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Hankins v. Commonwealth

September 7, 2010

ROBERT HANKINS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sean J. McLAUGHLIN United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER

Plaintiff's civil rights complaint was received by the Clerk of Court on July 20, 2009 and was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter for report and recommendation in accordance with the Magistrates Act, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), and Rules 72.1.3 and 72.1.4 of the Local Rules for Magistrates. The original complaint named as Defendants (i) the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and approximately thirty-three (33) different individuals employed by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections; (ii) some fourteen (14) individuals employed by Fayette County, including public defenders, assistant district attorneys, and Fayette County Jail officials; (iii) Timmie Burnsworth, LPN, a nurse at the Fayette County Jail; (iv) Gloria Poindexter and Rhonda Sherbine, both Health Services employees under contract to provide medical services to inmates at SCI-Forest; (v) Mayor James R. Sileo; and (vi) Gregory Packaging, Inc..

On October 22, 2009, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint [64], adding as Defendants Judge Steven P. Leskinen, Edward Fike, and Tom Corbett. The Amended Complaint consists of 32 pages and 112 paragraphs of disjointed allegations from which the Magistrate Judge construed some twenty-two (22) separate claims for relief.

The Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, filed on July 29, 2010 [115], recommends that:

1. The Commonwealth Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment [77] be granted in part and denied in part;

2. The Fayette County Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [79] be granted in part and denied in part;

3. Defendant Burnsworth's Motion to Dismiss [84] be granted;

4. The Motion to Dismiss filed on behalf of Defendants Poindexter and Sherbine [100] be granted; and

5. Defendant Gregory Packaging's Motion to Dismiss [103] be granted.

The parties were allowed fourteen (14) days from the date of service in which to file objections. Plaintiff filed a Motion Seeking Amendment of Complaint [117]*fn1 on August 16, 2010 and objections to the Report and Recommendation [118] on August 18, 2010.

After de novo review of the Complaint and the documents in the case, together with the Report and Recommendation and Plaintiff's objections thereto, the Court is prepared to adopt the Report and Recommendation except insofar as it relates to the following:

a.) Plaintiff has asserted an Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants Chapman, Medlock, Croftcheck, and Waligura arising from his placement in a cell at the Fayette County Jail with an inmate "with mental health problems" who "had feces and urine throughout his assigned cell." (See Amended Complaint [64] at ¶¶ 5-7; Report and Recommendation [115] at pp. 5 (¶ 3), 18-19.) Although the Magistrate Judge recommended dismissing this claim, I find that the factual allegations are arguably sufficient to state a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 at this juncture and that the legal viability of the claim is better judged at the Rule 56 stage, following a period of discovery. Accordingly, I will deny the Defendants' motion to dismiss insofar as it relates to this claim.

b.) Plaintiff has asserted an Eighth Amendment claim against these same Defendants relative to conditions in the Fayette County Jail's Special Housing Unit. (See Amended Complaint at ¶¶ 66-70, 72-78, 81-91, 100-105; Report and Recommendation at pp. 7 (¶ 21), 20-22.) Here again, I find that the sufficiency of Plaintiff's claim is better judged at the Rule 56 stage, following completion of discovery. Therefore, I will decline to adopt the Magistrate Judge's recommendation to dismiss this claim.

c.) Plaintiff has asserted an Eighth Amendment violation based on allegations that he was placed in a cell at the Fayette County Jail, on or about January 3, 2008, which had "glass all over the bed frame, and exposed live electrical wires." (Amended Complaint ¶¶ 13-15; Report and Recommendation at pp. 5 (¶ 5), 19-20.) Although the Magistrate Judge found that Plaintiff had failed to allege misconduct on the part of any named Defendants, it seems that his claim in this regard is directed at the Fayette County Jail Defendants and Plaintiff has objected that, if permitted to engage in discovery, he could specify the names of the parties responsible for placing him in the cell. At this early juncture, the Court will construe the claim as being ...


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