Hill et ux v. Harry et al
MEMORANDUM re Complaint 1 filed by Donna Hill (Order to follow as separate docket entry) Signed by Honorable Sylvia H. Rambo on 9/8/21. (ma)
Case 1:21-cv-01424-SHR-EB Document 11 Filed 09/08/21 Page 1 of 20
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
DONNA and DWAYNE HILL,
SUPT. HARRY., et al.,
On August 16, 2021, pro se Plaintiffs Donna and Dwayne Hill (“Plaintiffs”),
who are husband and wife, initiated the above-captioned action by filing a complaint
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. No. 1.) Mrs. Hill currently resides in Pittsburg,
Pennsylvania, and Mr. Hill is currently incarcerated at the State Correctional
Institution Phoenix (“SCI Phoenix”) in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs have
filed suit against SCI Camp Hill Superintendent Harry (“Harry”), SCI Phoenix
Superintendent Sorber (“Sorber”), SCI Phoenix Deputy Superintendents Bradley
(“Bradley”) and Terra (“Terra”), SCI Phoenix Unit Manager Stenkowski
(“Stenkowski”), and SCI Camp Hill Correctional Officer Knaub (“Knaub”). (Id.)
Plaintiffs have also filed motions for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. Nos.
8, 10), which the Court will grant. Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act of
1995 (“PLRA”),1 the Court will perform its mandatory screening of the complaint.
See The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (April 26,
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When Mr. Hill “first arrived at SCI Camp Hill, the prison officials confiscated
15 [of his] family photos after discovering he was in an interracial relationship.”
(Doc. No. 1 ¶ 11.) Officials also confiscated his radio. (Id.) Mr. Hill “started a
letter writing campaign regarding his stolen radio.” (Id. ¶ 12.) He alleges that he
received “threats from the staff towards him physically as well as towards [h]is
personal property.” (Id. ¶ 16.)
On June 28, 2021, the unit manager at SCI Camp Hill called Mr. Hill to appear
for an informal misconduct hearing. (Id. ¶ 18.) He told Mr. Hill that Defendant
Knaub had issued him an informal misconduct five (5) days ago for loitering in the
day room. (Id. ¶ 19.) Mr. Hill indicated that “he did not recall the incident and was
not given any notice of the informal misconduct.” (Id. ¶ 20.) The unit manager
responded that he “was not entitled to notice and tried to convince him to accept an
informal sanction.” (Id. ¶ 21.) Mr. Hill, however, refused and noted that he wished
to challenge the charges. (Id. ¶ 22.)
Mr. Hill went to Defendant Knaub about the informal misconduct, and
Defendant Knaub told him to “go and lock up in his cell.” (Id. ¶¶ 24-25.) Mr. Hill
tried to explain that it was his exercise time, but alleges that Defendant Knaub
threatened to spray him if he did not return to his cell. (Id. ¶ 27.) Mr. Hill “turned
to go to his cell, [but] when he looked back at [Defendant Knaub], he sprayed him
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in the face.” (Id. ¶ 28.) Mr. Hill alleges that he did not try to resist and that he has
pre-existing respiratory conditions known to staff members. (Id. ¶¶ 29-30.) Mr. Hill
“tried to block the spray, which [Defendant] Knaub used as a pretext to further
assault him.” (Id. ¶ 32.) Mr. Hill avers that Defendant Knaub tackled him and
slammed him to the ground. (Id. ¶ 33.) Defendant Knaub subsequently claimed that
Mr. Hill “charged him with a pencil.” (Id. ¶ 34; Doc. No. 1-2.) Mr. Hill now suffers
from blurred vision, had an asthma attack and had to be placed on oxygen, and
suffered “injuries to the neck, right elbow[,] and left knee from being slammed to
the ground.” (Doc. No. 1 ¶¶ 35-37.) He also suffered cuts and numbness from the
handcuffs. (Id. ¶ 37.) He submitted numerous requests for medical attention, all of
which were ignored. (Id. ¶ 39.)
Plaintiffs aver that on June 29, 2021, Defendants Harry and Sorber “arranged
Mr. Hill’s immediate [t]ransfer from SCI Camp Hill to SCI Phoenix where he was
placed back in isolation.” (Id. ¶ 40.) He was transferred without any of his personal
property and “was put in the cell with nothing but his O.C. sprayed jumpsuit.” (Id.
¶ 41.) Mr. Hill was not seen by medical until July 12, 2021. (Id. ¶ 43.) Plaintiffs
aver that medical did not check his eyes, breathing, or heart, and failed to take Xrays. (Id.) They “simply prescribed him some Motrin for the pain.” (Id.)
