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Belland v. Matachiski

June 3, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane


Before the Court is Defendants' renewed motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 95.) For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.


A. Factual Background

Plaintiff Anthony Belland is an inmate at State Correction Institute-Pittsburgh. On August 8, 2005, Belland filed a complaint in this Court alleging that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by exposing him to unsafe levels of tobacco smoke at the State Correctional Institute in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Camp Hill"). In particular, Belland alleged that after intake screening in January 2005, he was assigned to share a room with Larry Johnson, a known smoker. When Belland, an asthmatic, purportedly told Defendant Cliff*fn1 that he suffered from asthma and other lung problems, Cliff took no action. Belland then spoke with Defendants Hover*fn2 and Leadon about the problem, who also refused to take action.

A month later, Belland was moved to another cell in a different block. Three days after the move, Eric Moyer, a chain smoker, was assigned to Belland's cell, though Moyer was "reluctant to move in because he knew of [Belland's] medical problem" based on Belland's use of an inhaler. Belland then "wrote and talked to Defendants Matachiski and Hover," though he received no response from them.

On March 7, 2005, Belland "requested grievances from Defendants Leadon and Horner," who both "refused." The next day, Defendant Leadon sent Belland and Moyer to the restricted housing unit, where his "request[s] for grievances were continually refused." On his removal from restricted housing, Belland was placed with a non-smoker.

B. Procedural Background

On August 8, 2005, Belland, proceeding pro se, filed a complaint in this Court and requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis. After the Court screened the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 & 1915A (Doc. No. 7), Defendants were served with the complaint and waived service.

From this point forward, the procedural history of the case is rife with neglect. Numerous motions to continue and extensions were sought on both sides. Despite waiving service (Doc. No. 11), Defendants failed to timely file a responsive pleading to Belland's complaint. Defendants then sought leave for an extension of time to do so (Doc. No. 13), which was granted (Doc. No. 14). After another month, Defendants filed a four-paragraph answer with a single affirmative defense: "The Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." (Doc. No. 17.)

The Court then established discovery and dispositive-motion deadlines of February 28, 2006, and March 28, 2006, respectively. (Doc. No. 19.) After Belland, again proceeding pro se, unsuccessfully attempted to serve interrogatories and requests for production of documents on Defendants, he requested and was granted an additional thirty days of discovery. (Doc. No. 21.) On the last day before discovery closed, Defendants moved for an additional thirty days to respond to Belland's discovery requests (Doc. No. 24), and the Court granted their motion (Doc. No. 25). At this point, Defendants had until April 27, 2006, to respond to Belland's discovery requests.

On April 29, 2006, Belland filed a motion to compel (Doc. No. 27), on the grounds that Defendants failed to timely respond to his discovery requests. Because Belland did not file a brief in support of the motion, the Court deemed the motion to compel withdrawn pursuant to the Local Rules.

After the dispositive-motion deadline came and went, the Court issued an order scheduling the case for trial in September 2006. On June 5, 2006, Belland filed a motion for appointment of counsel, noting that trial would commence in September. (Doc. No. 33.) On June 20, 2006, the Court conditionally granted the motion, noting "that there are many cases in which the district courts seek to appoint counsel but [no such counsel is] willing to accept appointment." (Doc. No. 35) (quoting Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147, 157 (3d Cir. 1993)). Shortly thereafter, Belland submitted a witness list, identifying his former cellmates Larry Johnson and Eric Moyer as witnesses. (Doc. No. 36.)

On August 11, 2006, counsel entered an appearance on Belland's behalf (Doc. No. 38), and promptly filed a motion to continue (Doc. No. 39). Belland's counsel then filed another motion to continue on November 15, 2006, indicating that he had "obtained the services of a law student" to aid in the preparation of the case, and that he wanted to "explore the possibility and availability of a medical doctor who would be willing to testify on behalf of Plaintiff," and that he desired leave of court to "reopen the discovery process to include interrogatories and depositions ...

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