Barrett et al v. McDonald et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION re pending motions. Signed by Judge Leonard P. Stark on 9/25/15. (ntl)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
THEODORE BARRETT, RONALD KEIS, :
WILBUR MEDLEY, VICTOR TALMO,
RAYMOND BROWN, GENE SCHULTZ, :
DAVID DEJESUS, DERRICK JACKSON, :
JOSEPH VINCENT, EMILIANO
VAZQUEZ, D' ANDRE ROGERS, ELIU
CARRERO, WILLIAM BRAMBLE,
EUGENE COX, EARL GARRISON,
MARKEZ GARRISON, RUSSELL
HURST, ALLEN JOLLY, JOSHUA
LEWIS, JAMES WELDIN, KEITH
WOOLFORD, and JAKE FOX,
C.A. No. 14-742-LPS
LAWREN CE MCDONALD, JILL
. MOSSER, CORRECT CARE
SOLUTIONS, LLC, G.R. JOHNSON,
LINDA VALENTINO, LAMONT
HAMMOND, MICHAEL SANTINI,
DONALD HUTSON, KURT JOHNSON,
SUPPORT PROGRAMS, INC.
Stephen A. Hampton, GRADY & HAMPTON, Dover, DE
Attorney for Plaintiffs TheodoreBarrett, Ronald Keis, Wilbur Medley, Victor Talmo,
William Bramble, Eugene Cox, Earl Garrison, Markez Garrison, Russell Hurst,. Allen
Jolly, James Weldin, Keith Woolford, and Jake Fox.
Patrick C. Gallagher, CURLEY, DODGE & FUNK, LLC, Dover, DE
Attorney for Plaintiffs Raymond Brown, Gene Schultz, David DeJ esus, Derrick Jackson,
Joseph Vincent, Emiliano Vazquez, D' Andre Rogers, and Eliu Carrero.
Daniel A. Griffith, Chad J. Toms, WHITEFORD TAYLOR & PRESTON LLP, Wilmington, DE.
Attorneys for Defendants Lawrence McDonald, Correct Care Solutions, LLC, and Jill
Michael F. McTaggart, Scott W. Perkins, STATE OF DELAWARE DEPARTMENT OF
JUSTICE, Wilmington, DE
Attorneys for Defendants G.R. Johnson, Linda Valentino, Lamont Hammond, Michael
Santini, Kurt Johnson, and Donald Hutson.
Gary H. Kaplan, Art C. Aranilla, MARSHALL DENNEHEY WARNER COLEMAN &
GOGGIN, Wilmington, DE
Attorneys for Defendants Michael Fabber and Connections Community Support
September 25, 2015
S~ U.S. District~~
Plaintiffs, inmates who are currently or were previously incarcerated at the Sussex
Correctional Institute ("SCI"), filed a civil rights complaint against Defendants pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983, 42 U.S.C. § 1985, and state tort law. Presently before the Court are:
(1) Defendants Lawrence McDonald, Correct Care Solutions, LLC, and Jill Mosser' s Motion to
Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (D.I. 22); (2) Defendants G.R. Johnson, Linda Valentino,
and Lamont Hammond's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (D.I. 24); and
(3) Defendants Michael Fabber and Connections Community Support Programs, lnc.'s Motion
for Judgment on the Pleadings (D.I. 45).
On May 9, 2014, Plaintiffs Theodore Barrett, Ronald Keis, Wilbur Medley, Victor
Talmo, Raymond Brown, Gene Schultz, David DeJ esus, Derrick Jackson, and Joseph Vincent
filed a Complaint in the Superior Court of the State of Delaware in and for New Castle County
alleging, inter alia, violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (D.I. 1, Ex. A) Each claim arises out of
alleged sexual abuse by Defendant Lawrence McDonald during medical examinations while
Plaintiffs were inmates. (Id. at ~ 1) This original Complaint alleged a cover-up including four
additional Defendants: Jill Mosser, G.R. Johnson, Linda Valentino, and Lamont Hammond. (Id.:
It also named as a Defendant Correct Care Solutions ("CCS"), which had a contract to
provide medical services at SCI pursuant to a contract with the Delaware Department of
Correction ("DOC"). (Id.
1, 21) On June 13, 2014, Defendants Mosser and CCS filed a
notice of removal in this Court. (D .I. 1)
On August 11, 2014, based on a stipulation of the parties, Plaintiffs filed an Amended
Complaint. (D.I. 20) The Amended Complaint added thirteen more Plaintiffs and five additional
Defendants: Michael Santini, Kurt Johnson, Donald Hutson, Connections Community Support
Programs Inc. ("Connections"), and Michael Fabber. (Id.; see also D.I. 14) Each of the
additional Plaintiffs also claimed sexual abuse by McDonald during their time as inmates at SCI.
(D.I. 20 at ifif 15-27) The Amended Complaint also added claims by the original Plaintiffs
against the new Defendants for retaliation in response to the filing of the original complaint. (Id.
at if'if 290-321)
On September 2, 2014, two sets of Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to
State a Claim. The first was filed by Lawrence McDonald, Jill Mosser, and CCS (collectively,
"the CCS Defendants"). (D.I. 22) The second was filed by G.R. Johnson, Linda Valentino, and
Lamont Hammond (collectively, "the State Defendants"). (D.I. 24) On November 10, 2014,
answers to the complaint were filed by Michael Santini, Kurt Johnson, and Donald Hutson (D.I.
43), as well as Fabber and Connections (collectively, "the Connections Defendants") (D.I. 44).
On November 24, 2014, the Connections Defendants filed a motion for judgment on the
pleadings. (D.I. 45) After reviewing the parties' extensive but not entirely clear briefing (D.I.
23; D.I. 25; D.I. 27; D.I. 28; D.I. 29; D.I. 30; D.I. 40; D.I. 41; D.I. 53; D.I. 54; D.I. 55), the Court
ordered Plaintiffs "to submit ... a chart identifying, for each Plaintiff, the claims they are
asserting and the Defendant(s) against whom they are asserting each claim ... [as well as] for
each claim, the portions of the Complaint which provide the factual basis for each claim." (D .I.
59) Plaintiffs submitted these charts on February 23, 2015. (D.I. 61; D.I. 62) The Court heard
oral argument on all three motions on February 25, 2015. ("Tr.")
Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim
Evaluating a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)( 6) requires
the Court to accept as true all material allegations of the complaint. See Spruill v. Gillis, 372
F.3d 218, 223 (3d Cir. 2004). "The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but
whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." In re Burlington Coat
Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1420 (3d Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Thus, the Court may grant such a morion to dismiss only if, after "accepting all well-pleaded
allegations in the complaint as true, and viewing them in the light most favorable to plaintiff,
plaintiff is not entitled to relief." Maio v. Aetna, Inc., 221 F.3d 472, 481-82 (3d Cir. 2000)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
However, "[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a civil plaintiff must allege facts that 'raise a
right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that the allegations in the complaint :
are true (even if doubtful in fact)."' Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 234 (3d Cir. 2007)
(quoting Bell At!. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). 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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009). At bottom, "[t]he complaint must state enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation
that discovery will reveal evidence of [each] necessary element" of a plaintiffs claim. Wilkerson
v. New Media Tech. Charter Sch. Inc., 522 F.3d 315, 321 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation
The Court is not obligated to accept as true "bald assertions," Morse v. Lower Merion
Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks omitted), ''unsupported
conclusions and unwarranted inferences," Schuylkill Energy Res., Inc. v. Pa. Power & Light Co.,
113 F.3d 405, 417 (3d Cir. 1997), or allegations that are "self-evidently false," Nami v. Fauver,
82 F.3d 63, 69 (3d Cir. 1996). "[A] complaint maybe subject to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6)
when an affirmative defense ... appears on its face." ALA, Inc. v. CCAIR, Inc., 29 F.3d 855, 859
(3d Cir. 1994).
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), a party may move for judgment on the i
pleadings "[a]fter the pleadings are closed- but early enough not to delay trial." When
evaluating a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court must accept all factual allegations
in a complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See
Rosenau v. Unifund Corp., 539 F.3d 218, 221 (3d Cir. 2008). A Rule 12(c) motion will not be
granted ''unless the movant clearly establishes that no material issue of fact remains to be
resolved and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Id.; see also Maio, 221 F.3d at
482. This is the same standard as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. See Turbe v. Gov't of
Virgin Is., 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991). "The purpose of judgment on the pleadings is to
dispose of claims where the material facts are undisputed and judgment can be entered on the
competing pleadings and exhibits thereto, and documents incorporated by reference." Venetec
Int'!, Inc. v. Nexus Med., LLC, 541 F. Supp. 2d 612, 617 (D. Del. 2008); see also In re
Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d at 1426 (explaining that any documents that are.
integral to pleadings maybe considered in connection with Rule 12(c) motion).
Resolution of the three pending motions presents a somewhat daunting task for the Court.:
There are over 600 claims raised by the 22 Plaintiffs against 11 different Defendants. (D .I. 61;
D.I. 62) The theories ofliability are numerous, arising under both federal and state law,
including negligence, assault and battery, medical malpractice, deliberate indifference to serious
medical needs, and civil rights conspiracy. To address some of the issues presented, the Court
must discuss the factual allegatfons of each individual Plaintiff.