On June 30, 2021, Mr. Hill met with the Program Review Committee
(“PRC”), consisting of Defendants Bradley and Stenkowski, at SCI Phoenix. (Id.
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¶ 44.) The PRC told Mr. Hill that “they would be processing him for the Restricted
Release Program (RRL) regardless of the outcome of his misconduct.” (Id. ¶ 45.)
RRL “is an indefinite isolation status reserved for prisoners with serious assaults
[w]hile in jail or commit murder while incarcerated.” (Id. ¶ 47.) In July 2021, Mr.
Hill “was found guilty of assault for allegedly charging [Defendant Knaub] and
given 90 days in isolation.” (Id. ¶ 50.) He avers that Defendants Harry and Sorber
arranged his transfer to have him placed in RRL. (Id. ¶ 52.) He also claims that all
of his grievances and appeals disappear. (Id. ¶ 53.)
Mrs. Hill avers that she physically, emotionally, and financially suffers from
anything that Mr. Hill suffers. (Id. ¶¶ 17, 39, 42.) Based on the foregoing, Plaintiffs
assert violations of their First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Id. at 1.)
They also “allege the torts of assault and battery, negligence[,] and interference with
their conjugal rights.” (Id.) Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief, as well
as compensatory and punitive damages. (Id. at 8.)
Screening and Dismissal of In Forma Pauperis Complaints
Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, federal district courts must “review . . . a complaint
in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or
officer or employee of a governmental entity.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). If a complaint
“is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted,”
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the Court must dismiss the complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). District courts
have a similar screening obligation with respect to actions filed by prisoners and
other individuals proceeding in forma pauperis, as well as prisoners challenging
prison conditions. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) (“[T]he court shall dismiss the
case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . is frivolous
or malicious [or] fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted . . . .”); 42
U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1) (“The Court shall on its own motion or on the motion of a party
dismiss any action brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of
this title . . . by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility
if the court is satisfied that the action is frivolous, malicious, [or] fails to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted.”).
A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis either in law or fact. See
Mitchell v. Horn, 381 F.3d 523, 530 (3d Cir. 2003) (citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490
U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989)). When deciding whether a complaint fails to state a claim
on which relief may be granted, district courts apply the standard governing motions
to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
See, e.g., Smithson v. Koons, No. 15-01757, 2017 WL 3016165, at *3 (M.D. Pa. June
26, 2017) (“The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim
under § 1915A(b)(1), § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), or § 1997e(c)(1) is the same as that for
dismissing a complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
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Procedure.”); Mitchell v. Dodrill, 696 F. Supp. 2d 454, 471 (M.D. Pa. 2010)
(explaining that when dismissing a complaint pursuant to § 1915A, “a court employs
the motion to dismiss standard set forth under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6)”). To avoid dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), a civil complaint must set out
“sufficient factual matter” to show that its claims are facially plausible. See Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210
(3d Cir. 2009). The plausibility standard requires more than a mere possibility that
the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. “[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 ‘show[n]’ – ‘that the pleader is entitled to
relief.’” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)). When evaluating the
plausibility of a complaint, the court accepts as true all factual allegations and all
reasonable inferences that can be drawn from those allegations, viewed in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; In re Ins. Brokerage
Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010). However, the court must not
accept legal conclusions as true, and “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action” will not survive a motion to dismiss. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).
Based on this standard, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third
Circuit has identified the following steps that a district court must take when
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reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion: (1) identify the elements that a plaintiff must
plead to state a claim; (2) identify any conclusory allegations contained in the
complaint that are “not entitled” to the assumption of truth; and (3) determine
whether any “well-pleaded factual allegations” contained in the complaint
“plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” See Santiago v. Warminster Twp.,
629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010). In addition, in the specific context of pro se
prisoner litigation, a district court must be mindful that a document filed pro se is
“to be liberally construed.” See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). A pro
se complaint, “however inartfully pleaded,” must be held to “less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007) (quoting Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106) (internal quotation marks omitted)).
Claims Filed Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Section 1983 is the vehicle by which private citizens may seek redress for
violations of federal constitutional rights committed by state officials. See 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. The statute states, in pertinent part:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation,
custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia,
subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or
other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any
rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws,
shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or
other proper proceeding for redress.
Id. “Section 1983 is not a source of substantive rights,” but is merely a means
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through which “to vindicate violations of federal law committed by state actors.”
