alter our rule that inadequate complaints should be dismissed without granting leave to amend only if amendment would be inequitable or futile. Shane, 213 F.3d at 116-17. However, we reserved the question of whether the nearly identical § 1915(e)(2) should be interpreted differently. Id. at 117. Today we reach that question and hold that § 1915(e)(2) requires the same response.2


Grayson's complaint alleges that surgery was performed on his knee in early 1998 at the Mayview State Hospital to correct an injury he sustained playing basketball. While the complaint names the Hospital, it does not allege that he received negligent or inadequate care there. Later in 1998, Grayson was transferred to the Allegheny County Jail, where he claims his "leg ropes"3 were confiscated and his requests for medical assistance were refused. While incarcerated there, Grayson's knee injury worsened after a fall in a stairwell occasioned by a defective handrail, which fell out of the wall while he was handcuffed to another prisoner for transport to a court hearing. He claims that he requested medical assistance after the fall, but received none. Grayson was later transferred to a third facility and eventually to the Camp Hill Prison ("SCI-Camp Hill"), where he alleges three or four weeks passed before he received treatment for his knee. Grayson's complaint does not name any individual defendants. It also fails to allege that any of the facilities where he was kept maintains a pattern or practice of denying medical assistance to inmates.

The defendants responded to Grayson's complaint by moving to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The Hospital and SCI-Camp Hill, both agencies of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, argued that the Eleventh Amendment barred Grayson's claims against them. The Jail, an agency of Allegheny County, argued that Grayson failed to plead that it had a policy, practice,

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or custom of deliberate indifference toward prisoners' requests for medical treatment. The District Court referred the action to a Magistrate Judge, who recommended granting the motions to dismiss. In the course of these proceedings Grayson filed a self-styled "Memorandum Order" that further explained the factual basis for his suit and identified allegedly responsible individuals. Other than invoking the term "deliberate indifference" to describe the conduct of the defendants, the "Memorandum Order" was not responsive to the arguments made in the motions to dismiss.

The District Court considered Grayson's "Memorandum Order" and the Magistrate Judge's recommendation. In a brief statement, the Court adopted the recommendation and dismissed Grayson's action without further comment. Grayson appealed4 and our Court appointed pro bono counsel.5


Before considering the effect of § 1915(e)(2) on in forma pauperis complaints, we address whether Grayson's complaint should have been dismissed under pre-PLRA law.

Grayson does not dispute that his claims against the two Commonwealth defendants, Mayview State Hospital and SCI-Camp Hill, were properly dismissed on Eleventh Amendment grounds under Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100, 104 S.Ct. 900, 79 L.Ed.2d 67 (1984). Rather, he contests only the dismissal of his claim against the Allegheny County Jail. Grayson maintains that his "Memorandum Order," submitted in response to the defendants' motions to dismiss, contained sufficient factual statements to meet the pleading requirements of a "short and plain statement of the claim." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). According to Grayson, his allegations support a claim of deliberate indifference to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976); Rouse v. Plantier, 182 F.3d 192, 197 (3d Cir.1999); Monmouth County Corr. Inst. Inmates v. Lanzaro, 834 F.2d 326, 346 (3d Cir.1987).

Were Grayson's claims made against an individual defendant, the contents of his complaint and "Memorandum Order" would adequately place that defendant on notice that he alleges deliberate indifference to his medical needs. But Grayson is not suing any individual;6 he seeks relief only from the Jail. Hence the stringent requirements for municipal liability apply: Grayson must allege that a "policy or custom" of the Jail was the "moving force" behind a violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. See Bd. of County Comm'rs of Bryan County v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 404, 117 S.Ct. 1382, 137 L.Ed.2d 626 (1997); Berg v. County of Allegheny, 219 F.3d 261, 276 (3d Cir.2000). Because Grayson alleges a constitutional violation was committed by the Jail's employees, rather than by the Jail itself, to satisfy the "moving force" requirement he must allege that the Jail was deliberately indifferent to

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the possibility that such a violation would occur. Bryan County, 520 U.S. at 407, 117 S.Ct. 1382; Berg, 219 F.3d at 276.

Neither Grayson's complaint nor his "Memorandum Order" alleges that the Jail had a policy of denying medical treatment to inmates. Nor does he allege that other inmates suffered similar deprivations of medical attention that might establish a custom. See Bielevicz v. Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845, 850 (3d Cir.1990). Lacking any indication from Grayson's filings of what policy or custom he seeks to challenge under § 1983, we cannot say that the Jail had "fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957).

Having determined that the District Court correctly concluded that Grayson's filings were inadequate, we turn to the manner in which the Court dismissed his action. Under Rule 15(a), if a plaintiff requests leave to amend a complaint vulnerable to dismissal before a responsive pleading is filed, such leave must be granted in the absence of undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, unfair prejudice, or futility of amendment. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182, 83 S.Ct. 227, 9 L.Ed.2d 222 (1962); In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1434 (3d Cir. 1997). The first four of these reasons devolve to instances where permitting amendment would be inequitable.7 Thus amendment must be permitted in this context unless it would be inequitable or futile. "Of course, the grant or denial of an opportunity to amend is within the discretion of the District Court, but outright refusal to grant the leave without any justifying reason [i.e., inequity or futility] appearing for the denial is not an exercise of discretion; it is merely abuse of that discretion and inconsistent with the spirit of the Federal Rules." Foman, 371 U.S. at 182, 83 S.Ct. 227.

When a plaintiff does not seek leave to amend a deficient complaint after a defendant moves to dismiss it, the court must inform the plaintiff that he has leave to amend within a set period of time, unless amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Shane, 213 F.3d at 116 (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Dist. Council 47, 795 F.2d at 316; Darr, 767 F.2d at 81; Borelli, 532 F.2d at 951 n. 1. Indeed, "we have never required plaintiffs to request leave to amend" in this context. Dist. Council 47, 795 F.2d at 316.

The District Court did not follow these principles. Before it dismissed the case, the Court should have — absent inequity or futility of...

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