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Charles V. Oliver v. Jeffrey A. Beard

September 29, 2011

CHARLES V. OLIVER,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
JEFFREY A. BEARD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Charles V. Oliver ("Oliver"), an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional Institution at Retreat ("SCI Retreat") in Hunlock Creek, Pennsylvania, initiated the above action prose by filing a complaint under the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1.) He asserts claims arising from events that occurred while he was confined at the State Correctional Institution at Dallas ("SCI Dallas") in Dallas, Pennsylvania.

Presently before the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed on behalf of the defendants remaining in this action, the Reverend W. James Pall, a Facility Chaplain Program Director at SCI Dallas; Joseph Zakarauskas, an Intelligence/Security Lieutenant at SCI Dallas; Chris Putnam, the Unit Manager of C and D Blocks at SCI Dallas; and William P. Miller, an Intelligence/Security Lieutenant at SCI Dallas ("defendants"). (Doc. 24.) Also pending is Oliver's motion seeking reconsideration of our June 14, 2011 order (Doc. 47) granting defendants' motion to extend the case management deadlines in this case pending our ruling on the instant motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 53.)

For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted based upon Oliver's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies as to his claims against defendants. Because this case will be closed, plaintiff's motion for reconsideration of the decision to extend the case management deadlines in this case will be denied as moot.

I. Background

In his original complaint, filed on July 6, 2010, Oliver sets forth four claims. He first alleges that, while he was confined at SCI Dallas, defendants were deliberately indifferent to his safety in violation of the Eighth Amendment by knowingly placing his childhood abuser in his cell. (Doc. 1 at 7.) He next alleges that "Defendants knowingly sent my laundry bag to F-Block for purpose of negotiations with prison gangs for a contract of discrimination," thereby creating unsafe conditions. (Id. at 7 ¶ 13(B).) Oliver's third claim is that, after a criminal complaint was filed, defendants Pall and Zakarauskas retaliated against him by administratively transferring him with the knowledge that it would result in the loss of his job. (Id. ¶ 13(C).) Finally, in his fourth claim, Oliver alleges that defendants Zakarauskas and Pall verbally insulted him and his mother, who he identifies as Queen Noor of Jordan. (Id. ¶ 13(D), (E).) .

This case originally was assigned to the Honorable James F. McClure, Junior.*fn1 After screening the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, by memorandum and order dated August 19, 2010, Oliver's Eighth Amendment failure to protect claim regarding the alleged placement of his childhood abuser in his cell at SCI Dallas was permitted to go forward;

Oliver was directed to amend his Eighth Amendment claim regarding his laundry bag to include factual allegations to support the claim; and his retaliation claim concerning his transfer from SCI Dallas, and his claim regarding verbal insults, were dismissed with prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Doc. 10.) In addition, defendants Jeffrey A. Beard, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"), and James J. McGrady, Superintendent of SCI Retreat, were dismissed as parties for lack of personal involvement; Oliver's claim for compensatory damages arising out of his failure to protect claim was dismissed with prejudice because Oliver did not allege that he suffered any physical injury as a result of residing in the same cell as his alleged abuser; and Oliver's request for a preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining defendants Pall, Zakarauskas, Miller, and Putnam from trying to again have his childhood abuser placed in his cell was denied as moot inasmuch as Oliver and his alleged childhood abuser no longer were confined in the same institution. (Id.)

On September 2, 2010, Oliver filed an amended complaint as to his laundry bag claim. (Doc. 12.) He also filed a motion to amend (Doc. 11) and supporting brief (Doc. 14) as to his retaliation and verbal insult claims that had been dismissed with prejudice. By memorandum and order dated October 7, 2010, the Court denied Oliver's request to amend as to his verbal insults claim, but granted his request to amend as to his claim that defendants Pall and Zakarauskas retaliated against him by transferring him to a different prison. (Doc. 15.) Accordingly, service of the complaint (Doc. 1) and amended complaint (Doc. 12) was directed on defendants Pall, Zakarauskas, Miller, and Putnam as to the following three (3) claims that are the remaining claims in this action: (1) Oliver's claim that defendants failed to protect him when they knowingly placed him in a cell with his alleged childhood abuser; (2) his claim that defendants Pall and Zakarauskas retaliated against him by transferring him to a different prison with the knowledge that it would result in a downgrade in his prison job pay; and (3) his claim that defendant Pall retaliated against him by sending his laundry bag to F-Block. (Id.)

