Davis v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections et al
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry) re 11 MOTION TO DISMISS FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM and 19 MOTION to Sever, Transfer and/or Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. Signed by Honorable Matthew W. Brann on 3/27/2017. (jn)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYVANIA :
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, SCI :
MUNCY, et al.,
Case No. 4:16-CV-01011
March 27, 2017
Awaiting disposition by the Court are two motions. The first is a Motion
made by Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Robert Smith, and Andrea
Norris (“Corrections Defendants”) to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). The second is a Motion made by Defendant City of
Philadelphia to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim and/or Sever or Transfer for
Improper Venue. For the reasons that follow, Corrections Defendants’ Motion to
Dismiss will granted with limited leave for Plaintiff to amend the outlined flaws of
her complaint. Defendant City of Philadelphia’s Motion to Sever will similarly be
granted, and the claims pending against it will be transferred to the United States
District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
On May 27, 2016, Plaintiff Aimee Davis (“Plaintiff”) filed a two-count
Complaint in this Court. Count I, a Section 1983 claim for deliberate indifference
to Plaintiff’s Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual
punishment, is lodged against Defendants Pennsylvania Department of
Corrections, Robert Smith (Superintendent of SCI Muncy), Andrea Norris (Acting
Health Care Director of SCI Muncy), ABC Corp., John Doe (I-III), and the City of
Philadelphia. Count II asserts a professional negligence claim for medical
malpractice against individual medical professionals only. The facts underlying
these claims relate the following story.
City of Philadelphia Involvement
Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident on October 16, 2015 in
which she suffered a “displaced, comminuted, impacted fracture of her left distal
radius.”2 At the time of this accident and for reasons not specified within the
Complaint, Plaintiff was placed under arrest by the Philadelphia Police
Department.3 Plaintiff was thereafter taken to Aria Torresdale Hospital where two
For purposes of this Motion to Dismiss, the allegations presented in Plaintiff’s Complaint will
be taken as true, and all inferences will be construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff.
Compl. (ECF No. 1) ¶ 15, at 4–5.
Id. ¶ 16.
unsuccessful attempts at closed reduction were made to repair the fracture.4 Prior
to her discharge from the hospital on October 17, 2015, Plaintiff and the
Philadelphia Police Department were instructed that Plaintiff needed to see a
specialist within two days for further treatment of her fracture.5 From October 17,
2015 through October 22, 2015, Plaintiff remained in the custody of Defendant
City of Philadelphia at its Riverside Correctional Facility.6 Although she
complained of significant pain and swelling and repeatedly requested medical
attention, Plaintiff was not taken to a specialist for treatment while at the Riverside
Corrections Defendants Involvement
On October 22, 2015, Plaintiff was transferred to SCI-Muncy.8 Shortly after
her intake and while still experiencing significant pain, Plaintiff underwent a
medical evaluation during which she both asked to see a doctor and explained that
she needed surgery for her fracture.9 Plaintiff nevertheless received no immediate
Id. ¶¶ 17–18.
Id. ¶ 19.
Id. ¶ 21.
Compl. ¶¶ 22–25, at 5–6
Id. ¶ 26.
Id. ¶ 28.
treatment and was not seen by a doctor until November 24, 2015.10 The only
medication and/or treatment Plaintiff received during that time was the
administration of Motrin for pain.11
Plaintiff was evaluated by surgeon on November 24, 2015 and scheduled for
an open reduction internal fixation of the fracture.12 This procedure took place on
November 30, 2015, and was followed by a second procedure in mid-December
2015 to have some of the hardware removed.13 During the six week period
Plaintiff went without treatment for her fracture, her fracture began healing
improperly.14 This period of improper healing complicated and made worse
Plaintiff’s recovery from the above procedures.15 Despite continued efforts at
physical therapy and orthopedic visits following her parole in January 2016,
Plaintiff is left with serious and permanent damage to her left wrist, including loss
of function, strength, motion, together with pain and swelling.16 This damage is
Id. ¶ 29–31.
Id. ¶ 30–31.
Compl. ¶ 32, at 6–7.
Id. ¶¶ 32, 34.
Id. ¶ 33, 35.
Id. ¶ 35.
