Franklin v. Centurion LLC
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Gregory B. Williams on 1/17/2023. (nmg)
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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
: Civ. No. 22-1324-GBW
Mark Franklin, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, Pro Se
January l 7 , 2023
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WILLIAMS, United States District Judge:
Plaintiff Mark Franklin, an inmate at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center
("JTVCC") in Smyrna, Delaware, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
(D.1. 3). Plaintiff appears prose and has been granted leave to proceed informa
pauperis. (D.1. 5). In addition, Plaintiff has filed two motions to compel. (D.I. 7,
8). The Court proceeds to review and screen the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(b) and§ 1915A(a).
The following facts are taken from the Complaint and assumed to be true for
screening purposes. See Shorter v. United States, 12 F.4th 366,374 (3d Cir. 2021).
Franklin broke his leg and foot while playing basketball at JTVCC. He alleges that
his injury was greatly exacerbated during delays in the administration of
diagnostics and care.
SCREENING OF COMPLAINT
A federal court may properly dismiss an action sua sponte under the
screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) if"the action is frivolous or
malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks
monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Ball v.
Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448,452 (3d Cir. 2013) (quotation marks omitted); see also 28
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U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (informa pauperis actions); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (civil actions
filed by prisoners seeking redress from governmental entities or government
officers and employees). The Court must accept all factual allegations in a
complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to a pro se plaintiff.
See Phillips v. County ofAllegheny, 515 F .3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008). Because
Plaintiff proceeds pro se, his pleading is liberally construed and his Complaint,
"however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).
A complaint is not automatically frivolous because it fails to state a claim. See
Dooley v. Wetzel, 957 F.3d. 366,374 (3d Cir. 2020). Rather, a claim is deemed
frivolous only where it relies on an "'indisputably meritless legal theory' or a
'clearly baseless' or 'fantastic or delusional' factual scenario."' Id.
The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim
pursuant to§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and§ 1915A(b)(l) is identical to the legal standard
used when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions. Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d
236,240 (3d Cir. 1999). However, before dismissing a complaint or claims for
failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to the screening
provisions of28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A, the Court must grant Plaintiff leave to
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amend his complaint unless amendment would be inequitable or futile. See
Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 114 (3d Cir. 2002).
A well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere labels and
conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). A plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to show that
a claim has substantive plausibility. See Johnson v. City ofShelby, 574 U.S. 10
(2014) (per curiam). A complaint may not dismissed, however, for imperfect
statements of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted. See id. at 11.
A court reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint must take three steps: (1)
take note of the elements the plaintiff must plead to state a claim; (2) identify
allegations that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the
assumption of truth; and (3) when there are well-pleaded factual allegations,
assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an
entitlement to relief. Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir.
2016). Elements are sufficiently alleged when the facts in the complaint "show"
that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 ( quoting Fed. R. Civ. P.
8(a)(2)). Deciding whether a claim is plausible will be a "context-specific task that
requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense."
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Centurion is the only named defendant. When a plaintiff relies upon a
theory of respondeat superior to hold a corporation liable (rather than its
employees or agents themselves), he must allege a policy or custom that
demonstrates such deliberate indifference. See Natale v. Camden Cnty. Corr.
Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 584 (3d Cir. 2003) (because respondeat superior or
vicarious liability cannot be a basis for liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a
corporation under contract with the state cannot be held liable for the acts of its
employees and agents under those theories). Ultimately, to establish that
Centurion is directly liable for the alleged constitutional violations, Franklin "must
provide evidence that there was a relevant [Centurion] policy or custom, and that
the policy caused the constitutional violation[s] [Franklin] allege[s]." Natale, 318
F.3d at 583-84. The Complaint does not refer to any policy or custom of Centurion
and does not set forth any constitutional violations allegedly caused thereby.
Accordingly, the Court will dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and
§ 1915A(b)(l). However, since it appears plausible that Franklin may be able to
articulate a claim against Centurion or other potential defendants, he will be given
an opportunity to amend his pleading. See O'Dell v. United States Gov't, 256 F.
App'x 444, 445 (3d Cir. 2007) (unpublished) (leave to amend is proper where the
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plaintiffs claims do not appear "patently meritless and beyond all hope of
For the above reasons, the Court will: (1) deny as premature Franklin's
motions to compel (D.I. 7, 8); and (2) dismiss the Complaint pursuant 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and§ 1915A(b)(l). Franklin will be given leave to file an
An appropriate order will be entered.
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