Shabazz v. Delaware Department of Corrections et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION regarding Motion to Dismiss (D.I. 28 ). Signed by Judge Richard G. Andrews on 11/27/2017. (nms)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
Civil Action No. 16-570-RGA
CONNECTIONS COMMUNITY SUPPORT
PROGRAMS, INC., et. al.,
Joanna J. Cline, Esq., PEPPER HAMILTON LLP, Wilmington, DE; Christopher B. Chuff, Esq.,
PEPPER HAMILTON LLP, Wilmington, DE; Laurence Z. Sheikman, Esq., PEPPER
HAMILTON LLP, Philadelphia, PA; Renee C. Manson, Esq., PEPPER HAMILTON LLP,
Philadelphia, PA; Craig G. Steen, Esq., PEPPER HAMILTON LLP, Philadelphia, PA.
Attorneys for Plaintiff
Dana Spring Monzo, Esq., WHITE AND WILLIAMS LLP, Wilmington, DE; Randall S.
MacTough, Esq., WHITE AND WILLIAMS LLP, Wilmington, DE.
Attorneys for Defendant Connections Community Support Programs, Inc.
Presently before the Court is Defendant Connections Community Support Programs'
Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. (D.I. 28). The motion has been fully briefed
(D.1. 29, 35 & 41). For the reasons set forth herein, the Defendant's motion is granted and
Plaintiff is granted leave to file a Third Amended Complaint.
Plaintiff Abdul-Haqq Shabazz filed his complaint prose on June 30, 2016. (D.1. 2).
After being appointed counsel, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint on April 7, 2017 (D.I.
22) and a Second Amended Complaint on May 12, 2017 (D.1. 27). The Second Amended
Complaint alleges that Defendant Connections Community Support Programs, Inc. violated the
Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that
Defendant, a medical contractor for the Delaware Department of Corrections ("DDOC"), has
been deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical needs by denying treatment for
Plaintiff's glaucoma, not providing Plaintiff with adequate eyeglasses or orthopaedic shoes, and
not providing information about Plaintiff's medications as it relates to individuals with glaucoma
and cataracts. (D.1. 27, if 2).
Plaintiff's allegations lack sufficient detail about a particular policy, practice, or custom
maintained by Defendant that caused Plaintiff's injury. Plaintiff's allegations do not support a
constitutional claim against Defendant Connections.
When reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6), the Court must accept the complaint's factual allegations as true. See Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). Rule 8(a) requires "a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Id. at 555. The factual allegations do not
have to be detailed, but they must provide more than labels, conclusions, or a "formulaic
recitation" of the claim elements. Id. ("Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level ... on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint
are true (even if doubtful in fact)."). Moreover, there must be sufficient factual matter to state a
facially plausible claim to relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The facial
plausibility standard is satisfied when the complaint's factual content "allows the court to draw
the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." 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."). Finally, the Supreme Court
has stated that a "threadbare recital of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere
conclusory statements," is not enough for the court to accept those allegations as true. Id.
Plaintiff alleges two theories against Defendant. First, Plaintiff contends that Defendant
Connections has "refus[ ed] to provide [Plaintiff] with any form of meaningful treatment,
constitut[ing] deliberate indifference to [Plaintiff's] known and objectively serious medical
needs, thereby violating his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual
punishment." (D.I. 27, ii 79). Second, Plaintiff argues that Defendant Connections has
"implemented an institutional policy, custom and/or practice under which [Plaintiff] has been
knowingly and continuously deprived of necessary and appropriate treatment for his serious
medical needs ... evidenced by the continued denial of minimally adequate care to [Plaintiff] over
the course of more than a decade, despite repeated requests for treatment from [Plaintiff] and his
doctors." (Id. at ii 2).
Plaintiff maintains that Defendant, "at all times relevant to [the] complaint," has acted
under color of state law through the contract with the DDOC. (Id. at if 12). The majority of
Plaintiff's complaint focuses on the years between 2000 and early 2014. (Id. at ifif 13-46).