Id. ¶ 36–37.
the result of Defendants’ denial of necessary medical treatment in the six weeks
following her injury.17
As a result of the aforementioned delay in treatment, Plaintiff alleges that
defendant prison officials violated her constitutional right against cruel and
unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment
deliberation indifference standard.18 In support of this allegation, Plaintiff alleges
that the prison officials referenced above exhibited deliberate indifference because
a reasonable prison official would comprehend that denying treatment would result
in serious physical consequences.19 Furthermore, because of Plaintiff’s complaints
regarding her symptoms, Defendants knew that there was a substantial risk to
Plaintiff’s health through the continued lack of treatment.20
Plaintiff also brings a professional negligence claim for medical malpractice
against the medical professionals involved. In support thereof, Plaintiff alleges
that, at all times pertinent to the action, Defendant medical professionals had a duty
to undertake and provide care, Plaintiff sought the care of said Defendants, and
Id. ¶ 39.
Compl. ¶ 46, at 8.
Id. ¶¶ 46–47.
Id. ¶ 48–49.
Defendants thereafter failed to provide reasonable care in breach of the applicable
standard of care.21 Plaintiff suffered damages as a result of this breach.22
In response to the above allegations as contained within Plaintiff’s
Complaint of May 27, 2016, Defendants Pennsylvania Department of Corrections,
Robert Smith, and Andrea Norris (hereinafter “Corrections Defendants”) filed a
Motion to Dismiss.23 Corrections Defendants move to dismiss the claims against
them because (1) the Department of Corrections does not qualify as a person under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 and suits against it are barred by the Eleventh Amendment, and
(2) Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against Defendants Smith and Norris
because they are non-physicians and, in any event, there are no factual allegations
concerning their personal involvement. This motion has since been fully briefed.24
On August 12, 2016, Defendant City of Philadelphia filed a Motion to
Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim and/or Sever or Transfer for Improper
Venue.25 Within said Motion, Defendant City of Philadelphia asks the Court to (1)
Id. ¶¶ 66–68, at 11.
Id. ¶ 69k, at 12.
ECF No. 11.
ECF Nos. 12 & 13.
ECF No. 19.
sever the claims against it from the instant action, (2) transfer the action in its
entirety to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, or (3) dismiss Plaintiff’s claims
against it. This motion has since been fully briefed.26
Corrections Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a defendant may file a
motion to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
Such a motion “tests the legal sufficiency of a pleading” and “streamlines litigation
by dispensing with needless discovery and factfinding.”27 “Rule 12(b)(6)
authorizes a court to dismiss a claim on the basis of a dispositive issue of law.”28
This is true of any claim, “without regard to whether it is based on an outlandish
legal theory or on a close but ultimately unavailing one.”29
Beginning in 2007, the Supreme Court of the United States initiated what
some scholars have termed the Roberts Court’s “civil procedure revival” by
ECF Nos. 20 & 21.
In re Hydrogen Peroxide Litigation, 552 F.3d 305, 316 n.15 (3d Cir. 2008) (Scirica, C.J.)
(quoting Szabo v. Bridgeport Machines, Inc., 249 F.3d 672, 675 (7th Cir. 2001) (Easterbrook,
J.)). Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326–27 (1989).
Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 326 (citing Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U. S. 69, 73 (1984)).
Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327.
significantly tightening the standard that district courts must apply to 12(b)(6)
motions.30 In two landmark decisions, Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly and
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, the Roberts Court “changed . . . the pleading landscape” by
“signal[ing] to lower-court judges that the stricter approach some had been taking
was appropriate under the Federal Rules.”31 More specifically, the Court in these
two decisions “retired” the lenient “no-set-of-facts test” set forth in Conley v.
Gibson and replaced it with a more exacting “plausibility” standard.32
Accordingly, after Twombly and Iqbal, “[t]o 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.’”33 “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.”34 “Although the
plausibility standard does not impose a probability requirement, it does require a
pleading to show more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
Howard M. Wasserman, The Roberts Court and the Civil Procedure Revival, 31 Rev. Litig.
550 U.S. 544 (2007); 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Wasserman, supra at 319–20.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 670 (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)) (“[a]cknowledging that
Twombly retired the Conley no-set-of-facts test”).