See Pappas v. City of Lebanon, 331 F. Supp. 2d 311, 315 (M.D. Pa. 2004) (quoting
Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273, 284-85 (2002)). To state a cause of action
under Section 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) the conduct complained of was
committed by persons acting under color of state law; and (2) the conduct violated a
right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.
See Harvey v. Plains Twp. Police Dep’t, 421 F.3d 185, 189 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting
West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988)).
Claims Asserted by Plaintiff Donna Hill
As noted supra, Mrs. Hill asserts that, as a married couple, “anything that Mr.
Hill suffers, now and in the future, affects [her] physically, emotionally[,] and
financially” (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 17.) It is clear that Mrs. Hill’s claims are based on alleged
violations of Mr. Hill’s civil rights. However, it is “well-established that a spouse
. . . has no standing to raise § 1983 claims resting on violations of her husband’s
constitutional rights.” Pahle v. Colebrookdale Twp., 227 F. Supp. 2d 361, 381 (E.D.
Pa. 2002) (citations omitted).
Plaintiffs do suggest that Defendants interfered with their “conjugal rights.”
(Doc. No. 1.) In Pahle, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania concluded that “a
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husband or wife should be able to claim violations of his or her own constitutional
rights under § 1983 for unlawfully government-imposed injuries to a spouse that
have a devastating effect on their marriage; namely, he or she can allege deprivation
of consortium without Due Process of Law.” Pahle, 228 F. Supp. 2d at 381
(emphasis in original). Nothing in the complaint, however, suggests that Mrs. Hill
is asserting that her own constitutional rights were violated. Moreover, even if the
Court construed Mrs. Hill as asserting a direct loss of consortium claim under
§ 1983, she has alleged no facts suggesting that Defendants specifically intended to
interfere with her spousal relationship with Mr. Hill. See Mintz v. Upper Mount
Bethel Twp., No. 12-6719, 2013 WL 3090720, at *7 (E.D. Pa. June 20, 2013).
Accordingly, the Court will dismiss any claims asserted by Mrs. Hill.
Claims Concerning Events at SCI Camp Hill
Claims Against Defendant Harry
Mr. Hill has brought claims against Defendant Harry, the Superintendent of
SCI Camp Hill. He vaguely suggests that on June 29, 2021, Defendant Harry
arranged his transfer from SCI Camp Hill to SCI Phoenix. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 40.) He
suggests that this transfer was made “to have him placed on RRL.” (Id. ¶ 52.)
For a § 1983 claim to survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must
sufficiently allege that the defendant was personally involved in the act or acts that
the plaintiff claims violated his rights. See Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195,
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1207 (3d Cir. 1988); Solan v. Ranck, 326 F. App’x 97, 100 (3d Cir. 2009).
Therefore, supervisors cannot be liable under § 1983 on the traditional standard
of respondeat superior. See Santiago, 629 F.3d at 128. Instead, there are two
theories of supervisory liability that are applicable to § 1983 claims: (1) “a supervisor
may be personally liable under § 1983 if he or she participated in violating the
plaintiff’s rights, directed others to violate them, or, as the person in charge, had
knowledge of and acquiesced in his subordinates’ violations”; and (2) policymakers
may also be liable under § 1983 “if it is shown that such defendants, ‘with deliberate
indifference to the consequences, established and maintained a policy, practice or
custom which directly caused [the] constitutional harm.’” See A.M. ex rel. J.M.K. v.
Luzerne Cty. Juvenile Det. Ctr., 372 F.3d 572, 586 (3d Cir. 2004).
To the extent Mr. Hill asserts that Defendant Harry violated his rights by
having him transferred to SCI Phoenix, it is well established that “an inmate does
not have the right to ‘be placed in any particular prison.’” See Chavarriaga v. New
Jersey Dep’t of Corr., 806 F.3d 210, 225 (3d Cir. 2015) (quoting Meachum v. Fano,
427 U.S. 215, 224 (1976)). Mr. Hill, therefore, cannot maintain any constitutional
claim regarding his transfer against Defendant Harry.
Moreover, Mr. Hill’s complaint fails to set forth facts suggesting that
Defendant Harry was personally involved in the decision to place him on RRL.
Moreover, the complaint fails to set forth plausible supervisory liability claims
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against Defendant Harry. Mr. Hill has pled no facts suggesting that Defendant Harry
participated or had knowledge of and acquiesced in the alleged violation of his
rights, and he has not identified any policy that allegedly caused the violation of his
rights. See McTernan v. City of York, Pa., 564 F.3d 636, 658 (3d Cir. 2009).