Waivers of service of summons were returned on behalf of defendants reflecting that the waivers were sent on October 22, 2010, and thus an answer was due on or before December 21, 2010. (Docs. 17, 19.) On December 20, 2010, Defendants filed an answer to the complaint. (Doc. 21.) The instant motion for summary judgment was filed on behalf of defendants on December 23, 2010. (Doc. 24.) A supporting brief (Doc. 25) and supporting exhibits (Doc. 26) simultaneously were filed. Oliver filed his opposition brief on January 3, 2011.*fn2 (Doc. 30.) Oliver subsequently filed a motion (Doc. 31) requesting leave to file exhibits that he inadvertently failed to attach to his opposition brief, which we granted by memorandum and order dated May 6, 2011. (Doc. 34.) Also in our May 6 memorandum and order, we directed defendants to file their statement of material facts that had not been filed with their motion for summary judgment, but that had been referenced throughout their brief in support of their motion, and directed Oliver to file his responsive statement within twenty-one (21) days of that filing. (Id.) On May 9, 2011, Defendants filed their statement of material facts. (Doc. 35.) Oliver filed his responsive statement on May 18, 2011. (Doc. 36.) Accordingly, the motion for summary judgment is fully briefed and ripe for review.

In addition, on June 13, 2011, defendants filed a motion requesting an extension of the discovery and dispositive motion deadlines pending our disposition of their motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 46.) In their motion, defendants observed that their motion for summary judgment only raises the issue of exhaustion of administrative remedies and does not address the merits of Oliver's claims. (Id. ¶ 3.) They also noted that no case management order had been issued in this case. (Id. ¶ 4.) Thus, defendants pointed out that, pursuant to Local Rule 26.4, the discovery deadline was set to expire on June 20, 2011, and pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(b), the dispositive motion deadline was set to expire on July 20, 2011. (Id. ¶¶ 5-6.) Consequently, defendants noted that, if the Court were to deny their pending motion for summary judgment after the expiration of these deadlines, they would be time barred from engaging in discovery and from filing additional dispositive motions as to the merits of Oliver's claims. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.) They therefore requested an extension of the case management deadlines pending our disposition of the motion for summary judgment. (Id. at 2-3.) By order dated June 14, 2011, we granted defendants' motion and suspended the deadlines for the completion of discovery and submission of dispositive motions pending further order of court. (Doc. 47.)

On June 22, 2011, Oliver filed a motion for reconsideration (Doc. 53) from our June 14 order along with a supporting brief (Doc. 54). Defendants filed an opposition brief on July 5, 2011. (Doc. 55.) On July 12, 2011, Oliver filed a reply brief. (Doc. 57.) Accordingly, Oliver's motion for reconsideration also is fully briefed and ripe for review.

II. Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that "[t]he Court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

Where there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Where, however, there is a disputed issue of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate only if the factual dispute is not a genuine one. Id. An issue of material fact is genuine if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.

Initially, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant meets this burden by pointing to an absence of evidence supporting an essential element as to which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at 325.

All doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact must be resolved against the moving party, and the entire record must be examined in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. White v. Westinghouse Elec. Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to either present affirmative evidence supporting its version of the material facts or to refute the moving party's contention that the facts entitle it to judgment as a matter of law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57. The non-moving party "cannot rely on unsupported allegations, but must go beyond pleadings and provide some evidence that would show that there exists a genuine issue for trial." Jones v. United Parcel Serv., 214 F.3d 402, 407 (3d Cir. 2000). Arguments made in ...


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