The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan
This civil rights action was filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 by Plaintiff, Demetrius Bailey, who alleged he was injured as a result of several violations of his rights as guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff alleged that on three separate occasions he was assaulted by corrections officers while imprisoned at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Greene ("SCI-Greene").
The first alleged incident occurred on June 20, 2000, involving Corrections Officer Albright. The second allegedly occurred on June 28, 2000, involving Corrections Officers Hopwood, Walters and Grainey. The third incident allegedly occurred on February 25, 2001, involving Corrections Officers Lowther, Naylor, Crutchman and Henry. Each of the Defendants denied that excessive force was used against the Plaintiff at any time, and asserted that only such force as was necessary was used on each of these occasions. Pursuant to Plaintiff's request, the Court appointed him pro bono counsel.
A four day jury trial commenced on January 24, 2006 at which Plaintiff, in addition to his own testimony produced four witnesses to testify on his behalf. Nine witnesses testified on behalf of the Defendants, including each of the defendants.
Counsel agreed on a verdict slip to be given to the jury, which directed them to answer a series of interrogatories set forth on the verdict slip attached hereto.
As can be seen from the verdict slip, the jury entered a verdict as to Claim 1 in favor of the Plaintiff and against Defendant Albright. They awarded him no compensatory damages but did award $10,000 in punitive damages against Defendant Albright. The jury found against the Plaintiff and in favor of the Defendants on the remaining two claims.
On February 1, 2006, Plaintiff, acting pro se, filed a Motion to Alter or Amend the Jury Verdict. In that two page motion Plaintiff argues that the jury verdict was contrary to the rule of law. He challenges the fact that no compensatory damages were awarded against Defendant Albright, although an award of punitive damages was made. He further challenges the fact that the jury made no award of damages for Plaintiff against any of the other Defendants. He argues that the medical evidence was undisputed that the defendants acted with malice and the fact that his injuries were de minimis should not bar a recovery in the case.
This argument is contrary to the jury findings on a number of levels. The Court will first address the issue of a finding of punitive damages without a compensatory damage award.
On the issue of damages, the Court instructed as follows:
If you find that the Plaintiff was subjected to excessive force by the Defendants, then he is entitled to compensatory damages for physical and emotional pain and suffering with respect to any physical injury he suffered as a result of these actions. A prisoner may not be compensated for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody without a showing of physical injury. A prisoner must establish more than a de minimis, but less than a significant injury, in order to recover damages for pain and suffering. ...
The purpose of compensatory damages is to compensate a person for injuries caused by the deprivation. The amount of compensatory damages that may be awarded to Plaintiff must be limited solely to the injury sustained as a direct result of the specific Defendant's actions and not for any injury or condition that Plaintiff suffered from prior or subsequent to his encounter with each of the Defendants or from his own actions. ....
The burden is on the Plaintiff to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he has suffered actual damages. Damages that have not been proven by a preponderance of the evidence may not be awarded. If you return a verdict for the Plaintiff but find that he has failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he suffered any actual damages, then instead of awarding compensatory damages, you must return an award of nominal damages not to exceed the sum of one dollar. Nominal damages must be awarded if you find that the Plaintiff has been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment but has suffered no actual damage as a consequence of that action.
The third type of damages that you may consider in this action are known as "punitive damages." Punitive damages are an award of money to the Plaintiff, which has as its purpose to punish a defendant for extraordinary misconduct and to deter a defendant from repeating such conduct and in addition to serve as a warning to others and to prevent others from committing such conduct. If you find that a Defendant is liable for violating the Plaintiff's rights, then you may, but you do not have to, award punitive damages. You may only award punitive damages only if the Plaintiff proves by a preponderance of the evidence that the Defendant's conduct was "recklessly and callously indifferent" to the Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. However, even if the Plaintiff proves by a preponderance of the evidence that the Defendants' conduct was recklessly and callously indifferent to the Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights, you are still not required to award punitive damages, you must also determine whether the Defendant's conduct is of the sort that calls for deterrence and punishment. If you find that ...