WILLIAMS v. PHILLPS et al
OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE JOSEPH F. LEESON, JR ON 4/12/18. 4/12/18 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE PLAINTIFF, E-MAILED.(er, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
JASON EDWARD WILLIAMS,
OFFICER J. PHILLPS,
OFFICER GEORGE CROAK, and
BUCKS COUNTY PREA, 1
Defendant Bucks County’s Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 18 – Granted
Joseph F. Leeson, Jr.
United States District Judge
April 12, 2018
Plaintiff Jason Edward Williams initiated this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
two corrections officers and the County of Bucks for alleged assaults and sexual harassment
beginning in April 2017, while he was detained at the Bucks County Correctional Facility,
Doylestown, Pennsylvania. See Compl., ECF No. 9. Defendant Bucks County has filed a
Motion to Dismiss all claims against it for failure to state a claim. See Mot. Dismiss, ECF No.
18. On March 26, 2018, this Court issued an Order advising Williams that his brief in opposition
to the Motion to Dismiss was past due and affording him until April 6, 2018, to file a brief in
“PREA” refers to the Prison Rape Elimination Act enacted in 2003 to prevent, detect, and
respond to offender sexual abuse and sexual harassment. “The Bucks County Department of
Corrections created a zero-tolerance policy towards all forms of sexual victimization to ensure
the safety of all offenders, and announced that all allegations of abuse will be referred for
investigation until an outcome is determined.” See
http://www.buckscounty.org/government/Corrections/prea (last visited April 11, 2018).
opposition. See Order, ECF No. 26. 2 To date, no response or request for an extension of time
has been filed. Because the Complaint fails to allege that Bucks County had a policy or custom
that caused the abuse Williams allegedly suffered at the hands of the corrections officers, the
Motion to Dismiss is granted and all claims against Defendant Bucks County are dismissed.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
In rendering a decision on a motion to dismiss, this Court must “accept all factual
allegations as true [and] construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.”
Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche
Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Only if
“the ‘[f]actual allegations . . . raise a right to relief above the speculative level’” has the plaintiff
stated a plausible claim. Id. at 234 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 540, 555
(2007)). However, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a
complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(explaining that determining “whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief . . . [is] a
context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and
common sense”). The defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that a plaintiff has failed to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d
Cir. 2005) (citing Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991)).
The Order also advised Williams that his failure to timely file an opposition brief may
result in the Motion being granted as uncontested pursuant to Local Rule 71.1 and the action
being dismissed for failure to prosecute or comply with a court order pursuant to Rule 41(b) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Order dated March 26, 2018. Nevertheless, because
Williams is pro se, this Court has independently reviewed the Complaint and reaches a decision
on its merits.
Bucks County argues that the Complaint against it must be dismissed because there are
insufficient factual allegations to support a Monell 3 claim. See Mot. Dismiss 1-6.
“To establish a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate a violation of
a right protected by the Constitution or the laws of the United States committed by a person
acting under the color of state law.” Natale v. Camden County Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575,
580-81 (3d Cir. 2003). “Municipalities are subject to § 1983 liability under Monell only where
the municipality itself causes a constitutional violation—a municipality is not subject to
respondeat superior or vicarious liability under § 1983.” Cloyd v. Del. Cnty., No. 14-4833, 2015
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 120385, at *5 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 10, 2015) (citing Monell, 436 U.S. at 691). To
hold a municipality liable under section 1983, “a plaintiff must show (1) a deprivation of a
federal right; (2) a relevant policy or custom attributable to the municipality; and (3) a direct
causal link between the municipal action and the deprivation of the federal right.” Peters v.
Cmty. Educ. Ctrs., Inc., No. 11-cv-850, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32520, at *9 and n.2 (E.D. Pa.
Mar. 13, 2014) (internal citations omitted).
The instant Complaint is completely devoid of any allegations of a policy or custom, or
even of a failure to train. To the extent that the Complaint can be liberally construed as
complaining about the grievance procedures, see Compl. 5, the allegations are still insufficient to
state a claim under Monell. See Moore v. Franklin Cnty., No. 1:16-CV-2270, 2017 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 204149, at *43-44 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 11, 2017) (holding that the plaintiffs had not alleged
sufficient facts to support a Monell claim despite allegations of “repeated instances of being
Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978) (holding, “it is when execution
of a government’s policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or
acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury that the government as an
entity is responsible under § 1983”).
subjected to physical and sexual assault by inmates and guards; by being threatened by
correctional officers when they complained of mistreatment; by having the grievance policy
rendered useless by the persistent refusal of prison staff to investigate misconduct or even
respond to grievances; and by what the plaintiffs suggest was a culture of complicity that
permitted this misconduct to flourish without any meaningful oversight”); Brower v. Corizon
Health Servs., No. 15-5039, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 128659, at *28-29 (E.D. Pa. Sep. 20, 2016)
(concluding that the prisoner’s allegations that prison officials never responded to his grievances
were “still insufficient to state a claim under Monell”). Further, the Prison Rape Elimination Act
does not provide a private cause of action. See Williams v. Harry, No. 1:16-CV-1759, 2016 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 115181, at *13-14 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 25, 2016) (citing cases).
Accordingly, Williams has failed to state a Monell claim against Bucks County.
Williams has failed to allege a custom or policy or any facts that would support a claim
against Buck County. The County’s Motion to Dismiss is granted.
A separate order follows.
BY THE COURT:
/s/ Joseph F. Leeson, Jr.________
JOSEPH F. LEESON, JR.
United States District Judge
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