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Rinaldi v. United States

November 9, 2010

MICHAEL RINALDI, PLAINTIFF
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Rambo

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Michael Rinaldi ("Rinaldi"), a federal inmate currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution at Victorville in Adelanto, California, commenced this action on September 2, 2009, by filing a complaint pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346, 2671 et seq. (Doc. 1.) In his complaint, Rinaldi alleges that on September 5, 2008, he was assaulted by his cellmate in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") of the Federal Correctional Institution at Schuylkill in Minersville, Pennsylvania ("FCI-Schuylkill"), his former place of confinement, and that Bureau of Prisons' ("BOP") staff should have known that his cellmate posed a threat to his safety. Before the court is a motion to dismiss the complaint or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, filed on behalf of Defendant United States of America. (Doc. 41.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss will be granted.

I. Background

A. Facts

As set forth above, Defendant has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. (Doc. 41.) In the motion, Defendant argues that Rinaldi's FTCA claim should be dismissed because it is barred by the discretionary function exception, and thus he has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In order to consider whether the complaint can be dismissed for failing to state a claim, the court must accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them. See Taliaferro v. Darby Twp. Zoning Bd., 458 F.3d 181, 188 (3d Cir. 2006). Because the court agrees that, even viewing the facts in a light most favorable to Rinaldi, he has failed to plead facts sufficient to state a claim for damages under the FTCA, the court need only address Defendant's motion as one for dismissal of the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

Proceeding under this framework, Rinaldi provides the following factual background with respect to his claim. On September 5, 2008, while housed in FCI-Schuylkill's SHU, Rinaldi was assaulted by his cellmate. (Doc. 1 at 2.) As a result of the assault, he suffered a lost tooth and received stitches on his lip and chin. (Id.)

Rinaldi asserts that his cellmate was known to be violent and had a history of assaulting his cellmates in the SHU and other inmates in the general population. (Id.) Immediately prior to being placed in the cell with Rinaldi, he had assaulted his two previous cellmates. (Id.) According to Rinaldi, in addition to fighting his cellmate exhibited disruptive behavior. (Id.) He broke fire sprinklers, kicked doors, and had verbal altercations with SHU officers. (Id.) He also expressed signs of mental instability, such as hearing voices. (Id.) Rinaldi asserts that his cellmate expressed a desire to be housed by himself. (Id.)

Attached as an exhibit to the complaint is the BOP Northeast Regional Office's denial of Rinaldi's administrative tort claim relating to the September 5, 2008 assault. (Id. at 4.) In its response, the Regional Office explained the denial as follows:

Investigation reveals that on September 4, 2008, you were given a new cellmate while housed in the Special Housing Unit. During recreation the next day, you were assaulted by this inmate. Prior to the assault, you did not advise staff of any concerns you had about this inmate. Furthermore, there was no indication this inmate posed a specific threat to you. There is no evidence to suggest you experienced a compensable loss as the result of negligence on the part of any Bureau of Prisons' employee. (Id.)

B. Procedural History

After Rinaldi's administrative tort claim was denied by the Northeast Regional Office, Rinaldi timely filed his complaint on September 2, 2009. (Doc. 1.) Service of the complaint was directed by order dated September 30, 2009. (Doc. 9.)

On December 18, 2009, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. (Doc. 13.) A supporting brief and statement of facts followed on January 19, 2010. (Docs. 17, 18.) Rinaldi filed a responsive brief and counter statement of facts on February 22, 2010. (Doc. 23, 24.) Defendant's reply brief was filed on March 5, 2010. (Doc. 28.)

By memorandum and order dated July 1, 2010, the court denied Defendant's motion for summary judgment based on a genuine issue of material fact. (Doc. 39.) In a footnote, the court noted that the discretionary function exception may relieve Defendant of liability in this case, but declined to consider the exception because Defendant failed to raise it. (Id. at 12 n.2.) As a result, the order directed Defendant to answer the complaint. (Id. at 13.) Consequently, Defendant filed the instant motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, contending that the ...


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