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Ardinger v. Wetzel

May 25, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Vanaskie



Plaintiff, David Shawn Ardinger, commenced this action pro se by filing a civil rights complaint pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, 1986, and 1988. In response, Defendants filed motions to dismiss. While the motions to dismiss were pending, counsel entered her appearance on behalf of Ardinger. By Order dated March 17, 2005 (Dkt. Entry 24), the Court dismissed Defendants' motions without prejudice, and directed Plaintiff to filed an Amended Complaint. Plaintiff complied on May 6, 2005, by filing, through counsel, a first amended complaint. (Dkt. Entry 26.) On July 5, 2005, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint. (Dkt. Entry 36.) As a result of various court rulings and agreements of counsel, the remaining Defendants consist of the following officials at the Franklin County Prison (collectively "FCP Defendants"): Warden John Wetzel; Lt. Rodney Effland; and Officers MacIntosh, Settings, Sheppard, T Doe, Monn, Cason, Avard, Crider, Shreiner, Snoke, Jones, and Hartman. The claims remaining in this case are excessive use of force (brought under the Eighth Amendment), unspecified violations of "substantive due process," intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, and battery. Those FCP Defendants who assert that they were not involved in the physical encounters with Plaintiff that give rise to this litigation (Warden Wetzel, Lt. Effland, Officer MacIntosh, and John Doe II) have moved for summary judgment. (Dkt. Entry 44.) The motion has been briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the following reasons, the motion will be granted.


Plaintiff was incarcerated in Franklin County Prison on or around February 12, 2002, and he was placed in the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU") because of his prior employment as a corrections officer in another state. Plaintiff claims that Defendants Settings and T Doe encouraged other inmates to taunt and harass him on several occasions. (Dkt. Entry 54 at ¶ 6.) Subsequently, Plaintiff filed a written request to Warden Wetzel concerning the alleged harassment. Plaintiff alleges that on or around June 17, 2002, Settings confronted him, locked him in the shower, and "made statements about the request slip that was sent to defendant Wetzel."*fn1 (Dkt. Entry 53 at 1.)

On June23, 2002, Settings accused Plaintiff of originating a "fish line" from his cell.

Plaintiff denied involvement in the fish line, and Settings summoned the assistance of several fellow officers, purportedly to remove Plaintiff's personal belongings from his cell. Plaintiff claims that the officers opened his cell, rushed at him, slapped and kicked him, and placed handcuffs on him very tightly, despite his reminders of a previous injury to his left wrist. (Dkt. Entry 54 at ¶ 11.) Plaintiff was extracted from his cell, all of his belongings but his mattress were removed, and Plaintiff was allowed to return to his cell.

Plaintiff alleges that his wrist was examined by a prison nurse, who advised that the wrist be x-rayed. (Id. at ¶ 17.) Officer Jones informed Plaintiff that the officers were trying to contact their superior at his home, and Plaintiff avers that the decision of whether he would receive treatment would be made by the shift commander on duty. (Id.) Plaintiff then placed his mattress against the cell door as a barricade, which he claims was an effort to bring his medical condition to the attention of the shift commander. (Id.)

Sergeant Crider testified that he contacted Deputy Warden Rouzer for instructions. According to Crider, Rouzer told him to conduct 15 minute checks on Plaintiff after the first altercation, and he was instructed by Rouzer to remove the mattress to conduct the 15 minute checks. Thereafter, officers entered Plaintiff's cell a second time to remove the mattress. Plaintiff suffered a broken right eye socket and a broken left wrist as a result of these encounters.

It is undisputed that neither Warden Wetzel, Lt. Effland, nor Officer MacIntosh were present during the altercations. It is also undisputed that Plaintiff has named all persons involved in the incidents that occurred on June 23 and 24, 2002, thereby removing the need for Defendant John Doe II.


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 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 (1986). Additionally, on summary judgment, the inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts must be viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. El v. Southeastern Transportation Authority, 479 F.3d 232, 238 (3d Cir. 2007);Mraz v. County of Lehigh, 862 F. Supp. 1344, 1346 (E.D. Pa. 1994). "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. "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Id. at 249-250 (internal citations omitted).

Moreover, Rule 56 provides that the adverse party may not simply sit back and rest on the allegations contained in the pleadings. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). 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. Id. When addressing a summary judgment motion, the court's inquiry focuses on "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury ...

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