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
unlawfully.”35 Moreover, “[a]sking for plausible grounds . . . calls for enough facts
to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of
The plausibility determination is “a context-specific task that requires the
reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.”37 No
matter the context, however, “[w]here a complaint pleads facts that are ‘merely
consistent with’ a defendant’s liability, it ‘stops short of the line between
possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.’”38
When disposing of a motion to dismiss, a court must “accept as true all
factual allegations in the complaint and draw all inferences from the facts alleged
in the light most favorable to [the plaintiff].”39 However, “the tenet that a court
must accept as true all of the allegations contained in the complaint is inapplicable
to legal conclusions.”40 “After Iqbal, it is clear that conclusory or ‘bare-bones’
Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 786 (3d Cir. 2016) (Jordan, J.) (internal
quotations and citations omitted).
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557 (internal quotations omitted)).
Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 228 (3d Cir. 2008) (Nygaard, J.).
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal citations omitted).
allegations will no longer survive a motion to dismiss.”41 “Threadbare recitals of
the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
As a matter of procedure, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third
Circuit has instructed that:
Under the pleading regime established by Twombly and Iqbal, a court
reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint must take three steps. First, it
must tak[e] note of the elements [the] plaintiff must plead to state a
claim. Second, it should identify allegations that, because they are no
more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.
Finally, [w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, [the] court
should assume their veracity and then determine whether they
plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.43
Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code provides a cause of
action to redress violations of federal law committed by state officials.44
Section 1983 is not a source of substantive rights; rather, it merely provides
a remedy for violations of constitutional rights.45 To establish a claim under
42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) the conduct
Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (Nygaard, J.).
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
Connelly, 809 F.3d at 787 (internal quotations and citations omitted).
See 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
See City of Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 815 (1985).
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complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law;
and (2) the conduct deprived the complainant of rights secured under the
Constitution or federal law.46 Here, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were
deliberately indifferent to a serious medical need in violation of her rights
under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States held in Estelle v. Gamble48 that
“deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the
‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain,’ proscribed by the Eighth
Amendment.”49 Not all “inadvertent failure[s] to provide adequate medical care”
See Sameric Corp. of Delaware, Inc. v. City of Philadelphia, 142 F.3d 582, 590 (3d Cir.
In her Complaint, Plaintiff bases her claim of inadequate medical care on both the Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendments. The United States Supreme Court has recognized that the Eighth
Amendment prohibition on the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment applies only after “a
formal adjudication of guilt.” Natale v. Camden Cnty. Correctional Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 581
(3d Cir. 2003)(citing City of Revere v. Massachusetts Gen. Hosp., 463 U.S. 239, 244 (1983)).
Prior to that adjudication of guilt, it is “the Fourteenth Amendment [which] affords pretrial
detainees protections ‘at least as great as the Eighth Amendment protections available to a
convicted prisoner.’ ” Id. Plaintiff fails to plead within her complaint facts which specify
whether the alleged inadequate medical care occurred prior to or following an adjudication of
guilt. This failure, while inviting correction in an amended pleading, is not fatal to the instant
analysis as a pretrial detainee's claim of inadequate medical care is evaluated under the same
standard as a convicted prisoner’s Eighth Amendment claim of inadequate medical care. Id. at
429 U.S. 97 (1976).
Id. at 104 (citing Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976)).
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to prisoners, however, become cognizable claims under the Eighth Amendment. 50
“[A] prisoner must allege acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence
deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.”51 A serious medical need is “one
that has been diagnosed by a physician as requiring treatment or one that is so
obvious that a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's
The “deliberate indifference” prong requires that the defendant
actually “know[ ] of and disregard[ ] an excessive risk to inmate health or
safety.”53 Subjective knowledge can be established through circumstantial
evidence if such evidence shows that the excessive risk was so obvious that
the official must have known about it.54 “The Third Circuit has found
deliberate indifference when a prison official knows of a prisoner’s need for
medical treatment and intentionally refuses to provide it; delays necessary
medical treatment for a non-medical reason; or prevents a prisoner from
Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105.
Id. at 106.
Monmouth Cty. Corr. Institutional Inmates v. Lanzaro, 834 F.2d 326, 347 (3d Cir.
