Eveland v. Columbia County Prison et al
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry).Signed by Honorable A. Richard Caputo on 2/7/2019. (bg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
AUSTIN MARK EVELAND,
CIVIL NO. 3:18-CV-0794
COLUMBIA COUNTY PRISON, et al.,
Austin Mark Eveland, an inmate formerly housed at the Columbia County Prison
in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, commenced this action on April 13, 2018. 1 (ECF No. 1.)
Plaintiff appears prose and seeks to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 2.) Named
as Defendants are Warden David Varano and the Columbia County Prison. (ECF No.
The Court proceeds to review and screen the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
For the reasons set forth below, Mr. Eveland's motion for leave to
proceed in forma pauperis will be granted. However, his Complaint will be dismissed for
failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). This dismissal will be
without prejudice to Mr. Eveland's right to file an amended complaint within twenty-one
days if he can cure the identified defects.
Mr. Eveland is presently housed at the Montour County Prison in Danville, Pa. (ECF
Standard of Review for Screening Pro Se In Forma Pauperis Complaints
When a litigant seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, without payment of fees, 28
U.S.C. § 1915 requires the court to screen the complaint.
See 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B). Likewise, when a prisoner seeks redress from a government defendant
in a civil action , whether proceeding in forma pauperis or not, the court must screen the
complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Both 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and§ 1915(A)
give the court the authority to dismiss a complaint if it is frivolous, malicious, fails to
state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant
who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) - (iii) ; 28 U.S.C. §
1915A(b)(1)-(2); Ball v. Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448, 452 (3d Cir. 2013).
A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis either in law or fact. See
Mitchell v. Hom , 318 F.3d 523, 530 (3d Cir. 2003) (citing Neitzke v. Williams , 490 U.S.
319, 327-28 , 109 S.Ct. 1827, 1832-33, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (1989)). In deciding whether
the complaint fails to state a claim on wh ich relief may be granted, the court employs
the standard used to analyze motions to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). See
Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000). Under Rule 12(b)(6), the court
"must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any
legal conclusions. " Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009)
(citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949-50, 173 L.Ed .2d
868 (2009)). The court may also rely on exhibits attached to the complaint and matters
of public record . Sands v. McCormick, 502 F.3d 263 , 268 (3d Cir. 2007).
A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief .. ." Fed . R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). A complaint is required to
provide "the defendant fair notice of what the .. . claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests." Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell At/.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)) .
To test the sufficiency of the complaint, the court "must take three steps."
Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016). First, a court must
"take note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim."
quotations and brackets omitted) . Second, the court must identify allegations that are
merely legal conclusions "because they . . . are not entitled to the assumption of truth ."
While detailed factual allegations are not required , "[t]hreadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action , supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555,
127 S.Ct. at 1964). Third , a court should assume the veracity of all well-pleaded factual
allegations and "then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to
relief. " Connelly, 809 F.3d at 787 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 , 129 S.Ct. at 1949).
A complaint filed by a pro se plaintiff must be liberally construed and "held 'to
less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers."' Fantone v. Latini,
780 F.3d 184 (3d Cir. 2015) (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 , 92 S.Ct.
594 , 596 , 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972)) ; see also Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127
S.Ct. 2197 , 2200 , 167 L.Ed .2d 1081 (2007) . Yet, even a prose plaintiff "must allege
sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim ." Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc.,
704 F.3d 239 , 245 (3d Cir.2013) (citation omitted). Pro se litigants are to be granted
leave to file a curative amended complaint even when a plaintiff does not seek leave to
amend , unless such an amendment would be inequitable or futile.
See Estate of
Lagana v. Bergen Cty. Prosecutor's Office, 769 F.3d 850 , 861 (3d Cir. 2014).
Allegations of the Complaint
The allegations of Mr. Eveland's Eighth Amendment excessive use of force claim
are very brief. Plaintiff claims that on September 5, 2017, he was choked unconscious
by unidentified Columbia County Prison corrections officers. The event occurred in the
prison's solitary confinement area, off camera.
Unidentified officers opened Mr.
Eveland 's cell door without first placing him in restraints. Mr. Eveland claims the officers
"didn't follow protocol. In which is why [he is] suing Columbia County Prison." (ECF No.
Mr. Eveland continues to suffer from post-traumatic stress because of this
unprovoked assault. He seeks monetary damages as relief. (Id.)
Federal law provides a cause of action to a plaintiff who can prove that a person
acting under color of state law deprived him of a right, privilege, or immunity protected
by laws or the Constitution of the United States. See 42 U.S.C . § 1983; Rehberg v.
Pau/k,566 U.S. 356 , 361, 132 S.Ct. 1497, 1501 , 182 L.Ed.2d 593 (2012); Mack v.
Warden Loretto FCI, 839 F.3d 286 , 302 (3d Cir. 2016).
As discussed below, Mr.
