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Biauce v. Jones

July 27, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Baylson, J.


I. Introduction

In this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff Donald Felix Biauce, Jr. ("Biauce") alleges, inter alia, that Defendant Department of Corrections Officer Jacqueline ("Jackie") Jones ("Officer Jones") violated his Eighth Amendment rights and retaliated against him.*fn1 Pending before the Court is Officer Jones's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 47), which seeks to dismiss all claims against her0. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Officer Jones's Motion for Summary Judgment.

II. Factual & Procedural Background

Assuming all factual inferences in favor of Biauce, the nonmoving party, the facts are as follows: On March 13, 2008, Biauce, an inmate in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, was asked by a fellow inmate for his assistance in relocating to a new cell.

(Biauce Dep. 12:16--19, Summ. J. Mot., Ex. 1, Feb. 19, 2010.) Before agreeing to provide his assistance, Biauce asked Officer Denis Boyle and Officer Jones if the inmate had been given permission to relocate. Both officers told Biauce that they had not been informed that the inmate had permission to move. (Biauce Dep. 12:22--13:1.) Before returning to his cell, Biauce asked Officer Boyle to "crack [his] cell" if he learned that the inmate received permission. (Biauce Dep. 13:1--2.)

Around 8:00 a.m., Biauce's cellblock opened, which he says he believed to be in response to his request to Officer Boyle.*fn2 (Biauce Dep. 16:18-24.) Biauce left his cell and asked Officer Jones to open the mop sink for him to help clean his fellow inmate's cell. (Biauce Dep. 14:8-10.) In response to Biauce's request, Biauce contends that Officer Jones "started cursing at [him] and swearing at [him] to mind [his] own business." (Biauce Dep. 15:16-17.) At this time, Officer Jones was the only officer in Biauce's housing unit. (Jones Decl. ¶ 16; Boyle Decl. ¶ 9.) Biauce asserts that Officer Jones continued to get louder, which provoked Biauce to also start raising his voice. (Biauce Dep. 15:22-24.) Eventually, Officer Jones ordered Biauce to return to his cell and to lock himself in. (Biauce Aff. 18:14-16.) As he was returning to his cell, Biauce alleges that Officer Jones insulted his mother, which caused him to "snap[] and los[e] it." (Biauce Dep. 20:13.) Biauce asserts that he doesn't remember what happened afterward because he suffers from "a chemical imbalance." (Biauce Dep. 20:19--21:3.)

During the period of time that Biauce cannot remember, Officer Jones contends that Biauce ran from the upper tier balcony down to the lower tier officer's desk, struck her with a wooden chair and a metal file holder, punched her with a closed fist, pulled her hair, and choked her. (Jones Decl. ¶¶ 12--15.) Officer Jones's version of the events is corroborated by the declaration of Officer Boyle, who witnessed the event from a nearby "bubble," separated from the housing unit by glass. (Boyle Decl. ¶¶ 10--17.) Officer Boyle averred that he could not leave the bubble, because he had to open doors for responding staff. (Boyle Decl. ¶ 17.) At no point during this action has Biauce contested that he initiated the physical alteraction, and in his deposition, he conceded that he remembered "pushing" Officer Jones (Biauce Dep. 21:12). At some point, Biauce asserts that Officer Jones slapped him in the face, which "snapped [him] back to reality," and that he was "st[anding] there kind of bewildered" when Officer Jones grabbed Biauce's legs and attempted to bite his groin.*fn3 (Biauce Aff. 21:15-17, 24:22--25:1, 25:7-8.) According to Officer Jones, she acted in self--defense, fearing for her life; she "had no way of knowing" that Biauce had lost his ability to control himself earlier in the altercation, and regained such control prior to her biting him. (Summ. J. Mot. 5, 7.)

Next, Biauce grabbed Officer Jones's face. Biauce avers that he only did so to attempt to prevent her from biting down a second time (Biauce Dep. 25:17-20), but Officer Jones contends that Biauce did not appear to be harmed from her first biting attempt, and by grabbing her face, made her fear that he would"break her neck or inflict some other deadly injury" (Summ. J. Mot. 5--7). As Biauce grabbed Officer Jones's face, his pinky finger slid into her mouth, and she bit off the top digit of the finger. (Am. Compl. ¶ 8; Summ. J. Mot. 6--7.) Subsequently, another inmate intervened and pulled Biauce off Officer Jones, and other correctional officers responded. (Biauce Dep. 29:2-9.)

Biauce was taken to the infirmary, and then to the hospital, to have his finger treated, which included having x-rays performed and being given pain medication. (Biauce Dep. 29:23--33:5.) Aside from complaining about chest pains, for which he was put on a heart monitor, Biauce did not complain of additional pains and was not given further treatment. (Biauce Dep. 33:7--17.) Officer Jones was also taken to an outside hospital to be treated for injuries to her head, neck, back, and hand that she sustained during the altercation. Such treatment included two surgeries on her hand, cortisone shots, physical therapy, and pain medication. (Jones Decl. ¶¶ 20-21.)

In light of these events, the Program Review Committee sentenced Biauce to 270 days of disciplinary custody. (Biauce Dep. 43:5-8.) The parties do not dispute that Biauce then exhausted all administrative procedures and met the requirements within the Prison Litigation Reform Act before filing this civil action. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 4--7; see also Summ J. Mot. 1--11 (not challenging Biauce's contention that he fully exhausted his claims).)

On October 3, 2008, Biauce commenced this suit, bringing claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Officer Jones in her individual capacity. (Compl. V.) Biauce's Amended Complaint alleges that Officer Jones violated the Eighth Amendment and retaliated against him, and seeks a jury trial, and monetary and punitive damages. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 8-16.) The parties have completed discovery. (Summ. J. Mot. 1.)*fn4 On April 9, 2010, Officer Jones filed the pending Motion.

II. Jurisdiction and Legal ...

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