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Christopher Reed v. Craig Harpster

July 12, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Caputo)


I. Introduction

This is a civil rights action filed by pro se plaintiff Christopher Reed, an inmate presently housed at the Rockview State Correctional Institution (SCI-Rockview), in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Mr. Reed alleges that on July 25, 2008, defendants failed to protect him from assault by his cellmate. Presently before the Court is the motion for summary judgment (Doc. 43) filed by Unit Manager Craig Harpster and Deputy Superintendent Brian Thompson.

Defendants filed a statement of material facts (Doc. 46, DSMF), exhibits (Doc. 45), and brief (Doc. 44) in support of their motion. Although Mr. Reed did not filed a brief in opposition to defendants' motion, he did file a counter statement of material facts. (Doc. 47, PSMF).

For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant defendants' motion for summary judgment in its entirety.

II. Standard of Review

Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, summary judgment should be granted "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). 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 the purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A). 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 nonmoving party. Wishkin v. Potter, 476 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2007).

"[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247--48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2509-10, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). An issue is genuine only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, and a factual dispute is material only if it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Kaucher v. County of Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. at 2510). "[S]ummary judgment is essentially 'put up or shut up' time for the non-moving party: the non-moving party must rebut the motion with facts in the record and cannot rest solely on assertions made in the pleadings, legal memoranda, or oral argument." Berckeley Inv. Group, Ltd. Colkitt, 455 F.3d 195, 201 (3d Cir. 2006). The moving party has the burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, but the nonmoving party must present affirmative evidence from which a jury might return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 256-57, 106 S.Ct. at 2514; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). "The non-moving party cannot rest on mere pleadings or allegations," El v. Southeastern Pa. Transp. Auth., 479 F.3d 232, 238 (3d Cir. 2007), but "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Saldana v. Kmart Corp. , 260 F.3d 228, 231 - 232 (3d Cir. 2001). Allegations made without evidentiary support may be disregarded. Jones v. UPS, 214 F.3d 402, 407 (3d Cir. 2000). "Conclusory, self-serving affidavits are insufficient to withstand a motion for summary judgment." Blair v. Scott Specialty Gases, 283 F.3d 595, 608 (3d Cir. 2002). Hearsay testimony contained in affidavits or statements that would be inadmissible at trial may not be included in an affidavit to oppose summary judgment. Petruzzi's IGA Supermarkets, Inc. v. Darling-Delaware Comp. , 998 F.2d 1224, 1234 n. 9 (3d Cir. 1993). The non-moving party must raise "more than a mere scintilla of evidence in its favor" in order to overcome a summary judgment motion. Williams v. Borough of West Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir. 1989).

III. Statement of Facts*fn1

At 5:30 p.m. on July 24, 2008, inmate Michael Lacava was assigned to share a cell with Christopher Reed in SCI-Rockview's general population. (Doc, 46, DSMF ¶ 11; Doc. 45-1, Ex.1, Portions Reeds' Depo., p. 8).*fn2 Both inmates are presently serving sentences for first degree murder. (DSMF ¶ 13; Doc. 45-2, Harpster Decl. ¶ 15).

Inmate Michael Lacava has been continuously incarcerated in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) since 1991. (DSMF ¶ 4). He was transferred from SCI-Frackville to SCI-Rockview on June 12, 2007.*fn3 (Id. ¶ 5). Upon reception at SCI-Rockview, Lacava was first placed in Administrative Custody, then Disciplinary Custody. (Doc. 45-3, Thompson Decl. ¶ 5). On August 31, 2007, he was released to general population and placed on Unit A. (Id.)

Lacava remained in SCI-Rockview's general population, housed on Unit A, from August 31, 2007, through June 5, 2008. (DSMF ¶ 7; Doc. 45-2, Harpster Decl. ¶¶ 3; Doc. 45-3, Thompson Decl. ¶ 6). Defendant Craig Harpster was the Unit A Unit Manager at all times relevant to this action. (Doc. 45-2, Harpster Decl. ¶ 3). During this time period, inmate Lacava interacted with staff and other inmates. (DSMF ¶ 7). He did not incur any misconducts for fighting or assaultive behavior during this time. (Id.; Doc. 45-4, Lacava's Misconduct History; Doc. 45-5, Rowlands Decl. ¶ 6).

On June 5, 2008, Lacava was placed in the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) after receiving a misconduct for "Possess Contraband Including Money, Impl." (Doc. 45-5, Lavaca's Misconduct History). He was released from the RHU on July 24, 2008. (DSMF ¶ 10; Doc. 45-2, Harpster Decl. ¶ 4). As Deputy Superintendent for Facilities Management, Thompson was not directly responsible for assigning Lacava to any particular housing unit or housing status upon his RHU release. (DSMF ¶ 30; Doc. 45-3, Thompson Decl. ¶ 18). Such evaluations are made by Lacava's Unit Management Team. (Id.)

As of July 24, 2008, Lacava received only two violence-related misconducts, neither of which occurred at SCI-Rockview. (DSMF ΒΆ 8; Doc. 45-5, Lacava's Misconduct History). The first occurred on February 2001 at SCI-Huntingdon (fighting). (Id.) The second took place at SCI-Frackville on November 21, 2006 (assault). (Id.) As of July 24, 2008, Lacava had no medical, ...

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