Further exacerbating the challenge before the Court is that the Amended Complaint runs
to 79 pages and the motions implicate the pleading requirements for numerous legal theories and
affirmative defenses. Moreover, it was difficult for the Court to determine from the Amended
Complaint and briefing exactly what claims are being alleged by each Plaintiff and against which·
Defendants. In the chart the Court ordered, Plaintiffs allege several theories of liability that were·
never addressed in the briefing. Defendants now argue that these claims have not been
adequately pled in the Amended Complaint. (Tr. at 17-19) 1
The Court perceives ten issues presented by Defendant's motions: (1) whether Plaintiffs
included the affidavit of merit with their Amended Complaint necessary to support a medical
malpractice claim against McDonald (Tr. at 12-13); (2) whether the statute oflimitations bars
Plaintiffs' claims against the CCS Defendants and the State Defendants (D.I. 23 at 7-13; D.I. 25
at 6-1 O); (3) whether Plaintiffs have failed to exhaust their administrative remedies as required
However,_ even assuming Defendants were not previously on notice of the legal basis for:
certain claims, the Court is not here dismissing these claims on the ground that the Amended
Complaint fails to state the legal basis for the claims. See Johnson v. City of Shelby, 135 S. Ct.
346, 347 (2014) (explaining that Rule 8(a) requires only that plaintiff plead facts that state claim
with substantive plausibility, not that they precisely state their legal theory).
under the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") for their federal claims against the CCS
Defendants and the State Defendants (D.I. 23 at 14; D.I. 25 at 10-13); (4) whether Plaintiffs
allege sufficient personal involvement to support their 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against the State
Defendants (D.I. 25 at 13-17); (5) whether Plaintiffs have overcome the immunity provided for
Johnson and Valentino under Delaware's Tort Claims Act for their negligent supervision claims
(id. at 17-19); (6) whether Plaintiffs have adequatelypled a42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) conspiracy by
the State Defendants (id. at 19); (7) whether Plaintiffs have adequately pled a conspiracy claim
against the Connections Defendants (D.I. 45 at ifif 16-21); (8) whether Plaintiffs pled a
cognizable adverse action against the Connections Defendants sufficient to state a First
Amendment retaliation claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (id. at ifif 23-25); (9) whether the
Connections Defendants were acting under color of state law for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983
(id. at ifif 12-15); and (10) whether Plaintiffs have stated claims for intentional infliction of
emotional distress or negligent infliction of emotional distress against the Connections
Defendants (D.L 55 at if 11; Tr. at 18).2 Below the Court addresses each of these issues in tum. ,
Affidavit of Merit
At oral argument, the CCS Defendants argued that Plaintiffs' medical malpractice claims ·
were not supported by an affidavit of merit, as required under Delaware law. (Tr. at 17-19)
Although this was not raised in the briefing, the affidavit of merit is a threshold requirement for
claim for medical malpractice in Delawai:e. See 18 Del. C. § 6853(a)(l). In filing their Amended
Complaint, Plaintiffs served a notice on Defendants, indicating that they had filed the required
The Court will address the adequacy of the intentional and negligent infliction of
emotional distress claims only with respect to those Plaintiffs and Defendants for which these
issues have been briefed.
affidavit in a sealed envelope. (D.I. 20, Ex. 1 at 2) Plaintiffs have in fact filed the·affidavit of
merit under seal, as required by Delaware law. (D.I. 63) Accordingly, the medical malpractice
claims will not be dismissed on this ground.
Statute of Limitations
In actions brought under§ 1983, federal courts apply the applicable state's statute of
limitations for personal injury, including the coordinate tolling rules. See Hardin v. Straub, 490
U.S. 536, 541 (1989); see also Sameric Corp. v. City ofPhiladelphia, 142 F.3d 582, 599 (3d Cir.
1998). 3 In Delaware, personal injury claims are subject to a two-year limitations period. See 10
Del. C. § 8119. 4
Although state law determines the applicable limitations period for claims under§ 1983, :
federal law determines the date of accrual of a § 1983 cause of action. See Genty v. Resolution
Trust Corp., 937 F.2d 899, 919 (3d Cir. 1991). "A section 1983 cause of action accrues when the
plaintiff knew of should have known of the injury upon which its action is based." Sameric, 142.
F.3d at 599. 5 Generally, "[t]he determination of the time at which a claim accrues is an objective
The same statute oflimitations applies to civil rights conspiracy claims under-§ 1985(3).
See Lake v. Arnold, 232 F.3d 360, 368 (3d Cir. 2000).
No party argued in the briefing that a different statute of limitations or accrual rule
applied for any other claims; accordingly, the Court will apply the two-year statute of limitations:
and the federal accrual rules to all claims at this. stage. Plaintiffs' suggestion at oral argument
that a three-year statute of limitations applies to their medical malpractice claims (see Tr. at 55,
74)-which appears to be based on 18 Del. C. § 6856, which provides that a medical malpractice
claim "which, during such period of 2 years, was unknown to and could not in the exercise of
reasonable diligence have been discovered by the injured person, ... may be brought prior to the
expiration of 3 years from the date upon which such injury occurred" - is an untimely, new
Although Delaware's discovery rule, which provides that "when an inherently
unknowable injury ... has been suffered by one blamelessly ignorant of the act or omission and
inquiry; we ask not what the plaintiff actually knew but what a reasonable person should have
known." Kach v. Hose, 589 F.3d 626, 634 (3d Cir. 2009).
Although the Third Circuit has ordinarily focused on the objective test of what a
reasonable person should have known with respect to his injury, see Kach, 589 F .3d 626 at 634,
this does not mean that when a plaintiff subjectively, actually knows he has been injured that the
statute fails to run if an objective person in that position may not have had such knowledge. As
the Supreme Court has explained, the objective determination is made to ensure that the statute
of limitations is not "in the sole hands of the party seeking relief." Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S.
384, 391 (2007). Holding that a cause of action accrues for one who is subjectively aware of his
injury at the time that he obtains such knowledge, regardless of whether a reasonable person in
the same position should have known of his injury, does not conflict with the purpose of the
Before analyzing each individual Plaintiffs factual allegations and the statute of
limitations issues raised, the Court will address an issue that applies more generally: whether
application of the "continuing violation doctrine" means here that if any Plaintiff has alleged
claim& that accrued within the limitations period, then otherwise untimely claims asserted by
other Plaintiffs are also saved from any time bar.
injury complained of, and the harmful effect thereof develops gradually over a period of time, the
injury is 'sustained' ... when the harmful effect first manifests itself and becomes physically
ascertainable/' David B. Lilly Co. v. Fisher, 18 F.3d 1112, 1117 (3d Cir. Del. 1994), might apply
to§ 1983 claims, see Morton v. Sky Nails, 884 A.2d 480, 482 (Del. 2005) ("The General
Assembly restricted the time of discovery rule, as applied to medical malpractice claims, when it
enacted 18 Del.C. § 6856. But Layton remains good law as applied to other actions."); see also
generally Kach v. Hose, 589 F.3d 626, 643-44 (3d Cir. 2009) (considering application of
Pennsylvania's discovery rule to § 1983 action), it would not. change any of the Court's
conclusions here, and the Court therefore need not decide its applicability.
Continuing violation doctrine
The continuing violation doctrine is a narrow and equitable exception to the statute of
limitations that "should not provide a means for relieving plaintiffs from their duty to exercise
reasonable diligence in pursuing their claims." Cowell v. Palmer Twp., 263 F.3d 286, 295 (3d
Cir. 2001). "[I]f the prior events should have alerted a reasonable person to act at that time, the
continuing violation theory will not overcome the relevant statute oflimitations." King v. Twp.
ofE. Lampeter, 17 F. Supp. 2d 394, 416 (E.D. Pa. 1998), a.ffd, 182 F.3d 903 (3d Cir. 1999). The
continuing violation theory does not apply when the plaintiff is aware of the injury at the time it
occurred. See Montanez v. Secy Pa. Dep 't of Corr., 773 F.3d 472, 481 (3d Cir. 2014).
Under the continuation violation theory, "when a defendant's conductis part of a
continuing practice, an action is timely so long as the last act evidencing the continuing practice
falls within the limitations period; in such an instance, the court will grant relief for the earlier
related acts that would otherwise be time-barred." Brenner v. Local 514, United Bhd. of
Carpenters & Joiners ofAm., 927 F.2d 1283, 1295 (3d Cir. 1991). The Court must consider two
requirements to determine if the continuing violation doctrine applies: (1) subject matter, that is,
"whether the violations constitute the same type of [harm], tending to connect them in a
continuing violation;" and (2) frequency, that is, "whether the acts are recurring or more in the
nature of isolated incidents." Cowell, 263 F.3d at 292. 6
A question raised here with respect to the continuing violation doctrine is whether it can
A third requirement, "degree of permanence," was also part of the Cowell test. See
Cowell, 263 F .3d at 292. The Third Circuit has recognized that this requirement has been
superseded by Supreme Court precedent. See Mandel v. M & Q Packaging Corp., 706 F.3d 157,
165-67 (3d Cir. 2013); see also Cibula v. Fox, 570 F. App'x 129, 136 n.7 (3d Cir. 2014).
apply to claims among different Plaintiffs; that is, whether there can be a "continuing violation"
that would allow one Plaintiffs otherwise untimely claim to be timely due to continuing
violations as to other Plaintiffs that are within the limitations period. Plaintiffs' argument for
such application of the doctrine is primarily based on the Third Circuit's opinion in Brenner.
However, Brenner does not apply the continuing violation doctrine in the manner sought by
In Brenner, the plaintiffs alleged violations of the Labor Management Relations Act
against their local union for failure to refer them for work in a fair manner over an approximately·
seven-year course of conduct. See 927 F.2d at 1296. The Third Circuit, agreeing with a Seventh'
Circuit decision, held that this was a continuing violation, distinguishing this failure to refer from
a discrete act, such as a failure to reinstate an employee. See id. (distinguishing Lewis v. Local
Union No. 100, 750 F.2d 1368, 1378 (7th Cir. 1984)). Because the continuing violation doctrine·
saved each plaintiffs claims for the period in which each plaintiff was eligible for referral, "the
applicable statute of limitations began to run against each union member plaintiff no later than
the date he withdrew from the union." Id. In remanding to the district court, the Third Circuit
explained that the district court was required to "apply the principles ... to the facts of record as '.
to each plaintiff' to determine whether the continuing violation doctrine could put that plaintiffs
claims within the statute oflimitations. Id. (emphasis added). Brenner did not, however,
endorse an application of the continuing violation doctrine in the way that Plaintiffs propose the
Court do so here.
