GOODE v. NUTTER et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE JOEL H. SLOMSKY ON 8/9/17. 8/9/17 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE PLAINTIFF AND E-MAILED. (jpd )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER, et al.,
August 8, 2017
Plaintiff Ronald Goode, proceeding pro se, brings this suit against Former Mayor
Michael Nutter, Former Commissioner Louis Giorla, Former Warden John Delaney, and Former
Warden Michele Farrell (collectively “Defendants”) for alleged violations of his constitutional
rights stemming from the conditions of his pretrial confinement at the Curran-Fromhold
Correctional Facility (“CFCF”) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 32.) Defendants filed
a Motion to Dismiss the claims against them under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6),
which is now before the Court for a disposition. (See Doc. No. 42.)
Plaintiff Ronald Goode alleges that he suffered federal civil rights violations due to the
overcrowded conditions at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (“CFCF”) in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, where he was incarcerated as a pretrial detainee at the time he instituted this
action. In the Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts that Defendants’ failure to address
overcrowding amounted to a constitutional violation, triggering civil liability under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 (commonly referred to as “Section 1983”). (Doc. No. 32.) Plaintiff claims that the
overcrowded conditions of pretrial confinement violated his due process rights under the
Fourteenth Amendment. He alleges that he was placed in a “triple-cell,” a two person cell with a
plastic boat on the floor for a third inmate. (Doc. No. 30 at 1). Plaintiff also alleges that the
overcrowded conditions included: “inadequate laundry access and medical care; unsanitary food
handling; insufficient recreational space; [and] rodent infestations.” 1 (Id.) Such conditions led
Plaintiff to suffer acid burns, chronic back pain, and migraine headaches. (Id.)
On October 13, 2011, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, initiated this action against
Defendants. (Doc. No. 1.) On November 24, 2014, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint.
(Doc. No. 21.) On September 18, 2015, the Honorable Norma Shapiro of the Eastern District of
Pennsylvania issued an Opinion and an Order dismissing the Amended Complaint and granting
Plaintiff leave to amend. (Doc. Nos. 30-31.) In response, on October 1, 2015, Plaintiff filed the
Second Amended Complaint against Defendants. (Doc. No. 32.) On March 8, 2017, Defendants
filed a Motion to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint for Failure to State a Claim. (Doc.
No. 42.) This Motion is presently before this Court for a decision. 2
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The motion to dismiss standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is set
forth in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). After Iqbal it is clear that “threadbare recitals of
the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice” to
In the Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff briefly mentions an assault. (Doc. No. 32 at 2.)
Plaintiff explained to the Court, however, that the assault is the basis of a separate cause of
action, and will not be considered here. (See Civil Action No. 13-3682, Doc. No. 91 at 4:175:20.)
In reaching a decision, the Court has considered the Second Amended Complaint (Doc. No.
32) and the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 42). On May 11, 2017, the Court granted Plaintiff
an extension of time to file a response in opposition to the Motion. (Doc. No. 49.) Pursuant
to the May 11, 2017 Order, Plaintiff was required to file a response on or before May 31,
2017. (Id.) However, no response was filed.
defeat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Id. at 663; see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544 (2007). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ethypharm S.A.
France v. Abbott Labs., 707 F.3d 223, 231 n.14 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing Sheridan v. NGK Metals
Corp., 609 F.3d 239, 262 n.27 (3d Cir. 2010)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Applying the principles of Iqbal and Twombly, the Third
Circuit in Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121 (3d Cir. 2010), set forth a three-part
analysis that a district court in this Circuit must conduct in evaluating whether allegations in a
complaint survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss:
First, the court must “tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a
claim.” Second, the court should identify allegations that, “because they are no
more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Finally,
“where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their
veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for
Id. at 130 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675, 679). “This means that our inquiry is normally broken
into three parts: (1) identifying the elements of the claim, (2) reviewing the complaint to strike
conclusory allegations, and then (3) looking at the well-pleaded components of the complaint
and evaluating whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently
alleged.” Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011).
