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Harris v. Donaldson

United States District Court, D. Delaware

December 14, 2018

JORDAN O. HARRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTOPHER DONALDSON, et al., Defendants.

          Jordan O. Harris, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NOREIKA, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Jordan O. Harris ("Plaintiff'), 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, 6). He appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 5). The Court proceeds to review and screen the matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b) and § 1915A(a).

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges that on July 26, 2016, Defendants were "conducting an operation in pursuit of fugitive with warrants." Plaintiff alleges that he was not the fugitive. Around 11:00 p.m., Plaintiff pulled in front of the fugitive's house as Defendants arrived in unmarked vehicles. Defendants Lieutenant Mary McGuire ("McGuire") and Probation Officer Angelo ("Angelo") exited their vehicles and approached Plaintiff in his vehicle. McGuire began shining a flashlight in the vehicle. Plaintiff proceeded to the next home and McGuire and Angelo approached Plaintiff in the same manner. Plaintiff alleges there was no acknowledgement of police presence.

         When Plaintiff left the scene, within ten seconds, there was a "minor pursuit." As Plaintiff pulled into a vacant area, Defendant Detective Christopher Donaldson ("Donaldson") rammed the back of Plaintiff s vehicle multiple times. Donaldson ordered Plaintiff to place his hand out of the window in clear view. Donaldson approached Plaintiffs vehicle, opened the door, and ordered the police K-9 Ripper to attack. Ripper bit Plaintiff, pulled him to the ground, and attacked him as Donaldson repeatedly told Ripper to "get 'em boy." At some point, McGuire ordered the assault to stop, and Donaldson restrained Ripper and carried him back to the patrol car.

         Plaintiff sustained numerous injuries and was taken to Milford Memorial Hospital where he received treatment as instructed by Defendant Sean O'Leary ("O'Leary"). Later, Plaintiff was transported to Delaware State Police Troop 3 headquarters. He did not receive any further treatment or medication for his wounds and injuries while there.

         Plaintiff alleges that, with the exception of Angelo, Defendants O'Leary, Donaldson and Ripper, McGuire, Detectives Christopher Bumgarner ("Bumgamer"), Robert Daddio ("Daddio"), and Jeff Ballinger ("Ballinger"), Cpl. Robert Costlow ("Costlow"), and Sgt./Lt. Colby Cox ("Cox") were employed by the Delaware State Police and stationed at Troop 3 Headquarters in Camden, Delaware. He alleges that all Defendants were "in attendance." Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages and injunctive relief.

         III. 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). 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. See 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, 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 U.S. at 327-28; see also Wilson v. Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir. 1989); Deutsch v. United States, 67 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 deciding Rule 12(b)(6) motions. See 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 a 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 complaint may be dismissed only if, accepting the well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, a court concludes that those allegations "could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief." Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly,550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007). Though "detailed factual allegations" are not required, a complaint must do more than simply provide "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Davis v. Abington Mem 7 Hosp.,765 F.3d 236, 241 (3d Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted). In addition, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. See Williams v. BASFCatalysts LLC, 765 F.3d 306, 315 (3d Cir. 2014) (citing Ashcrofi v. Iqbal,556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) and Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Finally, a plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to show that a claim has ...


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