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Allen Jerome Supples v. Larry Mcconahy

May 7, 2012

ALLEN JEROME SUPPLES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LARRY MCCONAHY, MS. RHODES, MR. FANNO, MR. RUSSO, AND MR. STRUTHERS DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM ORDER

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. Plaintiff claims violations of his rights under the Eighth Amendment, based on his exposure to oleoresin capsicum spray ("OC spray") by guards at the Lawrence County Correctional Facility ("LCCF") on February 8, 2008, and subsequent forced placement in a restraint chair for roughly four and one-half hours while still covered in the spray. A jury trial before the undersigned is scheduled to commence on May 29, 2012. (Doc. 64).

Before this Court are several motions in limine filed by the parties. They will be addressed seriatim.

A.Defendants' Motion to Preclude Evidence of Policies

Defendants seek an order precluding Plaintiff from admitting evidence at trial regarding

(1) LCCF's policy on the use of OC spray at the time of the incident giving rise to this lawsuit; and (2) the current policy of LCCF's medical services provider regarding the monitoring of inmates who are confined to restraint chairs. (Doc. 72 ¶ 4). Defendants argue that these policies are irrelevant to the claims made by Plaintiff, and would only confuse and mislead the jury. Id. ¶ 4. With respect to the policy regarding the restraint chair, Defendants further argue that it relates only to the medical services provider, and not to corrections officers, and that the policy at issue is not the one that was in place at the time of the incident.

In his response, Plaintiff argues that LCCF's policy on the use of force was known to all Defendants at the time of the incident, and that their alleged deviation from it demonstrates the state of mind necessary for liability to attach under the Eighth Amendment for their alleged acts and omissions. (Doc 86 ¶ 6). Plaintiff makes the same argument with respect to the medical provider's policy regarding the restraint chair. Id ¶¶ 9-11. Furthermore, to the extent that the policy at issue is not the one that was in place at the time of the incident, Plaintiff asserts that Defendants have not indicated what efforts they have undertaken to locate the earlier policy, and thus, Plaintiff should not be penalized. Id. ¶¶ 14-15.

Force is deemed legitimate in a custodial setting so long as it is applied "in a good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline [and not] maliciously and sadistically to cause harm." Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 320-21 (1986) (quoting Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028, 1033 (2d Cir. 1973)). It is clear that, to the extent that it can be established that it was known to them at the time of the use of force, this policy is relevant to establishing whether Defendants McConahy and Rhodes acted in a manner that was malicious and sadistic. See Fed. R. Evid. 401. Additionally, this Court finds no indication that such evidence, presented at trial with the proper foundation, would be unfairly prejudicial, or would serve to confuse the jury. See Fed. R. Evid. 403. Accordingly, this portion of Plaintiff's motion will be denied.

With respect to policy concerning Plaintiff's confinement to a restraint chair following his exposure to OC spray, this Court previously held that this claim properly is characterized as one arising from his conditions of confinement. (Doc. 51 at 12). To violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, conditions cited by an inmate must be "objectively, sufficiently serious [and] must result in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (internal citation and quotation omitted). Additionally, Plaintiff must demonstrate deliberate indifference on the part of the relevant Defendants in order to succeed in his conditions of confinement claim. This standard has been defined as requiring that a defendant "knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Id. at 837.

As with the policy on the use of OC, a policy on the use of restraint chairs could be relevant to establishing whether a Defendant had the necessary mens rea for liability to attach under the Eighth Amendment. However, in order for that to be the case, it would be necessary for Plaintiff to establish that it was the same as the policy that was in place at the time of the incident, and that at least one Defendant actually knew the policy. Without knowing whether Plaintiff can establish these facts at trial, it is impossible to make an adequate ruling on this part of Defendants' motion. Accordingly, the undersigned will defer on this portion of the instant motion until trial.

B. Defendants' Motion to Exclude Evidence Relating to the Alleged Failure of Non-- Parties to Conduct a Disciplinary Hearing

Defendants next move to preclude the admission of evidence that the Warden and Deputy Warden of LCCF -- neither of whom currently are parties to this case -- did not conduct a disciplinary hearing with respect to the incident of February 8, 2008. (Doc. 74 ¶ 2). Plaintiff responds that such evidence demonstrates complicity on the part of these individuals with Defendants' alleged bad acts. (Doc. 87-2).

The Warden and Deputy Warden of LCCF no longer are parties to this action.*fn1

Additionally, any failure on their part to investigate the incident of February 8, 2012, after the fact does not make Plaintiff's claims against remaining Defendants more or less probable, and thus is irrelevant. See ...


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