Accordingly, Mr. Hill’s claims against Defendant Harry are subject to dismissal.
First Amendment Retaliation Claims
To state a retaliation claim under the First Amendment, a plaintiff bears the
burden of satisfying three (3) elements. First, a plaintiff must prove that he was
engaged in a constitutionally protected activity. See Rauser v. Horn, 241 F.3d 330,
333 (3d Cir. 2001). Second, a plaintiff must demonstrate that he “suffered some
‘adverse action’ at the hands of prison officials.” Id. (quoting Allah v. Seiverling,
229 F.3d 220, 225 (3d Cir. 2000)). This requirement is satisfied by showing adverse
action “sufficient ‘to deter a person of ordinary firmness’ from exercising his First
Amendment rights.” Id. (quoting Suppon v. Dadonna, 2013 F.3d 228, 235 (3d Cir.
2000)). Third, a prisoner must prove that “his constitutionally protected conduct
was ‘a substantial or motivating factor’ in the decision to discipline him.” Rauser,
241 F.3d at 333-34 (quoting Mount Healthy City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle,
429 U.S. 274, 287 (1977)).
The mere fact that an adverse action occurs after either a complaint or
grievance is filed is relevant, but not dispositive, for the purpose of establishing a
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causal link between the two events. See Lape v. Pennsylvania, 157 F. App’x 491,
498 (3d Cir. 2005). Only when the facts of a particular case are “unusually
suggestive” of a retaliatory motive will temporal proximity, on its own, support an
inference of causation. See Krouse v. Am. Sterilizer Co., 126 F.3d 494, 503 (3d Cir.
1997). The Third Circuit has noted that an inmate can satisfy this burden “with
evidence of either (1) an unusually suggestive temporal proximity between the
protected activity and the allegedly retaliatory action or (2) a pattern of antagonism
coupled with timing that suggests a causal link.” Watson v. Rozum, 834 F.3d 417,
422 (3d Cir. 2002).
If a prisoner establishes a prima facie case of retaliation, the burden shifts to
prison officials to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that “they would have
made the same decision absent the protected conduct for reasons reasonably related
to a legitimate penological interest.” Rauser, 241 F.3d at 334. “This is often referred
to as the ‘same decision defense.’” Watson, 834 F.3d at 422. If the prison officials
can make this showing, it defeats the retaliation claim. See Carter v. McGrady, 292
F.3d 152, 159 (3d Cir. 2002).
In the complaint, Mr. Hill suggests that Defendant Knaub retaliated against
him for his verbal complaints about the alleged false misconduct by using excessive
force against him. (Doc. No. 1 ¶¶ 24-37.) Verbal complaints constitute protected
activity for purposes of a First Amendment retaliation claim. See Mack v. Warden
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Loretto FCI, 839 F.3d 286, 297-99 (3d Cir. 2016); Brewer v. Kamas, 533 F. Supp.
2d 318, 329 (W.D.N.Y. 2008) (citing Smith v. Woods, No. 9:03-cv-480, 2006 WL
1133247, at *10 (N.D.N.Y. 2006); Davila-Bajana v. Holohan, No. 04-253 Erie,
2007 WL 2811633, at *5 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 24, 2007) (assuming that an inmateplaintiff’s verbal complaints were constitutionally protected activity). In light of
these allegations, the Court concludes that Mr. Hill has set forth a plausible First
Amendment retaliation claim against Defendant Knaub.
Eighth Amendment Claims
The Eighth Amendment prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual
punishment on prisoners. An Eighth Amendment claim includes both objective and
subjective components. See Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991). Serious
hardship to the prisoner is required to satisfy the Eighth Amendment’s objective
component. See id. The subjective component is met if the person or persons
causing the deprivation acted with “a sufficiently culpable state of mind.” Id.
Denial of Medical Care
To establish an Eighth Amendment claim based on a prison’s denial of
medical care, an inmate must allege acts or omissions by prison officials that were
sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to a serious medical need.
See Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 235 (3d Cir. 2004); Natale v. Camden Cty.
Correctional Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 582 (3d Cir. 2003). The relevant inquiry is
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whether the defendant (1) was subjectively deliberately indifferent to (2) the
plaintiff’s objectively serious medical needs. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834, 837;
Chavarriaga v. N.J. Dep’t of Corr., 806 F.3d 210, 226 (3d Cir. 2015).