Eveland has failed to state a cognizable claim under section 1983 against either
Warden Varano or the Columbia County Prison based on the allegations in the
Individual liability can be imposed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 only if the state actor
played an "affirmative part" in the alleged misconduct and "cannot be predicated solely
on the operation of respondeat superior." Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 353 (3d Cir.
2005) (quoting Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1998)); Sutton v.
Rasheed, 323 F.3d 236 , 249 - 50 (3d Cir. 2003).
The personal involvement of a
defendant in a § 1983 action may be shown "through allegations of personal direction or
of actual knowledge and acquiescence." Argueta v. U.S. ICE, 643 F.3d 60, 72 (3d Cir.
2011) (quoting Rode, 845 F.2d at 1207). Such allegations, however, must be made
with appropriate particularity in that a compliant must allege the particulars of "conduct,
time, place, and persons responsible. " Evancho , 423 F.3d at 354; Rode, 845 F.2d at
1207 - 08.
Alleging a mere hypothesis that an individual defendant had personal
knowledge or involvement in depriving the plaintiff of his rights is insufficient to establish
personal involvement. Rode, 845 F.2d at 1208. Moreover, a defendant "cannot be held
responsible for a constitutional violation which he or she neither participated in nor
C.H. ex rel. Z.H. v. Olivia, 226 F.3d 198, 201 - 202 (3d Cir. 2000).
Allegations that a supervisor "had constructive knowledge of a subordinate's
unconstitutional conduct simply because of his role as a supervisor" do not suffice.
Broadwater v. Fow, 945 F.Supp.2d 574 , 588 (M.D. Pa. 2013) (citing C.H. ex rel. Z.H.,
226 F.3d at 202)).
Mr. Eveland names Warden Varano as a defendant in his Complaint. However,
Mr. Eveland does not allege any facts establishing a basis of liability against Warden
Plaintiff does not allege what actions Warden Varano took that led to the
alleged violation of his rights. Accordingly, Warden Varano will be dismissed due to Mr.
Eveland's failure to allege Warden Varano's personal involvement in any alleged
However, Plaintiff will be granted leave to file an amended
complaint as to this defendant.
Columbia County Prison
Although a county may be liable under § 1983 for creating policies or customs
that violate the Constitution, see Monell v. Dept. of Social Services of City of New York,
436 U.S. 658 , 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed .2d 611 (1978), a county jail is not a proper
defendant under § 1983 as it is a "person". 2 A county prison does not have the legal
capacity to be sued in its own name. See Birckbichler v. Butler Cty Prison , No. 071655, 2009 WL 2986611 at *5 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 17, 2009) (collecting cases) . Hence, the
Columbia County Prison will be dismissed as a defendant.
Because it would be futile
for Mr. Eveland to amend his § 1983 claim against the Columbia County Prison, this
defendant will be dismissed with prejudice.
Leave to Amend
Mr. Eveland will be granted twenty-one days to file an amended complaint
alleging the personal involvement of Warden Varano and any others he claims were
involved in the September 5, 2017-assault. If Mr. Eveland decides to file an amended
complaint, he is advised he must clearly designate on the face of the document that it is
the "Amended Complaint," it must bear the docket number assigned to this case, and it
must be retyped or legibly rewritten in its entirety, preferably on the court-approved
form . In addition , the "amended complaint must be complete in all respects. It must be
a new pleading which stands by itself as an adequate complaint without reference to the
complaint already filed." Young v. Keohane, 809 F. Supp. 1185, 1198 (M .D. Pa. 1992).
Mr. Eveland is advised that any amended complaint he may file supersedes (replaces)
The Supreme Court, however, has established that § 1983's definition of "person"
includes municipalities and other local government entities. Monel/J.. 436 U.S. at 690 - 91 , 98
S.Ct. at 2035 - 36.
the original complaint.
In addition, it must be "retyped or reprinted so that it will be
complete in itself including exhibits. " M.D. Pa. LR 15.1; see also W Run Student Hous.
Assocs. V. Huntingdon Nat'/ Bank, 712F.3d165, 171 (3d Cir. 2013). Consequently, all
causes of action alleged in the original complaint which were not dismissed with
prejudice and are not alleged in the amended complaint are waived .
Mr. Eveland is also advised that his amended complaint must be concise and
See Fed . R. Civ. P. 8(d) .
Each allegation must be set forth in individually
numbered paragraphs in short, concise and simple statements.
should be specific enough as to time and place and should identify the specific person
or persons responsible for the deprivation of his constitutional rights and what each
individual defendant did that led to deprivation of his rights. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676, 129
S.Ct. at 1948. Plaintiff must also specify the relief he seeks. Mr. Eveland's failure to file
an appropriate amended complaint within the required time will result in the Court
directing the Clerk of Court to close the case.
Finally, Plaintiff is reminded of his
obligation to advise the Court of any change of address. See M.D. Pa. LR 83.18. His
failure to do so will be deemed as his abandonment of the lawsuit resulting in the
dismissal of the action.
An appropriate order follows.
United States District Judge
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