A complaint must do more than allege a plaintiff’s entitlement to relief, it must “show”
such an entitlement with its facts. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (citing
Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35 (3d Cir. 2008)). “[W]here the well-pleaded
facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint
has alleged — but it has not ‘shown’ — ‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.’” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
679. The “plausibility” determination is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing
court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.
When determining a motion to dismiss, the court must “accept all factual allegations in
the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Buck v.
Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006). Where, as here, the complaint is
filed pro se, the “complaint, ‘however inartfully pleaded’ must be held to ‘less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.’” Fatone v. Latini, 780 F.3d 184, 193 (3d
Cir. 2015) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972)). It should be dismissed only
if it appears “beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of [his] claim
that would entitle [him] to relief.” Olaniyi v. Alexa Cab Co., 239 F. App’x 698, 699 (3d Cir.
2007) (citing McDowell v. Del. State Police, 88 F.3d 188, 189 (3d Cir. 1996)).
The Second Amended Complaint raises a claim against Former Mayor Michael Nutter,
Former Commissioner Louis Giorla, Former Warden John Delaney, and Former Warden Michele
Farrell (“Defendants”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”). (Doc. No. 32.) Plaintiff
challenges his conditions of confinement and contends that the overcrowded conditions at CFCF
amount to a violation of his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id.) Pursuant
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Defendants seek to dismiss the Second Amended
Complaint in its entirety for failure to state a claim. (Doc. No. 42.)
Plaintiff Has Failed to State an Underlying Constitutional Violation
Plaintiff contends that he was incarcerated at CFCF in overcrowded conditions, which
constituted a violation of his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Doc. No.
32.) To state a Section 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the
Constitution and laws of the United States and must show that the alleged deprivation was
committed or caused by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Adkins, 487 U.S. 42,
48 (1988). Defendants argue that the facts in the Second Amended Complaint do not plausibly
suggest a violation of a right secured by the Constitution. (Doc. No. 42.)
Challenges to the constitutionality of pretrial confinement are evaluated under the due
process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979). Under
the due process clause, “a detainee may not be punished prior to an adjudication of guilt in
accordance with due process of law.” Hubbard v. Taylor, 399 F.3d 150, 158 (3d. Cir. 2005). To
decide whether a pretrial detainee’s constitutional rights have been violated, a court must ask
whether the condition “is imposed for punishment or . . . [for] some other legitimate government
purpose.” Bell, 441 U.S. at 538.
[I]f a particular condition or restriction of pretrial detention is reasonably related
to a legitimate governmental objective, it does not, without more, amount to
“punishment.” Conversely, if a restriction or condition is not reasonably related
to a legitimate goal -- if it is arbitrary or purposeless -- a court permissibly may
infer that the purpose of the governmental action is punishment that may not
constitutionally be inflicted upon detainees.
Id. at 539. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has distilled Bell’s teachings
into two-step test. See Union County Jail Inmates v. Di Buono, 713 F.2d 984, 992 (3d Cir.
1983). The first step requires an analysis of “whether any legitimate purposes are served by
these conditions,” and the second step asks “whether these conditions are rationally related to
these purposes.” Id. In Di Buono, the Third Circuit continued: “In assessing whether the
conditions are reasonably related to the assigned purposes, we must, further, inquire as to
whether these conditions ‘cause [inmates] to endure [such] genuine privations and hardship over
an extended period of time,’ that the adverse conditions become excessive in relation to the
purposes assigned for them.” Id. (quoting Bell, 441 U.S. at 542). To determine whether given
conditions constitute “punishment,” a court must therefore consider the totality of circumstances
within an institution. Di Buono, 713 F.2d at 996.
