NICHOLAS v. PHILADELPHIA COUNTY PRISON
MEMORANDUM. AN APPROPRIATE ORDER FOLLOWS.. SIGNED BY HONORABLE LAWRENCE F. STENGEL ON 3/1/17. 3/1/17 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE PLFF., 1 COPY TO LEGAL BIN. (pr, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
MR. LORTON WARDEN OF PHILA.
MARCH 1, 2017
Plaintiff Patrick Nicholas brings this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on
the conditions at the Philadelphia House of Correction (HOC), where he was previously
incarcerated. Currently before the Court is plaintiff’s third amended complaint. For the
following reasons, the Court will dismiss the third amended complaint in its entirety pursuant to
28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to state a claim.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff filed this action against the “Philadelphia County Prison” based on the conditions at
the HOC, where he was previously incarcerated. His initial complaint alleged that he had “a
mental and a physical problem dealing with the 3 man cell and stress!” (Compl. ¶ II.D.)
Plaintiff alleged that he had a headache and was “stress[ed] out.” (Id. ¶ III.) He also filed a
motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis.
In an October 4, 2016 order, the Court denied plaintiff’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis
without prejudice because he failed to file a certified copy of his prisoner account statement as
required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). The order also informed plaintiff that the Philadelphia County
Prison is not a “person” subject to the civil rights laws, and gave him leave to file an amended
Plaintiff filed his prisoner account statement and an amended complaint, which again named
the “Philadelphia County Prison” as the defendant. The amended complaint did not allege any
facts, but indicated that it was based on a “3 man cell problem” at HOC. (Am. Compl. at 3, ¶
E.1.) As the prisoner account statement that plaintiff submitted was deficient, the Court gave
him an opportunity to return with the proper paperwork, which he did.
In a January 3, 2017 order, the Court granted plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis and
dismissed his amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to state a
claim. The Court again explained that a county correctional facility is not a “person” for
purposes of § 1983. The Court also explained that, in any event, the amended complaint failed to
provide facts to plausibly establish that the conditions of plaintiff’s confinement at HOC
“amounted to punishment or deprived him of any basic human need so as to state a claim.” (Jan.
3, 2017 Order, ¶ 3.) Plaintiff was given leave to file a second amended complaint.
Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint naming the Warden of HOC as the defendant. He
alleged that he was “in a 3 man cell for 6 months and it’s cruel and unusual punishment.” (Sec.
Am. Compl. at 3, ¶ D.) In a January 23, 2017 order, the Court dismissed the second amended
complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to state a claim. The Court
explained that plaintiff had again failed to state a claim based solely on his allegation that he
shared his cell with two other men. Furthermore, the second amended complaint failed to allege
how the Warden was responsible for violating plaintiff’s rights. Plaintiff was given an
opportunity to file a third amended complaint.
Plaintiff’s third amended complaint names Mr. Lorton, the Warden of HOC, as the
defendant. The third amended complaint is based on the following facts: “Intentional infliction
of emotional distress. Suffered [infliction] of emotional distress when I was unable to obtain
proper sleep by the overcrowdness.” (Third Am. Compl. at 3, ¶ D.) Plaintiff indicates that he
was “stress[ed] out and had back problem and neck problem and mental injuries.” (Id. at 3, ¶
STANDARD OF REVIEW
As plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) applies, which
requires the Court to dismiss the third amended complaint if it fails to state a claim. To survive
dismissal, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotations
omitted). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,’ but it asks for
more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.; see also Phillips v.
Cnty of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35 (3d Cir. 2008) (“[T]here must be some showing
sufficient to justify moving the case beyond the pleadings to the next stage of litigation.”). “In
this review, courts accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint,
the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.” Eid v. Thompson, 740 F.3d 118, 122 (3d Cir. 2014)
(quotations omitted). As plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court construes his allegations
liberally. Higgs v. Att’y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).
The Eighth Amendment governs claims brought by convicted inmates challenging their
conditions of confinement, while the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment governs
claims brought by pretrial detainees. Hubbard v. Taylor (Hubbard I), 399 F.3d 150, 166 (3d Cir.
2005). As plaintiff’s status during his incarceration at HOC is not clear, the Court will analyze
the complaint under both amendments. To establish an Eighth Amendment violation based on
the conditions of confinement, a prisoner must establish that prison officials’ acts or omissions
denied him “the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities.” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S.
337, 347 (1981). He must also establish that the defendants acted with deliberate indifference.
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835 (1994). To establish a basis for a Fourteenth Amendment
violation, a prisoner must establish that the conditions of confinement amount to punishment.
Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 538 (1979). That inquiry generally turns on whether the
conditions have a purpose other than punishment and whether the conditions are excessive in
relation to that purpose. See id. at 538-39; Hubbard I, 399 F.3d at158.
As the Court has previously explained to plaintiff, housing multiple inmates in a cell does
not alone establish a constitutional violation. See Hubbard v. Taylor (Hubbard II), 538 F.3d 229,
236 & n.6 (3d Cir. 2008) (pretrial detainees do not have a right “to be free from triple-celling or
from sleeping on a mattress placed on the floor.”); North v. White, 152 F. App’x 111, 113 (3d
Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (“Double or triple-bunking of cells, alone, is not per se
unconstitutional.”). Instead, in assessing whether a prisoner’s conditions of confinement violate
the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment, a court should consider the totality of the circumstances.
See, e.g., Hubbard II, 538 F.3d at 235.
Plaintiff’s third amended complaint is essentially predicated on plaintiff’s indication that
he was incarcerated in a three man cell due to overcrowded conditions at HOC, and that he
suffered emotional distress and problems sleeping as a result. Without more, plaintiff’s
allegations fail to state a claim because they do not plausibly establish that the conditions in
which he was confined amounted to punishment or deprived him of any basic human need. See
Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 305 (1991) (“Nothing so amorphous as ‘overall conditions’ can
rise to the level of cruel and unusual punishment when no specific deprivation of a single human
need exists.”); Bell, 441 U.S. at 542-43 (double-bunking did not violate constitutional rights of
pretrial detainees when detainees had sufficient space for sleeping and use of common areas, and
the average length of incarceration was 60 days); Lindsey v. Shaffer, 411 F. App’x 466, 468 (3d
Cir. 2011) (per curiam) (“The critical issue for Eighth Amendment purposes is not the number of
prisoners who share facilities; rather, it is whether the alleged overcrowding has somehow
harmed the prisoner.”); Hubbard II, 538 F.3d at 232-35 (triple-celling of pretrial detainees, some
of whom were made to sleep on floor mattresses for three to seven months, and housing of
detainees in gym, weight room, and receiving area due to overcrowding, did not amount to
punishment). Furthermore, plaintiff has again failed to allege how the Warden is responsible for
allegedly violating his rights, whether due to his personal involvement or role as a policy maker.
See Barkes v. First Corr. Med., Inc., 766 F.3d 307, 320 (3d Cir. 2014), reversed on other
grounds, Taylor v. Barkes, 135 S. Ct. 2042 (2015); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 680-81.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will dismiss plaintiff’s third amended complaint for
failure to state a claim. As plaintiff has been given several opportunities to amend and has not
been able to allege facts sufficient to state a plausible claim, the Court concludes that further
attempts at amendment would be futile. An appropriate order follows.
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