The Court finds a recent decision of the W estem District of Oklahoma, Castillo v.
Bobelu, 1 F. Supp. 3d 1190 (W.D. Okla. 2014), to be persuasive on this issue. In Castillo,
multiple plaintiffs sued, alleging § 1983 claims arising out of sexual assaults while participating
in required inmate job assignments at the Oklahoma Governor's Mansion. See id. at 1193. Each i
plaintiff in Castillo alleged sexual assault or rape by one of the defendants. See id. The plaintiffs
argued that "because they allegedly were subjected to the same type of recurring harm and
because there are 'multiple events involving multiple Plaintiffs within the applicable Statute of
Limitations time,' plaintiffs are to be considered as one unit, rather than individually, for
purposes of the limitations period." Id. at 1201 (internal citation omitted). The Western District
of Oklahoma explained that "[p]laintiffs cite no authority for their novel position and the court is
aware of none." Id. at 1201. This Court agrees with the Castillo court that Plaintiffs' proposed
application of the continuing violation doctrine to them as a group would be novel, and would b~
inconsistent with Third Circuit law, which requires that each plaintiff demonstrate he or she
suffered injury during the limitations period. See Brenner, 927 F.2d at 1295.
Counsel for Plaintiffs conceded at oral argument that without Plaintiffs proposed
application of the continuing violation doctrine, the claims of Schultz and DeJ esu~ against.
McDonald are barred by the statute of limitations. (Tr. at 58) ("[U]nless Your Honor applies the
continuing harm doctrine on a group pleading basis, which we submit Your Honor should, their
claims against McDonald are out, although I would submit to Your Honor that their claims
against the other medical defendants and the other State defendants would go on because they,
the other defendants, not McDonald but the other defendants continued to cover up what was
going on and make difficult for anyone to do anything else beyond that time period.")
Accordingly, these claims will be dismissed. With respect to every other Plaintiff against whom
a statute of limitations defense is asserted, Defendants admitted that the continuing violation
doctrine could, in theory, properly apply to "a continuing course of conduct in terms of an
inmate's medical treatment." (Tr. at 11)
The statute of limitations defense is asserted against certain claims of all Plaintiffs other
than Barrett and Fox (two Plaintiffs whom Defendants concede have only pled claims that are
entirely within the limitations period). (D.I. 25 at 7)7 The moving Defendants argue that the
claims of the Plaintiffs who were only added in the Amended Complaint should not "relate back"
to the original complaint, which would leave the newer Plaintiffs with a different operative date
for limitations purposes. (D .I. 41 at 1 n.1) However, the parties originally named in the suit
agreed by stipulation that all claims in the Amended Complaint relate back to May 9, 2014. (D.I.
17 at if 1) Hence, all of the claims against the original Defendants "relate back" to the original
complaint - which was filed on May 9, 2014 - for limitations purposes.
Except for Plaintiffs' concession regarding Schultz and DeJesus (mentioned above), the
parties did not - either in their briefing or at oral argument - advance separate statute of
limitations arguments with respect to claims against McDonald and claims against the other
Defendants. 8 Hence, the Court addresses accrual of Plaintiffs' claims for purposes of the statute
oflimitations as argued by the parties, focusing on the timing of the McDonald's conduct as to
each individual Plaintiff, and each individual Plaintiffs knowledge of the injurious nature of
Given the vagueness of the dates alleged by several Plaintiffs, early discovery focused on
determining the dates of Plaintiffs' visits to McDonald might be warranted.
Relatedly, it is not clear which claims against which Defendants are based on Plaintiffs'
interactions with McDonald.
Keis alleges that he saw McDonald between April 2009 and May 2011. (Id. at if 105)
The Amended Complaint further alleges that Keis told a correctional officer in 2009 "that
McDonald was touching him in inappropriate, non-medical ways." (Id. at if 107) Keis also
alleges that McDonald threatened to take away prescriptions from Keis ifhe refused a rectal
exam, which "made Keis realize McDonald's 'exams' were not true medical exams, but rather an
excuse for McDonald to sexually abuse him." (Id. at if 111) Keis further alleges that he spoke to:
his counselor about the exams, and she told him that she had heard similar complaints. (Id. at
Finally, Keis alleges that Hammond joked to inmates who were going to see McDonald
about McDonald's examinations and the conduct alleged by Plaintiffs. (Id. at if 113) Keis
allegedly refused exams by McDonald beginning in May 2011, and only began accepting medical
visits again after McDonald was no longer at SCI. (Id. at ifif 112, 114)
Based on Keis' allegations, Keis' subjective knowledge of the injurious nature of
McDonald's conduct bars his claims to the extent they are based on that conduct. Keis alleges
that he was aware that the examinations were inappropriate, that this caused him to refuse
medical care beginning in 2011, and, thus, that he knew no later than May 2011 that he had been
injured. (See D.I. 20 at ifif 107, 112) He does not allege any improper examinations by
McDonald after his refusal to be treated by him in May 2011. (See id. at if 112) Under the
circumstances, even if a reasonable person in Keis' position would not have known he was
injured, Keis' actual, subjective knowledge of his injury meant the.statute was running on claims
based on McDonald's conduct. Hence, even taking all reasonable inferences in Keis' favor,
these claims accrued prior to May 9, 2012 and, accordingly, they are barred by the statute of
Medley alleges that he had chronic pain, which McDonald told him was a chronic care
condition that required periodic monitoring. (D .I. 20 at 'if 116) Medley's first identified visit
with McDonald was in December 2011. (Id.) He alleges that he "continued to be seen
periodically by McDonald for follow-up" but does not allege any specific dates for those
encounters. (Id. at 'if 117) He alleges that during a visit subsequent to December 2011,
McDonald performed a prostate exam on Medley after McDonald had asked Medley to roll on
his side to examine a rash on the inside of his thighs. (Id.) On other occasions, McDonald
would require Medley to remove his pants and underwear, purportedly to examine a vein in his
inner thigh. (Id. at 'if 118) During this examination, Medley alleges that "McDonald would wrap
his bare fingers on one hand around Medley's penis while using the other ungloved hand to
'examine' the vein on [Medley's] inner thigh." (Id.) Medley "does not believe that there was
any medical reason" for this examination by McDonald. (Id.)
On his last two visits to McDonald, which do not have specific dates beyond
approximately every 90 days, Medley alleges that McDonald, after undertaking the same type of
conduct described above, "then grabbed [Medley's] penis with one ungloved hand and
[Medley's] testicles with the other and pulled on [Medley's] penis while fondling [Medley's]
testicles." (Id. at 'if 119) Medley alleges that he "wanted to say something about how he was
As noted, it is not clear which claims against which Defendants are based entirely on
Plaintiffs' interactions with McDonald. By separate order, the parties will have an opportunity to
advise the Court as to the impact of its conclusion here for each of Keis' claims against each
being treated by McDonald, but was afraid to do so for a number of reasons." (Id. at if 120)
Medley, like Keis, "was aware that the correctional officers made jokes about Dr. McDonald, so
they obviously knew what was going on," and he specifically alleges that Hammond made jokes
about McDonald's conduct. (Id. at if 120(a)) Medley also alleges that he was aware of
complaints about McDonald by other inmates. (Id. at if 120(b))
Like Keis, Medley has pled facts that suggest he was aware of his injury at some time
prior to McDonald's termination in January 2013. (See id. at if 128) However, unlike Keis, he
has not specifically pled when he became aware of the injury, or that he was actually aware of it
before May 9, 2012. Further, unlike Keis, he has not specifically pled that his encounters with
McDonald ended prior to May9, 2012. The Court cannot infer that all of his claims based on
these encounters accrued prior to May 9, 2012, or that a reasonable person would have been
aware of the injuries before May 9, 2012. Accordingly, the Court cannot say that it is clear on
the face of the complaint that Medley's claims are barred by the statute of limitations.
Talmo began being treated by McDonald "in 2006" and saw McDonald "every 90 days"
for "two chronic care conditions that require periodic monitoring." (D.I. 120 at ifif 128-29) He
alleges that the sexual assaults against him began in 2008. (Id.) Talmo also alleges that
McDonald prescribed Vicodin and Oxycontin, three times daily, with increasing dosages, from
the end of2007 until January 2013, when McDonald was terminated. (Id. at if 128) Talmo
alleges that he did not report McDonald for the sexual assault because he was afraid that
McDonald would retaliate by taking away his pain medication, but he eventually spoke to a nurse
and a mental health staff member about the sexual assaults, at unspecified times. (Id. at if 130)
Talmo alleges that after McDonald was fired, he was immediately taken off of Vicodin and
Oxycontin, and ''told that as a recovering drug addict he should never have been given these
narcotics." (Id. at if 131)
Talmo has pled that sexual assault occurred every 90 days until January 2013, and,
accordingly, he has pled some injury within the limitations period. 10 (See id. at ifif 128-29)
While Talmo, like Keis, has pled that he was aware of the injury prior to January 2013 (id. at
if 130), like Medley Talmo has not pled when he actually became aware of the improper nature of
the examinations, except that it occurred sometime between 2008 and January 2013. At this
stage, the Court draws all reasonable inferences in Talmo. Accordingly, the Court will not hold
that Talmo' s claims are barred by the statute of limitations.