The “deliberate indifference” prong of the Eighth Amendment test requires
that the defendant actually know of and disregard “an excessive risk to inmate health
or safety.” See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. Circumstantial evidence may establish
subjective knowledge if it shows that the excessive risk was so obvious that the
official must have known about it. See Beers-Capitol v. Whetzel, 256 F.3d 120, 133
(3d Cir. 2001) (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 842). The Third Circuit has found
deliberate indifference when a prison official: (1) knows of a prisoner’s need for
medical treatment and intentionally refuses to provide it; (2) delays necessary
medical treatment for a non-medical reason; or (3) prevents a prisoner from
receiving needed or recommended medical treatment. See Rouse v. Plantier, 182
F.3d 192, 197 (3d Cir. 1999).
In the complaint, Mr. Hill vaguely alleges that his numerous requests for
medical treatment, submitted after the alleged use of excessive force by Defendant
Knaub, were ignored. (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 38.) Mr. Hill, however, fails to allege that
Defendants Harry and Knaub, the two Defendants employed at SCI Camp Hill, were
personally involved in denying him medical treatment. See Robinson, 2017 WL
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2152365, at *1-2. Mr. Hill’s Eighth Amendment claim regarding the denial of
medical care will, therefore, be dismissed.
The Eighth Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment is
the “primary source of substantive protection in cases where a [convicted] inmate
challenges a prison official’s use of force as excessive and unjustified.” See Brooks
v. Kyler, 204 F.3d 102, 105 (3d Cir. 2000). The standard governing the Court’s
inquiry as to whether a plaintiff has a viable Eighth Amendment excessive force
claim is “whether force was applied in a good faith effort to maintain or restore
discipline or maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm.” See
Giles v. Kearney, 571 F.3d 318, 326 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Whitley v. Albers, 475
U.S. 312, 319 (1986)).
In making this determination, courts are tasked with
evaluating the following factors:
(1) the need for the application of force; (2) the relationship between
the need and the amount of force that was used; (3) the extent of injury
inflicted; (4) the extent of the threat to the safety of staff and inmates,
as reasonably perceived by the responsible officials on the basis of the
facts known to them; and (5) any efforts made to temper the severity of
a forceful response.
Brooks, 204 F.3d at 106 (quoting Whitley, 475 U.S. at 321). In the complaint, Mr.
Hill alleges that Defendant Knaub used excessive force against him by spraying him
in the face with OC spray, tackling him, and slamming him to the ground. (Doc. No.
1 ¶¶ 28-34.) In light of these allegations, the Court concludes that Mr. Hill has set
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forth a plausible Eighth Amendment excessive force claim against Defendant
Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Claim
Mr. Hill also asserts that his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights were
violated when officers deprived him of personal property. (Doc. No. 1 at 1.)
Specifically, Mr. Hill alleges that his radio and family photographs were confiscated
when he arrived at SCI Camp Hill. (Id. ¶ 11.) However, neither negligent nor
intentional deprivations of property by state officials give rise to a due process
violation if state law provides adequate post-deprivation remedies. See Daniels v.
Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 328 (1986) (negligent acts of officials causing unintentional
loss of property do not violate due process); Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 533
(1984) (intentional deprivation of property does not violate due process if
meaningful post–deprivation remedy for loss is available).
The Third Circuit has held that the Pennsylvania DOC’s grievance procedure
constitutes an adequate post-deprivation remedy. See Monroe v. Beard, 536 F.3d
198, 210 (3d Cir. 2008); Tillman v. Lebanon Cty. Corr. Facility, 221 F.3d 410, 422
(3d Cir. 2000). Pennsylvania state law also provides an adequate remedy for prison
officials’ unlawful deprivation of inmate property. See 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann.
§ 8522(b)(3); see also Shakur v. Coelho, 421 F. App’x 132, 135 (3d Cir. 2011)
(noting that the Pennsylvania Tort Claims Act provides adequate remedy for willful
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destruction of property). In his complaint, Mr. Hill appears to suggest that he availed
himself of his administrative remedies but received no relief. Thus, an adequate
post-deprivation remedy was available to him. To the extent Mr. Hill asserts that
his grievances were mishandled or wrongfully denied, he has not alleged the denial
of a federal right. See Caldwell v. Beard, 324 F. App’x 186, 189 (3d Cir. 2009).
Likewise, if dissatisfied with the responses to his grievances, Plaintiff has a suitable
remedy to pursue under the Pennsylvania Tort Claims Act. See Hernandez v. Corr.