1987)(quoting Pace v. Fauver, 479 F.Supp. 456, 458 (D.N.J. 1979), aff'd, 649 F.2d 860 (3d
Beers-Capitol v. Whetzel, 256 F.3d 120, 133 (3d Cir. 2001)(quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511
U.S. 825, 837 (1994)).
Id. (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. 837–38).
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receiving needed or recommended medical treatment.”55
(1) Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Will Be
Dismissed As a Defendant to this Action With Prejudice.
The Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution provides:
The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to
any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the
United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any
Under the Eleventh Amendment, states are therefore immune from suit by private
parties in the federal courts absent that state’s consent or congressional
abrogation.57 This immunity, equally applicable when the plaintiff is a citizen of
the defendant state,58 extends to state agencies and officials.59 Therefore, because
the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has not waived its sovereign immunity for
such claims,60 its Department of Corrections is similarly immune from suit in
Hollihan v. Pa. Dep’t. of Corr., 159 F.Supp.3d 502, 510 (M.D.Pa. 2016)(Conner, C.J.)(citing
Rouse v. Plantier, 182 F.3d 192, 197 (3d Cir. 1999).
U.S. CONST. amend. XI.
Hollihan, 159 F.Supp.3d at 510 (citing, inter alia, U.S. CONST. amend. XI and Kimel v. Fla.
Bd. of Regents, 528 U.S. 62, 72–73 (2000)).
Lavia v. Pa. Dep’t of Corr., 224 F.3d 190, 195 (3d Cir. 2000).
See Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989); Hindes v. F.D.I.C., 137 F.3d
148, 158 (3d Cir.1998).
See 42 Pa. Cons.Stat. § 8522; McCool v. Dep't of Corr., 984 A.2d 565, 570 (Pa.Commw.Ct.
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In their motion to dismiss, Corrections Defendants first ask that the
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections be dismissed as a Defendant based
on both the principle of sovereign immunity as outlined above and because
this agency does not qualify as a person under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.62 In her
subsequently filed brief in opposition, Plaintiff stipulates to the dismissal of
the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections as a Defendant.63 Therefore, in
accordance with this concession and because I find that sovereign immunity
would undoubtedly extend to the Department of Corrections, I will dismiss it
from this suit with prejudice.
(2) Defendants Smith and Norris Will Be Dismissed As
Defendants To This Action.
Corrections Defendants also aver within their motion to dismiss that
Defendants Robert Smith and Andrea Norris should be dismissed from the
instant action because (1) the complaint contains no factual allegations
demonstrating their personal involvement, and (2) Plaintiff has otherwise
failed to state a claim because Defendants Smith and Norris are non-
See Lavia v. Pa. Dep't of Corr., 224 F.3d 190, 195 (3d Cir.2000).
Corrections Defs.’ Br. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss (Corr. Defs.’ Br.) (ECF No. 12), at 3.
Pl.’s Resp. in Opp. to the Corrections Defs.’ Mot. to Dismiss (Pl.’s Resp to Corr. Defs.) (ECF
No. 13), at 12, n. 2.
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physicians.64 Having examined the Complaint, I find that Plaintiff has
indeed failed to any allege any facts making plausible Defendants Smith and
Norris’ personal involvement or knowledge of a failure to treat.
To survive a motion to dismiss a claim based on deliberate indifference to a
serious medical need, a plaintiff must allege facts which make it plausible that
further discovery will produce evidence that “each moving defendant knew of and
disregarded an excessive risk.”65 Liability against a defendant in a civil rights
action cannot therefore be premised on a theory of respondeat superior, or mere
hypotheses that an individual defendant may have had knowledge of or personal
involvement.66 Rather, defendants “must have personal involvement in the
alleged wrongs . . . shown through allegations of personal direction or of actual
knowledge and acquiescence.”67
Plaintiff has failed to allege any facts which demonstrate, with any
particularity, Defendants Smith and Norris’s knowledge of her serious
medical needs, and their subsequent deliberate indifference thereto. Plaintiff
argues that, within her Complaint, “[i]t is specifically plead that Defendants,
Corr. Defs.’ Br., at 4, 6.
Hollihan, 159 F.Supp.3d at 512.
Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 353 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d
1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988)); Atkinson v. Taylor, 316 F.3d 257, 271 (3d Cir. 2003).
Atkinson, 316 F.3d at 271.
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including Norris and Smith, knew about the need for medical treatment, that
they knew about the complaints that she was not getting the medical
treatment that she needed.”68 Such averments, unaccompanied by
corroborating facts, are conclusory in nature. Saying “specifically” does not
by itself demonstrate personal involvement, and absent the Court’s
acceptance of supervisory liability, there are no other facts which make it
plausible to believe that Defendants Smith (Superintendent of SCI Muncy)
and Norris (Acting Health Care Director of SCI Muncy) knew of Plaintiff’s
serious medical need despite not being her treating physicians.
Furthermore, Corrections Defendants also allege that dismissal of the
Complaint as it relates to Defendants Norris and Smith is appropriate
because they are non-physicians who cannot be held deliberately indifferent
for failure to respond to complaints of an inmate who is being treated by a
medical prison official.69 In Spruill v. Gillis, the Third Circuit affirmed a
district court’s dismissal of claims against a non-medical prison official
where the prisoner was “under the care of medical experts” because said
official would “be justified in believing that the prisoner is in capable
Pls.’ Resp to Corr. Defs., at 18 (emphasis in original).
Corr. Defs.’ Br., at 7.
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hands.”70 The Spruill Court therefore concluded that “absent a reason to
believe (or actual knowledge) that prison doctors or their assistants are
mistreating (or not treating) a prisoner, a non-medical prison official . . . will
not be chargeable with the Eighth Amendment scienter requirement of
deliberate indifference.”71 Under this principle, courts have found that both
wardens (like Defendant Smith) and health services administrators (like
Defendant Norris) cannot be found deliberately indifferent.72
As previously noted, Plaintiff has failed with her Complaint to allege
any facts from which this Court can plausibly infer that Defendants Smith
and Norris—a prison superintendent and acting health care director,
respectively—had any knowledge of a serious medical need to which they
were then deliberately indifferent. Furthermore, because Plaintiff has
alleged that a medical evaluation was performed on October 24, 2015—a
mere two days after her intake at SCI-Muncy—Defendants Smith and Norris
cannot be found deliberately indifferent to any claim accruing after this
Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 236 (3d Cir. 2004).
Durmer v. O’Carroll, 991 F.2d 64, 69 (3d Cir. 1993) (finding that neither a warden defendant
nor a state corrections commissioner defendant “can be considered deliberately indifferent
simply because they failed to respond directly to the medical complaints of a prisoner who was
already being treated by the prison doctor”); Williams v. Warmerdorf, Civil Action No. 3:07CV-1283, 2008 WL 4368568, at *4–5 (M.D.Pa. Sept. 24, 2008)(Munley, J.) (finding that an
assistant health services administrator cannot be considered deliberately indifferent where
plaintiff “clearly alleges that he was under the care of the physician’s assistant”).
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commencement of treatment by a medical professional absent evidence that
they had “a reason to believe (or actual knowledge) that prison doctors or
their assistants are mistreating (or not treating) a prisoner.”73 No such facts
have been alleged. Therefore, based on these failures, Defendants Smith and
Norris will be dismissed as parties in this action.
(3) Plaintiff Will Be Granted Leave to Amend Its
Complaint Against Defendants Smith and Norris.
Leave to amend should be granted prior to dismissal of a curable pleading in
civil rights actions.74 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 sets forth the mechanisms
for amending a pleading prior to trial. Section 15(a)(1) applies to amendments as a
matter of course. Amendment as a matter of course is inapplicable here. Section
15(a)(2), entitled “Other Amendments,” explains that “[i]n all other cases, a party
may amend its pleading only with the opposing party’s written consent or the
court’s leave. The court should freely give leave when justice so requires.”
The Third Circuit has “previously discussed when a court may deny leave to
amend under Rule 15(a)(2).”75 In Shane v. Faver, for example, then Circuit Judge
Samuel A. Alito, Jr. stated that “[a]mong the grounds that could justify a denial of
Spruill, 372 F.3d at 236.
See Fletcher-Harlee Corp. v. Pote Concrete Contractors, Inc., 482 F.3d 247, 251 (3d Cir.
