Franklin v. Centurion LLC

Filing 9

MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Gregory B. Williams on 1/17/2023. (nmg)

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Case 1:22-cv-01324-GBW Document 9 Filed 01/18/23 Page 1 of 6 PageID #: 36 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE MARK FRANKLIN, Plaintiff, : Civ. No. 22-1324-GBW V. CENTURION LLC, Defendant. Mark Franklin, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, Pro Se Plaintiff. MEMORANDUM OPINION January l 7 , 2023 Wilmington, Delaware Case 1:22-cv-01324-GBW Document 9 Filed 01/18/23 Page 2 of 6 PageID #: 37 WILLIAMS, United States District Judge: I. INTRODUCTION 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). II. BACKGROUND 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. ID. 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 Case 1:22-cv-01324-GBW Document 9 Filed 01/18/23 Page 3 of 6 PageID #: 38 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 2 Case 1:22-cv-01324-GBW Document 9 Filed 01/18/23 Page 4 of 6 PageID #: 39 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." Id. 3 Case 1:22-cv-01324-GBW Document 9 Filed 01/18/23 Page 5 of 6 PageID #: 40 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 4 Case 1:22-cv-01324-GBW Document 9 Filed 01/18/23 Page 6 of 6 PageID #: 41 plaintiffs claims do not appear "patently meritless and beyond all hope of redemption"). IV. CONCLUSION 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 amended complaint. An appropriate order will be entered. 5

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