The only two encounters alleged between Brown and McDonald were "at the end of 2011
or beginning of 2012" due to a cyst. (Id. at if 134) Brown alleges that during treatment,
McDonald fondled his penis at each visit, and that he was "uncomfortable" but "assumed it was
medically necessary." (Id. at if 135)
Brown does not allege when he became aware of his alleged injury. Further, he pleads
that he believed that while McDonald's examinations made him "uncomfortable," he had
"always been taught to trust his physician," so he "assumed [the examinations were] medically
necessary." (Id.) At this stage, the Court will not hold that a reasonable person would have
discovered before May 9, 2012 that.McDonald's examinations in late 2011 or early 2012 were
Talmo has also pled other ongoing conduct - the improper prescription of Vicodin and
Oxycontin - which he did not discover was improper until January 2013. (D .I. 20 at ifif 128, 131)
It is unclear, however, if this is the basis for any ofTalmo's claims.
not medically necessary. No facts are alleged to suggest that Brown should have become aware
of his injury prior to May 9, 2012. Likewise, there are no allegations to suggest that Brown had
actual knowledge that he had been injured prior to May 9, 2012. Thus, at this stage, the statute of
limitations defense does not appear on the face of the complaint, and dismissal of Brown's
claims would be improper.
Jackson was a chronic care patient due to his diabetes. (Id. at if 163) He was transferred
to SCI in or about May 2007. (Id.) He alleges that during his multiple encounters with
McDonald during chronic care treatment, "McDonald always told Jackson to pull down his pants
when [McDonald] examined him." (Id. at if .164) On one occasion in or about 2010 or 2011,
McDonald allegedly fondled Jackson's genitals in a sexual manner, after "claim[ing] Jackson
might have some gas built up inside him." (Id. at if 165) During that same visit, McDonald
allegedly "slid his fingers in and out of Jackson's rectum," and later "reached around with the
hand that had been on Jackson's butt cheek and grabbed Jackson's penis and testicles while
keeping his other fingers inside Jackson's rectum." (Id. at ifif 166-67) Jackson alleges that he
"did not say anything or complain because he trusted McDonald and thought McDonald was
performing a procedure related to the gas built up inside of him." (Id. at if 167)
Jackson also alleges that on another occasion, McDonald had Jackson pull down his pants
and lay on a table, while McDonald felt Jackson's abdomen, after which McDonald touched
Jackson's genitals and asked if Jackson felt pressure. (Id. at if 169) Jackson alleges that
McDonald then "began to touch Jackson's buttocks where they met his back" but when another
person interrupted, McDonald instructed Jackson to pull his pants up and "began .discussing
problems with Jackson's legs and feet." (Id. at if 170) Jackson also alleges that after McDonald
stopped working at SCI, he met with a nurse practitioner, who informed McDonald that he had
contracted hepatitis C and "was in the final stages of cirrhosis of the liver." (Id. at if 171)
Jackson alleges that his hepatitis C would have been diagnosed in time for it to have been treated
were it not for McDonald's indifference to his medical needs. (Id.)
It is not apparent on the face of the complaint that Jackson's claims are barred by the
statute of limitations. With respect to his hepatitis C, Jackson has pled he was unaware he had
contracted it until after January 2013, and there is no basis from which the Court can conclude
that a reasonable person would have discovered this before May 9, 2012. Likewise, with respect
to the remainder of the allegations, Jackson has pled he believed there was a legitimate medical
reason for the examinations, and it is alleged that Jackson trusted McDonald in performing these
procedures. Jackson has not pled actual knowledge of his injuries, and at this stage the Court
will not hold that a reasonable person would have discovered the injuries prior to May 9, 2012.
Accordingly, Jackson's claims will not be dismissed based on the statute oflimitations.
Vincent was a chronic care patient due to degenerative joint disease. (Id. at if 175) He
alleges that he saw McDonald "numerous times from 2006 until McDonald was discharged" in
January 2013, and that "McDonald fondled [his] genitals every time [he] saw McDonald." (Id. at
ifif 175-76) He also alleges that McDonald always recommended a rectal exam, but that he
declined until he heard that men approaching the age of 50 should have an exam, and he
permitted McDonald to perform one in December 2012. (Id. at if 177) Vincent alleges similar
conduct by McDonald as other Plaintiffs during this exam. (Id.) Vincent claims that "he did not
immediately realize the improper nature of McDonald's prostate examination" because he had
never had one previously. (Id. at if 178)
The conduct in December 2012 clearly falls within the statute of limitations period, as it
occurred after May 9, 2012. With respect to the conduct prior to the December 2012 visit, there
are allegations that Vincent believed there was a legitimate medical reason for the examinations,
and that McDonald told Vincent the same. The Court cannot infer that a reasonable person
would have nevertheless known about the injury. Therefore, the Court will not hold that
Vincent's claims are barred based on the statute oflimitations.
During the relevant time, Vazquez was a chronic care inmate at SCI. (Id. at if 179)
Vazquez alleges that on at least four occasions between 2008 and July 2012, he was "victimized"
by McDonald. (Id.) On the first occasion, "in approximately 2008 or 2009 ," McDonald touched
Vazquez's genitals in an allegedly inappropriate way. (Id. at if 180) In the second encounter, in
2009, McDonald did the same, and also performed an allegedly inappropriate rectal exam. (Id. at
After this examination, Vazquez alleges that he complained to Hammond, and Hammond
replied that "Vazquez had just seen 'Dr. Feel Good' and that [McDonald] makes inmates 'feel
good' before they go back to their cell" and "laughed at Vazquez." (Id. at if 182) On a
. subsequent visit, Vazquez asked a nurse for a new doctor, and when he had to see McDonald, he
limited the scope of the examination. (Id. at if 183)
Later in 2011, Vazquez was told by McDonald that McDonald needed the examination to
be performed a certain way for Vazquez to obtain treatment, and when Vazquez realized he
would not be permitted to see an outside provider, he consented. (Id. at if 185) On that occasion,
Vazquez's genitals were fondled and McDonald performed another rectal exam that was
allegedly inappropriate. (Id.) Following either the second or third incident, Vazquez filed a
grievance against McDonald, but - when sent to the hearing - was told that he "could not grieve
[that] issue because McDonald was a doctor." (Id. at if 186) The last incident was in July 2012,
when Vazquez's genitals were inappropriately touched by McDonald, and Vazquez pushed
McDonald away and yelled at him. (Id. at if 187)
The incident in July 2012 is clearly within the limitations period, as it came after May 9,
2012. However, Vazquez has specificallypled knowledge of the improper nature of the
exaininations that occurred prior to May 9, 2012. (Id. at ifif 182-86) Because the continuing
violation doctrine does not apply when a plaintiff is aware of his injury, see Montanez, 773 F .3d
at 481, Vazquez has pled facts that would bar application of the continuing violation doctrine to
these earlier events. Hence, although Vazquez's claims are not barred in whole, his claims based·
on events occurring prior to May 9, 2012 are barred by the statute of limitations. 11
Rogers suffers from asthma, allergies, and headaches, and is designated as a chronic care ·
inmate. (D.I. 20 at if 188) He was transferred to SCI in June 2011. (Id.) Within the first two
weeks of arriving at SCI, McDonald allegedly touched Rogers' genitals ''under the guise of
performing a physical examination." (Id. at if 189) He alleges that he learned from other inmates.
that this was typical but inappropriate, and that he filed a grievance, about which he was told
As noted, it is not clear which claims against which Defendants are based entirely on
Plaintiffs' interactions with McDonald. By separate order, the parties will have an opportunity to
advise the Court as to the impact of its conclusion here for each of Vazquez's claims against each
"nothing was going to happen." (Id. at if 190) He had further encounters with McDonald in
"December 2011 or January 2012" and "February or.March of 2012," during each of which
McDonald again touched Rogers' genitals. (Id. at if 191-92) On the third encounter, McDonald
recommended a rectal exam, which Rogers declined. (Id. at if 192) Rogers saw McDonald a
fourth time, in June or July of 2012, and Rogers declined an exam of his genitals by McDonald
on that occasion. (Id. at if 193) The last time Rogers saw McDonald was between September
and November 2012 for his physical, at which time McDonald again touched Rogers' genitals.
(Id. at if 195)
Rogers has pled at least some events that clearly fall within the statute of limitations
period, including the last examination in September or November 2012. (See id.) Other claims,
however, are not within the statute of limitations period. Rogers specifically has pled that he
knew McDonald's exams were inappropriate and that he filed a grievance prior to May 9, 2012.
(Id. at if 190) Because he was aware of his injuries before May 9, 2012, the continuing violation ·
doctrine does not apply. See Montanez, 773 F.3d at 481. Accordingly, although Rogers' claims
are not barred in whole, his claims arising out of events before May 9, 2012 are barred by the
statute of limitations. 12
Carrero is a chronic care inmate at SCI due to type 2 diabetes. (D .I. 20 at if 196) He
began seeing McDonald in January 2011 and had to see McDonald every three months. (Id.) At :
As noted, it is not clear which claims against which Defendants are based entirely on
Plaintiffs' interactions with McDonald. By separate order, the parties will have an opportunity to
advise the Court as to the impact of its conclusion here for each of Rogers' claims against each
Carrero' s first visit, McDonald "squeeze[ d] Carrero' s breasts" and "fondled Carrero' s testicles
and penis," stating that he was searching for lumps. (Id. at·if 197) These examinations were
. allegedly repeated every time he saw McDonald; McDonald allegedly said that type 2 diabetics
have erection problems. (Id. at if 198) Carrero claims that when he stated he was uncomfortable
with the nature of the examination, McDonald told him that he needed to cooperate. (Id. at
if 199) Carrero also claims that when he told correctional officers about his discomfort with the
nature of the examinations, he was told "that McDonald [is] a doctor and 'kn[ ows] what he [is]
doing."' (Id. at iJ 200) Carrero claims that he refused these examinations and, as a result,
McDonald took Carrero off his medication, resulting in a decline of Carrero's health, and he was
only able to begin his medication regimen again once McDonald no longer worked at SCI. (Id. at
Carrero alleges that he wrote three grievances, none of which was addressed. (Id. at
Taking all reasonable inferences in his favor, Carrero has pled some injury that occurred
after May 9, 2012 and through the time of McDonald's departure from SCI in January 2013,
namely his declining health due to refusing examinations and having medication removed.
