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Meyers v. Schuykill County Prison

March 7, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge McClure



On May 21, 2004, Plaintiff David Meyers instituted this Section 1983 civil rights action against numerous defendants connected with the Schuykill County Prison ("SCP"). Named as defendants are Schuylkill County Prison, the Schuylkill County Prison Board, former Warden Gerald Britton, Gerald Britton individually, Schuylkill County, and Doe defendants identified as "those corrections officers and other prison officials whose responsibility was to provide medical care and treatment to the inmates." (Am. Compl., Rec. Doc. No. 4, at 2.) Plaintiff has not specifically identified the Doe defendants.

Plaintiff has alleged that the acts and omissions of defendants resulted in his subjection to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

On May 25, 2002, plaintiff suffered a broken left wrist during a basketball game in the prison yard at SCP.*fn1 Thereafter, plaintiff waited 39 days before being examined by a doctor, 55 days before being x-rayed, and 61 days before a cast was placed on his broken wrist. Since his release on July 30, 2002, plaintiff has had three surgeries on his left wrist and has experienced pain and difficulty in performing manual labor due to his injury.

The parties have completed discovery. Now before the court is a motion for summary judgment on behalf of all defendants. Defendants argue that they are entitled to summary judgment because plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Defendants former Warden Gerald Britton and the Schuylkill County Prison Board ("SCPB" or the "Board") further argue that they are entitled to summary judgment because they lacked the personal knowledge and involvement necessary to trigger liability under Section 1983. Britton and the Board also argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity. Finally, defendants argue that neither the Schuylkill County Prison nor the Board are "persons" within the meaning of Section 1983.

For the following reasons, we will deny the motion for summary judgment, except as it relates to the Schuylkill County Prison, which is not a "person" amenable to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The parties will be directed to brief the matter of the Doe defendants within thirty days of the date of this order.


I. Legal Standard

1. Summary Judgment

A district court may properly grant a motion for summary judgment "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The plain language of the rule "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

At the summary judgment stage, "the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact is one that may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party. Id. In determining whether there is a disputed issue of material fact, the court will draw all reasonable inferences and any ambiguities in favor of the nonmoving party. Am. Flint Glass Workers Union v. Beaumont Glass Co., 62 F.3d 574, 578(3d Cir. 1995) (citation omitted).

The party opposing a motion for summary judgment "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The nonmoving party "has the duty to set forth specific facts showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists and that a reasonable factfinder could rule in its favor." Ridgewood Bd. Of Educ. v. N.E. ex rel. M.E., 173 F.3d 238, 252 (3d Cir. 1999) (citations omitted); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). "Speculation and conclusory allegations do not satisfy this duty." Ridgewood Bd. Of Educ., 173 F.3d at 252 (citation omitted). Furthermore, the "mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [nonmoving party's] position will be insufficient." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

2. 42 U.S.C. § 1983

Section 1983 does not create substantive rights, but rather provides a remedy for the violation of rights created by federal law. Groman v. Twp. of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 633 (3d Cir. 1995). The statute provides for a cause of action against persons who, acting under color of state law, deprive another individual of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In order for a plaintiff to prevail under Section 1983, he must establish two elements:

(1) that the defendants were "state actors," and (2) that they deprived the plaintiff of a federal right. See Groman, 47 F.3d at 633.

II. Facts

In a motion for summary judgment, we draw all reasonable inferences and any ambiguities regarding the facts in favor of the nonmoving party. Am. Flint. Glass Workers Union, 62 F.3d at 578.*fn2

Plaintiff David Meyers was incarcerated at the Schuylkill County Prison ("SCP") from January 18, 2002, until his release on July 30, 2002. While playing basketball in the prison yard, plaintiff fell and broke his left wrist. Plaintiff testified in his deposition that when he fell, he heard a snap and his wrist swelled instantly.*fn3

Plaintiff asserts that the date of his injury was Saturday, May 25, 2002. Defendants contest this date and instead point to June 8, 2002, as the date of the initial Incident Report filed by Corrections Officer ("CO") Jeff Harner.*fn4 In his report dated June 8, CO Harner wrote: "After coming in from outside yard, Resident Myers, David reported to this C/O that he had hurt his wrist playing basketball. The back of his hand appeared to be swollen along with his fingers. Lt. Gehres was informed, and ice was given to resident." (Pl.'s Brief in Opp., Rec. Doc. No. 21, Ex. 12.) This Accident/Incident Report form was initialed by Captain David Wapinsky on June 20, 2002. (See Dep. of Gerald Britton, Rec. Doc. No. 21, Ex. 2, at 72.))

We will adopt May 25, 2002, as the date of injury, construing this disputed fact in favor of the nonmoving party. This is a reasonable inference and is consistent with plaintiff's testimony as a whole.*fn5 Nevertheless, even were we to adopt a later date of injury, our analysis would be the same.

The first documentation of plaintiff's injury was on June 8, 2002, with CO Harner's incident report. It was not until July 3, 2002 that plaintiff was seen by a doctor. That was a full 39 days after the initial injury, and 25 days after the incident report. The doctor ordered an x-ray, which was not taken until July 19, 2002, a full 55 days after plaintiff suffered the injury, 41 days after CO Harner prepared the incident report, and 16 days after the x-ray was ordered. Meyers waited six more days, until July 25, 2002, to have his wrist casted. Meyers thus spent 61 days with an uncasted broken wrist--47 days after CO Harner prepared the incident report.

The grievance procedure in place during plaintiff's incarceration was contained in the Schuylkill County Prison Resident Rules and Regulations, which Meyers received upon admission to SCP. On page 6, the Rules and Regulations state:

9. Communication and Grievance Procedure

A. The following procedures have been established to insure that all inmates have the opportunity for formal communication with members of the Prison Administration.

B. All communications of an official nature are to be submitted in accordance with ...

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