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Tyree Wallace v. Jane Doe

June 13, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner


Tyree Wallace ("Wallace" or "plaintiff"), a Pennsylvania state inmate, initiated this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his Eighth Amendment rights were violated while incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Huntingdon"). (Doc. 1.) The following defendants remain*fn1 Superintendent Raymond W. Lawler ("Lawler"); Unit Manager Scott Walters ("Walters"); Jay Johnson ("Johnson"), Counselor; Barbara Hollibaugh ("Hollibaugh"), Unit Manager; and "Jane Doe, Plumbing Supervisor." Presently pending is defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 76) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and motion to dismiss Jane Doe, Plumbing Supervisor pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 4(m). For the reasons set forth below, the motions will be granted.

I. Standard of Review

Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the movant is entitled to summary judgment if it "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). In pertinent part, parties moving for, or opposing, summary judgment must support their position by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)(1)(A).

"The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Colwell v. Rite-Aid Corp., 602 F.3d 495, 501 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)).

II. Statement of Facts

While housed on EA-Unit at SCI-Huntingdon, Wallace suffered a seizure on April 28, 2008 (Doc. 1, at 2; Doc. 79; ¶¶ 1, 13; Doc. 89, ¶¶ 1, 13), which allegedly rendered him unconscious for approximately one hour and forty-five minutes. (Doc. 1 at 2, 3.) During that time, he was lying on the floor against an uncovered radiator. (Id.) He suffered severe burns to his face, head, arm, and ear. (Doc. 79, ¶ 42; Doc. 89, ¶ 42.)

Plaintiff testified at his deposition that while incarcerated at SCI-Huntingdon he requested to be transferred to B Block and the Special Needs Unit a number of times between 2004 and 2006, but does not recall whether he put those requests in writing. (Doc. 79, ¶ 7; Doc. 89 ¶ 7.) He is not sure when he last requested to be moved off of EA Unit. (Doc. 79, ¶ 8; Doc. 89, ¶ 8.) No grievances were filed on the issue. (Doc. 79, ¶ 7; Doc. 89 ¶ 7.)

Plaintiff also testified at his deposition that he was first diagnosed with a seizure disorder in 2002, after suffering a seizure. (Doc. 79, ¶ 3; Doc. 89 ¶ 3.) He was taken to J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital and prescribed Dilantin, which is an anti-seizure medication. (Id.) He continued to take Dilantin from 2002 until the date of the radiator incident on April 28, 2008, with some exceptions. (Id.) He indicated that his Dilantin prescription expired in April of 2008, but could not pinpoint the number of days he was without the drug. (Doc. 79, ¶ 4; Doc. 89 ¶ 4.) In his statement of material facts, he states that his prescription expired on March 31, 2008, but that he had enough medicine to last until the week before the incident. (Doc. 89, ¶ 10.) Based on his review of his medical records, he determined that the last time that he had a seizure was one year prior to the radiator incident. (Id.)

Because of his seizure disorder, Wallace was given bottom bunk/bottom tier status. (Doc. 79, ¶¶ 9, 68; Doc. 89, ¶¶ 9, 68.) Inmates with seizure disorders are assigned to the bottom bunk to prevent them from falling from the top bunk during a seizure, and to the bottom tier for easier access to medical care. (Doc. 79, ¶ 68; Doc. 89, ¶ 68.) On April 28, 2008, he was housed on EA Unit in the same cell that he had been housed in for months. (Doc. 79, ¶ 8; Doc. 89, ¶ 8.) The cell, which is 11 feet 10 inches by 6 feet 6 inches, contains a bed, sink, toilet, and radiator. (Doc. 79, ¶¶ 9, 39; Doc. 89 ¶¶ 9, 39.) The radiator is controlled by both inmates and by the institution. (Doc. 79, ¶ 14; Doc. 89, ¶ 14.) There is a knob on the radiator that enables an inmate to turn the radiator on and off. (Doc. 79, ¶ 40.) The radiators on EA Unit are not covered and have never been covered. (Id.) According to plaintiff, the radiator is always hot. (Doc. 89, ¶ 14.)

The radiator in plaintiff's cell was located approximately 12 inches from the bottom bunk. (Doc. 79, ¶ 9; Doc. 89 ¶ 9.) On April 28, 2008, he was alone in his cell on the bottom bunk, and did not experience any warning signs of the onset of the seizure. (Doc. 79, ¶¶ 9, 10; Doc. 89, ¶¶ 9,10.) He suffered a seizure during which he lost consciousness. (Doc. 79, ¶ 10; Doc. 89 ¶ 10.) (Id.) During that time, he was lying on the floor against an uncovered radiator. (Doc. 1 at 2, 3.) He suffered severe burns to his face, head, arm, and ear which required hospitalization. (Doc. 79, ¶ 42; Doc. 89, ¶ 42.)

In his deposition testimony, he stated that he had never been burned by the radiator before the April 28, 2008, incident. (Doc. 79, ¶ 14.) However, in his statement of facts, he indicates that he had been burned in the past, but never as severe as the burns suffered during the seizure incident. (Doc. 89, ¶ 14.) He never made a complaint about the cell, or the radiator in his cell, before April 28, 2008, the date of the seizure. (Doc. 79, ¶ 11; Doc. 89, ¶ 11.)

A. Defendant Lawler

Defendant Lawler is the former Superintendent at SCI-Huntingdon. (Doc. 79, ¶ 29; Doc. 89, ¶ 29.) He held the position of Corrections Superintendent 2 from November, 2007, until his retirement on December 24, 2010. (Id.) As the Superintendent at SCI-Huntingdon, Lawler was the administrative head of the institution. (Doc. 79, ¶ 30.) There were two Deputy Superintendents who reported directly to him. (Id.) He toured the institution on a regular basis, but did not normally get involved in the day-to-day operations of the individual housing units at SCI-Huntingdon. (Id.) His duties also included responding to appeals from inmate grievance appeals in accordance with Department policy DC-ADM 804. (Id.) SCI-Huntingdon was first opened in 1889. (Doc. 79, ¶ 31; Doc. 89, ¶ 31.) Lawler believes that EA Unit was constructed sometime in the 1940's, and that the cells have radiators inside them. (Id.) He does not recall any complaints from the inmates about the radiators in the cells. (Doc. 79, ¶ 31.) He also does not know of any inmate who was burned by the radiator in his cell at SCI-Huntingdon prior to the incident with plaintiff. (Id.) He does not think that covers would have made the cells any safer. (Doc. 79, ¶ 33.) In addition, inmates could hide contraband under the radiator covers. (Id.)

Plaintiff never discussed with Lawler his desire to be moved off EA Unit. (Doc. 79, ¶ 18; Doc. 89, ¶ 18.) If he had, Lawler would have told him to work with the Unit Management Team on his unit, which is comprised of a Unit Manager, Corrections Officer, treatment staff, and other assigned staff. (Doc. 79, ¶ 35; Doc. (Doc. 79, ¶ 33; Doc. 89, ¶ 33.) Lawler did address Wallace's appeal of the denial of his grievance about the incident and concluded as follows: "I find that staff made a reasonable effort to accommodate your seizure disorder by giving you bottom tier, bottom bunk clearance. I also find that there is no reason that you should not have been housed on EA-Unit prior to your seizure as you had been seizure-free for two years." (Doc. 79, ¶ 35; Doc. 89, ¶ 35.)

Plaintiff alleges that Lawler is responsible for the policy that put him in the dangerous situation and for the day to day operations of the institution, including housing and overall ...

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