Here, Plaintiff alleges that he was “unlawfully housed” in three-person and four-person
prison cells, but does not elaborate further about the impact of the allegedly overcrowded cells in
the Second Amended Complaint. (Doc. No. 32 at 1-3.) Previously, in his Amended Complaint,
Plaintiff claimed that the overcrowded conditions caused denial of assistance for serious medical
needs, constant “lock-downs,” and “fear . . . caused by violence over the shortage of phones,
showers, recreation activity.” (Doc. No. 21 at 3-4.) Plaintiff also explained that he was housed
in a 7’ x 10’ cell with two other inmates. (Id. at 6.) The cell was designed for two people, so the
third occupant slept on a plastic bed on the floor adjacent to the toilet. (Id.)
A plaintiff who fails to provide sufficient information to establish that he suffered
“genuine privations and hardship over an extended period of time,” will be unable to
demonstrate that his due process rights were violated. See Tapp v. Proto, 718 F. Supp. 2d 598,
613 (E.D. Pa. 2010) (holding that a plaintiff had “failed to show that any deprivation he suffered
was sufficiently serious to rise to the level of a constitutional violation” despite pleading that he
was subjected to triple-bunking—placement of three men in a two-man cell—for up to six
weeks); Allah v. Ricci, 532 F. App’x 48, 50-51 (3d Cir. 2013) (finding that a cell that leaked
water when it rained was not a violation of the prisoner’s constitutional rights); Gardner v.
Lanigan, No. 13-7064, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 177603, at *12 (D.N.J. Dec. 18, 2013)
(concluding that a plaintiff who provided only a “bare bones statement that, at some point in
time, he slept on a cold floor and he was confined to a cell lacking light and drinking water,
without more, is not factually sufficient” to sustain a successful constitutional claim under Iqbal);
Wagner v. Algarin, No. 10-2513, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 133433, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 16, 2010)
(holding that a plaintiff who alleged that he had been required to sleep in “hazardous” conditions
in gyms, classrooms, and cells with limited space per person had not alleged facts sufficient to
persuade the court that the conditions of his confinement amounted to punishment in violation of
his constitutional rights).
Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, he has not provided the Court
with sufficient facts to plausibly allege a violation of his Fourteenth Amendment right to due
process. In his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff did not provide information concerning
the size of the cell, the number of persons the cell was designed for, the type of beds Plaintiff
slept in, or the duration of this condition. He did not explain how his conditions of confinement
amounted to punishment in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Bell, 441 U.S. at 538-39.
Nor did he explain that these conditions were not imposed for any legitimate government
Plaintiff has submitted insufficient information to demonstrate “genuine privations and
hardship over an extended period of time.” Di Buono, 713 F.2d at 992. Because Plaintiff has not
stated an underlying constitutional violation for his Section 1983 claim, the Second Amended
Complaint will be dismissed.
Plaintiff Has Not Plausibly Alleged Facts Showing Each Defendant’s
Personal Involvement in the Alleged Wrongdoing
Defendants argue that Plaintiff failed to allege that they had any personal involvement in
creating the overcrowded conditions at CFCF. (Doc. No. 42.)
To state a Section 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege that a defendant had “personal
involvement in the alleged wrongdoing.” See Phelps v. Flowers, 514 F. App’x 100, 102 (3d Cir.
2013) (writing that “liability under § 1983 cannot be premised on the theory of respondeat
superior; instead, each individual must have personal involvement in the alleged wrongdoing”);
see also Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988) (establishing that “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.”). “A plaintiff makes
sufficient allegations of a defendant’s personal involvement by describing the defendant’s
participation in or actual knowledge of and acquiescence in the wrongful conduct.” Chavarriaga
v. New Jersey Dept. of Corrs., 806 F.3d 210, 222 (3d Cir. 2015). In addition, although a court
may infer that a defendant had “contemporaneous knowledge of wrongful conduct from the
circumstances . . . the knowledge must be actual, not constructive.” Id. (citing Baker v. Monroe
Twp., 50 F.3d 1186, 1194 (3d Cir. 1995)). A plausibly stated Section 1983 claim will include the
conduct, time, place, and persons responsible for the alleged wrongdoing. Boykins v. Ambridge
Area Sch. Dist., 621 F.2d 75, 80 (3d Cir. 1980).
