United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
November 17, 2005.
MICHAEL PEEKS, Plaintiff,
JEFFERY BEARD, ET AL., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS VANASKIE, Chief Judge
Michael Peeks, an inmate confined at the State Correctional
Institution at Smithfield (SCI-Smithfield), Pennsylvania, filed
this civil rights complaint on August 30, 2005, pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983. He has paid the required filing fee in this
matter. Named as Defendants are Jeffery Beard, Secretary of the
Department of Corrections, and the following SCI-Smithfield
employees: John A. Palakovich, Superintendent; Donald Reihart,
Facility Maintenance Manager; and Matt Lawrence, Supervisor of
the Grounds and Roads Maintenance Crew. In the complaint, Peeks
seeks damages for injuries he sustained when a light fixture in
the prison barber shop fell on his head. For the reasons that
follow, the complaint will be dismissed, sua sponte, pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).*fn1
Peeks alleges that on May 17, 2005, he was in the barber shop
at SCI-Smithfield where he is employed as a barber. Defendant
Lawrence was working on a ceiling light fixture in the shop.
Peeks claims that Lawrence failed to properly secure the light
fixture with the proper fasteners, but rather, improperly used
tape. The tape eventually "gave way," resulting in the light
fixture crashing down on Peeks' head, knocking him to the floor.
Peeks was taken to the infirmary and treated for his injuries,
which included a five inch cut, blurry vision and headaches.
In this action he contends that Defendants knew or should have
known that the light fixture was not secure, and that the
accident was a result of their negligence. He then proceeds to
list the ways in which Defendants were negligent, which include
leaving the light fixture in an unsafe state, failing to make the
area safe for those employed in the barber shop, violating codes
and ordinances regarding proper maintenance and failing to use
due care under the circumstances. Peeks seeks damages in excess
of fifty thousand ($50,000.00) dollars. ANALYSIS
Peeks bases this action on an alleged violation of civil rights
actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. "To state a claim under §
1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by
the Constitution and laws of the United States, and 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). The Plaintiff alleges that his rights were violated by
Title 28 United States Code section 1915A states, in part: "The
court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any
event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a
civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a
governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental
entity. . . . On review, the court shall identify cognizable
claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint,
if the complaint . . . is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state
a claim upon which relief may be granted."
28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). In Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319,
109 S.Ct. 1827 (1989), the Supreme Court stated that a complaint is
frivolous "where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or
fact." 490 U.S. at 325.
The Eighth Amendment obligates prison officials to "take
reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of inmates." Hudson
v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984). A prison official may be
held liable under the Eighth Amendment where a prison official
knew that an inmate "face[d] a substantial risk of serious harm
and disregard[ed] that risk by failing to take reasonable
measures to abate it." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 847
(1994). To establish that prison officials violated the Eighth Amendment by failing to
prevent harm, an inmate must satisfy a two-pronged test that
includes an objective and subjective element. Id. An inmate
must show (1) that the prison conditions posed a substantial risk
of serious harm, and (2) that prison officials were deliberately
indifferent to the inmate's safety. Id. at 834. Prison
officials exhibit deliberate indifference when they know of and
disregard an excessive risk to inmate safety; mere negligence
will not suffice. Id. at 835, 837. To constitute deliberate
indifference as defined in Farmer, "the official must both be
aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a
substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw
the inference." Id. at 837.
Throughout his entire complaint Peeks maintains that defendants
were negligent. He speaks of what occurred as an "accident" and
attributes the cause of the accident to defendants' alleged
failure to use due care. There are no allegations supporting an
inference that any defendant was deliberately indifferent to a
substantial risk of serious harm. Accordingly, since the
complaint "lacks an arguable basis in law or fact," it will be
dismissed as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).
An appropriate Order is attached. ORDER
NOW, THIS 17th DAY OF NOVEMBER, 2005, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED AS
1. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), Plaintiff's
complaint (Dkt. Entry 1) is DISMISSED.
2. Plaintiff's "Motion for Appointment of Counsel"
(Dkt. Entry 4) is DENIED AS MOOT.
3. The Clerk of Court is directed to mark this matter
4. Any appeal taken from this Order will be deemed
frivolous, without probable cause, and not taken in
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