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Mammana v. Federal Bureau of Prisons

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

August 14, 2019


          Submitted Under Third Circuit L.A.R. 34.1(a) July 11, 2019

          On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania (M.D. Pa. No.: 4-17-cv-00645) District Judge: Honorable Matthew W. Brann

          Before: SHWARTZ, KRAUSE, and FUENTES, Circuit Judges



         The Eighth Amendment is an area of the law that is often fact-intensive and can require balancing the rights of incarcerated citizens with the administrative judgment of prison officials. This appeal, however, is straightforward. Former inmate Anthony Mammana raises a challenge under the Eighth Amendment to his confinement in a chilled room with constant lighting, no bedding, and only paper-like clothing. The District Court dismissed Mammana's Amended Complaint, reasoning that Mammana had alleged only "uncomfortable" conditions. Because Mammana has adequately alleged a sufficiently serious deprivation under the Eighth Amendment, we will vacate and remand for further proceedings.

         I. Background

         Because the District Court dismissed Mammana's Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), we accept all well-pleaded allegations as true. Those allegations may be summarized as follows:

         A. The Yellow Room

         Plaintiff-appellant Anthony Mammana was an inmate confined at Allenwood Low Federal Correctional Institution, serving a seven-year sentence. During the fifth year of his sentence, Mammana began to feel "extreme illness after each meal" and visited the medical ward at Allenwood.[1] A physician assistant checked Mammana's blood sugar level, and told Mammana "to return the following day after eating."[2]Over the next several days, Mammana continued to feel ill after eating and, each time, returned to the medical ward. After his "fifth or sixth visit," the physician assistant referred Mammana to Allenwood's psychologist on the belief that Mammana's illness could be psychological in nature.[3]

         The psychologist, however, could not determine the cause of Mammana's discomfort and called the medical ward to advise them that Mammana would be returning there. However, Medical Assistant Taylor said she would refuse to re-admit Mammana to the medical ward if he returned, despite having never examined Mammana. Nonetheless, Mammana was escorted back to the medical ward, and after taking his blood pressure, Taylor "filed a false report," accusing him of "harassment, stalking, and interference with the performance of duties."[4] As a result of Taylor's report, Mammana was transferred to the "hole," or administrative segregation.[5]

         However, upon learning the identity of his cellmate- who was known for "his deviate sexual behavior forced onto cellmates"-Mammana refused his assigned cell in administrative segregation.[6] Defendant-appellee Lieutenant Barben then directed Mammana to be placed into a cell known as the "Yellow Room," which was regarded by inmates as a "mental and physical abuse room."[7]

         In the Yellow Room, Mammana was stripped of his clothing and given only "paper like" coverings instead.[8] The Yellow Room was lit by a "bright light" that "was turned on for 24 hours a day" and was kept "uncomfortably cold."[9]Mammana was provided no bedding or toilet paper and only an "extremely thin mattress" to sleep on.[10] Consequently, he "could hardly sleep and would wake up frequently shivering when he did fall asleep."[11] During that time, Mammana continued to feel ill, yet his requests for medical treatment were refused.

         Mammana remained in the Yellow Room for four days. After he was released from the Yellow Room, a disciplinary hearing was held regarding Taylor's report; the hearing board eventually concluded "there was no basis" for her report and the "charges" against Mammana were "expunged."[12]Mammana remained in administrative segregation for four months after leaving the Yellow Room.

         B. Proceedings in the District Court

         Mammana filed suit in the District Court. In his Amended Complaint, he set forth counts for malicious prosecution against the Federal Bureau of Prisons and Taylor, violation of due process against the Bureau, Taylor, and Barben, and cruel and unusual punishment in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights against the Bureau and Barben. Defendants moved to dismiss or for summary judgment, and Mammana withdrew all claims against the Bureau and Taylor. Parsing the Eighth Amendment claim, a magistrate judge recommended dismissal of Mammana's claims for constant lighting, lack of exercise, and deprivation of food; he recommended that Mammana's claim regarding the deprivation of warmth survive both dismissal and summary judgment.

         Mammana objected to the magistrate's report and recommendation, and the District Court granted the motion to dismiss in its entirety, reasoning that Mammana had alleged only that the conditions of his confinement were "uncomfortabl[e]."[13] Mammana timely appealed the dismissal of his Eighth Amendment claim.

         II. Legal Standard[14]

         Our review of the grant of a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is plenary.[15] "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'"[16] A claim is facially plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."[17] In assessing the factual content of the complaint, we disregard those allegations that "are no more than conclusions," but "assume the[] veracity" of all "well-pleaded factual allegations."[18]

         III. Discussion

         On appeal, Mammana contends that the District Court erred in dismissing his claim under the Eighth Amendment on the ground that the conditions of his confinement were merely uncomfortable. Because he has alleged not just merely uncomfortable conditions, but the deprivation of a specific human need, we agree with Mammana regarding this issue and will vacate the dismissal of his claim under the Eighth Amendment.

         A. Applicable Law

         The Eighth Amendment provides, "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."[19] The Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment applies to both an inmate's formal sentence and to "deprivations that were not specifically part of the sentence, but were suffered during imprisonment."[20] However, because that prohibition is directed only toward "punishment, "[21] it applies only to deprivations that constitute an "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain, "[22] including "those that are 'totally without penological justification.'"[23]

         Wantonness, however, "does not have a fixed meaning but must be determined with 'due regard for differences in the kind of conduct against which an Eighth Amendment objection is lodged.'"[24] In challenges to prison conditions, such as the one here, "a prison official violates the Eighth Amendment only when two requirements are met."[25]

         First, "the deprivation alleged must be, objectively, 'sufficiently serious, '"[26] resulting in "the denial of 'the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.'"[27] Although the Eighth Amendment "does not mandate comfortable prisons, "[28] "prison officials must ensure that inmates receive adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care."[29] In a challenge to those conditions, "the inmate must show that he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm."[30] However, "[t]he proof necessary to show that there was a substantial risk of harm is less demanding than the proof needed to show that there was a probable risk of harm."[31]

         Second, "a prison official must have a 'sufficiently culpable state of mind.'"[32] "In prison-conditions cases that state of mind is one of 'deliberate indifference' to inmate health or safety . . . ."[33] In that ...

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