United States District Court, D. Delaware
January 26, 2015
ALEJANDRO CRUZ, Plaintiff,
SARGEANT BOISE, et al., Defendants.
SUE L. ROBINSON, District Judge.
1. Introduction. Plaintiff Alejandro Cruz ("plaintiff'), an inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("VCC"), proceeds pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. He filed this complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming violations of his constitutional rights. (D.I.3)
2. Standard of Review. A federal court may properly dismiss an action sua sponte under the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A(b) if "the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Ball v. Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448, 452 (3d Cir. 2013). See also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (in forma pauperis actions); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (actions in which prisoner seeks redress from a governmental defendant); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e (prisoner actions brought with respect to prison conditions). The court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to a pro se plaintiff. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). Because plaintiff proceeds pro se, his pleading is liberally construed and his complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. at 94 (citations omitted).
3. An action is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), a court may dismiss a complaint as frivolous if it is "based on an indisputably meritless legal theory" or a "clearly baseless" or "fantastic or delusional" factual scenario. Neitzke, 490 at 327-28; Wilson v. Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir. 1989); see, e.g., Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1091-92 (3d Cir. 1995).
4. The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and § 1915A(b)(1) is identical to the legal standard used when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions. Tourscherv. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999) (applying Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard to dismissal for failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)). However, before dismissing a complaint or claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to the screening provisions of§§ 1915 and 1915A, the court must grant plaintiff leave to amend his complaint unless amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 114 (3d Cir. 2002).
5. A well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere labels and conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). The assumption of truth is inapplicable to legal conclusions or to "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action supported by mere conclusory statements." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. When determining whether dismissal is appropriate, the court must take three steps: "(1) identify the elements of the claim, (2) review the complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) look at the well-pleaded components of the complaint and evaluat[e] whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently alleged." Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011). Elements are sufficiently alleged when the facts in the complaint "show" that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Deciding whether a claim is plausible will be a "context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.
6. Discussion. Plaintiff complains of several medical problems. He indicates that he has had back problems since 2011. His right leg goes to sleep after walking for five to ten minutes and he has lower back pain. An MRI was performed in June 2013 with abnormal results. While not clear, it seems that the MRI was of plaintiffs right leg. He was seen by an outside physician and physical therapy was ordered. Plaintiff alleges that it did not work and he requested another MRI.
7. In June 2014, plaintiff told an officer that he had injured his elbow. He was denied medical treatment on August 15, 2014, and received treatment in September 2014. Testing revealed normal results. Plaintiff indicated that he was in pain and asked for an MRI. Plaintiff indicates that he has pain every time he moves. Plaintiff seeks medical attention.
8. Discussion. The complaint names as defendants Sargeant Boise ("Boise"), Corp. Ms. Chaffer ("Chaffer"), and Nurse Bob ("Bob"). The complaint, however, contains no allegations directed towards any of the defendants. A civil rights complaint must state the conduct, time, place, and persons responsible for the alleged civil rights violations. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 353 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Boykins v. Ambridge Area Sch. Dist., 621 F.2d 75, 80 (3d Cir. 1980); Hall v. Pennsylvania State Police, 570 F.2d 86, 89 (3d Cir. 1978)). In the present case, plaintiff fails to associate any of his allegations with defendants. Plaintiff provides no facts to support a claim against them, and it is clear the claims are facially insufficient. As a result, the complaint lacks an arguable basis in law or in fact and will be dismissed. However, since it is not inconceivable that plaintiff may be able to articulate a claim against defendants (or name alternative defendants), he will be given an opportunity to amend his pleading. See O'Dell v. United States Gov't, 256 F.Appx. 444 (3d Cir. 2007) (unpublished) (leave to amend is proper where the plaintiffs claims do not appear "patently meritless and beyond all hope of redemption").
9. Conclusion. For the above reasons, the complaint will be dismissed as frivolous and for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii) and § 1915A(b)(1). Plaintiff will be given leave to file an amended complaint. A separate order shall issue.