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Simmons v. Pierce

United States District Court, D. Delaware

October 19, 2018

DONALD J. SIMMONS, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN DAVID PIERCE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

         1. Introduction.

         Plaintiff Donald J. Simmons, an inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] (D.I. 3) He appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 5) The Court screens and reviews the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A(a).

         2. Background.

         Plaintiff filed this action alleging the medical system at the Delaware Department of Correction ("DOC") does not provide proper medical care. He complains of lack of treatment for a shoulder condition. (D.I. 3 at ¶ 15) The Complaint states that Plaintiff was seen by a nurse on April 17, 2015, treated, and informed he would be seen by a provider. Later he consulted with a physician about test results. Plaintiff states there has been much correspondence concerning the failure to provide medication and other issues concerning shoulder problems. (Id. at ¶ 11).

         3. Plaintiff alleges that when he saw a surgeon in February 2016, the surgeon informed Plaintiff that he should have been seen nine months earlier, at the time of his initial complaints. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges there has a constant failure to comply with medical needs ordered by specialists, including physical therapy, medications, and follow-up care. (Id.) Plaintiff submitted a grievance in June 2016 seeking physical therapy, only to be told by medical staff on August 10, 2016, that he will receive physical therapy. (Id.) To date, there has been no physical therapy. Plaintiff complains that he suffers from constant pain and other discomforts. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges Defendants have a policy and custom in place based on saving money rather than treating him. He seeks punitive damages and injunctive relief.

         4. Legal Standards.

         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).

         5. 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 U.S. at 327-28; Wilson v. Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3dCir. 1989).

         6. 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). 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 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).

         7. A well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere labels and conclusions. SeeAshcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); Bell Atl. 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 be dismissed, however, for imperfect statements of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted. See Id. at 346.

         8. 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) assume the veracity of any well-pleaded factual allegations and then determine whether those allegations 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), when there are well-pleaded factual allegations, 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). 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.

         9. Statute of Limitations.

         The Complaint alleges unconstitutional acts occurred from April 17, 2015 through December 17, 2016. The Complaint is dated May 29, 2018, and was received for filing on June 5, 2018. For purposes of the statute of limitations, § 1983 claims are characterized as personal injury actions. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 275 (1983). In Delaware, § 1983 claims are subject to a two-year limitations period. See 10 Del. C. § 8119; Johnson v. Cullen, 925 F.Supp. 244, 248 (D. Del. 1996). Section 1983 claims accrue "when the plaintiff knew or should have known of the injury upon which its action is based." Sameric Corp. v. City of Philadelphia, 142 F.3d 582, 599 (3d Cir. 1998).

         10. The statute of limitations is an affirmative defense that generally must be raised by the defendant, and it is waived if not properly raised. See Benak ex rel. Alliance Premier Growth Fund v. Alliance Capital Mgmt. LP., 435 F.3d 396, 400 n.14 (3d Cir. 2006); Fassett v. Delta Kappa Epsilon,807 F.2d 1150, 1167 (3d Cir. 1986). "Although the statute of limitations is an affirmative defense, sua sponte dismissal is appropriate when 'the defense is obvious from the face of the complaint and no further factual record is required to be developed.'" Daw's v. Gauby, 408 Fed.Appx. 524, 526 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Fogle v. ...


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