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Henry v. Pierce

United States District Court, D. Delaware

November 17, 2017

AARON L. HENRY, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN DAVID PIERCE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The plaintiff, Aaron L. Henry ("Henry"), an inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("VCC"), Smyrna, Delaware, filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.' (D.I. 1, 9, 10.) Henry appears pro se and was granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (D.I. 4.) The court reviewed and screened the original complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A(b)(1), dismissed it, and gave Henry leave to amend. An amended complaint was filed on July 18, 2017. (D.I. 14.) The court proceeds to review and screen the amended complaint.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Henry has medical and mental health conditions. In the original complaint, Henry alleged that, since December 2015, his condition worsened, he is denied medical and mental health care, and his conditions continue to worsen. He also alleged that he was housed in isolation despite his mental health condition and, while housed in isolation, he receives no care or treatment. A 'When bringing a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege that some person has deprived him of a federal right, and that the person who caused the deprivation acted under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).supplement to the complaint alleges that on May 4, 2017, Henry had a PTSD breakdown and it was 72 hours before he was seen by the defendant Dr. Paola Munoz ("Dr. Munoz"), and then he remained in isolation for twelve days without mental health treatment. Henry also complains of the cell conditions during the time he was housed in isolation.

         Upon amendment, Henry produced a number of grievances seeking medical treatment. (D.I. 13.) He alleges that: (1) he was deprived of a germ-free environment and ventilation; (2) he was treated like a caged animal with a mental problem; (3) there was a three-day delay in receiving mental health treatment; and (4) he was forced to strip naked in front of female mental health personnel.

         Henry seeks prompt medical and mental health care, a transfer to the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution where he received proper medical care, and compensatory damages.

         III. 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. § 1915 A (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 Henry 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." Ehckson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. at 94 (citations omitted).

         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) and § 1915A(b)(1), 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, 61 F.3d 1080, 1091-92 (3d Cir. 1995) (holding frivolous a suit alleging that prison officials took an inmate's pen and refused to give it back).

         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. Tourscher v. 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 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A, the court must grant Henry 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).

         A well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere labels and conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); BellAtl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). A plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to show that a claim has substantive plausibility. See Johnson v. City of Shelby, __ U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 346, 347 (2014). A complaint may not dismissed, however, for imperfect statements of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted. See Id. at 346.

         Under the pleading regime established by Twombly and Iqbal, a court reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint must take three steps: (1) take note of the elements the plaintiff must plead to state a claim; (2) identify allegations that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth; and (3) when there are well-pleaded factual allegations, the court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016) (internal citations and quotations omitted). 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.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Henry complains of the failure to provide him proper medical and mental health treatment as well as the conditions under which he was housed while in isolation. Similar to the original complaint, the amended ...


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