Ahearn v. Kay et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Richard G. Andrews on 9/30/13. (mdb)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
CARL J. AHEARN,
Civ. No. 13-1057-RGA
MS. KATTIE WALKER, CCS MEDICAL,
and WILLIAM OETTEL,
Carl J. Ahearn, Sussex Community Correctional Center, Georgetown, Delaware,
Pro Se Plaintiff.
Plaintiff Carl J. Ahearn, an inmate at the Sussex Community Correctional Center
Georgetown, Delaware, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He appears pro
se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis (0.1. 7). The Court
proceeds to review and screen the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(b) and
Plaintiff was cooking in the work release kitchen on May 6, 2013. Captain Melvin
told Sgt. Crocker to stop Plaintiff from cooking after Defendant Kattie Walker,1 the head
nurse, provided personal medical information from Plaintiff's medical file to Sgt.
Crocker, and possibly to Captain Melvin, that Plaintiff was ill. Plaintiff alleges that it is
illegal to disseminate his medical information to individuals "outside of medical staff." In
addition to Walker, Plaintiff named William Oettel and CCS as defendants.
This Court must dismiss, at the earliest practicable time, certain in forma
pauperis and prisoner actions that are frivololJs, malicious, fail to state a claim, or seek
monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 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).
The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant
to § 1915(e)(2)(8)(ii) and § 1915A(b)(1) is identical to the legal standard used when
ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions. See Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d
1The complaint refers to Kattie Walker as Ms. Kay. Plaintiff provided Walker's
correct name to the court on June 25,2013. (See 0.1. 4.)
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 Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544 (2007). The assumption of truth is inapplicable to legal conclusions or to
"[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action supported by mere
conclusory statements." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. When determining whether dismissal
is appropriate, the court conducts a two-part analysis. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578
F.3d 203,210 (3d Cir. 2009). First, the factual and legal elements of a claim are
separated. Id. The Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true,
but may disregard any legal conclusions. Id. at 210-11.
Second, the Court must determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are
sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief." Fowler, 578 F.3d at
211. In other words, the complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement
to relief; rather, it must "show" such an entitlement with its facts. Id. A claim is facially
plausible when its factual content allows the Court to draw a reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The
plausibility standard "asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully." Id. "Where a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a
defendant's liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of
'entitlement to relief.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
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. 89, 94 (2007)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
It is clearly established that there exists a constitutional right to privacy in one's
medical information while in prison. Doe v. Delie, 257 F.3d 309, 317 (3d Cir. 2001).
Therefore, Plaintiff will be allowed to proceed with his claim against Walker.
The Complaint, however, contains no allegations directed towards Dettel and
CCS. A civil rights complaint must state the conduct, time, place, and persons
responsible for the alleged civil rights violations. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 353
(3d Cir. 2005) (citing Boykins v. Ambridge Area Sch. Dist., 621 F.2d 75, 80 (3d Cir.
1980); Hall V. Pennsylvania State Police, 570 F.2d 86, 89 (3d Cir. 1978)}. It may be
that Dettel is named as a defendant based upon his supervisory positions, but, as is
well established, supervisory liability cannot be imposed under § 1983 on a respondeat
superior theory. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); Monell v. Department of
Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo
Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976). '''A[n
individual government] defendant in a civil rights action must have personal involvement
in the alleged wrongdoing; liability cannot be predicated solely on the operation of
respondeat superior.'" Evancho
Fisher, 423 F.3d 347,353 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting
Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988». In addition, in order to
establish that CCS is directly liable for the alleged constitutional violations, plaintiff
"must provide evidence that there was a relevant [CCS] 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 cannot be a basis for liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a corporation
under contract with the state cannot be held liable for the acts of its employees and
agents under those theories). There is no mention of Oettel or CCS in the Complaint
and no allegations are raised against them. Indeed, the only acts alleged are those
taken by Walker.
Therefore, the Court will dismiss the claims against CCS and Oettel as frivolous
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(8)(i) and § 1915A(b)(1). Plaintiff will be allowed to
proceed against Walker.
An appropriate order will be entered.
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