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Covington v. Bucks Cty. Dep't of Corr.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 29, 2019

JAMES COVINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
BUCKS CTY. DEP'T OF CORR., et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          Brian R. Martinotti, United States District Judge.

         Before this Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Charles Ellis (“Ellis”), Warden of Mercer County Correction Center (ECF No. 59); and a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Bucks County Department of Corrections, Corrections Officer Andrew Amaroso, Corrections Officer Laws, Lieutenant Burkhart, Investigator Anthony Disandro, Lieutenant Robert Gorman, Bucks County Department of Corrections Chief Operating Officer Brian Hessenthaler, Bucks County Correctional Facility Warden Paul K. Lagana and Bucks County Department of Corrections Director Christopher Pirolli (collectively, “Bucks Defendants”) (ECF No. 60). Plaintiff James Covington (“Plaintiff”) filed Opposition to both Motions. (ECF Nos. 66, 68.) Having reviewed the parties' submissions filed in connection with the Motions and having declined to hold oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78(b), for the reasons set forth below, and for good cause shown, the claims against Defendant Ellis are DISMISSED and the Court will permit further briefing before addressing the Bucks Defendants' Motion.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Bucks County Correctional Facility in Bucks County, Pennsylvania (“BCCF”) from September 7, 2017, until October 11, 2017. (Pl.'s Counter-Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (“SUMF”) (ECF No. 68-2) ¶ 1.) On October 11, 2017, Plaintiff was transferred to Mercer County Correction Center (“MCCC”) and then back to BCCF on October 27, 2017. (Id.) He was transferred to Montgomery County Correctional Facility on November 2, 2017. (Id.)

         During an incident with a BCCF corrections officer on October 4, 2017, Plaintiff sustained a “very serious fracture” to his collarbone. (Compl. (ECF No. 1) ¶ 5.) He alleges the BCCF officers used unreasonable and excessive force against him. (Id. ¶ 6.) After the incident, he was transferred to Mercer County Corrections Center, who then sent him to an orthopedic specialist. (Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff alleges he was supposed to receive the surgery recommended by the specialist on November 1, 2017, but BCCF jail officials refused to comply. (Id. ¶ 16.)

         On November 7, 2017, Plaintiff filed the Complaint seeking injunctive relief in the form of surgery, as well as damages. (ECF No. 1.) On November 13, 2017, he filed an emergency Motion for an Order to Show Cause to obtain the surgery. (ECF No. 4.) The Court denied the request on November 20, 2017, because Plaintiff had since been released from jail. (Id.) In December 2017, Defendants Ellis, Bucks County Department of Corrections, Brian Hessenthaler, Paul K. Lagana and Christopher Pirolli filed Motions to Dismiss on various grounds, including Plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies. (ECF Nos. 16, 21.) The Court denied the Motions without prejudice but permitted Defendants to re-file as summary judgment motions. (ECF No. 54.) These Motions from Defendants Ellis and the Bucks County Defendants followed. (ECF Nos. 59, 60.)

         II. Legal Standard

         The Motion filed by Defendant Ellis is labeled as one for summary judgment and includes a statement of material facts as required. However, while his arguments regarding exhaustion rely on other documents, and are properly considered under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, his substantive argument is based on the insufficiency of the factual allegations in the Complaint. As such, the Court will consider that portion of his Motion as one for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c).[1] See Iudici v. Passaic Cty. Sheriff's Dep't, No. 12-3466, 2018 WL 3000332, at *2 (D.N.J. June 15, 2018) (treating a motion labeled as a summary judgment as a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c)); Meleika v. City of Jersey City, No. 17-1959, 2018 WL 4522046, at *2 (D.N.J. Sept. 21, 2018) (“This motion, although styled as one for summary judgment, might fit within the confines of a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c).”).

         “[A] motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(c) is identical to one filed under Rule 12(b)(6), except that Rule 12(c) allows for the motion to be filed after the filing of an answer, while Rule 12(b)(6) allows for the motion to be made in lieu of an answer.” Wellness Pub. V. Barefoot, 2008 WL 108889, at *6 (D.N.J. Jan. 9, 2008); see also Turbe v. Virgin Islands, 938 F.2d 427, 428 (3d Cir. 1991).

         In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a district court is “required to accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draw all inferences in the facts alleged in the light most favorable to the [plaintiff].” Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 228 (3d Cir. 2008). “[A] complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted). However, the plaintiff's “obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Id. (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). A court is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Papasan, 478 U.S. at 286. Instead, assuming the factual allegations in the complaint are true, those “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for misconduct alleged.” Id. This “plausibility standard” requires the complaint allege “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully, ” but it “is not akin to a probability requirement.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “Detailed factual allegations” are not required, but “more than an unadorned, the defendant-harmed-me accusation” must be pled; it must include “factual enhancements” and not just conclusory statements or a recitation of the elements of a cause of action. Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557).

         “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. “[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.'” Id. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         However, courts are “not compelled to accept ‘unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences, '” Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Schuylkill Energy Res. Inc. v. Pa. Power & Light Co., 113 F.3d 405, 417 (3d Cir. 1997)), nor “a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Papasan, 478 U.S. at 286.

         III. ...


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