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Allen Jerome Supples v. Charles Adamo

June 30, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Bissoon


For the reasons stated below, the motion for summary judgment (Doc. 44) filed by Defendants Adamo, Porada, McConahy, Rhodes, Fanno, Russo, and Struthers ("Defendants") will be granted in part and denied in part.

Allen Jerome Supples ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner currently incarcerated in the State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy, located in Frackville, Pennsylvania. Plaintiff brings this suit pursuant to the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, et seq., alleging violations of his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, arising from his exposure to oleoresin capsicum spray ("OC spray") by guards at the Lawrence County Correctional Facility ("LCCF") on February 8, 2008; forced placement in a restraint chair for roughly four and one-half hours while still covered in the spray; and 13 days of confinement to the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU") following the incident.

Defendants moved for summary judgment on September 3, 2010 (Doc. 44). Plaintiff responded thereto on October 4, 2010 (Docs. 48 -- 49). This motion is ripe for disposition.

A. Relevant Facts.

On February 8, 2008, Plaintiff was a state prisoner temporarily housed at LCCF. Def.s‟ Concise Statement of Material Facts (Doc. 46) ¶¶ 1 -- 2. Plaintiff‟s cellblock was on lockdown. Id. ¶ 4. Plaintiff yelled to another inmate in an adjacent cell in an attempt to find out the reason that the lockdown was occurring. Id. ¶ 7. Defendant McConahy, a corrections sergeant, yelled back to Plaintiff, asking why he was concerned about the lockdown, and telling him not to worry about it. Id. ¶ 8. Defendant McConahy further told Plaintiff "that since he was worried about the block being locked down, it would be locked down for the rest of the day." Id. Plaintiff responded ""I don‟t care . . . . I don‟t have to be here.‟" Id. ¶ 9. Plaintiff also stated ""[m]an I don‟t care about the block being locked down. I don‟t care." Id. ¶ 11. Defendant McConahy responded that, since Plaintiff was so worried about it, he would keep the bock locked down. Id.

¶ 12. Plaintiff responded again ""I don‟t care if you keep it locked down. It doesn‟t matter." Id. ¶ 13.

Presumably, as a result of this verbal exchange, Defendant McConahy ordered Plaintiff to pack up his personal belongings, as he was going to be taken to the RHU. Id. ¶ 14. Plaintiff began to comply with this directive, but at some point, as he turned to face to door of his cell, Defendant McConahy shot him in the face with a burst of OC spray. Id. ¶¶ 21, 30; (Doc. 45-2). Plaintiff tried to wipe the spray from his face and eyes,*fn1 and asked Defendant McConahy why he sprayed him. (Doc. 46) ¶ 22. McConahy responded ""wait till [sic] [my] team arrive[s].‟" Id. ¶ 23. About fifteen minutes later, a team of corrections officers, comprised of Defendants Rhodes, Struthers, Fanno, and Russo, appeared at Plaintiff‟s cell. Id. ¶¶ 24, 27. Defendant Rhodes, a corrections captain, ordered Plaintiff to tell her what had happened. When he complied, she "failed to listen," and sprayed him with another burst of OC, which hit him in the face and neck. Id. ¶¶ 28 -- 29. Plaintiff again tried to wipe off the spray. Id. ¶ 32. Defendants left the vicinity of Plaintiff‟s cell, and waited fifteen minutes for the gas to take effect on Plaintiff. When they returned, Defendant Rhodes asked Plaintiff whether "he was going to comply." Id. ¶¶ 33 -- 34. Plaintiff answered in the affirmative, and allowed himself to be handcuffed by Defendant McConahy. Id. ¶¶ 35 -- 36.

As Plaintiff was being led from his cellblock, he asked for the OC spray to be cleaned off of his body. Id. ¶ 38. Plaintiff states in his deposition several times that he repeatedly asked Defendants to clean the OC off of him, and avers that he was "burning." (Doc 45-1) at 20 -- 23. Plaintiff also alleges that he informed Defendants that he needed to use a toilet, but was not allowed to do so. Id. ¶ 70.