(Id. at ii 203) Carrero has pled that he was uncomfortable with the examinations, refused them,
and eventually filed grievances, in spite of the fact that he was told that McDonald was a doctor
and that the examinations were medically necessary. Carrero has pled that he had knowledge of
injuries he sustained prior to McDonald's firing- but he has not pled that he had such knowledge
prior to May 9, 2012. The Court does not conclude that a reasonable person would have had
such knowledge prior to May 9, 2012. Therefore, the Court does not hold that Carrero's claims
are barred by the statute of limitations.
Bramble had chronic asthma and was "seen monthly by McDonald" between 2008 and
January 2013 to receive care for the condition. (Id. at if 204) He alleges that each time he visited
McDonald, McDonald insisted on performing a complete checkup, including checking his
testicles, and that there was no medical justification for this. (Id.) Bramble discovered other
inmates had similar experiences and alleges that correctional officers were making jokes about
McDonald's behavior. (Id. at if 206) He did not tell correctional or medical staff about it
because he believed they knew about it and would do nothing. (Id.) He alleges that on occasion ·
he would see other doctors, none of whom asked to check his testicles. (Id. at if 207)
Bramble has pled injury after May 9, 2012, as he alleges that he visited McDonald
monthly until January 2013, and during each of these visits McDonald checked his testicles. (See:
id. at if 204) At present, the Court cannot infer when Bramble became aware of his injury or
when a reasonable person would have discovered the injury. Accordingly, dismissal· of
Bramble's claims based on the statute oflimitations would be improper at the pleading stage.
Cox was treated as a chronic care patient approximately every 90 days between January
2009 and January 2013. (Id. at if 217) During each visit, McDonald would allegedly check Cox :
for a "hernia," despite Cox telling him his hernia had been surgically repaired in 1998 and it not
being necessary. (Id.) This procedure involved "Cox having to drop his pants and McDonald
fondling his genitals for a 'hernia."' (Id.) Cox's medical condition caused skin lesions on his
face and arms, but not anywhere near his genitals; still McDonald allegedly continued to check
Cox's genitals, claiming it was "'standard procedure' for him to check the genitals at each visit."
(Id. at if 218)
Cox has pled some conduct that clearly falls within the statute of limitations, as he has
pled events that occurred after May 9, 2012. (See id. at if 217) With respect to the earlier events,
the Court cannot hold at this stage that a reasonable person would have discovered that he was
injured prior to May 9, 2012. McDonald told Cox that it was a standard procedure, and thus
medically necessary, to perform these examinations. (See id. at if 218) Accordingly, dismissal of
Cox's claims based on the statute of limitations would be improper at this stage.
E. Garrison was diagnosed with diabetes in 2006 and began to see McDonald for chronic
care every 90 days thereafter. (Id. at if 222) E. Garrison alleges that McDonald would check for :
testicular cancer and grab E. Garrison's penis during these chronic care checkups. (Id.) He also
would allegedly perform rectal exams while the nurse was out of the room or on the other side of
the curtain. (Id.) E. Garrison alleges that Hammond knew about these examinations and joked
about how McDonald had been behaving inappropriately in examinations for years. (Id. at
He specifically remembers such statements being made on May 12 and May 13, 2014.
It is not apparent from the face of the complaint that a reasonable person would have
discovered E. Garrison's injuries prior to May 9, 2012. E. Garrison's allegations further suggest '
that, as a chronic care patient, he saw McDonald every 90 days, and, thus, he may have claims
arising out of events occurring after May 9, 2012. Accordingly, dismissal ofE. Garrison's claims
based on the statute of limitations would be improper at this stage.
M. Garrison was seen by McDonald from 2010 to 2012 every 60 to 90 days as a chronic
care patient. (Id. at if 225) These visits were "primarily to review his lab work to make sure that
his liver function tests were not elevated." (Id.) He alleges that a nurse would be present at the
start, but that McDonald would send the nurse out prior to conducting rectal exams or exams of
his genitals. (Id.) M. Garrison alleges that Hammond told him "that he was going to see 'Dr.
Feel Good' when he was going to see McDonald." (Id. at if 226) He alleges that he initially
trusted McDonald, but stopped doing so when he found out from another doctor at SCI that the
genital and rectal exams were not necessary. (Id.)
M. Garrison has pled that he became aware that these examinations were not medically
necessary- and, thus, that he was aware of his injury - at an unspecified time. (Id.) His
allegations cover the period "[f]rom 2010 through 2012." (Id. at if 225) Based on these
allegations, it is plausible that M. Garrison saw McDonald after May 9, 2012 and, likewise, it is
plausible that M. Garrison only first became aware that these examinations were not medically
necessary sometime after May 9, 2012. The Court will not infer that a reasonable person would
have known sooner. Taking all reasonable inferences in M. Garrison's favor, including that M.
Garrison saw McDonald every 60 to 90 days through 2012, the statute oflimitations defense is
not apparent on the face of the complaint. Accordingly, dismissal based on the statute of
limitations would be improper at this stage.
Hurst met with McDonald multiple times in 2012 or early 2013 to review the results of
his blood work. (Id. at if 227) On one occasion, McDonald asked Hurst to pull down his pants,
and McDonald touched his genitals. (Id.) On another occasion, McDonald insisted on a rectal
exam. (Id.) In neither case did Hurst believe there was a medical justification for those exams.
Hurst has pled sexual assault by McDonald "in 2012 or early 2013." (Id.) Although he
has pled that he did not believe there was a medical justification - and, thus, that he had
knowledge of the injury he suffered - it is plausible based on the pleadings that his knowledge
arose only after May 9, 2012. Further, it is plausible based on reasonable inferences in the
Amended Complaint that he had encounters with McDonald after May 9, 2012. The Court will
not infer that a reasonable person would have known of his injury sooner. Accordingly,
dismissal based on the statute of limitations would be improper at this stage.
Jolly alleges that McDonald performed rectal exams on him _"several years ago." (Id. at
He alleges that during one examination McDonald "ma[ de] a 'weird sound like a moan,"',
"grabbed [folly's] penis," and that McDonald's face was "near· [folly's] penis" and McDonald
"asked Jolly 'how's that feel?"' (Id.) After this, Jolly was hesitant to get treatment. (Id.) He
alleges that prior to the last incident with McDonald, there was a nurse present whom McDonald
asked to leave before the exam. (Id. at if 233) He alleges that he heard comments about
McDonald and "believes that everyone has known for years what McDonald was doing and it
almost became an ongoing bad joke in the prison." (Id. at if 232)
Jolly almost entirely fails to plead when the events giving rise to his claims occurred,
which is unhelpful. See generally Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 353 (3d Cir. 2005) ("[A]
civil rights complaint is adequate where it states the conduct, time, place, and persons
responsible."). However, taking all reasonable inferences in his favor, the appointments with
McDonald that occurred "several years" before the 2014 filing of the Complaint may have
occurred after May 9, 2012, and Jolly may not have been aware of the injurious nature of
McDonald's conduct before May 9, 2012. Accordingly, the Court will not dismiss Jolly's claims
based on the statute of limitations at this stage.
Between 2008 and 2012, Lewis regularly received medical care from McDonald for
chronic conditions. (D.I. 20 at if 234) He alleges that no matter what the reason for the visit,
McDonald would make Lewis drop his pants and fondle his genitals for 10-15 seconds, asking
Lewis how it felt, and on one occasion asking if Lewis liked it. (Id. at if 235) Allegedly,
McDonald would always send the nurse out before making Lewis drop his pants. (Id.) Lewis,
like other Plaintiffs, alleges that he witnessed Hammond taunting inmates, and he believed "that
everyone at SCI knew what was going on with McDonald but would not do anything about it."
(Id. at if 236) He alleges that when he tried to file a grievance, it was sent back as being about an
issue that was non-grievable, like most grievances about staff members at SCI. (Id. at if 237)
Although Lewis has not specifically pled any events after May 9, 2012, and although he
has pled that he was aware at some point he had been injured, the Complaint does not clearly
show that Lewis became aware of his injuries before May 9, 2012. Based on the period at issue
in Lewis' allegations, the Court cannot say that Lewis' claims are barred at the pleading stage by
the statute of limitations.
Weldin alleges that in August 2011 he was taken from his cell for a check-up with
McDonald. (Id. at if 240) He alleges that he was "nervous because he had heard McDonald
referred to as 'Dr. McGraby' or 'Dr. McFeely' from other inmates and staff." (Id.) He alleges
that during his checkup, McDonald fondled him and made him cough several times. (Id.) He
also alleges that he "wanted to refuse but feared being sprayed or beaten by correctional staff if
he did" (id.), and that he "was under the care of mental health in August 2011, and in his mental
state at the time he accepted what happened to him as being part of his punishment" (id. at
Based on Weldin' s allegations, the statute of limitations defense is apparent on the face of
the complaint. He alleges only one examination with McDonald, in August 2011, and alleges
that he knew of the improper nature of the examination and wanted to refuse at the time it
occurred. Thus, the discovery rule does not save his otherwise untimely claim, because August
2011 is more than two years before the original complaint was filed. Accordingly, Weldin's
claims based on this encounter will be dismissed. 13
Woolford alleges that during his time at SCI, McDonald made clear that Woolford was to
see only him and no other provider. (Id. at if 243) He alleges that he saw McDonald at least
every 90 days for a chronic condition and, at each visit, McDonald "'check[ ed] out' his genitals,"
without using gloves. (Id.) He alleges that he observed and experienced ridicule, and that
correctional officers would pick out inmates and make jokes about McDonald's examinations of
As noted, it is not clear which claims against which Defendants are based entirely on
Plaintiffs' interactions with McDonald. By separate order, the parties will have an opportunity to
advise the Court as to the impact of its conclusion here for each ofWeldin's claims against each
them. (Id. at 'ii 244)
Woolford almost entirely fails to plead when the facts giving rise to his claims occurred,
which is unhelpful. However, it may be that he was at SCI and treated by McDonald at a time
within the statute of limitations. Thus, the Court will not dismiss his claims at this stage based
on the statute of limitations.
Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
The PLRA provides that "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions
under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail,
prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are
exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); see also Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002) ("[T]he
PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they
involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or
some other wrong."). Because an inmate's failure to exhaust under PLRA is an affirmative
defense, the inmate is not required to specially plead or demonstrate exhaustion in his complaint.
See Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 216 (2007). Instead, "failure to exhaust is an affirmative
defense to be pleaded by the defendant." Ray v. Kertes, 285 F.3d 287, 295 (3d Cir. 2002).
Under§ 1997e(a), "an inmate must exhaust [administrative remedies] irrespective of the
forms of relief sought and offered through administrative avenues." Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S.
731, 741 n.6 (2001). Exhaustion means proper exhaustion; that is, "a prisoner must complete the
administrative review process in accordance with the applicable procedural rules, including
deadlines, as a precondition to bringing suit in federal court." Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 88
(2006). Perfect overlap between the grievance and a complaint is not required, as long as there is
a shared factual basis between the two. See Jackson v. Ivens, 244 F. App'x 508, 513 (3d Cir.
2007) (citing Woodford, 548 U.S. at 95 ("The benefits of exhaustion can be realized only if the
prison grievance system is given a fair opportunity to consider the grievance.")).
Exhaustion of administrative remedies is raised as a defense to claims asserted by all
Plaintiffs other than Barrett, whom the moving Defendants concede has sufficiently pled
exhaustion and should withstand the motion to dismiss. (D.I. 25 at 10-12) The Court will not
address exhaustion with respect to Plaintiffs whose claims are otherwise being dismissed .
. Therefore, the Court's discussion of exhaustion is limited to Plaintiffs Medley,_ Talmo, Brown,
Jackson, Vincent, Vazquez, Rogers, Carrero, Bramble, Cox, E. Garrison, M. Garrison, Hurst,
Jolly, Lewis, Woolford, and Fox (against whom no statute of limitations defense is alleged).
Although Talmo, M. Garrison, and Woolford present unique factual issues, the remainder
of the Plaintiffs fall into two groups raising substantially similar factual and legal issues, at least
at this stage. The members of the first group, consisting of Vazquez, Rogers, Carrero, Hurst, and
Lewis, each allege that they filed a grievance against McDonald but that it was sent back as nongrievable or that no action was taken on their grievances. The members of the second group,
consisting of Medley, Brown, Jackson, Vincent, Bramble, Cox, E. Garrison, Jolly, and Fox, each
allege a fear of retaliation.
Vazquez, Rogers, Carrero, Hurst, and Lewis
Vazquez, Rogers, Carrero, Hurst, and Lewis all generally allege that they filed grievances
related to McDonald's examinations. (Id. at ifif 186, 190, 202, 228, 237) Vazquez, Rogers, and
Lewis allege that after they filed their grievances, they were told that the issues with McDonald
could not be grieved. (Id. at ifif 186, 190, 237) Carrero and Hurst allege that they filed
grievances but received no response. (Id. at ifif 202, 228)
Availability of remedies, although ultimately a question of law, necessarily requires a
factual inquiry. See Small v. Camden Cnty., 728 F.3d 265, 271 (3d Cir. 2013). Each of these
five Plaintiffs raises questions about the availability of the grievance process or whether the
process has been complied with by SCI officials. "If prison authorities thwart the inmate's
efforts to pursue the grievance, administrative remedies may be presumed exhausted, as no
further remedies are 'available' to him." Abraham v. Costello, 717 F. Supp. 2d 391, 395 (D. Del.
2010) (citing Brown v. Croak, 312 F.3d 109, 112-13 (3d Cir. 2002)). Vazquez, Rogers, and
Lewis all clearly pled that their attempts to use the grievance process were thwarted, which is
sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss.
Carrero and Hurst, too, have pled facts sufficient to survive the motion to dismiss. The
Third Circuit has recognized that filing a grievance and receiving no response may be sufficient
to exhaust available remedies. See Small, 728 F.3d at 273. Such a failure to respond can be a
thwarting of the grievance process, rendering the process unavailable. See id. Here, Carrero and
Hurst have pled that they attempted to make use of the grievance process without receiving any
response. Hence, Carrero and Hurst have pled sufficient facts to survive Defendants' motion to
dismiss for failure to· exhaust.
Medley, Brown, Jackson, Vincent,
Bramble, Cox, E. Garrison, Jolly, and Fox
Medley, Brown, Jackson, Vincent, Bramble, Cox, E. Garrison, Jolly, and Fox pled that
they feared retaliation if they filed a grievance against McDonald. (D.I. 20 at ifif 120, 136, 172,
178, 208, 219, 224, 231 247) Plaintiffs also generally pled that grievances are leaked, leading to
harassment against those who file a grievance. (Id. at if 56) Plaintiffs also generally pled that
they have witnessed harassment and retaliation against inmates who complain about prison staff.
(Id. at if 68) Medley alleges that "[i]n his experience medical staff treated pain medication like it
was a privilege and had reduced the pain medication he had been on for two years after
he filed medical grievances requesting radiology studies on his neck." (Id. at if 120(c)) Brown
alleges that he "feared repercussion because he had heard that Defendant G .R. Johnson was
romantically involved with a nurse at SCI who was usually present when McDonald was
working." (Id. at if 136) Jackson specifically alleges that he was aware ofretaliation against
other inmates. (Id. at if 172) Bramble alleges that he had been retaliated against for a prior
incident which led to a correctional officer being fired. (Id. at if 209) Jolly alleges that he had
once been moved to lockup for filing a grievance. (Id. at if 231) Fox alleges that he had been
beaten by an officer for no reason, which caused his fear ofretaliation. (Id. at iii! 245, 247)
The Third Circuit has never squarely addressed in a precedential opinion whether fear of
retaliation for pursuing a grievance excuses failure to exhaust. In a non-precedential opinion, the
Third Circuit vacated a district court's dismissal of such a case. See Verbanik v. Harlow, 441 F.
App'x 931, 933 (3d Cir. 2011 ). Arguably contrary non-precedential opinions, however, indicate
that fear ofretaliation does not excuse failure to exhaust. See Pena-Ruiz v. Solorzano, 281 F.
App'x 110, 112 (3d Cir. 2008). At this point, the Court will not hold that fear ofretaliation is not
a valid excuse for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
To the extent that Defendants are arguing that actual retaliation following filing a
grievance is necessary, rather than simply a legitimate fear of retaliation that deters filing of a
grievance (see Tr. at 24-25), the Court is unpersuaded. As the Third Circuit stated in Verbanik,
"[ o]ther courts of appeals have concluded that retaliation or threats of retaliation against an
inmate for pursuing a grievance may make administrative remedies unavailable to the inmate."
441 F. App'x at 933 (citing Turner v. Burnside, 541F.3d1077, 1084 (11th Cir. 2008); Kaba v.
Stepp, 458 F.3d 678, 684-86 (7th Cir. 2006); Hemphill v. New York, 380 F.3d 680, 686-87 (2d
Cir. 2004)); see also Tucke/ v. Grover, 660 F.3d 1249, 1252-53 (11th Cir. 2011). Thus, threats of
retaliation, and not just actual retaliation, may be sufficient to excuse exhaustion.
Each member of this group of Plaintiffs alleges that his fear of retaliation was the reason
he did not file a grievance against McDonald. Although the Amended Complaint is lacking in
details about precisely what each Plaintiff knew, it alleges that inmates were generally aware of
retaliation against those who filed grievances. (D.I. 20 at ifif 56, 68) The pleadings provide ·
sufficient facts supporting a fear of retaliation to survive dismissal at this stage. There are
enough facts alleged to suggest that "a 'similarly situated individual of ordinary firmness' would
have deemed the grievance procedures [not] to be available." Verbanik, 441 F. App'x at 933
(quoting Hemphill, 380 F.3d at 688). Likewise, the facts alleged are sufficient at this stage to
show that the fear of retaliation actually did deter these plaintiffs from filing a grievance. See
Tucke/, 660 F.3d at 1254. Thus, Plaintiffs have pled facts that satisfy the tests that have been
stated for whether retaliation renders administrative remedies unavailable.
Talmo alleges that he initially did not report McDonald because he was afraid his pain
medication would be taken away as a retaliatory punishment. (D.I. 20 at if 130) However, he
eventually spoke to a nurse about the sexual assaults, as well as to a member of the mental health
staff. (Id.) He alleges that no action was taken in response to these reports. (Id.) 14
Talmo pleads seemingly inconsistent facts related to his failure to exhaust. On the one
hand, he alleges that he did not file a grievance due to fear of retaliation, but on the other hand he.
alleges that he reported McDonald to SCI medical staff. (Id. at if 130) His allegations of fear of '
retaliation appear to be contradicted by his allegations that he ultimately made complaints about
Two tests are potentially applicable to determining whether Talmo's fear of retaliation is
sufficient to render administrative remedies unavailable. The Second and Seventh Circuits have :
relied on the test set out in Hemphill, an objective inquiry asking whether "the threat or
intimidation would deter a reasonable inmate of ordinary firmness and fortitude from lodging a
grievance." Tucke!, 660 F.3d at 1254; see also Kaba, 458 F.3d at 684; Hemphill, 380 F.3d at
688. The Tenth and Eleventh Circuits have utilized a two-part test. Under this test, finding that
fear of retaliation excuses failure to exhaust administrative remedies requires satisfying the
objective test from Hemphill, and further showing "that the threat or intimidation actually did
deter the plaintiff inmate from lodging a grievance or pursuing a particular part of the prison
administrative process." Tucke!, 660 F.3d at 1254; see also Turner, 541 F.3d at 1085.
