Rivera v. Chester Cnty.

Decision Date28 March 2017
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 15-5609
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Pennsylvania



The present action involves a pro se complaint filed against more than sixty defendants by plaintiff Michael A. Rivera. Plaintiff's claims arise out of a lengthy string of events beginning with his initial arrest and continuing through his subsequent and continuing incarceration. Four groups, which encompass all of the named defendants, each filed a motion to dismiss. Upon consideration of these motions and plaintiff's joint response, I will grant the motions in part and deny them in part.


Plaintiff initiated this action on February 16, 2016 against multiple corrections officers, the Chester County Prison warden, the prison's food and medical director, several random prison employees, Chester County municipality, PrimeCare Medical, Inc., prison medical staff, the East Vincent Township Police Department, New Garden Township Police Department, the Chester County Detectives Office and individual Chester County Detectives. His amended complaint sets forth a litany of constitutional violations under the First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments resulting from events beginning with an arrest in 2014 and continuing through July 2015 during his incarceration. The allegations, which consume over 150 paragraphs in the amended complaint and another sixteen pages of what appears to be a memorandum of support for his claims, cover a wide variety of subjects including excessive force, deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, deprivation of access to the law library, inhumane conditions of confinement, equal protection violations and denial of access to the grievance system.

I originally dismissed plaintiff's complaint without prejudice under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. In doing so, I gave plaintiff explicit instructions for filing an amended complaint. Specifically, I directed that:

1. The amended complaint must be filed within thirty days from the date of this memorandum and order.
2. The amended complaint must recite factual allegations which are sufficient to raise plaintiff's claimed right to relief above the level of mere speculation.
3. The amended complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief and set forth allegations that are "simple, concise, and direct."
4. The amended complaint must describe plaintiff's causes of action in separately numbered paragraphs for each incident about which plaintiff alleges a claim. The allegations must clearly identify the time, place, conduct and name of the person responsible for the offending acts.
5. The amended complaint must be a new pleading which stands by itself as an adequate complaint without reference to any other pleading already filed.
6. The amended complaint must be legible and should be either handwritten in blue or black ink with proper margins, or typewritten.

Mem. & Order, ECF No. 87, Sept. 19, 2016.

On November 2, 2016, plaintiff filed a sixteen-page amended complaint consisting of more than 150 numbered paragraphs. These paragraphs follow the same general format by listing in chronological order the type of violation (e.g., Eighth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment), the defendant against whom the violation is stated (e.g., Officer MatthewWilliams, PrimeCare), the date and a cursory basis for the claim (e.g., for giving plaintiff involuntary medications, for denying plaintiff basic hygiene/showers, for using excessive force without cause). In addition, plaintiff attaches another document that, like his previous complaint, gives a sixteen-page, single-spaced, run-on narrative of the various events underlying his claims. The document, which I shall refer to as the "complaint memorandum," provides factual allegations to support each cause of action.

On November 16, 2016, defendants PrimeCare Medical, Inc., Staci Suzuki, Psy.D., John P. Fraunces, Ed.D., Karen Murphy, RN, CCHP, Molly Longare, PA-C., Megan Hughes, PA-C, Briana Culp, PA-C, Corey Cotton, LPN, Mabel Moiyallah, MA and Nurse Lisa (collectively, the "medical defendants") filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Dkt. No. 91. On the same day, a similar motion was filed by defendants County of Chester, Cpl. Michael Marconi, Correctional Officer (CO) Troy Daniels, Sgt. Yaroslav Yancik, CO Wilson, CO Valerie McCormack, CO Joseph Moore, Cpl. Preston Whitesell, Cpl. Jose Garcia, Lt. P. Steve Sergi, Lt. David Ham, Lt. Edson Forbes, Capt. Morgan Taylor, Warden D. Edward McFadden, Capt. Harry Griswold, Lt. Robert Mastnjak, Sgt. Donald Muller, Sgt. Golden English, CO Randy Little, CO Kenneth Klinger, CO David Haines, Capt. Ocie Miller, Capt. Pamela Saunders, Capt. Gene Farina, Major D. Scott Graham, CO Powers, Deputy Warden Walter Reed, Counselor Jorge Vazquez, CO Weed, Corporal Ca'role White, Lt. James Brooks, Sgt. Michael Young, Sgt. Arnold Lynch, CO Raymond Riggins (and/or Riggens), CO (CEU) Tear, Director of Treatment Services Jack Healy, Corporal James Svah, CO Jesus Ruiz, CO Domonique Bemberry, CO Wesley Suydum, CO Weed, Officer Stevenson, Work Supervisor Robert Francis, Chester County Detectives Office, Detective Robert Balcunis, Detective David Grandizio and Detective Ken Beam (collectively, the "Chester County defendants"). Dkt. No.90. Defendants New Garden Township PD and Officer Matthew Jones filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss on November 17, 2016, Dkt. No. 92, and Defendants East Vincent Township PD and Chief Matthew Williams filed a motion to dismiss on February 7, 2017. Dkt. No. 95. On February 13, 2017, plaintiff responded to all four motions. Dkt. No. 98.


Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that the plaintiff has not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); see also Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). The United States Supreme Court has recognized that "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quotations omitted). "[T]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice" and "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). "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." Id. A complaint does not show an entitlement to relief when the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct. Id.

The Court of Appeals has detailed a three-step process to determine whether a complaint meets the pleadings standard. Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352 (3d Cir. 2014). First, the court outlines the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim for relief. Id. at 365. Next, the court must "peel away those allegations that are no more than conclusions and thus not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. Finally, the court "look[s] for well-pled factual allegations, assume[s] their veracity, and then 'determine[s] whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement torelief.'" Id., quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The last step is "'a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.'" Id., quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

A prisoner's pro se complaint should be "held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." United States ex rel. Walker v. Fayette Cnty., Pa., 599 F.2d 573, 575 (3d Cir. 1979), citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972). The court must construe the facts stated in the complaint liberally in favor of the plaintiff. Haines, 404 U.S. at 520. "Yet there are limits to our procedural flexibility. For example, pro se litigants still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim." Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013). Thus, even a pro se complaint must conform with the requirements of Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which "demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation" or "naked assertions" that are devoid of "factual enhancement." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotations omitted). "A pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action' will not do." Id.

I. Compliance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

As noted above, I originally dismissed plaintiff's complaint without prejudice under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which requires that I conduct a preliminary review of any pro se complaint seeking redress against government officials. Section 1915A provides, in pertinent part:

(a) Screening.—The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for dismissal.—On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A. This standard mirrors the standard for addressing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Schreane v. Seana, 506 F. App'x 120, 122 (3d Cir. 2012).

Plaintiff's amended complaint does not fully comply with my previous instructions. Most...

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