2007); Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002).
Holst v. Oxman, 290 F. App’x 508, 510 (3d Cir. 2008).
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leave to amend are undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, prejudice, and
futility.”76 “The decision to grant or deny leave to amend a complaint is
committed to the sound discretion of the district court.”77
In the instant matter, no grounds exist to justify the denial of leave to amend.
While it is difficult to conceive of factual allegations which would make it
plausible that discovery would reveal evidence that non-medical prison officials
Smith and Norris both knew of Plaintiff’s serious medical need and had reason to
believe that prison medical officials were mistreating her, I am willing to allow one
curable pleading in this civil rights action. Plaintiff is therefore granted leave to
amend her complaint against Defendants Norris and Smith to correct the above
Defendant City of Philadelphia’s Motion to Dismiss For Failure to
State A Claim And/or Sever Or Transfer for Improper Venue
Defendant City of Philadelphia (“City Defendant”) separately moved on
August 12, 2016 for the Court to grant one of three alternative forms of relief.
Specifically, City Defendant requested that the Court (1) sever the claims against
them from this action and transfer them to the United States District Court for the
Eastern District of Pennsylvania; (2) transfer the entire action to the Eastern
213 F.3d 113, 115 (3d Cir. 2000) (quoting In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d
1410, 1434 (3d Cir. 1997) (Alito, J.)).
Coventry v. U.S. Steel Corp., 856 F.2d 514, 518 (3d Cir. 1988).
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District of Pennsylvania; or (3) dismiss the claims against it for failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted. Because a court of appropriate venue
should determine the merits of Plaintiff’s claims, I will first address whether the
claims against City Defendant are more properly venued in the Eastern District.
Title 28 of the United States Code, Section 1391 stipulates that an action
may be brought in:
(1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are
residents of the State in which the district is located;
(2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions
giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the
subject of the action is situated; or
(3) if there is no district in which an action may otherwise be brought as
provided in this section, any judicial district in which any defendant is
subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to such action.78
When a party is requesting transfer from an otherwise proper venue, Section 1404
of Title 28 of the United States Code provides that said transfer may occur “[f]or
the convenience of parties and witnesses [and] in the interest of justice.”79 District
courts are afforded discretion to transfer an action if it is “warranted by the
convenience of parties and witnesses and promotes the interest of justice” in order
28 U.S.C. §1391.
28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).
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“to prevent the waste ‘of time, energy and money’ and ‘to protect litigants,
witnesses and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense.”80
When considering whether transfer is appropriate, a court must first find that
the action could have properly been brought in the proposed forum. 81 The court
must subsequently “balance several private and public interest factors weighing in
favor of or against transfer.”82 While there is no definitive formula or list a court
must contemplate, the following factors are generally considered:
(1) the plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) the defendant's preference;
(3) where the claim arose; (4) the convenience of the parties; (4)
the convenience of the witnesses, but only to the extent that the
witnesses may actually be unavailable for trial in one of the fora;
(5) the location of books and records, similarly limited to the
extent that the files could not be produced in the alternative forum;
(6) the enforceability of the judgment; (7) practical considerations
that could make the trial easy, expeditious, or inexpensive; (8) the
relative court congestion in the competing courts; (9) the local
interest in deciding local controversies at home; (10) the public
policies of the fora; (11) and the familiarity of the trial judge with
the applicable state law.83
Here, I find that that Plaintiff’s claims against City Defendants are more
properly venued in Eastern District and thus they will be severed and transferred
Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964) (citing Continental Grain Co. v. The FBL585, 364 U.S. 19, 26, 27 (1964)).
28 U.S.C. § 1404(a); see also Van Dusen, 376 U.S. at 621.
High River Ltd Partnership v. Mylan Laboratories, Inc., 353 F. Supp. 2d 487, 492 (M.D. Pa.
Id. (citing Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879–80).