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were vicariously liable for the overcrowded conditions at
CFCF. 3 Specifically, Plaintiff alleges Former Mayor Michael Nutter “fail[ed]” to handle the
overcrowding problem and “ignore[d]” the violation of constitutional rights. (Doc. No. 32 at 2.)
Similarly, Plaintiff claims that Former Commissioner Louis Giorla “fail[ed]” to handle the
overcrowding problem. (Id.) Plaintiff states that Former Warden John Delaney was warden at
the time that Plaintiff initiated this action in 2011. (Id.) Finally, Plaintiff did not provide any
information to support his claim against Former Warden Michele Farrell. (See id.)
Plaintiff did not articulate any specific conduct by the Defendants which led to the
conditions of which he complained. 4 Plaintiff has not alleged the personal involvement of
The United States Supreme Court has held that Section 1983 claims cannot be based on
vicarious liability. Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 479 (1986).
Plaintiff also did not articulate the particular time and place pertinent to the conditions of
which he complained.
Defendants Michael Nutter, Louis Giorla, John Delaney, or Michele Farrell in creating or
maintaining the allegedly overcrowded conditions of confinement in CFCF in their individual
capacities. Therefore, the Second Amended Complaint against Defendants will be dismissed. 5
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 42) will be granted.
An appropriate Order follows.
Plaintiff will not be granted leave to further amend the Second Amended Complaint. Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) provides that “leave [to amend] shall be freely given when
justice so requires.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a). Among the grounds that could justify a denial of
leave to amend are undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, prejudice, and futility. In re
Burlington Securities Litigation, 114 F.3d 1410, 1434 (3d Cir. 1997). For example, “a district
court need not grant leave to amend a complaint if ‘the complaint, as amended, would fail to
state a claim upon which relief could be granted.’” Kundratic v. Thomas, 407 F. App’x 625,
630 (3d Cir. 2011) (quoting Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 115 (3d Cir. 2000)).
After reviewing the procedural history of this case, it is clear that allowing Plaintiff to amend
his pleadings once again would be futile. More than five years ago, on October 13, 2011,
Plaintiff initiated this action. (Doc. No. 1.) He filed an Amended Complaint on November
24, 2014. (Doc. No. 21.) Thereafter, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. No. 23.)
On March 19, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition to the Motion. (Doc. Nos. 2728.) On September 18, 2015, the Honorable Norma Shapiro of the Eastern District of
Pennsylvania issued an Opinion and Order dismissing the Amended Complaint and granting
Plaintiff leave to amend. (Doc. Nos. 30-31.) In response, Plaintiff filed the Second Amended
Complaint. (Doc. No. 32.)
On March 8, 2017, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint.
(Doc. No. 42.) Subsequently, the Court ordered Plaintiff to respond to the Motion on or
before April 19, 2017. (Doc. No. 43.) The Court extended Plaintiff’s deadline to respond to
May 4, 2017. (Doc. No. 46.) Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Enlargement of Time to
Respond. (Doc. No. 47.) On May 11, 2017, the Court granted Plaintiff’s Motion for
Enlargement of Time and ordered Plaintiff to respond by May 31, 2017. (Doc. No. 49.) To
date, Plaintiff has not filed a response to the Motion to Dismiss.
Thus, at this point, there has been not one, but two rounds of motions practice on Defendants’
Motions to Dismiss. Plaintiff has filed three different complaints in this action, and has had
two opportunities to amend the Complaint over the course of more than five years of
litigation. Further amendment will not cure the defects in the claims raised. Consequently,
amending the Second Amended Complaint would be futile and leave to amend will not be
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