However, Defendant's contract with the DDOC did not go into effect until June 1, 2014. (Id. at
While the Plaintiff has a long history with the DDOC, most of the alleged mistreatment,
including the several unsuccessful surgeries claimed by Plaintiff, occurred before Defendant
became the medical care contractor for the DDOC. (Id. at ifif 24-46).
The Supreme Court has held that "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of
prisoners constitutes the 'unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain' proscribed by the Eighth
Amendment." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). However, not "every claim by a
prisoner that he has not received adequate medical treatment states a violation of the Eighth
Amendment." Id. at 105. Furthermore, a "mere disagreement" with the form of treatment is not
sufficient to state a claim for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. Pearson v.
Prison Health Servs., 850 F.3d 526, 535 (3d Cir. 2017).
Here, Plaintiff refers to several examples of his alleged mistreatment, including not
being provided with glare-resistant eyeglasses, orthopaedic shoes to help with imbalance
problems, or information about his medications as it relates to individuals with glaucoma and
cataracts. (D.I. 27, ifif 53(a)-(c)). Defendant argues that these examples amount to "dispute[s]
over the adequacy of the care." (D.I. 29, p.8). Additionally, Defendant contends that these
instances do not rise to a constitutional claim and these allegations, including the "lack of
informed consent" about his medications, arise under state tort law, if anything. (Id. at pp. 8-9).
Plaintiff's allegations point to Plaintiff's dissatisfaction with the treatment he was given but do
not rise to the level of an "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104.
Further, "a civil rights claim is inadequate if it fails to allege the 'conduct, time, place,
and persons responsible.'" Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 353 (3d Cir. 2005). As it relates to
Plaintiffs claim of repeated requests for eye surgery, Defendant notes that Plaintiff "has not
alleged to whom he made requests for surgery, when or how frequently he made the requests, by
what method the requests were made, or the reasons he was given for why the surgery was
denied." (D.I. 41, p. 1). In fact, Plaintiffs complaint details only one specific request for
treatment- the request for a doctor "other than Dr. Hu" to perform his glaucoma surgery. (D.I.
27, if 31). However, the complaint indicates that this request occurred "c. 2013," before
Connections had any responsibility for Plaintiffs treatment. (Id.). The complaint states that
two unspecified prison nurses, and the prison's "grievance board," responded to his request. (Id.
at if 32). According to Plaintiff, the response to his request was that "ifhe did not allow
physicians at the [Delaware Eye Care Center] to perform his glaucoma surgery, then he would
not receive the surgery at all." (Id.). This all appears to have occurred in 2013. Thus, the
Second Amended Complaint contains no plausible factual allegations in support of Plaintiffs
In his reply brief, Plaintiff states that he has been denied medical treatment by Defendant
"pursuant to site-specific policies, custom, and/or practices that are not publicly available."
(D.I. 35, p.1) (emphasis added). However, a Plaintiff "must identify a custom or policy, and
specify what exactly that custom or policy was." McTernan v. City of York, PA, 564 F .3d 636,
658 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Phillips v. County ofAllegheny, 515 F .3d 224, 232-33 (3d Cir.
2008)). Plaintiff lacks plausible factual allegations for his claim that Defendant implemented
policies, customs, and/or practices that deny medical treatment to Plaintiff. (See D.I. 27, ifif 5156). Plaintiff does not point to instances of similar treatment of other inmates. (D.I. 41, p. 2).
Without any plausible factual allegations against Connections, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is
I am granting Plaintiff leave to amend. As Plaintiff's first complaint was filed pro se and
his First and Second Amended Complaints were nearly identical and filed barely a month apart
(D.I. 22, 27), I am inclined to give Plaintiff another opportunity to state his claim with sufficient
factual detail to "allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for
the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. For this reason, Plaintiff is granted
leave to amend.
For the reasons stated above, the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is granted, and Plaintiff
is granted leave to amend.
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