United States District Court, D. Maryland
MICHAEL P. PALYA, Jr., #359864 Plaintiff
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND CORRECTIONAL SERVICES, WARDEN J. PHILIP MORGAN, STATE OF MARYLAND, Defendants
Xinis United States District Judge
before the Court is self-represented Plaintiff Michael P.
Palya's Complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983. Complaint, ECF No. 1. Defendants, the Department of
Public Safety and Correctional Services
(“DPSCS”), Warden J. Philip Morgan and the State
of Maryland, by their counsel, filed an unopposed Motion to
Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment.
matter is ready for disposition and the Court now rules
pursuant to Local Rule 105.6 because no hearing is necessary.
For reasons stated below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
claims that he was subjected to “inhumane and untenable
living conditions” at the Maryland Correctional
Training Center (“MCTC”) from November 1, 2015
through December 9, 2015. Palya asserts that the heat at MCTC
was not working and that a windowpane was missing from his
cell window. As a result, he alleges that he suffered
frostbite in his hands and feet, breathing problems,
emotional anguish, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress
disorder. ECF No. 1 at 6-7.
states that he “summoned several correctional officers
in what proved to be futile attempts to correct the
deplorable and inhumane living
conditions.” Id. at 5. Palya states these
conditions led to a “riot” on December 9, 2015,
after which Captain Lochman ordered mobile heaters set up on
the tier and Officer Musher distributed plastic bags and
cardboard to fashion make-shift window coverings.
Id. at 6. Further, Palya alleges that Defendants
removed several toilets in the housing unit, which caused raw
sewage to leak into the housing units, compounding the health
hazards. He asserts that due to the heating failure and delay
in medical treatment, as of July 26, 2016, he was diagnosed
as “frost bite damaged.” Id. at 7.
asks the Court to find Defendants' actions amount to
willful and gross negligence. As relief, Palya asks for
medical care for the rest of his life, compensation for lost
wages, and damages in the amount of $2, 500, 000.
Id. at 7.
reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court “must accept
as true all of the factual allegations contained in the
complaint” and must “draw all reasonable
inferences [from those facts] in favor of the
plaintiff.” E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v.
Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011);
see Hall v. DirectTV, LLC, 846 F.3d 757, 765 (4th
Cir. 2017). Further, a pro se plaintiff's pleadings are
“to be liberally construed” and are “held
to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007); see Alley v. Yadkin County Sheriff Dept.,
No. 17-1249, 698 Fed .Appx. 141, 2017 WL 4415771 (4th Cir.
Oct. 5, 2017). However, even a pro se litigant's
complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege a
“plausible claim for relief.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 679.
Supreme Court of the United States explained a
“plaintiff's obligation to provide the
“grounds” of his “entitlement to
relief” requires more than labels and conclusions, and
a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted).
Nonetheless, the complaint does not need “detailed
factual allegations” to survive a motion to dismiss.
Id. at 555. Instead, “once a claim has been
stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of
facts consistent with the allegations in the
complaint.” Id. at 563. To 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.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “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.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “But where 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)).
a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by
showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in
the complaint.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563
(citing Sanjuan v. Am. Bd. of Psychiatry and Neurology,
Inc., 40 F.3d, 247, 251 (7th Cir. 1994)) (once a claim
for relief has been stated, a plaintiff ‘receives the
benefit of imagination, so long as the hypotheses are
consistent with the complaint').
proceed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege
a violation of a federal constitutional right or a right
secured by federal law. Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S.
137, 140 (1979). Further, the plaintiff must “show that
the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting
under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487
U.S. 42, 48 (1988). As a threshold matter, Palya does not
allege Defendants' actions violated federal or state law.
His claims of willful and gross negligence are causes of
action arising under state, not federal, law. Even if
Palya's claims were liberally construed to state an
Eighth Amendment claim for unconstitutional conditions of
confinement, however, the claims must be dismissed on the
grounds of Eleventh Amendment immunity and because respondeat
superior does not apply in §1983 actions.