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Davis v. Miner

April 26, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Rambo


I. Introduction

Plaintiff, Thomas L. Davis, an inmate currently incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary at Lee ("USP-Lee") in Jonesville, Virginia, filed this civil rights action under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), and a Bivens*fn1 styled civil rights claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. He alleges that prison officials at his former place of confinement, the United States Penitentiary at Allenwood ("USP-Allenwood") in White Deer, Pennsylvania destroyed his personal property and legal materials, and failed to protect him from a sexual assault committed upon him by another prisoner.*fn2

Presently before the court is Davis' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 18) and motion for judgment as a matter of law (Doc. 35), as well as Defendants'*fn3 motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment. (Doc. 42.) For the reasons set forth below, the court will deny Davis' motions and grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

II. Relevant Procedural History

Davis filed his complaint on September 11, 2006. (Doc. 1.) He proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis in this matter.*fn4 Prior to the court ordering service of the complaint upon Defendants, Davis filed a request to the defendants for settlement (Doc. 6) and a set of interrogatories directed to Defendant Miner. (Doc. 8.) The court ordered service of the complaint, the settlement request, and the interrogatories on October 2, 2006. (See Doc. 13.) Defendants' answer to Davis' complaint was initially due on or before December 4, 2006. (See Doc. 19.)

Before Defendants' answer to the complaint was due, Davis filed a motion for summary judgment with a supporting memorandum. (Doc. 18.) In the motion, Davis claimed to be seeking summary judgment against Defendants "on the grounds that [Davis] has genuine issues of material facts and full permission from Warden, Jonathan C. Miner, see attached tort claims." (Id. at 1.) His motion was not, however, accompanied by a separate statement of material facts, as required by Middle District of Pennsylvania Local Rule 56.1. Nevertheless, in the motion Davis offered again to settle out of court, requesting a transfer from USPAllenwood, $85,000 for pain and suffering, and a list of costs totaling $276,276. (Id. at 2-3.) Thereafter, he offered to settle for $76,743.28. (Id. at 4.)

On December 8, 2006, the court granted Defendants' motion for an extension of time in which to answer Davis' complaint, and directed Defendants to file a consolidated response to Davis' complaint (Doc. 1) and motion for summary judgment (Doc. 18) on or before January 22, 2007. (See Doc. 30.) However, before Defendants' filed their answer, Davis filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law on January 3, 2007. (Doc. 35.) In that motion, Davis asserted that he was filing the motion because "the complaint must be telling the truth, because the Defendants cannot tell this court the truth or answer either the complaint or these motions." (Doc. 35.) In his brief in support of the motion, Davis cited Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a),*fn5 relating to default of a party for failure to plead or otherwise defend, presumably claiming that judgment as a matter of law should be entered against the defendants because they had not yet answered his complaint or motion for summary judgment, nor had communicated with him about possibly settling out of court.*fn6 (See Doc. 35 at 2.)

On January 22, 2007, Defendants timely filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment, based on Davis' failure to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") and his failure to allege personal involvement on behalf of Defendants Miner and Snyder. (Doc. 42.) Defendants timely filed a statement of material facts (Doc. 44), and a brief and exhibits (Doc. 43) in support of their motion. On February 2, 2007, Davis filed a reply to Defendants' motion, which responded in part to Defendants' statement of material facts. (Doc. 45.) All motions are now fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

III. Relevant Facts

In his complaint, Davis alleges claims stemming from two separate incidents which allegedly occurred while he was confined at USP-Allenwood.*fn7

A. June 15, 2006 Incident On June 15, 2006, at approximately 12:15 p.m., pursuant to an emergency institution recall, prison staff members were directed to lock all inmates in their cells. (Doc. 44.) Davis refused to return to his cell because his cellmate was physically threatening him. (Doc. 1.) Because of his refusal to return to his cell, Davis was immediately transferred to the Special Housing Unit ("SHU"), and later charged with a code 307 violation, Refusing to Obey an Order of Any Staff Member. Defendant Uzialko confiscated his personal property, and locked it in her office. (Doc. 44.) At approximately 3:00 p.m., prison staff inventoried Davis' personal property and noted four inches of legal materials. (Id.)

On July 3, 2006, Davis was provided with a hearing before a Disciplinary Hearing Officer ("DHO") to address the charges on the code violation. (Doc. 43-3 at 15-17.) Davis denied the charges, but claimed that he voluntarily "checked in" to the SHU because he feared for his safety. (Id. at 16.) After considering the evidence, on July 11, 2006, the DHO found Davis guilty of the code 307 violation and sentenced him to twenty-one (21) days of disciplinary segregation. Davis did not appeal the decision.

On July 13, 2006, prison staff permitted Davis to inventory his personal property and verify its accuracy. (Id. at 7.) Davis alleges that Defendant Uzialko destroyed nearly all of his legal manuals, as well as 579 pages containing his criminal appeal to the United States Supreme Court. (Doc. 1.) Davis filed an inmate request to the Warden alleging that his personal property had been destroyed as a result of his placement in the SHU. (Doc. 18 at 5.) Defendant Miner responded on July 26, 2006, informing Davis that some of the items confiscated by prison officials were confiscated pursuant to a prison policy regarding inmate gifts. (Id.) He also stated, "As for the remainder of your property which you allege is missing, you may file a Tort Claim for reimbursement of any missing item(s)." (Id.) The record reflects that no further action was taken by Davis prior to filing the instant complaint.

B. July 14, 2006 Incident

On July 14, 2006, while sound asleep in the SHU between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., Davis claims his cellmate sexually assaulted the "private parts of my body. The rim of my rectum was hurting real bad and my penis was redish [sic] brown." (Doc. 1.) He also claims that when he informed prison officials of the assault, he heard "loud laughter." (Doc. 1.) The record indicates, though, that prison officials responded to Davis' claim by 1:00 a.m. on July 15, 2006, and initiated an investigation.*fn8 (Doc. 40.)

Prior to being informed of the results of the investigation by USPAllenwood officials, on July 24, 2006, Davis filed an administrative remedy to the Bureau of Prisons' ("BOP") Northeast Regional Office, alleging that his cellmate had sexually assaulted him. (Doc. 43-3 at 4.) On July 28, 2006, the Regional Office rejected the administrative remedy, stating, "this is an issue that can first be addressed by the warden." (Id.) Thereafter, on August 14, 2006, the USPAllenwood officials informed Davis that the investigation had been ...

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