Emergency Response Team, 771 F. App’x 143, 145 (3d Cir. 2019) (noting that
“[e]ven if the prison grievance procedures could be considered constitutionally
inadequate, Pennsylvania’s state tort law would provide an adequate remedy”). Mr.
Hill’s Fourteenth Amendment due process claim is, therefore, subject to dismissal
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) because he cannot state a cognizable
Claims Seeking Declaratory and Injunctive Relief
As noted supra, Mr. Hill seeks declaratory and injunctive relief against all
named Defendants. However, Plaintiff is now incarcerated at SCI Phoenix and is no
longer at SCI Camp Hill. Plaintiff’s claims for declaratory and injunctive relief
against Defendants Harry and Knaub are, therefore, moot. See Sutton v. Rasheed,
323 F.3d 236, 248 (3d Cir. 2003) (noting that “[a]n inmate’s transfer from the facility
complained of generally moots the equitable and declaratory claims”).
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Claims Concerning Events at SCI Phoenix
As noted supra, Mr. Hill asserts claims against Defendants Sorber, Bradley,
Terra, and Stenkowski concerning events that have occurred during his incarceration
at SCI Phoenix. SCI Phoenix, however, is located in Montgomery County, within
the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. See 28 U.S.C. § 118(a). Accordingly, because
there is no apparent basis for venue for these claims in this district, and because
Defendants Sorber, Bradley, Terra, and Stenkowski are located there, the Court will
transfer Mr. Hill’s claims against these Defendants to the United States District
Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1391(b) & 1406(a);
Lafferty v. St. Riel, 495 F.3d 72, 74-75 & n.3 (3d Cir. 2007) (declining to disturb
district court’s sua sponte transfer under § 1406(a)); Decker v. Dyson, 165 F. App’x
951, 954 n.3 (3d Cir. 2006) (district court may sua sponte transfer case under
Leave to Amend
Courts are cautioned that because of the liberal pleading standard, a plaintiff
should generally be granted leave to amend before dismissing a claim that is merely
deficient. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002).
The federal rules allow for liberal amendments in light of the “principle that the
purpose of pleading is to facilitate a proper decision on the merits.” Foman v. Davis,
371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962) (citations and internal quotations omitted). The Court may
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deny a motion to amend where there is “undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on
the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments
previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of
the amendment, [or] futility of the amendment.” Id. The Court must also determine
that a proposed amendment would be futile if the complaint, as amended, would not
survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. In re NAHC, Inc. Sec. Litig.,
306 F.3d 1314, 1332 (3d Cir. 2002).
Based on the foregoing, the Court concludes that it would be futile to grant
Mrs. Hill leave to amend her claims, as well as to grant Mr. Hill leave to amend his
Fourteenth Amendment due process claims regarding the deprivation of personal
property. Those claims, therefore, will be dismissed with prejudice. However, it is
neither clear that amendment would be futile, nor is there any basis to believe that
amendment would be inequitable, with respect to Mr. Hill’s claims against
Defendant Harry and his claims regarding the denial of medical care at SCI Camp
Hill. Accordingly, Plaintiff will be granted leave to file an amended complaint with
respect to such claims. Plaintiff is advised that the amended complaint must be
complete in all respects. It must be a new pleading that stands by itself without
reference to the original complaint or any other document. The amended complaint
should set forth Plaintiff’s claims in short, concise, and plain statements as required
by Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Each paragraph should be
Case 1:21-cv-01424-SHR-EB Document 11 Filed 09/08/21 Page 20 of 20
numbered. It should specify which actions are alleged as to which defendants and
sufficiently allege personal involvement of each defendant in the acts that he claims
violated his rights. Mere conclusory allegations will not set forth a plausible claim.
Plaintiff is advised that if he fails to file an amended complaint, the above-captioned
case will proceed only as to his First Amendment retaliation and Eighth Amendment
excessive force claims against Defendant Knaub.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will grant Plaintiffs’ motions for leave to
proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. Nos. 8, 10.) The Court will partially dismiss the
complaint (Doc. No. 1) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). Mrs. Hill’s claims, as well as Mr. Hill’s
Fourteenth Amendment due process claims regarding the deprivation of personal
property, will be denied with prejudice. Mr. Hill’s claims against Defendant Harry
and his Eighth Amendment claims concerning the denial of medical care at SCI
Camp Hill will be denied without prejudice to his right to file an amended complaint,
consistent with the Court’s discussion herein. Mr. Hill’s claims against Defendant
Sorber, Bradley, Terra, and Stenkowski will be transferred to the United States
District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for further proceedings there.
An appropriate Order follows.
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