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pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Analysis of the above referenced applicable
factors compels this conclusion. First, I note that, although Plaintiff undoubtedly
prefers that all claims proceed in this Court, City Defendant’s preferred forum of
litigation for the claims against it is the Eastern District. Second, the events giving
rise to the claims against City Defendant occurred entirely within the bounds of the
Eastern District. Specifically, despite the common allegation that both sets of
defendants denied care for an impacted fracture of Plaintiff’s left distal radius, City
Defendant did not act in concert with the Corrections Defendants. Any violation
of the Eighth Amendment by City Defendant occurred prior to Plaintiff’s transfer
from the Riverside Correctional Facility, and is in no way intertwined with
subsequent events at SCI-Muncy.84
Third and finally, I find that the convenience of the parties and witnesses to
the claims against City Defendant weighs heavily in favor of severing and
transferring those claims to the Eastern District. Claims against City Defendant
would be most expeditiously resolved in the district in which the incidents relating
to those claims occurred and the parties serving City Defendant reside. As noted
throughout, Plaintiff alleges receiving inadequate medical care while under the
See Walker v. Wetzel, Civil Action No. 3:15-CV-0391, 2015 WL 1525620, at *2 (M.D.Pa.
Apr. 2, 2015)(Kosik, J.) (severing and transferring claims, which although related to a common
denial of psychological care, involved conduct by different defendants in separate incidents
occurring at separate facilities).
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custody of City Defendant at the Riverside Correctional Facility.85 Workers at that
facility would likely reside within the Eastern District and access to sources of
proof concerning Plaintiff’s claims would similarly be greater within those bounds.
The cost of litigating these claims would therefore be lessened by cabining these
proceedings within a convenient distance for likely witnesses.86
Based on the foregoing reasoning, I find that severance87 and transfer of the
claims against City Defendants serves “the convenience of parties,” and is “in the
interest of justice.” While I am cognizant that plaintiff’s choice of venue should
not be lightly disturbed, that choice is entitled to less weight where, as here, “ ‘the
plaintiff chooses a forum which is neither his home nor the situs of the occurrence
See Compl. ¶¶ 21–25, at 5–6.
See Foster v. Maiorana, Civil Action No. 14-CV-1368, 2014 WL 6633365, at *5 (M.D.Pa.
Nov. 21, 2014)(Caputo, J.)(finding it to be “convenient and in the interest of expeditiously
resolving this litigation to sever claims which arose in the Western District of Pennsylvania
against defendants in that same district); Sharard v. Berks Cnty, Civil Action No.12-CV-2393,
2012 WL 6838952, at *5–6 (M.D.Pa. Dec. 6, 2012).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 21 provides that “[o]n motion or on its own, the court may at
any time, on just terms, add or drop a party. The court may also sever any claim against a party.”
When deciding whether severance is warranted, courts should consider “the convenience of the
parties, avoidance of prejudice to either party, and promotion of the expeditious resolution of the
litigation.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 21. Once severed, a claim “ ‘proceeds as a discrete suit and results in
its own final judgment . . . ’ ” Foster, 2014 WL 6633365 at *5 (quoting Official Comm. of
Unsecured Creditors v. Shapiro, 190 F.R.D. 352, 354–55 (E.D.Pa. 2000)).
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upon which the suit is based.’ ”88 There is no real prejudice created to either party
by severing City Defendant’s instant claims at this early stage of proceeding.
Based on the above analysis, the Court makes the following dispositions.
First, Corrections Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is granted, and Defendants
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Robert Smith (Superintendent of SCIMuncy), and Andrea Norris (Acting Health Care Director of SCI-Muncy) will be
dismissed from this action. Plaintiff is, however, granted leave to amend her
Complaint to assert a plausible claim against Defendants Smith and Norris within
twenty-one (21) days of the date of this Memorandum. Failure to amend within
twenty-one (21) days will result in progression on the original complaint sans
Defendants Smith and Norris.
Second, City Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim
and/or Sever or Transfer for Improper Venue will be granted. To the extent
Plaintiff’s claims are alleged against City Defendants, those claims will be severed
and transferred to proceed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The Clerk of
Court is directed to forward a copy of the complaint and this Memorandum and
Order to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania so that claims may proceed more
High River Ltd. Partnership, 353 F.Supp.2d at 498–99 (quoting Reed v. Weeks Marine,
Inc., 166 F.Supp.2d 1052, 1057 (E.D.Pa. 2001)).
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expeditiously in that forum.
BY THE COURT:
s/ Matthew W. Brann
Matthew W. Brann
United States District Judge
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