Plaintiff was taken by Defendants Rhodes, Struthers, Fanno, and Russo into a small room. Id. ¶ 41. On Defendant Rhodes‟s orders, Defendants Struthers, Fanno, and Russo placed Plaintiff in the chair, shackled his legs to the chair and handcuffed him behind his back through slots in the chair. Id. ¶¶ 41 -- 44. Plaintiff was also bound to the chair by nylon strops that were placed over his chest, shoulders, and stomach. Id. ¶ 45. The chair was turned toward a wall, and Plaintiff was left in the room by himself. Id. ¶ 48. The record does not indicate that any attempt was made to clean the OC off of Plaintiff prior to his release from the chair several hours later.

Plaintiff estimates that he was held in held restraint chair from 4:30 pm, to 9:00 pm. (Doc. 46) ¶¶ 46; (Doc. 45-1) at 23. Plaintiff alleges that, about thirty minutes into his confinement, he soiled himself. (Doc. 46) ¶ 72. Approximately one hour into his confinement to the restraint chair, Officer Cox ("Cox"), a non-party to this suit, entered the room. Plaintiff told Cox that he was ""hurting‟" and needed help, and asked him to call a "white shirt." Id. ¶ 49.

Cox told Plaintiff that he would contact somebody, and then left the room. Id. ¶ 50. This was the one and only time that anyone came into the room to check on Plaintiff prior to his release from the chair at 9:00 pm. Id. ¶¶ 51 -- 52.

When Cox released Plaintiff from the chair, he contacted medical personnel, who refused to examine Plaintiff. Id. ¶¶ 54 -- 55. Cox took Plaintiff to the RHU, where he was allowed to shower and provided new clothes. Id. ¶¶ 54 -- 58.

Plaintiff was given a misconduct report from an unnamed officer at approximately 10:00 pm that night. Id. ¶ 59. Plaintiff never received a hearing regarding this misconduct, and alleges that the charges were fabricated by Defendant McConahy. On February 21, 2008 -- 13 days after the incident -- Plaintiff was transferred out of the Lawrence County Correctional Facility. Id. ¶ 64.

Plaintiff filed multiple administrative grievances regarding incident of February 8, 2008. Id. ¶ 62. Defendant Adamo responded to one of these grievances on February 20th, but all of the others went unanswered. Id. ¶¶ 62 -- 63.

Plaintiff testified at his deposition that Defendants Russo, Fanno, and Struthers "did not do nothing but put [him] in a [restraint] chair. (Doc. 45-1) at 30. Plaintiff believes that Defendants Russo, Fanno, and Struthers, but for Defendant Rhodes‟s orders, would not have put him in the restraint chair. (Doc. 46) ¶ 61. These officers "didn‟t want to hurt" Plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff also testifies in his deposition that he was not resisting at any point during the incident, that he had not disobeyed orders, and did not understand why force was being used on him. (Doc. 45-1) at 20 -- 21. In addition to the burning sensation that he was forced to endure due to his exposure to OC, Plaintiff avers that his hands and arms were numb due to his prolonged confinement to the restraints. Id. at 25.

Defendants present evidence, in the form of very brief affidavits and incident reports from the night in question, that their treatment of Plaintiff was justified. Defendant McConahy includes in his report, prior to his use of the OC spray, Plaintiff threatened to "shoot [him] on the streets," and that he shoved two meal trays and a cup at him through his food slot. (Doc. 45-2) at 3. Defendant McConahy reported that he felt at that point that Plaintiff "may pose a threat not only to [him] but to his cell mate who was [also] in the cell." Id. Defendant McConahy‟s report indicates that Plaintiff cuffed up after the second burst of OC spray "without further incident." Id. This report does not indicate that Plaintiff was decontaminated, or even that he was placed in a restraint chair.

Defendants Rhodes, Russo, Fanno, and Struthers all submit similarly short reports and affidavits, in which they indicate that Plaintiff was sprayed with OC, cuffed up, was taken to the RHU, and placed in a restraint chair. See (Docs. 45-3 -- 45-6). They also indicate that, prior to Defendant Rhodes‟s use of OC spray, Plaintiff refused orders to cuff up, and threatened to stab officers if they attempted to extract him from his cell. See, e.g., (Doc. 45-5) at 2. None of these exhibits indicate that Plaintiff ...

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