Miles v. Curry, CIVIL 2:21-cv-03257-JMG

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
Decision Date09 March 2022
Docket NumberCIVIL 2:21-cv-03257-JMG
PartiesROMANUS MILES, Plaintiff, v. W. CURRY, et al., Defendants.


W. CURRY, et al., Defendants.

CIVIL No. 2:21-cv-03257-JMG

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 9, 2022



Plaintiff Romanus Miles, proceeding pro se, is currently detained awaiting trial. He initiated the present action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging constitutional violations related to his pretrial detainment by the Commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Prisons Blanche Carney, the Mayor of Philadelphia James Kenney, the Warden of Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (CFCF), Nancy Gianetto, and Corrections Officer W. Curry. Complaint at 1, 2-3. ECF No. 1. Defendants Carney and Kenney have moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. Motion to Dismiss (“MTD”), ECF No. 16. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion.


Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee presently held at CFCF. Complaint at 2, 4. His incarceration began on July 28, 2020. Id. at 12.


Plaintiff was detained during the COVID-19 pandemic. Id. In response to the pandemic, CFCF began a quarantine to limit the spread of the virus among its population. Id. Plaintiff alleges that his rights have been violated during quarantine: he alleges that he was denied out of cell time and access to the phone, showers, cleaning supplies, clean linens, and the library. Id. Plaintiff also contends he was removed from his cell block due to his refusal to accept a COVID-19 vaccination and was involuntarily given that vaccination at a later date. Id. at 16.

As such, Plaintiff asserts that his constitutional rights have been violated. Id. at 3. He brings a First Amendment Freedom of Religion claim, an Eight Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishment claim, and a Fourteenth Amendment Due Process claim.[2] Id.


A complaint may be dismissed for failing to “state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must contain factual allegations that sufficiently “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Facial plausibility means that when accepting the complaint's factual allegations as true and in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, a “reasonable inference” may be drawn that “the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.

The Third Circuit has set forth a three-step framework for determining the sufficiency of a complaint. Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010). First, the court should take “note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.” Id. (quoting Iqbal,


556 U.S. at 678-79). Second, the court must “identify allegations that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79). Third, “where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.” Santiago, 629 F.3d at 130 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79).


Plaintiff cites to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as the basis for his claims against Defendants. Complaint at 3. To successfully assert a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must show “a deprivation of a constitutional right and that the constitutional deprivation was caused by a person acting under the color of state law.” Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 235 (3d Cir. 2008); see also West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). The claims against each defendant are addressed in turn below.

(A) Defendant Blanche Carney

Plaintiff first brings official and individual capacity claims against the Commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Prisons, Blanche Carney. Complaint at 3-4. He claims that Carney “oversees and controls the day-to-day operations of CFCF” and although she was “made aware” of Plaintiff's rights being violated she “failed to correct and/or protect Plaintiff's rights that were violated and ensure [his] safety.” Id. at 19, 25.

The official capacity claim against Carney must be dismissed. Claims against City officials named in their official capacity are indistinguishable from claims against the


City.[3] See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-66 (1985) (“Official-capacity suits . . . ‘generally represent only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent.'”) (quoting Monell v. N.Y.C. Dept. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690, n. 55 (1978)). “[A]n official-capacity suit is, in all respects other than name, to be treated as a suit against the entity.” Id. Thus, official capacity claims against Carney are redundant of claims against the City of Philadelphia.

A municipality, such as Philadelphia, may be held liable for a constitutional violation only if the plaintiff is able to establish a causal connection between the violation and the municipality's policy or custom. See Johnson v. City of Phila., 975 F.3d 394, 403 (3d Cir. 2020); see also Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978). There are two ways for such claims to proceed. See Forrest v. Parry, 930 F.3d 93, 105 (3d Cir. 2019). The first is when plaintiffs point to “an unconstitutional policy or custom of the municipality” that led to their injuries. Id. The other way is when the plaintiffs' injuries were “caused by a failure or inadequacy by the municipality that reflects a deliberate or conscious choice.” Id. (quoting Brown v. Muhlenberg Township, 269 F.3d 205, 215 (3d Cir. 2001)).

If plaintiffs allege an unconstitutional “policy, ” then they must identify “an official proclamation, policy, or edict by a decisionmaker possessing final authority.” Id. An unconstitutional custom may be shown where there is a “given course of conduct so well-settled and permanent as to virtually constitute law.” Id. In comparison, for a failure or inadequacy claim, plaintiffs must demonstrate that the “failure or inadequacy amount[ed] to deliberate indifference on the part of the municipality.” Id. Here, Plaintiff alleges no official


unconstitutional policy or practice, no pattern of behavior, and no specific deficiency in training or inadequacy of supervision for which the City could be held liable.[4]

As to the individual capacity claims, Carney argues that the Complaint lacks any allegation of her personal involvement and must be dismissed. MTD at 7-8. “A[n individual government] defendant in a civil rights action must have personal involvement in the alleged wrongdoing; liability cannot be predicated solely on the operation of respondeat superior.” Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 353 (3d Cir. 2005) (alteration in original) (quoting Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 2008)); see also Dooley v. Wetzel, 957 F.3d 366, 374 (3d Cir. 2020) (“Personal involvement requires particular ‘allegations of personal direction or of actual knowledge and acquiescence, '” (quoting Rode, 845 F.2d at 1207)); Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676 (explaining that “[b]ecause vicarious liability is inapplicable to . . . § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution”).

There are two general methods of establishing personal involvement for purposes of § 1983 liability. See Parkell v. Danberg, 833 F.3d 313, 330 (3d Cir. 2016). The first method is if the supervisors “participated in violating the plaintiff's rights, directed others to violate them, or, as the person in charge, had knowledge of and acquiesced in his subordinates' violations.” A.M. ex rel. J.M.K. v. Luzerne Cnty. Juvenile Detention Ctr., 372 F.3d 572, 586 (3d Cir. 2004). The second method is if the supervisor “with deliberate indifference to the consequences, established and maintained a policy, practice, or custom which directly caused [the]


constitutional harm.” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Stoneking v. Bradford Area Sch. Dist., 882 F.2d 720, 725 (3d Cir. 1989)).

None of the allegations in the Complaint state a claim against Carney under the first method. The Complaint is devoid of allegations that Carney participated in violating Plaintiff's rights or directed others to do so. Plaintiff alleges that Carney “was made aware of the Plaintiff's rights being violated because Plaintiff informed these matters to the Deputy Commissioner.” Complaint at 19. Plaintiff argues that “it is logical” that the Deputy Commissioner “informed Defendant Carney of these matters, ” but assumptions are insufficient and Plaintiff fails to provide any specifics to the allegations that Carney had knowledge of Plaintiff's grievances, acquiesced to any subordinate's violations, or personally directed any action that violated Plaintiff's civil rights. That leaves the second method of supervisory liability. Id. The only policy that Plaintiff specifically identifies that Carney participated in was the order regarding COVID-19 vaccinations - i.e., that refusing the vaccination would result in Plaintiff “being moved to PICC county prison” and receiving “even less time out of the cell.” Id. at 16. He avers that he was told this order came “from the Commissioner'” Id. at 17. However, Plaintiff has not alleged that Carney acted with deliberate indifference to the consequences of that or any other policy.

Accordingly, the claims against Carney will be dismissed. Plaintiff will be granted the opportunity to file an amended complaint if he is able to cure the deficiencies identified by the...

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