Here, although Talmo alleges that he had an objective fear of retaliation, he specifically
pleads that he was not deterred from making complaints, albeit his complaints were made outside
of the formal grievance process. (D.I. 20 at if 130) Thus, if only the objective inquiry applied,
Talmo might be excused from properly exhausting the grievance process, due to an objective
reason to fear retaliation. However, applying the standard from the Tenth and Eleventh Circuits,
Talmo also alleges that he has a fear of retaliation for joining this lawsuit. (Id. at if 132)
Talmo' s claims might be barred for failure to exhaust his remedies, as Talmo was not
subjectively deterred from complaining about McDonald's conduct. (Id.; see also Tucke!, 660
F .3d at 1254) Under the circumstances, recognizing that the Court cannot make factual
determinations at this stage, and given the unsettled nature of the law, the Court will not dismiss
Talmo' s claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
M. Garrison and Woolford
M. Garrison and Woolford allege no specific facts related to exhaustion of administrative ;
remedies or a reason for why they failed to do so. (D.I. 20 at
225-26) Ultimately, as the
Supreme Court has recognized, failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense, and a plaintiff is not
required to specially plead or demonstrate exhaustion in his or her complaint. See Jones, 549
U.S. at 219. Exhaustion of remedies is a factual inquiry, and it is Defendants' burden to prove
failure to exhaust. Small, 728 F.3d at 271. There is no basis to find at this stage that M.
Garrison's or Woolford's claims are barred for failure to exhaust and, accordingly, they will not
be dismissed on this basis.
Lack of Personal Involvement by State Defendants
The State Defendants argue that Plaintiffs have failed to allege the necessary personal
involvement required to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (D.I. 25 at 13-17) "A defendant
in a civil rights action must have personal involvement in the alleged wrongs; liability cannot be :
predicated solely on the operation of respondeat superior." Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d
1195, 1207 (3d Cir~ 1988) (internal citations omitted). "Personal involvement can be shown
through allegations of personal direction or of actual knowledge and acquiescence. Allegations
of participation or actual knowledge and acquiescence, however, must be made with appropriate
particularity." Id. (internal citations omitted).
The Third Circuit has established a four-part test for determining supervisor liability for
an Eighth Amendment violation based on deliberate indifference:
To hold a supervisor liable for such an Eighth Amendment
violation, the plaintiff must identify a supervisory policy or
procedure that the supervisor defendant failed to implement,
and prove that: (1) the policy or procedures in effect at the time
of the alleged injury created an unreasonable risk of a constitutional
violation; (2) the defendant-official was aware that the policy
created an unreasonable risk; (3) the defendant was indifferent
to that risk; and (4) the constitutional injury was caused by the
failure to implement the supervisory procedure.
Barkes v. First Corr. Med., Inc., 766 F.3d 307, 330 (3d Cir. 2014) (internal citation omitted),
vacated on other grounds by Taylor v. Barkes, 135 S. Ct. 2042 (2015). Alternatively, "a
supervisor may be personally liable under§ 1983 ifhe or she participated in violating the
plaintiffs rights, directed others to violate them, or, as the person in charge, had knowledge of
and acquiesced in the subordinate's unconstitutional conduct." Id. (internal quotation marks and:
citation omitted). 15
Defendant Johnson is alleged to have been the warden, deputy warden, security
superintendent, a captain, or a staff lieutenant at all pertinent times. (D.I. 20 at if 38) It is alleged
that as warden, deputy warden, or security superintendent, "[a]ll grievances at some point in the
process would come to him" and "[h]e would have known from these grievances that allegations;
were being made that McDonald was sexually assaulting inmates." (Id.) It is further alleged that:
Defendants contended at oral argument that the Supreme Court's decision in Iqbal
ended supervisory liability for an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim. However,
the Third Circuit addressed this issue in Barkes and concluded that its previous jurisprudence
survived Iqbal. See generally Barkes, 766 F.3d at "316-25.
he also had to attend the special needs unit meeting every Wednesday while he was the warden,
and "[i]t is likely that at some of these meetings the accusations against McDonald would have
been discussed." (Id.)
Defendant Valentino is alleged to have been a major, security superintendent, or deputy
warden, and further that most grievances at some point during the process would come to her in
those roles. (Id. at if 39)
There are no such allegations about Defendant Hammond having a supervisory role. It is
alleged only that he was a correctional officer. (Id. at if 42)
It is further alleged that for six years, Defendants Johnson and Valentino "ignored or
denied and suppressed complaints about McDonald." (Id. at if 69) This period includes prior
litigation in .this Court against McDonald (though not against any of the other named State
Defendants). 16 (Id.; see also id. at ifif 70-81 (describing priorlitigation)) 17 It is alleged that
despite these accusations, in 2006, Johnson and Valentino "took no precautionary steps to
prevent sexual abuse of inmates by a doctor in McDonald's position of power over inmates."
Plaintiffs also include allegations related to abuse at other prisons or by other physicians
in Delaware, none of which involve McDonald, Johnson, or Valentino. (D.I. 20 at ifif 53-89)
This is· alleged to be a part of an "ongoing history'' by the Department of Corrections to "fail to
investigate and take action when inmates suffer sexual abuse at the hands of DOC staff and
medical staff." (Id. at if 90)
In this prior suit, this Court granted summary judgment to McDonald on the section
1983 claims, a decision later affirmed by the Third Circuit. See generally Roten v. McDonald,
2009 WL 4348367 (D. Del. Nov. 30, 2009), aff'd, 394 F. App'x 836 (3d Cir. 2010). These
decisions were based at least in part based on the Courts' understanding that "the SCI inmates'
allegations of sexual misconduct were investigated by DOC Internal Affairs, reviewed by the
Medical Society of Delaware, and determined to be 'unfounded,"' Roten, 394 F. App'x at 840,
although Plaintiffs now allege that "[r]ecently the Delaware Board of Medical Practice issued a
statement in which the Board denied ever receiving or investigating a complaint about
McDonald" (D.I. 20 at if 79).
(Id. at if 82) Plaintiffs allege that Johnson and Valentino were involved in a "cover up of the
abuse" by McDonald. (Id. at if 90) With respect to Hammond, there are numerous allegations of.
his awareness of McDonald's abuses based on conversations with Plaintiffs. (E.g., id. at ifif 113,
Given all of these allegations, the Court concludes that Plaintiffs have failed to
adequately allege facts sufficient to hold Hammond liable under§ 1983 for McDonald's alleged
abuse, because there are no allegations of Hammond's personal involvement or supervisory role.:
There are numerous allegations of Hammond's awareness of the alleged abuses, but this is
insufficient to plead personal involvement. See Barkes, 766 F.3d at 330. 18 Accordingly, the
allegations against Hammond fail to state a claim on which relief can be granted under 42 U.S.C. i
With respect to Johnson and Valentino, Plaintiffs essentially concede that there are no
allegations of actual knowledge by either supervisor. (D.I. 28 at 15) Instead, Plaintiffs argue that
"[ d]espite their attempts to behave as ostriches, it is reasonable to assume these complaints
reached Johnson and Valentino." (Id.) Plaintiffs' primary argument is that "it is hard to imagine;
that all of the talk about McDonald went on for years yet the warden and deputy warden knew
nothing about it." (Id.) However, as the Third Circuit explained in Barkes, 766 F.3d at 322-23,
the subjective knowledge of the supervisor is a critical factor, although it is one that may
typically be provable only by circumstantial evidence.
The Court concludes that Plaintiffs have not sufficiently pled facts.to support a plausible .
Plaintiffs conceded at oral argument that Hammond had no supervisory role, and could
only articulate that he was liable for failure to report, an argument that they had not raised in the
briefing. (Tr. at 40)
allegation that Johnson or Valentino had actual knowledge of McDonald's alleged abuses. The
prior litigation cited by Plaintiffs did not name Johnson or Valentino, and it is not alleged that
Johnson or Valentino ever saw any of the grievances that were filed until after Barrett's
grievance was successful and McDonald was fired. (See D.I. 20 at if 100) It is not alleged that
any complaints about McDonald actually reached Valentino and Johnson, merely that it is
reasonable to believe that they would have been aware of such complaints.
Without further factual allegations, Plaintiffs complaint "stops short of the line between ,
possibility and plausibility'' with respect to Johnson and Valentino's personal involvement.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557. Accordingly, the allegations against Johnson and Valentino fail to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted under§ 1983.
