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Fahmy v. Delaware Department of Correction

United States District Court, D. Delaware

October 22, 2018

PAUL A. FAHMY, Plaintiff,
v.
DELAWARE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION, etal., Defendants.

          Paul A. Fahmy, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware. Pro Se Plaintiff.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ANDREWS, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Paul A. Fahmy, 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. 1). He appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 9). Plaintiff requests counsel. (D.I. 3). He also requests an extension of time.[2] (D.I. 11) The Court screens and reviews the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A(a).

         BACKGROUND

         On October 3, 2016, Plaintiff was scalded and then assaulted by another inmate while he was talking on the phone. Plaintiff was charged with fighting and sent to isolation. He has been housed in maximum security since that time.

         Plaintiff alleges that he suffered nerve damage and almost complete deafness in his left ear due to medical neglect. Plaintiff also alleges that he had a collapsed lung but did not receive an x-ray until January 12, 2018 when he was then rushed to the emergency room at Kent General Hospital after the x-ray was read. The Complaint does not contain a prayer for relief. Named Defendants are the Delaware Department of Correction and DOC medical service contract provider Connections.

         SCREENING OF COMPLAINT

         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.

         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). 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).

         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). 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.

         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, 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.

         DISCUSSION

         The Delaware Department of Correction is an agency of the State of Delaware. The Eleventh Amendment protects states and their agencies and departments from suit in federal court regardless of the kind of relief sought. Pennhurst State School & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984). "Absent a state's consent, the Eleventh Amendment bars a civil rights suit in federal court that names the state as a defendant." Laskaris v. Thornburgh, 661 F.2d 23, 25 (3d Cir. 1981) (citing Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781 (1978)). Delaware has not waived its immunity from suit in federal court; although Congress can abrogate a state's sovereign immunity, it did not do so through the enactment of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Brooks-McCollum v. Delaware, 213 F. App'x 92, 94 (3d Cir. 2007). In addition, dismissal is proper because the DOC is not a person for purposes of § 1983. See Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989); Calhoun v. Young, 288 F. App'x 47 (3d Cir. 2008).

         The Complaint also names Connections as a defendant. When a plaintiff relies upon a theory of respondeat superior to hold a corporation liable, he must allege a policy or custom that demonstrates such deliberate indifference. Sample v. Diecks,885 F.2d 1099, 1110 (3d Cir. 1989); Miller v. Correctional Med. Sys., Inc.,802 F. Supp. 1126, 1132 (D. Del. 1992). In order to establish that Connections is directly liable for the alleged constitutional violations, Plaintiff "must provide evidence that there was a relevant [Connections] policy or custom, and that the policy caused the constitutional violation[s] [plaintiff] allege[s]." Natale v. Camden County Corr. Facility,318 F.3d 575, 584 (3d Cir. 2003) (because respondeat superior or vicarious liability ...


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