Mendez v. Patterson et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION - Signed by Judge Leonard P. Stark on 3/14/14. (rwc)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
IVAN L. MENDEZ,
Civ. No. 13-1138-LPS
JENNIFER PATTERSON, et aI.,
Ivan L. Mendez, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff.
STARK, U.S. District Judge:
PlaintiffIvan Mendez ("Plaintiff'), filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging
violations of his constitutional rights. l Plaintiffis incarcerated at the James T. Vaughn
Correctional Center ("VCC") in Smyrna, Delaware. He appears pro se and has been granted
leave to proceed informa pauperis. (D.l.6) The Court proceeds to review and screen the
Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and § 1915A.
Plaintiff has numerous health problems, including Hepatitis C, internal bleeding, rectal
bleeding, and heart disease, and he weighs less than 200 pounds. He alleges that Defendant
Jennifer Patterson ("Patterson"), a medical provider at the VCC, has denied him a high calorie
diet and/or double portions. In addition, he alleges that she has denied him appropriate
medication, including pain medication. Plaintiff also names as defendants members of
Patterson's family who work in the Telekinesis Room 2 ("Family Workers") and the biological
family of Patterson ("Family"). Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages and injunctive relief.
This Court must dismiss, at the earliest practicable time, certain in forma pauperis and
prisoner actions that are frivolous, 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
lPursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that some person has deprived him
of a federal right, and that the person who caused the deprivation acted under color of state law.
See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42,48 (1988).
2Improperly named on the docket as Workers at Telekinesis Room.
actions); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (actions in which prisoner seeks redress from 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. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,93 (2007); Phillips v.
County ofAllegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008). 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
(internal quotation marks 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)(l), 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 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
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)(l) is identical to the legal standard used when ruling on Rule
12(b)(6) motions. See 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 of28 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). When
detennining whether dismissal is appropriate, the Court conducts a two-part analysis. See
Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203,210 (3d Cir. 2009). First, the factual and legal
elements ofa claim are separated. See id. The Court must accept all of the complaint's well
pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. See id. at 210-11. 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.
Second, the Court must detennine 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).
To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege "the violation of a right
secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and must show that the alleged
deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law." West v. Atkins, 487 U.S.
42,48 (1988) (citing Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981), overruled in part on other
grounds by Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330-31 (1986)). To act under "color of state law"
a defendant must be "clothed with the authority of state law." West, 487 U.S. at 49. Here,
Plaintiff names as defendants family members of Patterson, some of whom work in the
Telekinesis Room. 3 Patterson's family members are not individuals who are "clothed with the
authority of state law." See Reichley v. Pennsylvania Dep 't ofAgric., 427 F.3d 236, 244-45 (3d
Cir. 2005); Biener v. Calio, 361 F.3d 206, 216-17 (3d. Cir. 2004). In addition, the allegations
against them fail to rise to the level of any type of claim.
The claims against the Family Workers and Family of Patterson have no arguable basis in
law or in fact and will be dismissed as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and
Plaintiff alleges that Patterson has refused to provide him medical care. The Eighth
Amendment proscription against cruel and unusual punishment requires that prison officials
provide inmates with adequate medical care. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103-05 (1976).
In order to set forth a cognizable claim, an inmate must allege (i) a serious medical need and (ii)
acts or omissions by prison officials that indicate deliberate indifference to that need. See
Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104; Rouse v. Plantier, 182 F .3d 192, 197 (3d Cir. 1999). A prison official is
deliberately indifferent ifhe knows that a prisoner faces a substantial risk of serious harm and
fails to take reasonable steps to avoid the harm. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837
3It is unclear where this room is located.
(1994). A prison official may manifest deliberate indifference by "intentionally denying or
delaying access to medical care." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104-05.
The Complaint contains no allegations Patterson acted with deliberate indifference. Nor
does the complaint indicate when or where the alleged constitutional violations took place. A
civil rights complaint must state the conduct, time, place, and persons responsible for the alleged
civil rights violations. See Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347,353 (3d Cir. 2005).
Therefore, the Court will dismiss the claims against Patterson for failure to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and
§ 1915(A)(b)(1). However, since it appears plausible that Plaintiff may be able to articulate a
claim against Paterson (or name alternative Defendants), he will be given an opportunity to
amend his pleading. See 0 'Dell v. United States Gov't, 256 F. App'x 444 (3d Cir. Dec. 6, 2007)
(leave to amend is proper where the plaintiffs claims do not appear "patently meritless and
beyond all hope of redemption").
For the above reasons, the Court will dismiss the Complaint, including the claims against
members of Jennifer Patterson's family who work in the Telekinesis Room and her biological
family as frivolous, and will dismiss the claims against Jennifer Patterson for failure to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to 28 U.S.c. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii) and
§ 1915A(b)(1). Plaintiff will be given leave to amend the claims against Jennifer Patterson.
An appropriate Order follows.
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