Immunity for State Defendants Under Delaware's Tort Claims Act
The State Defendants argue that Plaintiffs have failed to plead sufficient facts to
overcome the immunity provided under Delaware's Tort Claims Act for the negligent
supervision claims against Johnson and Valentino. Under Delaware's Tort Claims Act, there can!
be no claim for relief where the act was done without gross or wanton negligence. See 10 Del. C.:
§ 4001(3). "Gross negligence is a higher level of negligence representing an extreme departure
from the ordinary standard of care." Browne v. Robb, 583 A.2d 949 (Del. 1990) (internal
quotation marks omitted). The Delaware Supreme Court has called gross negligence the
"functional equivalent" of criminal negligence. Jardel Co., Inc. v. Hughes, 523 A.2d 518, 530
(Del. 1987); see also Morales v. Family Founds. Acad., Inc. Sch., 2013 WL 3337798, at *2 (Del.,
Super. Ct. June 11, 2013). "Gross negligence exists when 'a person fails to perceive a risk of
such a nature and degree that failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard
of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation."' Id. (quoting 11 Del. C. §
23 l(a)). "For [a] defendant's conduct to be found wilful or wanton the conduct must reflect a
'conscious indifference' or 'I don't care' attitude." Cloroben Chem. Corp. v. Comegys, 464 A.2d:
887, 891 (Del. 1983). Generally, the issue of whether facts and circumstances amount to willful
conduct or gross negligence is a question for the finder of fact. See Eustice v. Rupert, 460 A.2d
507, 509 (Del. 1983). Nevertheless, "[i]t is a matter oflaw when the conduct in question falls
short of gross negligence, the case is entirely free from doubt, and no reasonable jury could find
gross negligence." Midland Red Oak Realty, Inc. v. Friedman, Billings & Ramsey & Co., Inc.,
2005 WL 445710, at *4 (Del. Super. Ct. Feb. 23, 2005) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Based on the factual allegations, the Court cannot dismiss the negligent supervision
claims against Johnson or Valentino.
Unlike a§ 1983 claim for deliberate indifference to
medical needs, which requires actual awareness of a risk, gross negligence can arise due to a
failure to perceive a risk of such a nature and degree that failure to perceive it constitutes a gross
deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.
The facts alleged against Johnson and Valentino could support gross negligence, as they
plausibly suggest that Johnson and Valentino- by failing to become aware of McDonald's
abuses and failing to remove him-were negligent in their oversight of McDonald. (See D.I. 20 ·
at ifif 271, 279)
Accordingly, the negligent supervision claims against Johnson and Valentino will not be
Plaintiffs do not assert a claim for negligent supervision against Hammond, only claims
for negligent and intentional infliction emotional distress. (D.I. 61 at 2; D.I. 62 at 2) No party
addressed the emotional distress claims against Hammond in the briefing and the Court will not
do so here.
dismissed based on Delaware's Tort Claims Act.
Conspiracy by State Defendants
Johnson and Valentino allege that Plaintiffs have failed to adequately plead a civil
conspiracy claim under Delaware law. 20 (D.I. 25 at 19-20) Although the State Defendants focus
on civil conspiracy under state law, Plaintiffs indicated (after the briefing) that their claim for a
conspiracy arises under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3). (D.I. 61 at 2; D.I. 62 at 2) Despite the differing
requirements for civil conspiracy under Delaware law and a civil rights conspiracy under§ 1985,
there is significant overlap between the elements of the two claims. Namely, both claims require
that there be: (1) a conspiracy, that is, an agreement to commit an unlawful act; (2) an act in
furtherance of the conspiracy; and (3) damages resulting from the conspiracy. Compare Fabber
v. City ofPaterson, 440 F.3d 131, 134 (3d Cir. 2006) (§ 1985(3) conspiracy) withAeroG!obal
Capital Mgmt., LLC. v. Cirrus Indus., Inc., 871A.2d428, 437 n.8 (Del. 2005) (civil
conspiracy). 21 Thus, because certain of the State Defendants' arguments apply equally to a
§ 1985(3) conspiracy, the Court will address them here.
Under Third Circuit precedent, "the allegations of conspiracy must be grounded firmly in
facts; they cannot be conclusory nor can they hinge on bare suspicions and foundationless
speculation." Simonton v. Tennis, 437 F. App'x 60, 63 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Young v. Kann, 926
F.2d 1396, 1405 n.16 (3d Cir. 1991)). Here, Plaintiffs' allegations of an agreement are
Plaintiffs do not respond to this argument in opposition to the State Defendants' motion.
to dismiss. (See generally D.I. 28)
Unlike a civil conspiracy under Delaware law, a civil rights conspiracy under§ 1985(3)
must be "for the purpose of depriving, either directly or indirectly, any person or class of persons
of the equal protection of the laws, or of equal privileges and immunities under the laws."
Fabber, 440 F.3d at 134 (quoting§ 1985(3)).
conclusory and based on foundationless speculation. Plaintiffs allege that Mosser, Johnson, and
Valentino "ignored or denied and suppressed complaints about McDonald" for six years. (D.I.
20 at if 69) They essentially plead parallel wrongdoing by Mosser, Johnson, and Valentino, but
do not plausibly allege an agreement among them and McDonald. (Id. at irir 254-58, 267-85)
There are no allegations relating to Johnson and Valentino's wrongdoing except that their roles
gave them responsibility over the grievance process and over McDonald. (Id. at ifif 267-85)
These allegations are inadequate. Accord Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-57 (explaining, in context of
Sherman Act, that "when allegations of parallel conduct are set out ... , they must be placed in a
context that raises a suggestion of a preceding agreement, not merely parallel conduct that could
just as well be independent action").
Accordingly, Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim for a § 1985(3) conspiracy by Johnson
Conspiracy by Connections Defendants
The Connections Defendants argue that Plaintiffs have failed to adequately plead a
conspiracy between Fabber and other Defendants. (D.I. 45 at ifif 18-21) Although this claim was
included in the Amended Complaint (D.I. 20 at if 318), Plaintiffs did not include it in their chart
of claims (D.I. 61 at 2), and counsel for Plaintiffs confirmed at oral argument it was being
withdrawn, as it was apparently added to the Amended Complaint by mistake (Tr. at 63).
Accordingly, the Court will dismiss the conspiracy claim against Fabber and Connections.
First Amendment Retaliation by the Connections Defendants
The Connections Defendants also argue that Plaintiffs Schultz and Jackson fail to state a
retaliation claim against Fabber. (D.I. 45 at ifif 23-25) The alleged retaliation by Fabber is a
single instance of verbal harassment, during which another Defendant was harassing two
Plaintiffs about the lawsuit. (D.I. 20 at ifif 143-44) Fabber allegedly
joined in the discussion ... [and] made much of the fact that he
needed soap to wash his hands. After washing his hands, he stuck
out his pointer and middle fingers on one hand and started
thrusting them back and forth in the air as though to simulate one
of the rectal exams performed by McDonald.
(Id. at if 145)
In order to prove a retaliation claim under the First Amendment, a plaintiff must show,
inter alia, that a defendant's actions were sufficiently adverse to deter a person of ordinary
firmness from engaging in the protected activity. See Rauser v. Horn, 241F.3d330, 333 (3d Cir.!
2001). As the Third Circuit has recognized, "verbal threats and [a] few gestures of ...
harassment" are not sufficiently adverse to support a retaliation claim. Dunbar v. Barone, 487 F. ~
App'x 721, 723 (3d Cir. 2012); see also Miller v. Coning, 2014 WL 808023, at *13 (D. Del. Feb.:
28, 2014) (citing cases), report and recommendation adopted, 2014 WL 3896605 (Aug. 7, 2014)!
All that Plaintiffs have alleged is verbal harassment by Fabber, which here is not sufficiently
adverse to deter a person of ordinary firmness from exercising his constitutional rights.
Accordingly, Plaintiffs' § 1983 claim for retaliation against the Connections Defendants
will be dismissed. 22
Claims for Emotional Distress against Connections Defendants
In their answering brief, Plaintiffs argued that they had stated a claim for intentional
infliction of emotional distress. The Connections Defendants had not challenged this claim in
Because the Court has dismissed the federal claims against the Connections Defendants,
the Court need not address their argument that they did not act under color of state law.
their opening brief, and only first addressed it in their reply brief. Although ordinarily the Court
does not consider arguments first raised in a reply brief, see Leeseberg v. Converted Organics
Inc., 2010 WL 4878380, at *2 n.2 (D. Del. Nov. 22, 2010); D. Del. LR 7.l.3(c)(2), the
Connections Defendants assert that they were not on notice of this claim until after Plaintiffs
responded to their motion. Because this issue was ultimately raised and argued by both the
Connections Defendants and Plaintiffs, the Court will - in the interests of judicial economy address it.
Under Delaware law, a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress arises when
"[ o]ne who by extreme and outrageous conduct intentionally or recklessly causes severe
emotional distress to another." Fanean v. Rite Aid Corp. ofDel., Inc., 984 A.2d 812, 817 (Del.
Super. 2009) (quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts§ 46). The Amended Complaint fails to
allege that Schultz or Jackson suffered any emotional distress due to Fabber's actions, let alone
emotional distress that was so severe as to be extreme or outrageous. (See D.I. 20 at ,-r,-r 145-49)
Accordingly, Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
See Tani v. FPL/Next Era Energy, 811 F. Supp. 2d 1004, 1024 (D. Del. 2011).
Plaintiffs have also failed to plead a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress
against the Connections Defendants. Under Delaware law, a claim for negligent infliction of
emotional distress requires: "(1) negligent conduct that proximately causes emotional distress;
and (2) the emotional distress is accompanied by non-transitory, recurring physical phenomena."
Greene v. U.S. Postal Serv., 462 F. Supp. 2d 578, 580 (D. Del. 2006) (citing Lupo v. Med. Ctr. of
Del., Inc., 1996 WL 111132, at *3 (Del. Super. Feb. 7, 1996)). Plaintiffs have failed to plead any
physical injury to Schultz or Jackson that resulted from Fabber's actions. (See D.I. 20 at ,-r,-r 14344
Accordingly, Plaintiffs have failed to plead a claim of intentional or negligent infliction
of emotional distress.
For the foregoing reasons, the State Defendants' and the CCS Defendants' motions to
dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part, and the Connections Defendants' motion for
judgment on the pleadings will be granted. An appropriate Order follows.
23 Plaintiffs have also admitted that they did not specifically plead negligent infliction of
emotional distress, but argued that this claim was implicitly included in the Complaint under a
theory akin to a "lesser included offense" in criminal law. (Tr. at 62)
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