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Soto v. Seymour

United States District Court, D. Maine

September 20, 2019

CAMERON SOTO, Plaintiff
v.
KEITH SEYMOUR, et al., Defendants

          RECOMMENDED DECISION ON MOTION TO DISMISS AND MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

          John C. Nivison, U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         In this action, Plaintiff, an inmate at the Cumberland County Jail, alleges that Defendants violated his constitutional rights and the Prison Rape Elimination Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 30301 et seq., during an encounter on April 21, 2019, at the jail. (Complaint, ECF No. 1.) The matter is before the Court on Defendant Kevin Joyce’s motion to dismiss and Defendant Keith Seymour’s motion for judgment on the pleadings. (ECF Nos. 12, 14.) Plaintiff has not filed an objection to the motions.[1]

         After review of the complaint and Defendants’ motions, I recommend the Court grant the motions.

         Background

         The facts set forth below are derived from Plaintiff’s complaint. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff’s factual allegations are deemed true when evaluating a motion to dismiss.[2] McKee v. Cosby, 874 F.3d 54, 59 (1st Cir. 2017). Similarly, when assessing the motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of Plaintiff. Frappier v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., 750 F.3d 91, 96 (1st Cir. 2014).

         Plaintiff alleges that on April 21, 2019, while he was an inmate at the Cumberland County Jail, he noticed that the toilet in his cell was backing up with waste from the adjacent cell and was overflowing onto his cell floor. Plaintiff asserts that he alerted a correctional officer, Defendant Seymour, of the situation and requested agents to clean his cell. When Defendant Seymour refused to provide the cleaning agents, Plaintiff claims he requested a grievance form to complain. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Seymour then proceeded to make inappropriate and sexually suggestive comments to him.

         Plaintiff makes claims against the Defendants pursuant to the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 30301 et seq., the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the Eighth Amendment.

         Standard of Review

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may seek dismissal of “a claim for relief in any pleading” if that party believes that the pleading fails “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” In its assessment of the motion, a court must “assume the truth of all well-plead facts and give the plaintiff[] the benefit of all reasonable inferences therefrom.” Blanco v. Bath Iron Works Corp., 802 F.Supp.2d 215, 221 (D. Me. 2011) (quoting Genzyme Corp. v. Fed. Ins. Co., 622 F.3d 62, 68 (1st Cir. 2010)). To overcome the motion, a plaintiff must establish that his allegations raise a plausible basis for a fact finder to conclude that the defendant is legally responsible for the claim at issue. Id.

         A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) is “ordinarily accorded much the same treatment” as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Aponte-Torres v. Univ. of P.R., 445 F.3d 50, 54 (1st Cir. 2006). Thus, to survive a Rule 12(c) motion, as with a 12(b)(6) motion, “a complaint must contain factual allegations that ‘raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true.’” Perez-Acevedo v. Rivero-Cubano, 520 F.3d 26, 29 (1st Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         Although a pro se plaintiff’s complaint is subject to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), the complaint may not consist entirely of “conclusory allegations that merely parrot the relevant legal standard, ” Young v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 717 F.3d 224, 231 (1st Cir. 2013). See also Ferranti v. Moran, 618 F.2d 888, 890 (1st Cir. 1980) (explaining that the liberal standard applied to the pleadings of pro se plaintiffs “is not to say that pro se plaintiffs are not required to plead basic facts sufficient to state a claim.”). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         DISCUSSION

         A. The Prison Litigation and Reform Act

         Both defendants argue that Plaintiff’s claims do not survive scrutiny under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. The PLRA prevents an inmate from asserting a claim for mental or emotional injury without a showing of physical injury or the commission of a sexual act as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 2246. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e). Given that Plaintiff has not alleged a physical injury or the commission of a sexual act, Plaintiff cannot recover monetary damages for his alleged mental or emotional injury. See id.; Robinson v. Landry, No. 2:15-cv-58-DBH, 2015 WL 4077297, at *2 (D. Me. July 6, 2015) (“Although the First Circuit has avoided ruling on section 1997e(e)’s applicability to constitutional claims …, I conclude that the plain language makes Robinson’s anxiety and emotional distress claim futile.”) (footnote omitted) (citing Thompson v. Carter, 284 F.3d 411, 416-17 (2d Cir. ...


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