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Caldwell v. Luzerne County Corrections Facility Management Employees

August 11, 2010


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


Plaintiff Joshua Caldwell ("Caldwell") initiated this civil rights action on March 25, 2009, with a complaint filed pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, (Doc. 1), as amended on September 11, 2009, (Doc. 30). Caldwell sets forth allegations against several employees of the Luzerne County Corrections Facility ("LCCF") in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.*fn1 He contends that Defendants violated his constitutional rights when he was forcibly removed from his cell or the shower on three separate occasions. He also claims that on two other occasions, certain Defendants retaliated against him for his filing lawsuits and used excessive force in escorting him from the shower or recreation area to his cell.

Before the court is a motion to dismiss the amended complaint filed on behalf of Defendants. (Doc. 49.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

A. Facts

In the amended complaint, Plaintiff provides the following factual background with respect to the five incidents. The court notes that for purposes of disposition of the instant motion to dismiss, the factual allegations asserted in the amended complaint will be accepted as true and viewed in the light most favorable to Caldwell.

1. February 18, 2009 Incident

On February 18, 2009, at 12:30 a.m., Caldwell was removed from his cell in LCCF's Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU") by the Immediate Response Team ("IRT) for allegedly banging on his cell door. (Doc. 30 ¶¶ 1-3.) However, another inmate admitted to Defendant Lieutenant Seman at the time that he had been banging on the door rather than Caldwell. (Id. ¶ 4.) Caldwell was placed in handcuffs and shackles and escorted to LCCF's B-Block. (Id. ¶ 5.) Upon entry into a cell in that unit, Caldwell's right handcuff and shackles were removed. (Id. ¶¶ 6-7.) Before Caldwell could "do anything," members of the IRT tased him with an electric shield. (Id. ¶ 8.) While he was being tased, Defendants Lieutenant Seman and Captain Sleboda yelled, "Stop resisting, stop resisting." (Id. ¶ 9.) However, Caldwell was not resisting; rather, when the electric shield touched his back he fell forward from the shock and hit his forehead on the wall of the cell, causing it to split and bleed. (Id. ¶¶ 10-12.) Further, while his forehead was pressed against the wall, causing his neck to bend, Defendants Officers John A. Doe and John B. Doe continued to press the electric shield against Caldwell's back. (Id. ¶ 13.) As a result, his body jolted and his back became numb. (Id. ¶ 14.) Caldwell was then placed in 5-point restraints on a bare steel bedframe. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.) Officers cut off his jumpsuit and underwear, leaving Caldwell naked on the bedframe. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18.) He remained naked on the cold bedframe for about a half-hour. (Id. ¶ 20.) After that half-hour, Defendants Officers Luchetti, John B. Doe and Lieutenant Seman entered the cell with a thin blanket. (Id. ¶ 21.) Defendant Lieutenant Seman directed the others to place the blanket under Caldwell, stating, "He can't lay on just the bed frame. Put that blanket under him." (Id. ¶ 22.) Further, after Caldwell had been secured in the 5-point restraints, he requested that Defendants Nurse Jane Doe, Lieutenant Seman, and Captain Sleboda take photographs of his wrists and forehead. (Id. ¶ 23.) All of these Defendants refused to take the photographs. (Id. ¶ 24.)

Caldwell remained in the cell in 5-point restraints until 8:00 a.m. the next morning. (Id. ¶ 25.) At that time Defendants Lieutenant Souchick and Sergeant Majchko informed Caldwell that they were removing the 5-point restraints in order to fit him with a "turtle suit." (Id. ¶ 26.) He was then handcuffed and shackled, led out of the cell into the corridor and placed into a "turtle suit." (Id. ¶¶ 27-29.) Upon return to the cell, Defendants Lieutenant Souchick and Sergeant Majchko placed a hard white mattress on the steel bed frame, but on an angle against the wall. (Id. ¶¶ 30, 32.) Caldwell was then placed on the mattress and secured with 5-point restraints. (Id. ¶ 31.) Due to the angle of the mattress, Caldwell's neck was bent at almost a 90-degree angle and resultantly he began to experience severe neck pain. (Id. ¶¶ 33-34.) He asked Defendant Officer Coslett on three separate occasions to adjust the mattress in order to alleviate the pain, but received no response. (Id. ¶¶ 35-36.)

Approximately two hours later, or about 12:30 p.m., Defendant Nurse Jane Doe entered the cell to examine Caldwell. (Id. ¶ 37.) He informed her of the pain he was experiencing as a result of the angle of the mattress and asked if she could reposition it. (Id. ¶¶ 39-40.) She responded, "I can't do anything about that. I'm here to make sure your pulse is right and that's it." (Id. ¶ 41.) Caldwell then asked Defendant Nurse Jane Doe to take photographs of his wrists, his forehead, and his legs, but she did not respond. (Id. ¶¶ 42-43.)

At 2:00 a.m., another nurse arrived at the cell to check on Caldwell. (Id. ¶ 44.) When he told her about pain in his shoulder due to the positioning of the mattress and the tight restraints, she felt his fingertips and toes. (Id. ¶¶ 46-47.) Afterwards, she stated to Defendants Lieutenant Seman and John A. Doe, "Well he is kinda cold." (Id. ¶ 48.) They responded by giving her a dirty look. (Id. ¶ 49.) However, when all three individuals were leaving the cell, the registered nurse asked Caldwell if he needed anything, and he requested motrin for his pain. (Id. ¶¶ 50-51.) She then left the cell, but returned a few minutes later with two motrin and informed Caldwell that she was going to schedule him for x-rays of his right shoulder because she could "see that your [sic] in obvious pain." (Id. ¶¶ 53-55.)

