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Brown v. Beard

March 23, 2007

EDWARD BROWN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JEFFREY A. BEARD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Caputo)

MEMORANDUM

I. Background

Plaintiff, Charles Edward Brown, an inmate at the State Correctional Institution in Dallas ("SCI-Dallas"), Pennsylvania, commenced this pro se civil rights action by filing a complaint pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants are the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary Jeffrey A. Beard and various officials at SCI-Dallas. Plaintiff claims that he has endured extreme cold temperatures while housed at SCI-Dallas, in contravention of the Eighth Amendment proscription of cruel and unusual punishment. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that he "has been made to suffer excessively cold temperatures ranging from twenty-six (26) to minus fifteen (-15) . . . causing Plaintiff substantial physical harm . . . [so] that all Plaintiff could do is sleep in his long johns, clothes, winter coat and hat . . . in violation of Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment right to adequate shelter and heat." (Doc. 170 at 4.) This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 153). The motion has been briefed and it is ripe for disposition. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted.

II. Discussion

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment may be entered only "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." The party moving for summary judgment has the burden of proving that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). Additionally, on summary judgment, the inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Hugh v. Butler County Family YMCA, 418 F.3d 265, 266 (3d Cir. 2005). "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). To preclude summary judgment, there must be a "genuine" issue of a material fact, "that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Id. at 249-250 (citations omitted).

Moreover, Rule 56 provides that the adverse party may not simply sit back and rest on the allegations contained in the pleadings. Rather, the adverse party must show by affidavits, pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). When addressing a summary judgment motion, our inquiry focuses on "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52 (emphasis added).

B. 1983 Standard

To state a viable § 1983 claim, Plaintiff must establish (1) that the alleged wrongful conduct was committed by a person acting under color of state law, and (2) that the conduct deprived the plaintiff of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Nicini v. Morra, 212 F.3d 798, 806 (3d Cir. 2000). Although it is undisputed that Defendants are acting under color of state law, Plaintiff fails to establish the deprivation of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.

C. Eighth Amendment Standard

The Constitutional issue implicated in this case is the Eighth Amendment requirement that prison officials make reasonable efforts to assure prisoner health and safety. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). Protection of prisoner health would require provision of adequate heat, and courts have held that exposure to extreme temperatures "undermines the health of the inmates" and "increases the likelihood of disease." Tillery v. Owens, 719 F. Supp. 1256 (W.D. Pa. 1989). However, the Eighth Amendment does not require prison officials to provide inmates with comfortable prisons. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 349 (1981); Loe v. Wilkinson, 604 F. Supp. 130, 133-34 (M.D. Pa. 1984). The Supreme Court has made clear that prison conditions may be "restrictive and even harsh," but prison officials are required to provide inmates with the "minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347.

In the context of the prison environment, "extreme deprivations are required to make out a conditions-of-confinement claim." Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992). Part of the penalty facing those who violate the norms of society is routine discomfort. Id. Plaintiff must show that the conditions of his confinement posed "a substantial risk of serious harm" to his health or safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. "[A]lthough accidental or inadvertent failure to provide adequate . . . care to a prisoner would not violate the Eighth Amendment, 'deliberate indifference . . . to . . . needs of prisoners' violates the Amendment because it constitutes the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain contrary to contemporary standards of decency." Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 32 (1993), quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976).

To establish Eighth Amendment liability, the prison official must be shown to have knowledge of an excessive risk to inmate health, and the official must be shown to have been deliberately indifferent to that perceived risk. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 842 (1994). An official who actually knew of a substantial risk to inmate health will not be liable where the official acted reasonably in response, even if harm ultimately ensues. Id. at 844. In this case, Plaintiff has failed to show (1) that he was subjected to a deprivation of the "minimal civilized measure of life's ...


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