Caldwell was released from the 5-point restraints at 11:00 a.m. on February 19, 2009. (Id. ¶ 58.) He was permitted to shower, but showering was difficult due to the pain in his neck and shoulder. (Id. ¶¶ 59-60.) After he showered, he was placed back in his cell, but without 5-point restraints, and served lunch at approximately 12:30 p.m. (Id. ¶¶ 61-63.)

2. March 11, 2009 Incident

On March 11, 2009, at 9:45 p.m., Defendant Lieutenant Seman ordered the IRT to remove Caldwell from his RHU cell for allegedly banging on his cell door. (Id. ¶¶ 65-68.) At that time, all the inmates in the RHU were banging on their cell doors, but Defendant Lieutenant Seman ordered only Caldwell removed. (Id. ¶¶ 69, 71-77.) Caldwell heard another inmate admit to Defendant Lieutenant Seman that it was he, not Caldwell, who was banging on his cell door. (Id. ¶ 70.) Further, when Caldwell told Defendant Lieutenant Seman that he had not been banging on his cell door, the Lieutenant stated, "I don't care who it was. I said it was you, and I'm going to eliminate my problem early." (Id. ¶¶ 78-81.) Caldwell was then escorted to the RHU shower area and strip searched. (Id. ¶¶ 82-83.) After being strip searched, he was taken to a new cell and placed in 5-point restraints. (Id. ¶¶ 84-87.) As he was being placed in restraints, he asked Defendants Lieutenant Seman and Captain Sleboda for the time, but was ignored. (Id. ¶ 85.)

Approximately two hours later, Defendants Officer Luchetti and Nurse Jane Doe entered the cell to check on Caldwell. (Id. ¶¶ 88, 90.) Caldwell requested that photographs be taken of his wrists, which were swollen and bleeding from the tight restraints, but was ignored. (Id. ¶ 89-91.) He also requested a blanket from Defendants Officer Luchetti, Lieutenant Seman, and Officer Domagaller, but each refused. (Id. ¶¶ 94.) As a result, he was left without a blanket and dressed only in a "turtle suit" in a cell with two broken windows and an air vent directly above his bed. (Id. ¶ 93.) Prior to being released from the 5-point restraints, he was served a meal at 9:00 a.m. on March 12, 2009, but only his arms were released, resulting in him eating his meal "just sitting up, with no back support." (Id. ¶¶ 96-99.) At 1:30 p.m., he was released from the 5-point restraints and escorted back to his cell in handcuffs and shackles by Defendant Officer Hall. (Id. ¶¶ 102-104.)

3. April 15, 2009 Incident

On April 15, 2009, at approximately 6:30 p.m., while Caldwell was in the shower, Defendants Officer Mitkowski and Sergeant Belluda searched his cell in the RHU. (Id. ¶ 176.) In his cell at that time was paperwork pertaining to the instant action. (Id. ¶ 177.) Caldwell saw the Defendants enter his cell and yelled from the shower, "Can you wait till I am present to search my cell," but was ignored. (Id. ¶¶ 178-80.) After searching his cell, Defendant Officer Mitkowski placed Caldwell in handcuffs in preparation for escorting him back to his cell with Defendant Sergeant Balluda. (Id. ¶¶ 184, 188.) Caldwell asked for a grievance form and was ignored. (Id. ¶ 182.) At some point, Defendant Officer Mitkowski placed a "teather" on the handcuffs and began pulling Caldwell's hands through the shower wicket with "unnecessary extreme force," causing his hands to bleed and swell severely. (Id. ¶¶ 186-87.) Once they reached the cell, Defendant Officer Mitkowski used force to pull Caldwell's arms through the cell's wicket, causing his arms to bleed from cuts and scrapes. (Id. ¶¶ 189-90.) When Caldwell entered his cell, he observed that his "civil suit paperwork" was wet and thrown about the cell. (Id. ¶ 191.)

4. May 26, 2009 Incident

On April 17, 2009, Caldwell was charged with twelve (12) counts of terroristic threats resulting from various incidents allegedly taking place at LCCF between August 2008 and April 2009. (Id. ¶¶ 192, 244-45.) On May 26, 2009, he was transported to court for a preliminary hearing. (Id. ¶ 195.) During the hearing, five of the Defendants in the instant action testified: Defendants Seman, Luchetti, Bleich, Lutton, and Perriguno. (Id. ¶ 197.)

After Caldwell was transported back to LCCF and given recreation time, at 3:30 p.m., Defendant Officer Bleich arrived to escort Caldwell back to his cell. (Id. ¶ 198.) On the walk back from recreation, Defendant Officer Bleich punched Caldwell in the back of the head and stated, "See tough guy we always have the last word." (Id. ¶ 201.) Caldwell asked to speak with a "white shirt" and was refused. (Id. ¶ 202.)

5. May 27, 2009 Incident

On May 27, 2009, at 8:30 p.m., while Caldwell was in the shower, he asked Defendant Lieutenant Ameen for soap. (Id. ¶ 203.) Defendant Lieutenant Ameen refused to give soap to Caldwell. (Id. ¶ 204.) As a result, Caldwell announced that he would not get out of the shower until he was given soap. (Id. ¶ 205.) Defendant Lieutenant Ameen stated, "get out or we ...

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